We’re starting on our Fall 2012 trip in Kyoto, the land of ” a thousand temples” (actually over 1,600 Buddhist temples in the city) and it’s a wonderful jumping off place for Japanese culture, food and history. This is special city for our family because Josh has been here many times with middle school students. In addition, when he and I took our first travel adventure when we were just married we spent 1 month in Bali combined with 1 week in Kyoto (both of those vacations cost the same back then!). It’s sort of a circle for us to bring the kids here.
There is a feeling of familiarity coming back to a place you’ve been many times but taking our children offers a new insight– and makes us remember what it is like to see wonders like 1001 statues of Kannon-Boatsu or ring a huge brass temple bell for the first time.
We loosely planned a couple days in Kyoto. I just had a quick list of sights to see, but I worked hard keep a “whatever” attitude about how much we would get to. I think this more relaxed approach was the way to go for our first days. Because we were pretty jet-lagged we set out to see sights early in the morning and tried to be active as much as possible during the day. On our first day we walked for 9 hours and our second day a relaxing 7 hours (ha!). Josh wanted to take us to a couple of his favorite temples and the kids wanted to check out some of their favorite sites like the market and the river.
At the Sanjusangendo Temple (where we were impressed by the 1,001 statues of golden Kannon-Bosatsu but no photos permitted of the inside of the temple ARG!!) we wandered in the heat of the gardens swatting mosquitos and taking pictures in the afternoon light. As you can see in these shots, Max was very agreeable to posing for photos. I have no idea how long this will last– last year he was very negative about photos, so I am enjoying it while it lasts!
Both Emma and Josh got new cameras and are super excited to experiment with the settings. If you’d like to see more of Emma’s photography and catch up on her new blog check out: feelingtangerine.wordpress.com
As many of you know, Emma has been studying Japanese. She’s been working hard and can read pretty well (better than Josh)– and her speaking is growing in confidence. Walking around on the street with her is pretty fun because she’s reading everything (out loud) and telling us what it says. It reminds me of when the kids first learned to read and at every intersection Max would say proudly “that red sign says STOP). We are immersed in a world of print but in Japan only Emma can de-code it. She’s feeling great about her accomplishment!
One of my favorite places we visited was the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine. I’ve never see so many tori gates in one place! There are thousands of them forming the paths around the mountain to each of the five shrines. Many businesses and people have donated tori and have their names on them to bring luck.
It’s common to see ema, or wishing plaques hanging at shrines. Each shrine we visit has it’s own design for ema. The themes showcase the special element; its architecture, gardens, or image of beauty like sakura (cherry blossoms) or koyo (colorful fall leaves). Here’s Max at the Fushimi Shrine ema display. Most of the wishes are written in Kanji but some are from around the world.
Another temple on Josh’s favorites list we visited early in the morning. Kiyomizu-dera, built over 1000 years ago and over the years it has been rebuilt– but without nails. Impressive joinery and spectacular timbers are some of the reasons this temple in the hills is so special. But the sacred spring waterfall at Kiyomizu-dera is counted among the ten most famous pure water sites in Japan. It is the source of Kiyomizu-dera’s name (mizu means “water”) The waterfall branches into three falling water streams. They stand for Wisdom, Wealth, Beauty.
The tradition says you may only wish for two of these gifts and you have to choose the streams of water to drink! The tricky part is that the streams of water are unlabeled– so you have to create the intention for the water’s power.
That’s all for a quick update on our outings in Kyoto. We’ve arrived in Tokyo now and Josh started work today. I know that we will have plenty of adventurers this week to share so stay tuned!