FuFu Tour Guide
Kyoto, Japan -20 March 2007-
So, three days later, after my graduation trip, another tour had just begun. I went to the Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan to pick up my mother, godmother, elder and younger sisters. The main purpose they came was to attend my graduation ceremony which fell on 23rd March. Since i had arranged everything for them earlier, and been to those tourist spots several times, the 6 days 5 nights tour (Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Hiroshima as well as my graduation ceremony) was smoothly carried out although i was half dead. Anyway allow me to bring your eyes to Japan now.
Taking Hankyu Line from Osaka to Kyoto.
Our first stop was Kyoto, (京都) the former imperial capital of Japan (Emperor`s residence from 794 until 1868). Kyoto has a reputation worldwide as Japan`s most beautiful city with countless temples, shrines and other historically structures which rings the city centre. There indeed has a lot to see and do, and putting together the perfect Kyoto itinerary can be a daunting task, but that is where the world traveller comes in. If you have just one day on your visit in Kyoto, dont try to see everything. Make a must-see list and save the rest for your next visit like what i had done for the four ladies.
"Hey little girl, you never see a Japanese radish before huuh?"
After half an hour journey we had arrived Kawaramachi, the centre of Kyoto. My mother requested to have a look at what kind of vegetable sold in the supermarket. This is because we are selling vegetable at the wet market. As a normal housewife as well, she was checking and comparing the price with my godmother besides seriously looking at the stuff they have never seen before. They had several silly questions that drove me mad at that time, for instance, about the size of Japanese radish and asparagus, length of burdock root, etc.
Nijyo Caste, 二条城 Certainly one of the highlights of Kyoto. The series of ornately-decorated reception rooms within the Ninomaru complex is particularly impressive, and known for its `nightingale floors`, wooden flooring which makes bird-like squeaking sounds when stepped on. From the donjon of the inner castle, you can get good views over the castle layout, and the rest of the city.
Ninomaru, Nijyo Castle.
At the veranda of a reception room inside the castle.
Japanese typical beautiful landscape garden.
A pretty girl posing outside the castle .
The Donjon of the castle.
It was Japanese plum`s blossoms season throughout the country in March. We hence, stopped over the park right next to Nijyo Castle. The plum trees do comes in many varieties and gratefully four of them enjoyed viewing the flower and happily taking pictures around. It was still early for the cherry trees to open its blossoms. Nonetheless several types of the cherry blossoms just couldnt wait to welcome and see the four pretty ladies from Malaysia. Flowers are always naturally match with female. It is strange if a guy take pictures with flowers, but it goes alright to girls no matter what kind of flowers.
My younger sister is cuter than the plum flowers, isnt she?
This weeping cherry tree is blooming a week earlier.
Kinkakuji, 金閣寺 (Golden Pavilion) is a zen temple formally known as Rokuonji, 鹿苑寺 is the most visited tourist attraction in Kyoto. The pavilion was built in the late 12th century and converted into a temple and now it functions as shariden, housing the sacred relics of the Buddha and its building is covered in gold leaf. The beautiful landscaping and the reflection of the temple on the face of the water make for a striking sight, but keeping the mobs of visitors out of your photos will be a stern test for your framing abilities and a dilemma for your photographic honesty. Get there early if you can to beat the school groups.
Kinkakuji is so gorgeous, reflected on the pond, absolutely deserved to be the most popular tourist spot.
The sun is out, smiling and welcoming us.
We then followed a path through the moss garden surrounding the pavilion, before emerging into a square crowded with gift shops. There, we tried some of Kyoto specialty - warabi mochi and candies. But what successfully caught their eyes was ice cream. Kyoto is famous of its green tea as well.
We enjoyed the smooth maccha ice cream very much.
Gion, 祇園 is Kyoto`s most famous geisha district. To truly experience the traditional Gion, I brought them to Miyako-odori, strolled along the street lined by beautiful old buildings, teahouses and restaurants. There, in the evening you would be able to spot a geisha apprentice.
This Geisha apprentice is shy and walking way too fast with her clog.
Yasaka Jinjya, 八坂神社 at the eastern end of Shijo-dori, at the edge of Gion, is the shrine responsible for Kyoto`s main festival, the Gion Matsuri, which takes place in July. The shrine is small in comparison with many in Kyoto, but it boasts an impressive display of lanterns.
Well, if you are going to visit a shrine, you are supposed to clean your hands and mouth before approaching the main hall. At the purification trough-fountain near the shrine`s entrance, take a provided ladle, fill it with the fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain. It is however not supposed to transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth nor to swallow the water.
The purification trough-fountain is easily found near the entrance of every shrine in Japan.
Bear his in mind when you visit the shrines throughout Japan or Japanese shrines outside Japan. This is because i noticed that quite a few visitors skip mouth rinsing part or the purification ritual altogether.
You anyhow need to swing the rope strongly to tinkle the bell.
When you wanna make a wish or pray, throw a coin into a offering box in the offering hall, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray. If there is some type of gong or bell, ring it before praying in order to get the God`s attention.
Ema, with one side beautifully printed and the other side is blank for the wishes.
Ema is a wooden plate that visitor write his or her wishes on and the leave them at the shrine in the hope that the wishes come true. Most people wish for good health, passing entrance exams, success in business, love or wealth.
Fold omikuji into long rectangle before you tie them.
Omikuji are fortune telling paper slips found at many shrines and temples. Randomly drawn, they contain predictions ranging from Daikichi, 大吉 (great good luck) to Daikyo, 大凶 (great bad luck). By tying the piece of paper around the specific sacred place or tree`s branch, good fourtune will come true or bad luck can be averted. Omikuji is not free, ¥100 (US$1) each.
Torii, 鳥居 is the gate or mark to the approach and entrance to a shrine. They come in various colours and made of various material. Most torii however are made of wood and painted orange and black.
さつま芋, fried sweet potatoes.
One must not miss the hawker food sold in front or along the way to the shrine. And also buy one of two Japanese little cute souvenirs back for yourself or friends.
からあげ, fried chicken.
The lanterns donated by the worshippers.
Ikebana, various modern styles of Japanese arranged flowers exhibit at the park next to the shrine.
Ikebana is developed from the buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead in both temples or shrines. It is considered one of the traditional arts of Japan. However as time passed, styles changed and modern styles of ikebana have evolved to be practiced at all levels of Japanese society.
Another kind of sakura in Yasaka Shrine has bloomed.
Just for your extra information, you are not supposed to visit a shrine if you are sick, have an open wound or even having your period because these are considered caused of impurity. In this 21 century, anyhow you could just ignore this tradition as none of the visitors as well as Japanese follow, care or mind. Both the temples or shrines are open daily, 9am-5pm, with last admission at 4pm or some 4.30pm. Admission fees vary from ¥400 (US$4) to ¥600 (US$6).
Okay, enough for this time. To learn more about Japanese culture, stay tuned for the next lesson.
Japanese typical shotengai (literally shopping street) scenery with the shops running along the street.
It was getting dark when we back to the downtown. And we rushed back to my host family house for dinner. It was a sashimi-sushi-tempura feast. Unfortunately, the four ladies didnt quite enjoy the raw and cold food. Thanks god, they each finished a bowl of ochatsuke, a practice that adding tea to rice, topped with some seaweed and pickled vegetable. I forgot to bring my camera with me to the restaurant. Ochatsuke is a simple dish to prepare, guess i shall share it later here.