Kyoto – Temple OD and The Art of Making Umeshu
20-22 June 2013
Now we are in Kyoto. It is raining and raining and raining and raining but it does not mean that one cannot enjoy the city. We went to visit Ryoan-ji, which has one of the most famous zen-gardens of Japan. The garden is made of 15 stones of different sizes rising in a sea of off-white gravel. According to the panel outside, this garden can teach you infinite truths… The 15 stones are placed so that no matter where you view the garden from, one stone always remains hidden. Think about that.
In between visiting zen gardens and temples, we started making our own umeshu!!! Umeshu is a liqueur made from Japanese apricots although it is more popularly called Japanese plum wine. The taste is fantastic and it only gets better when it is home made. The bad thing is that we have to wait at least one year before drinking it, so in the end it wil be a very well traveled Umeshu!
The Magic of Moss
Kyoto, 23 June 2013
Our last day in Kyoto, we went to see the famous Golden Pavilion and a small but magic moss garden.
Away from all the crowds, in the northwestern outskirts of Kyoto, we were lucky to find the small but lovely moss garden of the Goji Shrine. Inside the bamboo fence of the garden it was cool and quiet and lush green.
The surrounding bamboo forest created a surreal bluish background to the green moss garden. It was magical.
Eiheiji – Temple of Eternal Peace
26 June 2013
Located in the mountains surrounded by cedar forest and home to some 200 zen buddhist monks, the Eiheiji Temple is a fascinating place to visit. It is one of the most important zen buddhist temples in Japan, established in 1244.
As you walk the wooden planks of the hall ways of the temple, you suddenly hear a rustling of feet and there are the monks! With clean shaven heads, dark robes and white socks. They seemed to be always busy with this or that ceremony (which we could watch but not photograph), practices for the monk trainees and all the other daily zen monk tasks.
For a while we lingered in the temple and considered to become zen buddhist monks with rustling feet in white socks… But then we remembered the umeshu waiting in the car and concluded that was better to continue our trip!
Hakusan and Ryokan Konashinoyu, 25-27 June 2013
After almost 3 months in Japan, one task was still outstanding: The climbing of Hakusan, a holy mountain in the center of the Japanese Alps. Hakusan is 2702 m high and the climb is 1500 altitude meters. We started early morning and after 3 very hard hours we stood in front of the small shrine on the top of Hakusan!
Satisfied with our climb, we booked a room at an exclusive ryokan deep in the forested mountains. This would be our last taste of luxury before Siberia and a kind of farewell to Japan. We are very sad to leave…. But first, we would enjoy!!! Marco went about 10 years ago to the Konashinoyu Ryokan in the mountains west of Matsumoto so he knew that this would be the right place to enjoy the last taste of exclusive and elegant Japan.
At Konashinoyu they have an incredible outside spa, a private rotenburo, with milky white hot water pouring directly out of the mountains and into this small secluded pool.
The food was fantastic and it was one of our reasons for coming here. With fresh herbs and vegetables from the mountains and fish from the river. This small river fish was steam baked inside bamboo leaves for 3 hours with miso in the stomach. Incredibly delicious!
Then back to our room which came with private samurai…
The wife thought that the night in the ryokan was worth every expensive yen which the husband had to pay. Here Marcos face at check-out!