Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beginning of trail to Mt. Takao

Look at all the people!

First stop

View from 382 meters

Mr. Okura making a kokeshi doll

He gave this to me when he was done!

Seiko and her wooden cup filled with delicious sake

Close up of our cups filled with sake


These statues were so amazing along the hillside

View from the top---599 meters!

Hello! Yesterday I went on a long hike with Seiko to Mt. Takao, and these are the pictures to prove it! We planned to take the cable car to the top, but yesterday was a Japanese holiday to honor workers, similar to our Labor Day, and it seemed like everyone was in line for the cable car. The weather was gorgeous and the fall leaves are spectacular right now, enticing even more people to visit the mountain. So, after some discussion, we decided to climb it. Thank goodness I have been going to the gym lately, because this was no easy task. It took around two hours to climb to the top (plus time for a stop for sake and lunch!), along a very steep path that was paved most of the way.

On the way down, we thought we'd try to take the cable car, but we weren't too surprised when we saw the horrible lines of people standing in line, with no signs of it getting better. The hike down the mountain was difficult on my knees because it was so steep, but I managed. The most incredible thing was watching all of these elderly Japanese folks along the trail. These guys were amazing! Seiko and I kept commenting on how they are in such great shape for their age. I want to be like them when I am that old.

We met some really fun people along the way, including this one gentleman who has been hiking the mountain every weekend in November for the past several years to enjoy the sake that they sell. They sell the sake in these little wooden boxes on weekends in November, and you get to keep the box as a souvenir. He told us that he has many of these boxes! It tasted great but it was strong, so we took our time with lunch!

We also met a local man, Kuninobu Okura, who makes beautiful kokeshi dolls. His wife paints them with gorgeous flowers and leaves. We watched him carve a doll and afterward, he gave the doll to me! I was so touched that he did that. Apparently he is going to be on a local t.v. show next week, demonstrating his craft, so I hope to watch it.

We were very tired when we finished our hike, but it was such a fun day, with wonderful experiences to add to my memories of Japan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shinkansen, or bullet train

Me in front of the Golden Pavilion

Kyoto Tower at night


Delicious sand?! Yum!

Kiyomizudera Temple. Please notice the large number of people standing on the wooden terrace. Wouldn't it make you nervous too?

HUGE torii gate outside the Kyoto Museum of Modern Art. If you look closely, you can see Zach standing at the bottom of it on the left.

Zach---which way should we go?! This is near the beginning of the path of torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.

I think we had been hiking for about an hour at this point.

Cute kid dressed up in her kimono

The cousins, Zach and Jarrod

Yoko and Seiko

Those dots are surfers! View near Yoko's house

Hello! Zach and I had a terrific weekend in Kyoto, and we ended up with some fun photos to share. We took our first bullet train or Shinkansen ride to get there, and it was FAST! Up to 186 miles per hour fast! Plus, we did not dawdle when getting on and off the train. I think we had maybe two minutes to get on the train. It started moving before we were in our seats.

While in Kyoto, we managed to see quite a bit, although there were many more things to do that we couldn't fit in. We arrived in the afternoon on Friday, and by the time we got our bus passes and made our way across the city to the Golden Pavilion, it was almost dusk. I was in awe at how beautiful it was and just couldn't believe that I was finally seeing it in person.

On Saturday, we walked and walked, and then we walked some more! We visited the Kiyomizudera Temple, or water temple, with its gigantic outdoor terrace that freaked me out. I kept looking at all the people standing on it, and my imagination got the best of me. The view was stunning, but I was happy when we made our way across to the other side.

We ended up with gorgeous weather. The leaves were also beginnning to turn, and I think in another week they will be even more beautiful. We also visited the Kyoto Handicraft Center on Saturday, which turned out to be not quite what I thought. I was under the impression that there would be many artisans there demonstrating their crafts, but it was more of a place to buy locally made gifts. That was okay for me, but Zach got a bit restless, as most husbands would when faced with a five-story building filled with trinkets! Afterward, we walked along the Philosopher's Path that follows a canal through the city. It was getting quite dark and I think it would have been better earlier in the day.

On Sunday, we went to the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, which involved a two-hour hike along a path lined with thousands of torii gates. I thought we would just take a look at the beginning of the path, but Zach wanted to do the entire hike, so we did, and I'm so glad we did. It was an incredible walk through the forest, and along the way were little restaurants selling fried tofu and noodles. We were watching the clock because we had a train to catch in the afternoon so we didn't stop to eat, but I've heard that it is a pretty tasty dish. Maybe next time. :-)

I wish we had more time to spend in Kyoto, but I'm thankful that we made it there. Living near Tokyo is great, but sometimes it's nice to get out of the big city and see some of the countryside.

We also had some company visiting last week. Zach's cousin Jarrod came to visit. He's in the army and stationed in Germany, and it had been a while since Zach had seen him. We had a fun time showing him around Kamakura and went to afternoon brunch at the New Sanno Hotel. We also went to Sunshine City, an enormous shopping area that I was unfamiliar with and a bit frightened of. I love to shop, but this place tested my patience.

I also spent time with Seiko last week and met her sister Yoko for the first time. Yoko has two children, a girl and a boy, who are absolutely adorable. Yoko and her husband live near the water, so we went for a walk along the waterfront. The weather was fantastic, and the view was great.

Well, I think that brings things a bit more up to date from here. Enjoy the photos!