Tuesday, April 30, 2013


When one waits for the local train to come it is puzzling when it passes by on the express track.

It had many of us peering down the track. The announcement that there was local train "one station away" was not reassuring.
And if course it was not true it at least not thus lines train. Two express trains have gone through so what should one do? Have faith in the MTA or go out and get a cab?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, April 29, 2013

Using time

I have not been good about getting my blog up to date so now I'm going to try posting a little something from my phone and perhaps get things up there.

Spring seemed to have arrived yesterday but now it's back to the chill with the rain and the dull skies.
People are complaining if how cold the are. I think we were unprepared for how cool it is without the sun and with the breeze blowing over the rain. Nature's own air con.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A sunny day in Kyoto

 Started out on a walk to Nijo Castle- our taxi ride back at the end of that part of our day showed how far we had walked to the castle.
We walked around the gardens first and then did the unorthodox thing of going back to look through the palace.
Nijo - jo Castle was constructed in 1603 as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ninomaru Palace (a National Treasure), built in the shoin-zukuri (library-style) of samurai of the Momoyama Period, contains gorgeous paintings on the walls and sliding doors. It was here that the last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, restored the emperor to his ancient seat of power in 1867. Located at the site of the former Honmaru Palace, destroyed by fire in the 18th century, is the actual Honmaru Palace (an Important Cultural Property), which was moved from the former Katsura-no-Miya Palace of the Imperial Palace, preserving the dignity of the original detached palace.

 It has "nightingale floors. The Nightingale floor was laid in Nijo Castle for added security.  To guard against intrusion into the Castle by suspicious and dangerous persons like ninja, the floor was designed to sing like a nightingale.  The sound is different from that heard in older houses, because of the different way the floor was laid.  By suspending the floor above the frame using special iron clamps, the floor can move up and down over the fixing nails when walked upon.  This causes the nails to rub against the wood and create a sound similar to the cheeping of a nightingale.  All the floors in the castle, from the entrance to Ohiroma, are this type of floor.  Nick said he could walk on it without it making a squeak or chirp- brought out his inner Ninja.

 We caught a taxi to Kinkakuji. Known as ...the Golden Pavilion ... Rokuon - ji Temple was originally built as a villa by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who had taken possession of a mountain villa of Saionji Temple in 1397. It was converted into a temple after Yoshimitsu's death. Officially named Rokuonji Temple, this temple is famous both in Japan and abroad as a symbol of Kitayama culture. 

The Kinkaku, or "Golden Pavilion," was built as the Shariden. Covered with gold, the image of the pavilion, which stands at the edge of Kyokochi pond, is reflected in the water. Major repair work performed in 1987 has further enhanced its brilliance.

Walking back through the grounds past the tea room people were taking advantage of the golden sunlight- such a change from yesterday. And these charming young women helped enhance the atmosphere of the experience.

  A walk to find lunch (soba noodles) and a bit more of a walk to Ryoanji Temple and rock garden. My favourite.
The Rinzai Zen temple Ryoanji -- Temple of the Peaceful Dragon -- was built in Kyoto in the late 1400s, and the garden may be nearly as old. Its fifteen moss-covered boulders are placed so that, viewed from any point, only fourteen of the boulders are visible. Tradition says only the enlightened see all fifteen boulders.
The garden invites us to contemplate imperfection and limitation. We may know there are fifteen stones, yet in the imperfect world we do not see them all.

Home now for an LLD- little lie down before a final shop for the day/trip...at least until we get to the airport tomorrow.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Raining in Kyoto

 Taking photos in the rain continues to be problematic... adjusting the lens, adjusting the f-stop, clutching an umbrella and keeping the rain off the camera... all too difficult. It wasn't until in the evening that i thought perhaps set it on auto during the rain!
The umbrella in the shot adds to the concept of shooting in the rain.
I brought Broadway to Kyoto!

We took a walk to Kiyomizu Temple. It is located halfway up Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto City.
Kiyomizu-dera is an historic temple that was established in 778, even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan.

 To get there we past plain and interesting modern architecture. It may look dull and grey in this shot but the shape of the building we found quite interesting.

We started our walk through the Gion district

Love the packaging and presentation of things.

 And eventually arrived at the temple

 We met Sakurako and her son Takumi for lunch at the Kyoto Station complex. In the middle of the department store there was a tea house. We had green tea noodles and green tea ice cream. Delicious.

Masako (Sakurako's mother), Testuya (her dad) and Sakurako prepared a delicious te maki sushi meal for us. We sat and chatted and were entertained by Takumi.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A day in Hiroshima and Miyajima

 The long day on the train was truly worth it as this gave us a whole day in Hiroshima and Miyajima.
The Peace Park is indeed that- peaceful and thought provoking.
To get there we caught a tram car- a tram car ride using a ticketing system that the Victorian Government could learn from and commuters in Melbourne could learn how to be more honest when using it :)

There are many examples as we travel around of how the Japanese continue to use implements that work well rather than trying to create more expensive implements that don't necessarily make any difference to the work or the result. Gardening implements are a good examples and this type of broom is used and sold in many places. 

The chrysanthemum holds a special place in the heart of many Japanese people. Known as kiku in Japanese, it is the symbol of autumn in Japan. It is at this time of year that the flower blooms most brightly. So I was a tad surprised to be able to capture a photo of a couple of these at the Peace Park. A little research showed me that white chrysanthemums symbolise grief while red chrysanthemums are often thought to symbolise feelings of love and affection when given as a gift to a special someone. So their symbolism at the Peace Park was significant.

 An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some stories believe you are granted eternal good luck, instead of just one wish, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures  and is said to live for a thousand years: That is why 1000 cranes are made, one for each year. In some stories it is believed that the 1000 cranes must be completed within one year and they must all be made by the person who is to make the wish at the end.
 The true story is of a girl, Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing by the United States. She developed leukemia from the radiation and spent her time in a nursing home creating origami (folded paper) cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would be cured by the Gods. Her wish was simply to live.

 However, she managed to fold only 644 cranes before she became too weak to fold any more, and died on 25 October 1955 in the morning. Her friends and family helped finish her dream by folding the rest of the cranes, which were buried with Sadako. They also built a statue of Sadako holding a giant golden origami crane in Hiroshima Peace Park

What does one do after visiting such a stirring and tragic spot? Seek tranquility of course!
But in order to find the tranquil space that is the Miyajima Tori one must do a little retail therapy along the shopping strip that leads to the temple. 

Along the way to the Peace Park the cherry blossoms didn't fail to delight. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Travelled to Takayama

 It rained yesterday and continued to rain today.
This made for lovely shots of rain slicked building but made me reluctant to get my camera out. I know where is the sense of adventure? Where is the capacity to take photos no matter the conditions?
Juggling an umbrella and an SLR and fearing that the rain will find its way into the delciate electronics of my camera all kinda stymied my capacity for the great shot.

However, Takayama does not disappoint. It is a mountain city in the Hida region so we had a two hour train journey from Nagoya earlier in the day and arrived amidst the rain at our minshuku. 

Minshuku are Japanese style bed and breakfasts, which are usually family operated. They provide a good opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle. One stays in Japanese style rooms, sleep on a futon and have the opportunity to take a Japanese bath.

 The bath will be a great thing after today's chill and rain. The cherry blossoms are not out as much in the area as it hasn't been as warm as it had been in Tokyo (not warm when we were there though)
 Takayama has a festival which is ranked as one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan. On a previus visit Michele and i were lucky enough to catch it. However the old town itself is well worth the effort we have made to bring Nick here.
There is a great treasure house/museum of the floats that are used and have been used in the festival for hundreds of years.
 The Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine is an old shrine, which is thought to be the village shrine for the north part of old Takayama city, situated to the north of Yasukawa dori (street). In times of yore, prince Takefurukuma-no-mikoto was sent from the imperial court to subjugate the monster Ryoumen Sukuna, who was controlling Hida. It is said that the shrine originated when this warrior enshrined Emperor Ojin as the deity of this sanctuary and prayed for the success of the mission.

 The current shrine was rebuilt by Arishige Kanamori in order to protect the north part of Takayama castle. Its festivals are held on the 9th and 10th of October. (Takayama Matsuri). The autumn festival is known as Takayama Matsuri together with the spring festivals at Hiejinja.

 It was great weather for ducks!
 And some shopping.