Friday, November 30, 2012

Kyoto, Japan: A Gate in Daigoji

I wanted to share this photo with you. One, because it is such a common site to see. Ojizo-sama's with a bib wrapped around the statue or a hat covering Ojizo-sama's head. From what I have learned this is to show thanks for protecting a sick child and also he is the one that helps child who pass on before their parents. Two, because when you see one of these statues (which you will if you visit Japan)  you now know why they seem to be dressed as children.

This guy is bowing after he passed through the gate. This is what people are supposed to do before entering and after leaving, but most people don't...unfortunately, I am in the group that doesn't.

I've always wondered what these stickers of names were for. I'm not sure if it is true for all of them, but it seems that these are the names of people who gave donations. I'm assuming big donations, because if everyone got to put a sticker somewhere for donating just a 10 yen coin you probably wouldn't be able to see the wood anymore. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kyoto, Japan: The Many Statues in Daigoji

There are many statues around the temple grounds, but I am only showing a few of them to you. If you want to see all of them (which you should) then please try to visit here!

The tree with the red bark is called Akamatsu. I tend to associate them with stories from history...I'm not sure why.

The Lotus flower is such a strong symbol in Buddhism. The idea is that people are like the Lotus flower, we grow in the mud, but with hard work and dedication we can grow out of the dirt and grime. That we, as people, can change from bad to good. 

This statue is of Achala, the destroyer of illusions and will help to give you strength.

The reclining Buddha statue.

Buddha teaching his disciples even on his death bed, even in pain, to help his disciples.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kyoto, Japan: More of Daigoji

People needed a place to tie their bad fortunes somewhere so they chose this tree apparently. I'm not sure if this is what the tree is for, but there was no where else to tie the bad fortunes to.

I know it's tempting to hit the bell since it is so well set up and just waiting for you.....but don't. As a sign of respect for the temple and to the Buddhist monks here.

 You can get up close and admire the design of the bell. That I do recommend you do since there are some finer details that you will miss otherwise.

For example the dragon head on the top of the bell.

I just love the contrast of the blue and red. I know it's not supposed to be blue, but that doesn't mean I can't like it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kyoto, Japan: Daigo-ji Inside One of Many Walls

The building of Daigoji began in 874 on the mountain top and over time with help from the temples devoted followers (a few emperors, mainly) the temple was able to expand build the other important buildings you will find today.

Imagine these leaves in Red, Orange and Yellow. Can you imagine it? If you can't then that means you need to come here in Autumn, because this whole wooded area would be Red, Orange and Yellow.

This pagoda is one of the oldest buildings left in Kyoto.

For those of you who enjoy hiking you will like this temple. If you continue along this path to the back gate you will come to the base of the mountain. From there (you have to pay a fee) you can climb to the top to visit Kami Daigo area where the first temple was built. From what I have heard and read it is a steep climb and it takes time, but the view is worth it. I didn't know about this before visiting and so was not wearing appropriate clothing or footwear for such a climb. So, my mother and I decided not to take part in this part of the temple grounds.

This is the Kondo Hall built around 926 in the Shimo Daigo area. Inside you will find many Buddhist statues and you can donate a coin (or two) into the prayer box and say a prayer to them.

Just some random fungi. Just to show how close to nature you will be at this temple. Also a forewarning, for those of you who have a fear of spiders there were lots of spiders in the trees. I personally was a little freaked out by the sheer size of some of them (okay, I may be exaggerating, but for people with a fear of spiders they will seem enormous). I'm just saying don't go walking through the branches and to shake off your clothes after climbing the mountain in case you accidentally take a new friend home. (Happy Hiking!)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kyoto, Japan: Daigo-ji Temple

 I have had the opportunity to visit Kyoto a few times, but this was the first time for me to visit Daigo-ji.

From the Kyoto Station it's about 30 minutes away by bus.The simplest way is to find the bus stop next to Hotel Keihan. There should rows of bus stops in front of this hotel, it is not there. It is on the side of the hotel (if you are facing the hotel entrance, standing in front of the many bus stops, it is on the left) the bus stop is called Hotel Keihan Mae (ホテル京阪前). You should be able to reach this hotel from the Kyoto station exit Hachijo (京都駅八条口). The bus is the Keihan Bus (京阪バス) and it should say Yamashina Kyuko (山科急行). This bus will drop you off in the temple's parking lot.

 From the moment you step on to this path you will notice just how beautiful this place is. I came here when the temperature was still a little warm, so the leaves hadn't changed color, yet. This area in Autumn would be amazing to see.

This is a designated World Heritage Site.

 It looks like I am on my way to fulfilling my hope to see all of the World Heritage Sites in Japan. 3 down and only about 12 (or so) more to go....ho boy, wish me luck!

The technique and time that it must have taken to create these statues...I can't even imagine. I would have loved to have seen these when they were first debuted, but I'm sure with age they have gained more character.

On the other side the pure color of the trees was what caught my attention, especially against the contrast of the faded red gate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where To Visit: Nagoya Castle

If you need proof that you visited Nagoya Castle you can get this stamp. Woohoo!...yeah, I'm not sure what you would do with this. I'm thinking it is more for the kids.

Transportation for the rich back in the day.

I think my a** would have fallen asleep along with my legs and toes! Also, I'm sure the up and down movement from the two people carrying the carriage would have made me nauseous as well. I'd rather walk thank you!

There are 2 statues of Shachihoko on the top of this castle. The used to be made of gold, but they apparently had a problem with people stealling the scales for money. Then, they were made of bronze and these are the ones that were in the fire during WWII. They had completely new ones made and placed on top of the rebuilt Nagoya Castle.

Here is the other one and also the giant version they have in the lobby area of the castle. It's one of Nagoya's symbols so they needed a giant Shachihoko in the lobby. But, at least it is the color the original versions would have been when they were made.

What is fun to do is locating the different marks in the stone walls. Each mark represents the different families that helped to build or have the castle built...I think for the original castle.

This one looks like a segment of an orange.

This one I have no idea, but it looks cool!

It kind of looks like chopsticks with steam or fire coming off of them...what do you think?

This is a giant bath tub that used to have gold sheets or flakes placed on the bottom. This bath tub could probably fit 4 - 5 people, sitting cross legged, comfortably.

Here is another marker that reminds of Tokugawa Iyeyasu's symbol.

See you again Nagoya Castle!

This is the little souvenir that I got for myself. I couldn't resist, it was too funny! There is a mini Shachihoko biting the tail of Rody a donkey or horse like character.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nagoya, Japan: What to Eat

When visiting Nagoya eating Hitsumabushi is a must. This is a famous dish in Nagoya and if you like eel, or are open to trying eel (which I highly recommend you do), then you should eat Hitsumabushi. You have to eat  (well, you don't HAVE to, but this is the way the restaurants recommend you eat Hitsumabushi) in 3 steps.

First, you eat the first third simply, the way it arrived in front of you.

Second, you eat another third with the dried seaweed and wasabi that is provided.

Third, you eat the last portion by pouring soup over the eel and rice to make ochazuke.

Oh it's so delicious! Although, I have to admit my favorite is the second step....I tend to skip the third step, but don't tell anyone (Shhh!). For the restaurant link please see the last photo.

If you are in the mood for some cake then I recommend A La Campagne. It is located on the basement floor of the Mitsukoshi department store, next to the escalators that connect the Mitsukoshi department store and the LaChic department store.

If you aren't in Nagoya then don't worry they have many locations! Several in Tokyo, a few in Kobe and a couple in Osaka as well. I will warn you that the site is in Japanese, so I hope you can decipher the address or ask someone to help you (Hotel staff maybe?)

The atmosphere is very cozy and the display case will make your mouth water. I pass by this cafe almost daily after work (because it is a short cut to my train station and because I like to torture myself, apparently).

The top photo is of their chestnut cake which is only available during the chestnut season (Autumn) in Japan. The second photo is a mousse like cake, a very creamy, whipped cheese cake. It was so fluffy and just melts in your mouth. They tend to rotate the types of cake they make each day, but they usually have the popular ones available.

Another thing to remember is that many of the cakes are available by season only. Which means you can enjoy the fruits that are in season! If you liked "Qui fait bonne" which has disappeared from the Matsuzakaya department store in Nagoya (because of H&M, yay!) this is a good replacement for that cake shop.

Here is a full view of what the Hitsumabushi set looks like. I ordered the regular size which is enough for me, but if you really enjoy food then you can order the larger size.

This restaurant is located in the Gas Building on the basement floor. You go down the fancy looking staircase and go straight down the hall and you will see this restaurant on your left. It is called Shirakawa and it is one of the famous places to eat Hitsumabushi.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nagoya, Japan: Nagoya Castle

Nagoya is famous for a variety of delicious foods, but also for its history! Nagoya is where Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi were born. You can learn a little more about Nagoya's history inside the Nagoya Castle's museum.

This is not the originial castle. The original burned down during WWII from an air raid, but some artifacts survived. You can see those in the museum as well.

If you go to the top of Nagoya Castle you can view Nagoya city from a high vantage point.  Walk around the observatory deck to have a 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

They have these viewfinders (that remind me of Wall-E from the Disney movie) for those buildings that are too far away to see clearly.

You can see the Nagoya Station area from here. Some of the tallest buildings in Nagoya is located there.