Kyoto and Central Japan

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.
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All this thinking made us hungry, so we went to have a tofu and vegetable lunch in a small restaurant inside the garden complex.IMG_1710_small

Also the interior of the small restaurant inspired endless thought…IMG_1712_small

We went to some of the famous temples and shrines of Kyoto. As usual, we were not alone!IMG_1718_small

And to escape the crowds we tend to get lost a bit in the small things like these jizo-statues…                                           IMG_1728_small

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Herr Student Aspiring Photographer got photo assignments from his Professor Wife Photographer Supreme.IMG_1730_small

Somehow it is always more interesting to observe the rituals of daily life than to  gaze at the grand temple buildings.IMG_1746_small

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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!
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Ok, we are also going shopping now that it is raining so much. Here Malenes new T-shirt!IMG_1653_small

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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.

The Golden Pavilion….as usual a big crowd and everybody snapping photos of the famous sight of the Golden Pavilion reflected in the pond.IMG_1867_small

On the back side of the Golden Pavilion we found another crowd of people trying to throw coins into the central bowl. Lovely! And a good business for the guys who have to clean up “the mess”. IMG_1870_small

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.IMG_1815_small

The surrounding bamboo forest created a surreal bluish background to the green moss garden. It was magical.IMG_1808_small

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Moss garden panorama by Marco. Click on the photo to view it in a larger format.                       DSC00075 copy_small

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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. 

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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.                        DSC00121 copy_small

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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! 

Jizo statues outside the Eiheiji Temple. IMG_1918_small

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The Essence…

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!DSC00149_small

View from the top of Hakusan.IMG_1925_small

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.DSC00164_small

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Again, our rings showed the effect of the natural mineral water by turning into a variety of metalic colours. Good!DSC00184_small

After a good bath, it was time for dinner. We chose the latest possible time at 18.30! Nobody eats late at a traditional ryokan.DSC00199_small

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!DSC00208_small

Then back to our room which came with private samurai…DSC00193_small

In the morning we had another bath in the rotenburo and then this enormous breakfast waited for us. DSC00225_small

Here the obligatory miso soup next to a local speciality, rice pudding made with the natural mineral water of the hot spring. DSC00226_small

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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!DSC00214_small

 


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