Thursday, May 20, 2010
So on Wednesday we went to Kyoto. Kyoto station itself is a piece of postmodern architecture- functional, but also with a lot of extra space and detailing that isn't so functional as much as it is pleasing to look at. The shops inside sold hijiri and hatsuhashi. Hatsuhashi is the local specialty food, but hatsuhashi is often baked, whereas hijiri is considered a raw hatsuhashi. We tasted ramune flavored hijiri. Basically, it's a thin square of mochi (a sweet rice dough) folded diagonally to form a triangle. Within the triangle, a filling is placed- usually anko (sweet adzuki bean paste). They are tasty just like mochi :) We didn't know there was a baked version- I wish we could try it! Apparently it's usually baked with cinnamon. We did buy another box of hijiri at the train station- it has beautiful packaging.
Our first stop, after a crowded, hot, stinky, bumpy bus ride, was Kinkaku-ji, and was it EVER refreshing! Kinakaku-ji is a beautiful place, and it was a rainy day; perfect.
The architecture was beautiful, and we were fortunate enough to be there right when the irises were blooming. The weather was perfect for photography. It smelled wonderful. Everything was very green, especially the moss covering the ground.
We purchased omamori here. Jorie bought one for good luck, and mine is for dreams coming true.
Next, we went to Ryoan-ji.
I couldn't capture the whole garden, but it's kind of silly to try anyway. It's a very old and very famous zen rock garden.
More beautiful coexistence with nature. I wish I could say I knew Japan was living in harmony with nature, but like many places in the world, it's simply not true anymore. There are few animals to be seen in the places we've been, other than birds. There is trash littering the shore of Biwako. But, like in other countries (such as our own), I think there is an undercurrent of environmentalism rising up. From what I've read, it's a complicated issue here, just as it is in America.
After lunch at an Udon restaurant, we visited Niji-jo. I didn't take many photos, as it was dark and we were in a bit of a hurry. Indoors, photography wasn't allowed. But inside, there were nightingale floorboards, which squeak when you walk, and of course many amazing paintings on the walls and fusama, or sliding doors.
Our last stop was the Heian Shrine.
I don't have many good photos of it myself because it was getting dark, but Jorie caught a few. Here's one.
I had mixed feelings. I love shinto shrines and I've been wanting to officially visit one this whole trip, but once we got there... it was just about to close. It was also dark and rather gloomy at that point. There was a garden walk, but we were too late to go through it. What we did see was beautiful though. I bought a tea mix- pickled sakura blossoms. It's supposed to bring good luck, I think.
When we left and arrived at the bus stop, we could clearly see the gigantic torii for the shrine. A torii is a sort of spiritual gate at the entrance of shinto shrines. Once you pass through, you are in a sacred area. Strangely, a young Japanese man spotted us from across the street, stood in front of one of the massive torii pillars, and screamed that he wanted to sing a song. So he did. And it was pretty amazing. It was an interesting end to our visit in Kyoto, to say the least.
Our classmate Clark kindly took a photo of Jorie and I at the Heian Shrine. It was a rainy and humid day, so our hair went a little crazy.