Thursday, 31 October 2013

goodbye osaka, hello kyoto

Hello friends! I'm aware that I'm a little behind on blogging since the trip - things have been as busy as ever and the gorgeous autumn weather is no help! Just now it's clear and sunny, quite nippy and cold in the nights and mornings, but beautifully warm - minus the humidity - during the day. I've been taking any chance I can get to mark things outside rather than at my staff room desk.

But! On with some pictures from the trip. On our last day in Osaka we got the train to Ryokuchi Koen Station to visit the Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farm Houses. Can you tell I'm an architect's daughter?

We had the whole park completely to ourselves, but for a few ancient groundskeepers. You could wander in and out of farmhouses from different periods and areas of Japan. In the midday heat the smell of warm wood was delicious. 

Oh hai. 

I gained at least 12 new bites (hinto: mosquitos in Kansai in October are not to be taken lightly) but it was well worth it. 

These huge houses would often be snowed in up to almost the roof in their normal northern habitat.

Inside, a tiny old man sat by a fragrant fire, busying himself with sheets of coloured paper. As I turned to go, he called me over and pressed a folded pink lily into my hand :) 
Excellent Japanese map no. 1.  

We finished up with a visit to Taiyo no Tomato in Fukushima, Osaka. I've already raved about Tomato Ramen in Miyakonojo, and was determined for G to taste the tomato-y goodness - this came about as close as possible.

 Boom. Fusion cooking heaven. 

Suffice to say we were pretty satisifed. We waddled back to Minami to collect our bags and catch a train to the city of my library daydreams.... KYOTO! 

Getting there was wonderfully easy, thanks to our host, who we found on and who gave us great bus instructions. We stayed in his tiny but perfect apartment for three nights - letting ourselves in the unlocked door to find the keys on the coffee table!

The flat was right next to Daitoku-ji, a beautiful old walled shrine complex that we wandered around the next morning. 

Inside the walls the paths twisted off into trees, gardens, house compounds and shrine groves. We took a lovely tour of a rock garden (no photos allowed unfortunately) and I finally started to grasp the thinking behind them. What may seem like a very simple, almost random formation of plants, trees, rocks and raked pebbles or sand are in fact intricate metaphors and allegories of myths and philosophies, with each element perfectly placed. It was fascinating. 

The trees were expertly trained into their twists by poles and ropes. 

I love these star-leaved trees.
Revived from the heat by a cup of green tea in a little wooden shelter, we made our way to Northern Higashiyama, one of the areas bursting with shrines, for our afternoon sightseeing!

On the way we found the rabbit-themed Okazaki shrine, which is believed to house the gods and goddesses of childbirth (presumably coming from the old adage about rabbits...)

 But not before some hot udon curry.  

This somewhat bewildering advertisement kept popping up. 

One thing that surprised G and that I've grown used to were the number of cigarette and beer vending machines. When I asked my teachers about how underage smoking/ drinking was prevented, they seemed a bit confused and explained that people underage are of course not allowed to use the machines. And so they don't. End of. 

Our next stop was unexpected. While walking to the Museum of Modern Art we caught sight of the huge red gate and just had to go through it.  

Heian-jingu was built in 1895, although the buildings are replicas and are two-thirds of the original sizes. 

I want a pond of carp so bad! 



 You might recognise this from the last bit of Memoirs of a Geisha! 

Excellent Japanese map no. 2.

It was cooling into a beautiful evening, so we wandered over to Nanzen-ji, which was built originally as a retirement villa for Emperor Kameyama in the 13th century, as the sun set. With our temple funds a little depleted, we decided to content ourselves with Sanmon gate and a stroll around the sub-temples. 

For the evening we headed to Gion, the traditional geisha district. Unfortunately it's sometimes difficult for an amateur like me to distinguish tourists, who pay companies to dress and make them up, from the real thing. By this point we were rather footsore and my little camera was tired too, so the photos aren't of a great quality. But I had to at least try to capture the atmosphere - it was pretty magical, with soft yellow light emanating from windows onto the river and leafy, smooth-paved streets.

We ended up eating in a tiny, fantastic Mexican place a bus ride away (Mexican food is few and far between in Miyazaki!) There were four tables and the food was fresh, delicious and cheap - check it out if you're in the area! Mojitos and quesadillas - the perfect way to end the day.