A Long Day Of Temple Trekking

IMG_20150629_193748IMG_20150629_193603MyIMG_20150629_175556 feet are killing me!! I’m wearing the same comfortable Nikes I wear to work with arch supports, but after getting back to the apartment tonight I had to pop two water blisters on my toes. Too many steps and stairs but like a lemming I’ll start again tomorrow morning.

We were at one of the main temples enjoying the view when an elderly Japanese gentleman (maybe five years older) approached us and struck up a conversation. He spoke English quite well. Well, his two sons live in Austin Texas. He lamented his woes that his grandsons can’t speak a lick of Japanese.IMG_20150630_003158He is from Yokohama and was visiting the temple with one son and two grandsons who were visiting from Tx. He was a really interesting guy, Masabumi Tanabe. He lives on a large estate with extensive gardens. The estate has been in the family for over 300 years. We now have a standing invitation to visit, inc. lodging. He currently owns a business called Ascot Gardens Ltd. He says he writes and publishes travel books for Japanese tourists visiting Europe. He gave me his card.

After talking for about 15 minutes of chatting his two high school aged grandsons joined us. Grandpa told them we were from California. The oldest grandson said they lived in Cali before moving to Austin. They lived in a town near San Francisco called Danville. World gets smaller every day. Will have to maintain E-mail communication with Masabumi.

All in all another fun day. It is now 6PM. Time for a quick nap before dinner.

Kyoto’s Most Famous Temple, Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Pavilion

IMG_20150628_205626 IMG_20150628_210216ThisIMG_20150628_205751 is quite a place and we had a sunny day unlike previous visits. Some crazy monk intentionally burned it to the ground in 1950. Was rebuilt and opened again in1955. Typically this temple is over run with tourists but today was an exception, sunshine and few people like us. This was the first stop today on a 4 temple trek. Got a later start today and the 4th location closed before we got there. Will start earlier tomorrow.

Kyoto’s Gion District Charms As Always

IMG_20150628_010759Kyoto has the most intact traditional Japanese buildings in Japan. Kyoto was the royal imperial city before being moved to Tokyo. Kyoto survived the bombings of WWII. Modern day Japan’s culture originated in Nara/Kyoto. Many of the old traditional buildings have been leveled to create modern multilevel housing but so much still exists of the old.

We are staying seven nights in a very comfortable (western bed) Airbnb apartment in the Gion district. Gion is centrally located to the subway/train systems for easy access to the different Kyoto districts for temple/shrine day visits. The most famous street in Gion is Hanami-koji and its side alleys. Here are all of the famous tea houses/restaurants who employee geishas to entertain their guests. The geishas are some of the most beautiful women in Japan. They entertain the gentlemen guests with conversation and traditional tea services. As a tourist you will never experience the services of the geishas and if you had a chance, it would set you back 300-500 USD. The geishas work free lance and are on call to whatever teahouse needs them at a given time. So, Hanami-koji is overrun by tourists (90% Asian) trying to see a geisha scurrying along the street between gigs. Hanami-koji is three blocks of over priced tourist restaurants exhibiting signs and lit menus. The side alleys are addresses only for the rich Japanese who know about them. These are the establishments who employee the geishas.

We are nosey tourists too. After two nights, we ran across a new restaurant off Hanami-koji called Rigoletto Smoke Grill and Bar. Just wrote their 13th TripAdvisor review. Hiding behind the traditional facade of the street is the most contemporary tapas restaurant imaginable inside, with a price point less than half of its neighbors. We have had dinner there for the last 2 nights and will be back for the next three.

Getting back to Geishas, we have now seen 6 in four nights. Our prior 3 trips to Kyoto, we had seen none. Three more nights to go. Who knows what the count will be.

Must Have Done 30,000 Fitbit Steps Today

IMG_20150627_212148Fushima-Inari is an amazing shrine. ThereIMG_20150627_221205 must be at least 300 of these arches scattered in groupings throughout the paths up Mt. Inari. This shows a level walkway but most arches cover steps up. Celeste and I could not make it to the top. There were a lot of elderly huffing and puffing, some in distress. We finally called it a day and headed back down. This shrine rates in the top three for Kyoto.

Kyoto’s Arishiyama District

IMG_20150626_191003Have been in Kyoto for three nights nowIMG_20150626_191322. We are staying in the Gion District. Our first night we went back to our favorite Gion restaurant from 2 years ago. Well, they have changed hands. It is now a very upper end (Kaiseki) restaurant. Kaiseki is the unique foods or dishes of a particular region or city. We sat at the counter watching chefs prepare our meal and were joined by 2 gentleman a few seats over at the counter. Fortunately, Henry, (chef in training) lived in Seattle for a year to learn English and spoke pretty good English. After exchanging smiles, we struck up a very broken up conversation with the other two gentlemen, both 50ish businessmen. When it came to where we were from, we all ended up signing “I Left My Heart in SF”. They knew Tony Bennett. That dinner cost us more than the other six dinners in Kyoto will cost and I have no idea as to what half of what we ate was.

As we got up to leave, the door swung open to their private dining room and the staff were all at the door bowing reverently as a monk and nun and another couple walked out. The monk saw me (Anglo) waved and said ” Good Morning” guffawed and corrected with “Good Evening”. They all hopped into a waiting sedan. Henry said he was the head monk at one of the main temples in Kyoto.

The kimono clad elderly female staff member handed us our shoes ( she also delivered and poured the sake. Celeste and I only drank Asahi beer. We shoed up and were ready to leave and Henry asked us to wait. The head chef (75 years old) was coming back in from seeing off the monk. The chef presented us with two napkins embroidered with the restaurant name and a fan. Pretty cool.

Last night we sought out a more economical meal. It poured rain all day and night so for a Friday night the crowds were minimal. We went into a small restaurant with an English menu (very important) and were the only ones there. At the counter, we ate our way through a few dishes and as the chef was preparing our stir fry garlic fried rice (always last dish) he beckond me to come behind the counter and take over cooking the rice while the sou chef took my picture with my camera. Then Celeste joined in and the two of us were cooking up a storm. Photos still in the camera. 😁

Today we visited the Arishiyama area in Kyoto’s northwest. Had not done so in our three other trips to Kyoto. This area is famous for their Bamboo Forest. Trekked for 4 hours uphill through scads of temple and shrines. Was a cooler day due to yesterday’s rain. One highlight was Gio-do temple which has a beautiful moss garden.

Day Trip to Nara from Osaka

Finally settling in and overcoming jet lag. Our Airbus 330 from Honolulu to Osaka was accelerating down the runway for take off when after about 10 seconds (well before liftoff) the engines both went quiet and the plane braked to a slow roll down the runway. The pilot exited the runway and drove back to terminal. He said the air speed indicator had a malfunction warning light. Fortunately we were at Hawaiian Airlines hub and they had a replacement aircraft. We flew from Oakland to Honolulu on that very same A330 that crapped out. Glad it waited! Took two hours to unload us, wait for replacement aircraft to arrive, unload all luggage and food to new aircraft then reload us.

Today we did a day trip by train to the nearby town of Nara. Nara Park and its temples are one of numerous UNESCO Heritage sites. There are hundreds of these small deer roaming the park. They love to get fed food cookies sold by vendors. They are very tame and love to be petted and fed. Much like dogs.IMG_20150623_210236

Tomorrow we train up to Kyoto. Definitely our favorite location in Japan.