Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hiking in the shade, a gold leafed building, and a building with no nails.

Kyoto is an amazing city that has a great feel of modern and ancient.  We were lucky to be able to stay with the family of my first roommate in college, along with his younger sister who was a housemate of ours for a few months.  His family are some of the nicest people we have ever met and went out of their way to show us around the city.  Thanks to them, we were able to see and visit more in Kyoto than almost any other place we visited.  The family did nothing for three days besides shuttle us around and see different sites, followed by amazing meals in the evening.  I also had the great experience of having my 28th birthday, (another story on that later involving an onsen with them), and they surprised me with a cake!
  Yeah for Cake!

Our Friend Kazue Cutting the Cake... I Think.

After Kazue and her family came to pick us up, we immediately went to Kiyomizu-dera, an stunning piece of architecture in the sense that it is both massive, and also put together completely without nails!  It is a completely awe-inspiring place with so much more history than I can explain.  Check out more on it here.  

Not a Single Nail!

View from Across the Valley

There is also a natural spring in the area that is a sort of pilgrimage location for people who are visiting the area.  Of course we needed to attempt to do the same thing.  We waited in line and did the symbolic "drinking" and "washing" with the water.  



Kazue, Danielle, and Some Guy

After this experience Kazue and her father decided to test my mettle.  As everyone knows, I am very quick to back down from a challenge, but this one would prove to be the exception to the rule.  There is a set of stairs near here that you are supposed to walk up and down, and if you trip or stumble you will die in three or seven years.  I honestly cannot remember which one, but hey, dead is dead, so it is not that important to the story.  These are those stairs.

I FEAR NO STAIRS!!!

After cheating death out of a certain victory, It was on to the next adventure.  

Rico - 1
Certain Doom - 0

While in Kyoto we had to see Fushimi Inari.  After seeing this in some book about things to see before I die, I knew that this was a must-do while in town.  Owing to the fact that I was now immune to death for three to seven years, I could have taken my time on it, but we were here already so we went ahead and hiked it.  The amazing thing about this place is there is no way to describe just how many torii there are lining the trail to the summit.  Every single time you think you have managed to see every torii in existence, a new cluster or grouping appears.  The only time they ever break is at each of the shrines on the way up to the top.  I thank God every day after vising here that I was spared the compulsive need to touch or count everything.  I could not imagine the pure hell that would be the life of a person who had that level of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  There are so many torii that you are literally walking in the shade.  

Also, as pointed out by my sister after I posted this on Facebook - Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed there.  I have never seen this movie, but it is on my watch-list for the future.  Just so everyone can have an inside look at my Netflix queue.  You are welcome for that tid-bit of knowledge.

Shade...

Even More Shade...

One of the last and most majestic stops on our Kyoto whirlwind tour was Kinkaku-Ji, which is a pavilion that is set near a small body of water and features multiple floors with gold leaf.  It is as beautiful as it sounds.  If you are an amateur photographer and have wanted to really step up your game, this is the place to get that amazing water reflection shot that you have always dreamed of.  I kid you not, it is almost impossible to take a crappy photo of that pavilion. 

See What I Mean?

I did that with a crappy iPad camera.  Not the new one, but a very old iPad camera.  I could not even imagine what it would look like if I had better lighting, a real camera, and a bit of training in photography.  Trust me, photographers, Kyoto should be on your must-do list.  You are welcome, yet again!

Of course, no trip to any city in Japan is complete without more stairs.  Kyoto is no exception.  Here is your obligatory stair picture.

With a Sasada Family Member

Kyoto: Amazing city with an amazing host family - a few days that we will never forget!