that we figure this thing out or learn to love the figuring (backlog flush #70 and travelog of kyoto and nara)

March 19, 2008

Travelog of the Moment
So Wednesday I went on a bus tour of Kyoto and Nara. I wasn't utterly blown away by the tourguides (who may have been gearing for people who did zero reading about Japan in general) but it was the best way to get to these geographically diverse sites. Plus, a day with more riding and less walking seemed like a nice idea for my feet.

Also I met some nice people from Norway and Finland (dropped my Nokia street cred) and to be honest often they seemed more interesting than the tourguide's spiel.

Japanese do love their umbrellas! The standard umbrella is only a couple of bucks and is transparent, which makes a lot of sense.

This picture and the last were from our first stop, Nijo Castle, or "Nijo-jo" (heh). Both shoes and photography were forbidden inside.

Nijo Castle was built by the Shogun Iemitsu, so we saw where the feudal lords would pay tribute to him, and then where he had to sit below the platform of the emperor's messenger. Some of the work inside and out was really lovely.

Close-up of that...

One of the more interesting features was a clever "Nightingale Floor" in all the hallways; this clever system of metal bits that squeaked in a melodious way and prevented people from sneaking around. They say there are all sorts of hidden passageways and what not there. This is the view from underneath.

Trying to find nice and balanced shots of the grounds outside.

The outer wall looked strong.

After we went to the Golden Pavillion / Rokuon-Ji Temple. This is a detail of a map billboard there, I liked the art style.

The Golden Pavilion is a terrific building, centuries old, and covered in gold leaf. I think my ISO settings were messed up, so its beauty isn't coming through, or maybe it's me next to it.

Crane in the pond by the Pavilion.

Waterfall on the grounds there.

Finally we headed out to the Imperial Palace. Security was weirdly uptight there and we had to line up in 4s. But I liked the bright orange construction and fireproof white plaster:

And I saw my first blossoming cherry tree! Unfortunately I was fumbling with my camera battery and didn't get a picture of the guy stationed there to protect it. Maybe he had to be there, one girl seemed to try and make a dash for the tree and he angrily chased her away, though I'm not 100% sure if she would have tried if he hadn't been there.

From there to the 7 stories of the Kyoto Craft Center. And yes, I took a photo of this just for the obvious giggle about the Internet Cafe name.

I then switched to the Nara afternoon group. Nara's single biggest attraction (in both senses of "biggest") is Todai-ji temple, biggest wooden building in the world, and home of one of the largest Buddhas. This is just the outer gate.

The outer gate has two guardian figures, though I didn't quite catch the names:

(I don't think they were the Shinto ones) Still awfully fearsome...

Just a nature scene, with a groundskeeper in blue looking awfully small...

So there is the temple--those are people looking very, very small themselves. One detail is a "peekaboo" door the Buddha can peek out of...

Looking up at the Temple's entrance. They mentioned that the original building, which got destroyed, was about 30% wider, and there were models showing the old and current versions inside.

The Buddha! There are some priests in front for scale.

The Buddha was flanked by attendants... here's one--

--and the other. This Buddha was bigger than Kamakura's, but somehow... I don't know, I preferred the Buddha under the great wide open sky.

The temple had other guardians, one for each direction, but two were only heads. Here's one of the full bodied ones:

So for a 1000 Yen (~$10) donation, you could paint a tile that would be used in some new construction. (Also good luck forever I think!) You were asked to paint your Name, Address, Country, and Wish. This is me and my wish: "That we figure this thing out or learn to love the figuring"

So, one thing I've neglected to mention: the grounds were crawling with deer. For 150 Yen ($1.50) you could get a stack of ten cookies, like pizelles, to feed them. But... what's this sign warning about? Angry deer? Huh?

AAAAAAH DEER GET THEM OFF ME AAAAAH! (Seriously in general they were pretty decent, but the ones standing around the cookie stands would butt and nip you if they thought you were a bit slow with the goods.

Finally Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Lots of stone lanterns and I got to learn more details about Shinto practice. I must confess to a small dose of shrine fatigue at this point. Anyway, here is my afternoon tourguide climbing the stairs.

Back at the hotel. Tug of War is a serious sport here?

Finally on my run for dinner, I found three anti-smoking posters...well, not anti-smoking, just watch where you put your butts... the cowboy approach

the crime approach...

and then the love of pets technique...