Thursday, December 03, 2009

Osaka & Kyoto Weekend - Day Two Kyoto Edition

Finally, I can say that I have been to Kyoto. No more regretting that I never went and seeing the quizzical looks that mirrored what I wondered inside. I`m so lucky to have another chance to live in Japan. On days when frustration happens, it`s good to remember this. And to plan another trip somewhere.

Kyoto was the former capital of Japan from 798 to 1868 (!) before they packed it up and made it Edo (now Tokyo). Kyoto was mostly spared during World War II, so much of what has been old forever still remains and is now even older. As an American, I am often left speechless when I see places that are so much older than the historical places back home that are usually merely hundreds of years old instead of thousands. It`s a feeling I can`t quite describe, but simultaneously humbling and just wow comes pretty close.

There is way more of Kyoto to see and do than what can be done in an afternoon. There are a gazillion (rough estimate) famous temples and shrines. To be honest, we only made it to one. To be more honest, we just wandered around the beautiful grounds at the entry but didn`t actually go in. We intended to go back and go inside at night when the gorgeous autumn leaves would be illuminated, but there was the longest line. And it was cold. And Raining. And we wanted to get back to Osaka for dinner. I accomplished the goal of getting to Kyoto and kind of scouting it out so that I can come back next time, and again after that, to properly see some of what it really has to offer. Still, I managed to take a bucketload of pictures, and these are my favorites.

Kyoto. Finally.
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kyoto Station
So modern looking that it seems like a juxtaposition in the middle of so much history.

Green Tea Cake
Kyoto is all about the green tea. I love green tea flavored everything, so I was thrilled to see this little shop out in front of Kyoto Station handing out samples. The cake is basically baked in layers, one layer at a time. After talking with some of the teachers, I found out that this is called バームクーヘン (baamukuuhen) in Japanese. Since it`s written in katakana, it was clear that it was a "borrowed word," and with some creative internet searching, I found that it`s German in origin, from Baumkuchen (tree cake, like tree layers, I get it), and is a cake that many Europeans would know. Then I learned that the spelling above is a common mistake in Japan and is really バウムクーヘン (baukuuhen). I won`t correct anyone. Who knew this free sample would turn out to be so educational? I`ve also learned that it can be all kinds of different flavors, but since I was in Kyoto, green tea makes sense, and it was awesome. I may or may not have gone back for a second sample. If I did, it was only for research purposes to be sure that I was madly in love with it.

Ninja Tanuki


Outside Kiyomizudera (清水寺)
This is one of Kyoto`s most famous temples.

View of Kyoto from Kiyomizudera

Pretty Underneath

A Dddd...ddd...ragon!
I`m supposed to bring back a dragon`s tooth for Tom`s friend. Instead, all he gets is this lousy T-shirt picture.

Jizo statues seem to be everywhere in Japan. I have always been fascinated by them. Even last time I was in Japan, long before I knew that I would ever know what it is to lose a baby that you might have had. Now, I`m still fascinated, but my heart goes out a little more to all of those who have experienced a similar loss and have dressed him with a bib with the hopes that Ojizo-sama will protect a little more extra specially their unborn, stillborn or child that died too young some other way. The link above gives a better explanation, but that`s my simple version.
In general, I like the way that Japan remembers those who have died, and I adopted a little something last time I was here as a way of remembering my mom. Some other post, some other time, maybe I`ll explain if I haven`t already somewhere. Mighta. I forget stuff.
Ojizo-sama also protects travelers and firemen. I like traveling, and I like firemens in their uniforms sometimes.
Next post will involve Jizo, too. Just so you know.

Green Tea Ice Cream
I have loved green tea ice cream since the first time I tried it, back in college, staying with a Japanese family in Chicago as a sort of homestay in Japan without actually going there. It seemed all strange and exotic back then. Now it seems like green tea as a valid flavor is becoming a little more common with even green tea lattes at Starbucks. I`m OK with that. Even though it was cold and rainy and icky, green tea ice cream sounded good. And it was. This one in the picture is plastic (love all the plastic food displays here). The one I ate was not plastic.

In Gion District, Kyoto
The real deal. When you`ve read books or seen movies about geisha, there is a good chance that the setting was in Gion. I need to go back when it is not cold and about to rain and look around some more.

Manhole Cover, Kyoto

Hot for Teacher

1 comment:

  1. In a land where even a manhole cover looks like a piece of art ...

    I love reading your stories Maggie and right now, in grey and wet Belgium, I'd love to have a taste of that ice cream. I know, I know. I'll settle for some of my home made vanilla ice cream.


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