A day in Nara, Japan

Horyu-Ji Temple with a lovely Sakura tree

Horyu-Ji Temple with a lovely Sakura tree

Nara, a small town, which used to be the capital of Japan before Kyoto, famous with traditions and Japan culture. A center of Budism art and literature, a Unesco world heritage and a heaven for photographers. It is about 1,5 hours drive from Kyoto by bus, so be ready for an early day, to make sure you have enough time in Nara.

The symbol of Nara, a five level Pagoda

The symbol of Nara, a five level Pagoda

Best time of the year

Best time of the year

Our first stop was Horyu-Ji temple, one of the oldest wooden structures of the world. Founded in 607 to promote Budism.

The central gate is guarded by Japan’s two oldest statues of Kongo Rikishi, the pair of muscular deities often seen flanking large temple gates. The main hall houses some of Japan’s oldest statues of Buddha, rare creations surviving from the Asuka Period. Visitors can witness the evolution of Japanese Buddha statues by visiting the nearby great lecture hall (Daikodo) which exhibits statues from the Heian Period (794-1185) and have lost the more Indian appearance of earlier creations(www.japan-guide.com).

The pagoda

The pagoda

A small Japanese Garden

A small Japanese Garden

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The huge zen garden after the central gate, is very lean, with the Pagoda and two lovely Sakura trees. Just near this garden, there is also a Gallery of Temple Treasures, where you can find an exhibit of temple art treasures, some Buddha statues and artworks.

For lunch we are heading to the centre of Nara, where we find a Paket store where there are hundreds of “Grab ‘n Go” packs of Japanese food, a heaven for our sushi monster son. So we enjoy to eat our lunch in the lovely atmosphere of another Temple Garden, instead of sitting in a restaurant.

Our next stop, Todai Ji Temple

Our next stop, Todai Ji Temple

Our next stop is Todai ji temple, a more crowded temple with tourists, brides, grooms and deers.

The huge Boddha in the temple

The huge Boddha in the temple

The big Buddha Hall is world’s largest wooden building. Along the approach to Todaiji stands the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden gate watched over by two fierce looking statues. Representing the Nio Guardian Kings, the statues are designated national treasures together with the gate itself. Temple visitors will also encounter some deer from the adjacent Nara Park, begging for shika senbei, special crackers for deer that are sold for around 150 yen. (www.japan-guide.com)

Todai ji

Todai ji

Feeding the deers. Photo Credit to Teoman Cimit

Feeding the deer. Photo Credit to Teoman Cimit

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And our final stop of Nara was Kasuga Taisha shrine, very famous with thousands of Lanterns, which are donated by worshipers.

Kasuga Taisha

Kasuga Taisha

Lovely color of the building

Lovely color of the building

Famous lanterns and deers

Famous lanterns and deer

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Next: Kyoto train station to finish the day.

Ryoanji Temple and Golden Pavilion of Kyoto

Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple

Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple

If you write “zen garden” to google, many of the images you will see is from Ryoanji Temple, where you will dream of the famous Zen Garden scene, sitting and watching the waves of stones in harmony with the huge ones, symbolizing the mountains and the contrast of life. This simple rectangular garden has no trees at all, but have 15 rocks and white gravel. The garden was created at around 1500, by a respected Zen monk.

However, at the touristy season of Sakura time, if you need to skip one temple, it should be this one. First, the “calm” zen garden is not calm at all, with loads of tourists, making noises and taking photos, secondly, the temple itself is not as big as some other ones. However, if you have time and would like to spent some of it here, you can enjoy a nice walk around the pond and relax watching the Sakura trees, sitting on the bench.

Some flowers from the garden

Some flowers from the garden

Enjoy the pond

Enjoy the pond

End of March is the best time to be there

End of March is the best time to be there

Another very typical scene of Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion.

The Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

A must see in Kyoto is the Rokuon-ji Temple, commonly known as the Golden Pavilion, which is a Budist hall containing relics of Budha. Just like Kyomizu Dera, I returned here last autumn and had chance to see this lovely place in two totally different season.

The Golden Pavilion in Autumn

The Golden Pavilion in Autumn

Like many other temples in Japan, a pond in front of the Pavilion creates a lovely scenery of nature. The rocks in various places of the garden are donated by different lords. The pavilion is covered with gold foil. 3 different levels are designed in 3 different periods of styles. Together with many young girls, visiting the temple with their traditional costumes, you can be sure that you will have lovely photographs from your visit.

 

 

One meet, one chance

Sakura time is like a fairy tale in Japan

Sakura time is like a fairy tale in Japan

At one of our evenings we’ve spent in Kyoto, just like many other millions of tourists, we went to a traditional evening at Gion Corner, where they perform a tea ceremony, music, flower arrangement art, a comic play, Kyoto dance style and a puppet play. As soon as the show starts, the announcer asks the question starting with “Who would like to…” I recommend you to raise your hand without thinking (like me).

I was sitting at the very back raw of the show and raised my hand immediately (Yes, I was lucky to receive a hint in advance, just like you did now). So I was invited near the stage, to be served traditional tea, and since the tea ceremony takes quite a long time, together with the other shows going on the stage, I enjoyed my matcha cookies and tea with joy.

It is me on the right, waiting for my Japanese t

It is me on the right, waiting for my tea

All I had to do is to obey the rules, written on a peace of paper on the tea table, like how I should hold the tea cup, when I should start, what I should do while waiting, etc.

You can get more information about the show here.

A scene from the show

A scene from the show

So before finishing, let me explain the question in your mind. What does it have to do with “One meet, one chance”

For the person making a tea for you, it is very important to impress you, because, there might not be a second chance for her to serve tea. Therefore, you can be sure that Japanese tea is intended to be the best tea of the server.

Two seasons of Kyomizu Dera

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End March

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End October

Until last month, my only choice to go to Japan would be end March, however, in end October, I had chance to go to Japan once more, this time for business, but I did have chance to see some temples once more. Unfortunately, end October is just a few weeks early for Japan’s famous color change season, but anyway I did have wonderful time.

The photos above and below are all from Kyomizu Dera, at two different seasons.

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End March

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End October

Two tickets of Kyomizu Temple

Two tickets of Kyomizu Temple

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The change of season very much effect the details of Japanese lives. Especially the variations of “Art of Plates” at the restaurants were amazing, with flowery decorations in Spring, while there were autumn themed plates in end October.

Kyomizu Dera is one of the most famous temples of Kyoto, built on huge logs of wood without using any nail. Together with the forest around and the smoke of fumigants, it has a very mystic feeling. But the more attractive part of this temple is the road going to the temple, full of shops and on street eating facilities.

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Cherry Blossoms at Kyomizu Dera

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Down from the temple

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Autumn themed shops

Nijo, in Kyoto, Japan

Entrance

Entrance

Nijo Palace in Japan, was our first highlight to see on our first day in Kyoto. Being a Unesco World Heritage Site, it is well worth to have a look. We were lucky to be staying at Ana Crown Plaza, just across this lovely place.

Models

Models

The palace was built in 1603.To go trough the rooms inside, you first take off your shoes. (I recommend that you wear some warm socks, as the floors were freezing cold in end  March.) Than you have to follow the people in front of you all the time. You can not just get in and have a look and leave, so make sure that you have at least a good half an hour, as you might not be able to get out easily.

There is almost no furniture inside, very plain rooms, but with lovely pictures on the “walls” (actually some kind of folding screens) and woodcraft details.

Exterior

Exterior

Garden on the other hand is another gem. A very well example of Japan gardening piece of art.

A composition of nature

A composition of nature

You see a patient work of generations of gardeners. The lake, stones and all plants are carefully taken care of to form a perfect composition.

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Trees are shaped to fit the composition perfectly

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Our son viewing the garden

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A lovely garden

 

Our next stop will be Ryoan-Ji temple, famous with the zen garden.

Breakfast at Ana Crown Plaza Kyoto

Father's plate

Father’s plate, healthy

Mother's plate, a bit healthy

Mother’s plate, a bit healthy

Our son's plate, ???

Our son’s plate, ???

Typical type of plates we make, all around the world. It is almost impossible for our son to take even a tiny bit of healthy food to his plate. Kyoto was not an exception.

Arriving to Kyoto and Sakura by night

Our typical dinner in Japan, open buffet

Our typical dinner in Japan, open buffet

Remember here our day in Hiroshima. In the evening, with the help of Japan bullet trains, Shinkansen, we arrived from Hiroshima to Kyoto in 1 hour 40 minutes. The only handicap is, you can not take your luggage with you, that’s why you need it to be sent to your next hotel by courier, which arrives a day after. Needs a good planning.

As soon as we arrived to Kyoto, we settled in a restaurant with our group, once more an open buffet, with many food we did not know. Thankfully, this time, there were a few sushi, our son enjoyed, and that’s why, we did not try to find a sushi restaurant around.

From open buffet

From open buffet

From open buffet

From open buffet

From open buffet

From open buffet

After dinner, we went to our hotel, Ana Crown Plaza, which was the best hotel we stayed in Japan. Just across the Nijo Palace, and very convenient to go around in Kyoto. Since we did not have our luggage with us, it wasn’t hard to settle down. So we went out to see Sakura by night to “Dotonbori” of Kyoto, which is the old town center with red, white and black lanterns, tiny wooden restaurants and cafes, narrow streets, “pink hotels” where you get in with credit card and there is no staff at all to meet you.

Dotonbori streets

Dotonbori streets

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Sakura by night

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Cherry blossom trees with tiny shops

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Cherry blossom trees on the calm water

We finalized the night, relaxing at a local bar with our sake.

Next morning: Nijo palace