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.

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

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

 

Miyajima Island, Japan

Tori gate at Miyajima island

Torii gate at Miyajima island

Yes, I know. it looks like a copy paste of a travel brochure of Japan. But it would not be a proper blog, if I didn’t put the famous Torii Gate of Itsukushima Shinto Temple here, right?

On the very last day of March this year, we woke up very early-again- packed our luggage to be posted to Kyoto (I will tell you why, later), did our breakfast which did involve more eatable Western things. Here, I want to give you an example of Japan people, how extremely polite. My parents did have a friend who lived about 2 hours drive away from Hiroshima. Since we were on a touristic tour, we did not have much time during the day to enjoy doing whatever we wanted. So what this gentleman did was, he came one day before to the very same hotel where we were, stayed overnight and did breakfast together with my parents. No way, I, or anybody around in our home country, would drive 2 hours, stay in a hotel and return next morning, for just to chat for a couple of hours with some guys, who he met in some course many years ago. It is extremely important for Japan people to give their time, effort or whatever, for the comfort or happiness of other people. This makes them unbelievably polite.

Itsukushima Shinto Temple, photo by Teoman Cimit

Our son at Itsukushima Shinto Temple, photo by Teoman Cimit

After a 50 minutes journey by bus and a ferry trip, we arrived the world famous Miyajima island, a “must visit” of Japan. Among the very many temples we have visited during our trip, by far the most interesting and scenic was this  Itsukushima Shinto Temple. Not only the temple itself, but also the deers wondering around freely, make the island worth to visit.

Deers soo cute

Deers soo cute

A deer resting

A deer resting

And also the Cherry Blossom time. We were lucky to be there at the very right time.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

More cherry blossoms

More cherry blossoms

And more cherry blossoms

And more cherry blossoms

And even more cherry blossoms

And even more cherry blossoms

Both the temple and the island itself has many gems to discover for us and our son. Nice traditions to explore and lovely colored trees are very much in harmony with the orange temple.

A fortune telling box

A fortune telling box

For instance an interesting way to combine a tradition and the fortune telling is: you put a money in a box, which gives you a random number, when you shake it. You open the the box with the given number and that’s it. Since you do not understand one word, you try to find someone to tell you what it writes, which is usually the hardest part.

Can anyone read what it says?

Can anyone read what it says?


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DSC02434And another nice tradition of the island is a kind of cookie called Momiji Manju, a puffy tiny cookie, with caramel, chocolate or almond topping inside. Very tasty. The road from temple to the ferry has many nice shops for souvenirs and these cookies.

A bride and groom

A bride and groom

This time of the year is also very popular for weddings. In many of the cities we’ve been we saw bride and groom on these traditional carriages or walking in the gardens of the temples, for photos with cherry blossoms.

Eating Momiji Manju

Eating Momiji Manju

Loved the deers

Loved the deers

 

Cherry Blossom adventure started with a rainy day

Chery Blossom adventure started with a rainy day

Osaka castle

A Japan trip would be lovely anytime of the year, but of course the best time is when the cherry trees blossom, that is March and April. When I say March and April, do not think that this lovely time of the year lasts for two whole months. Actually, the case is; the trees start to blossom in Southest part of Japan, around mid March and lasts only one week. However, as weeks go by, the blossom time for trees go Norther. To be at the very same place with the cherry blossoms requires lots of good planning and a bit of luck. or visa versa.

We were lucky, we spent a whole week in Japan and in the every city we’ve been, cherry trees were at their best times. Our trip was between 29th March to 7th April, and our route was Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Hakone and Tokyo.

However, please keep in mind that, this time of the year is very important for Japanese people and not only foreign tourists, but also Japan people travel following the blossom time. Therefore, make sure to start planning your trip around, well, NOW!!

Osaka-jo Park

Osaka-jo Park

Our first day in Japan, was with an awful lot of rain. However, in our only day in Osaka, we did not want to miss the chance to visit the Osaka-Jo Park and the Osaka Castle, which are the main highlights of Osaka, therefore, we did walk a good hour under the rain, got wet…very wet…really very wet and managed to reach the castle itself.

Osaka castle

Osaka castle

Walking in the rain

Walking in the rain

The building itself, as you see, a very typical Japan architecture outside, but a very typical museum decoration inside. Nothing remained original, so you go up with elevator to 5th floor, enjoy the view…

Enjoying! the view

Enjoying! the view

…and go down using the stairs to see installations, exhibitions, museum shop, museum cafe and toilets.

Exhibits showing the war time of castle

Exhibits showing the war time of castle

There said to be a nice view up on the 5th floor, not today unfortunately. However, the exibits were interesting to learn the history and culture of Japan.

Next: shopping time at Midosuji and travel to Hiroshima

Sakura Sakura

After 10 days of travel to Japan and 4 days of overloaded work days, here I am back with my dear followers. I will write in deep detail about our Japan trip day by day, after finishing Australia, but until than here are some Sakura pictures as a teaser.

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More to come in the following months.