Thursday, January 12, 2012

Traveling Around Japan

Winter break is coming to a close and that sucks. Once again I'll have a test every other day, forms and kanji and words to memorize, and stress will be had. But until then, I plan to enjoy every single minute of my break.

So here's what you've missed. For one, today I went to the Tokugawa Museum. The Tokugawa family ruled Japan for over 200 years starting from the 1600s, so they had a lot of things left behind for me to look at. A lot of various things, but there was an entire room devoted to katanas and a bunch of different Japanese swords, and that was pretty cool to look at.

There was also several rooms filled with illustrations from the Tale of Genji, which I've actually read, so to be able to see it in person was pretty cool. Even though Genji was kind of just a pervert and a womanizer. Yeah actually I hate the guy but seeing the illustrations was fun.

MORE than that, I went on a four-day trip with Ayame, who, as you guys know, is my best Japanese friend. We went to Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka, in that order, and saw beautiful temples and shrines and went shopping about I show you?

For reference:

Nara is right next to Kyoto and Osaka.

On the train, on the way to Kyoto:

I love trains. I love watching out the window on trains. I love watching Japan's countryside roll by as I approach a destination I've been waiting to go to for over six years. It's such a fulfilling feeling.

Snow on the ground on the way!

Kyoto station!
And mom, if you're wondering, "What's THIS? What're you doing with your hands?" then I'm kind of really surprised you don't know about this yet.
In Japan, people make peace signs in pictures. Everywhere. All the time. Unless it's a family portrait, we are making peace signs. I do it without thinking now. If you don't do it while you're in Japan, frankly, I think you look ridiculous.
So there you have it. Brace yourself for the peace signs.

Just outside the station was Kyoto Tower, so we were like, guess we're going there!

Kyoto wasn't nearly as bright as Tokyo (Kyoto has a population of 1.5 million and Tokyo has a population of 12 million, so it's not even comparable. If you were wondering, Nagoya, where I live, has 2.17 million people), but the view was still beautiful.

Though it's hard to get a good picture in the dark, you get it.

The following are me with the Kyoto Tower mascot, but it's mostly just me being good at pictures:

Because that face is ridiculously hilarious to me. And also I am ridiculously good at impersonations.

Afterwards we went to our hotel, then went out to grab a bite to eat at a bar where Ayame told me that saying, "ha?" like, "what?" which is something my host father does often, is actually a really obnoxious thing to do. The more you know.

Here's a bit of Kyoto at night and the Gion district, where our bar was located:

I really liked the Gion district. The river, with the shops flanking either side of it, was really cool. And the willow trees were beautiful. 

After a good night's rest, we hit the road the following morning to go to Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto.

On the way were many shops, which we of course explored. 

A view from some public bathrooms on the way to Kiyomizu-dera, because Ayame is needy and I am so patient.

We've arrived~! 

These buildings are seriously intimidatingly beautiful. And as a matter of fact, all of Kyoto holds that same beauty and calm to me, and someday I'd love to live in Kyoto. It's not too country-side that I would want to kill myself, but it's not a huge bustling town like Tokyo, either. Just walking around t made me feel at ease, and like it was where I should be. There's so many trees and rivers and nature and small stores, that it's very nature-centered but there's still 1.5 million people living there so it's not hillybilly-crazy-small.

Sorry for digressing, on for more buildings!

Saw these guys coming out - Matt, what were they doing?

Check out the shoes. Also, I'd be their feet were freezing, it was close to 40 degrees Fahrenheit out.

Getting closer to the best part of Kiyomizu-dera.


There it is. The money shot.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Kiyomizu-dera: Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period. The temple dates back to 778, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, during a restoration ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.

There's also this to say:

The popular expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge".This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. Two hundred thirty-four jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited.

Yeah, that's probably a good thing.

 Right, so this is when my camera, unbeknownst to me because I busted my screen four months ago, decided to stop using color in the pictures. Which sucks. Fortunately, once Ayame gets her camera cord she will send me all of her pictures, but from here on out, the pictures will be in black and white. Although this depresses me, it's also given me the opportunity to experiment with the concept of "art" and play around with the brightness and such. But since I am not a photographer/artist, it is mostly me trying to make black and white pictures look less shitty. 

After Kiyomizu-dera, we went to Ginkakuji - the Silver Pavillion. This temple holds a special place in my heart because I actually learned about it in Madison.

Here's the story:

Yoshimasa is a terrible shogun. Like, for real. Towns were going to war, people were starving and dying in the streets, and Yoshimasa hid away eating feasts nearly ever other night. And then he decides to start taxing everyone he can - yeah, the dying, starving people, and rich people who are brown-nosers - and then he decides to build a "resting" place, costing millions of yen at the time. Because he's an asshole.

So while 30% of then-Kyoto is dying in the 1460's, Yoshimasa makes his playground and a garden and everyone that doesn't hate him (anyone that isn't a peasant/shop keeper), talks about how beautiful it is.

I read about Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion and I thought, "Wow, this guy is the worst shogunate in the world," because, frankly, he was (btw, the term shogunate means absolute dictator, so, yeah, it was like that) but when I stepped into the garden I was like, Ohh, this is what people were saying about how amazing of a person he was, able to put a beautiful garden together.

It was seriously gorgeous, a rock garden and a path through woods and bridges and wonderful. I hope to share colored pictures with you one day.

The Silver Pavillion.

There's the rock garden.

The garden before the Silver Pavilion.

There was more but black-and-white depresses me.

So then we went to kinkakuji, the GOLDEN Pavilion!

This picture's from Wikipedia. I hate my camera (new one's on the way, btw, so this won't be happening again).

The following pictures are me being "artsy."


Next was NARA. Brace yourself for the deer.

Nara has a population of a little more than 300,000, so it was comparatively quieter than Kyoto. But still beautiful.

Walking around Nara on the way to the temples and shrines. 
So this is where I stopped and went, "Is 40 pictures of deer too much deer?"
The answer is no. Enjoy.

Particularly perky this morning.

I just thought that was adorable.

 First stop: Toshodaiji.

Inside the shrine! Oh, you're lucky to see this.

My first encounter with a Nara deer. For those of you who don't know, Nara is famous for Nara park, where wild deer roam free and aren't scared of humans and eat deer biscuits that you can buy for ~$1.50.  And then promptly get terrified because deer freaking ATTACK YOU if you are holding biscuits.

And they know. They know because they watch you and then approach you like, "Oh hey, bro, I see you got some biscuits there you need some gettin' rid of, how 'bout I help you out?" And the minute you don't have biscuits anymore, they give you the cold shoulder and they are NOT TRUE FRIENDS.

But it was fun to get chased by deer, anyway. Ayame's camera is full of pictures of her running away from deer (about four were chasing her at the time,) while she yelled at me to help her and I just took pictures, laughing away.

Yeah, Nara was fun.

Anyway, this guy was my first encounter. He didn't move the entire time Ayame and I were conversing next to him, and finally I saw him and was like, "is this deer even REAL?" He was so still he looked like a stuffed animal. Then he moved and I screamed.

The 51 steps to something or another. Climbed 'em.

Example of deer not giving a damn where they walk.

Five-storied Pagoda in Kofuku-ji. 

Tokon-do, East Golden Hall.

Heading into Nara Park for some fun!

On the way to a shrine I've forgotten the name of:

I love this picture, that's why I made it big.

My Japanese boyfriend. He's a dear. HAWWWWWW

Baby deer makes me squeal when I see him.

This is when things get crazy. As Ayame and I sat down eating lunch, we made a friend. "FRIEND" being a loose term here. He kept trying to eat the plastic our rice balls had been wrapped in.


The next is a series of pictures of a baby deer I befriended.

At a distance...

Creeping closer...
Hello there...

Brave now...


Yeah, the deer were fun. ANYWHO CULTURE THINGS.

This is Todai-ji, Eastern Great Temple. This is the largest wooden building in the world, and it houses the largest bronze statue of Buddha Variocana in the world. Since deer are seen as messengers of the gods in Shinto religion, they roam freely on the grounds here, too.


I cannot describe to you how big this guy was. Big. 

Its entirety is 50 feet tall. His face is 17 feet, his ears 8 feet tall. The entire statue weighs 500 tonnes. It made me feel insignificant and I was humbled by its presence.

One last stop: Osaka. Ayame and I were exhausted by sightseeing so we spent the night in Osaka at a FANCY bar/restaurant with delicious lemon pasta and potato salad, then went back to our hotel room to watch a Japanese drama while eating ice cream and potato chips.

We are the definition of class.

Anyway, the next day we went around shopping in Osaka. I'll post pictures because, duh, but Osaka is one big city. It basically felt like a huge mall. I'd love to live there if I were rich, but alas, I am not yet. 

By GDP it is the second largest area in Japan (Tokyo is the first). The biggest thing that happened here is that we ran into a 30-minute time sale, and I bought two necklaces that were worth 200 dollars each for 12 dollars each. So that was pretty sick. (Though there is still a debate going on as to whether the marked prices were real or not).

So, some pics of Osaka:

This is about where Ayame and I ate some delicious egg tarts, still warm from the oven. Mmmmm.

Guriko, Osaka's famous for it. It's just a big man in a leotard.

A man making Takoyaki, something Osaka is famous for.

So this post was huge and I don't even know if you made it down here, but if you did, CONGRATS! It's been so lonely all alone down here.

ANYWAY that was my trip. Thanks for reading, tune in next time!


  1. Mother an dad read your post! and always love it! A lot of laughs, I miss your humor! still crack us up! Keep the blogs coming! so much to enjoy!


  3. lololololol. I just saw this now. Oh, man. thanks, guys.