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kyonoki - 京のキー

The colours of Kyoto

26 10 08 - 02:09 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Never work with children and animals

It was an impossible task to get Kitty and Gil smiling at the camera at the same time. This photo seems a little more realistic and I think shows the pair how they really are, rather than cute curtsies and peace signs.

25 10 08 - 10:21 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §

Power punch


25 10 08 - 09:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Crazy mama

25 10 08 - 09:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Happy Birthday Mi-chan. It is very difficult to put into words how much Rhod and I have missed you, Akko and Tomomi. We did not feel sad saying goodbye, because it does not feel as if we will be away for long.

25 10 08 - 09:11 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The past is not the past

Dusk at the Atomic -Genbaku- Dome.

25 10 08 - 02:25 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Toon town

Kyoto's Osamu Tezuka museum is little more than a few fibre-glass statues, a TV screen and a rather expensive shop. I could not resist another visit, though there is very little for Osamu fans in way of original art or even basic information. The museum is hidden away in the entrance to Kyoto Station's grand theatre below of the Granvia hotel, and it is never busy.

For any of you who have not read Osamu Tezuka, or shy away from graphic novels, I would highly recommend his work. They are genius.

25 10 08 - 02:16 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

8:15 am

It was at exactly 8.15am on August 6th that the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima welcoming us to the nuclear age and levelling an entire city in the blink of an eye. The Peace Memorial Museum is a harrowing mixture of salvaged artifacts, personal stories and a more sweeping warning about nuclear proliferation.

The most startling items are also the most haunting: this watch, burnt and broken, stopped at the second the city was destroyed. It remains a potent reminder of the past and what could be our future.

25 10 08 - 02:13 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Hiroshima was founded on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea in 1589 by Mori Terumoto, who made it his capital after leaving Koriyama Castle in Aki Province. It has won its fame through the horrors of its destruction by an atomic bomb at the end of WWII, but is so much more than that. The city today is a leafy town of wide boulevards, river-bank parks and neon sky-scrapers.

I have visited Hiroshima seven or eight times, and love the city's feel and friendliness. We took Deb and her brother on a day trip, and although overcast, the day was a lot of fun if -at times- sombre.

25 10 08 - 02:12 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Samurai Rhod

A small area of the museum inside Hiroshima Castle was set aside for dressing up in the rather forlorn looking costumes provided. Rhod tried on the armor of a warlord. Although there is nothing authentic looking about the set-up, I still think he looks quite dashing. Perhaps just a bit too smiley for a war-monger.

24 10 08 - 12:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Carp castle

Hiroshima Castle, sometimes called Carp Castle, was once the home of the daimyo (feudal lord) of the Hiroshima han (fief). Originally constructed in the 1590s, the castle was destroyed in the atomic bombing in 1945. It was rebuilt in 1958, a replica of the original which now serves as a museum of Hiroshima's history prior to World War II.

24 10 08 - 12:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Something missing?

Well we knew it was happening. We were told it had happened. But it was a queer sensation standing, looking over a fence across the barren expanse of land where once our home in Japan for three years had stood. While there are plans to develop the land into a Konami sports gym, that day still seems far away. I wonder if the financial turmoil has scuppered the plans.

I didn't quite feel sad, having said my goodbyes and feeling that the whole aparment block looked like it belonged in Chechnya, but I wonder what happened to the things we left behind. Has it all gone into landfill, creating yet another man-made island off of the Japanese coast? The think of the thousands of cockroaches that must have swept up on demolition day.

A lot of good times. Goodbye apartment A-201.

24 10 08 - 12:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


24 10 08 - 12:06 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

The lair of Bee

The lair of the bee just happens to be in Shosei-en Garden, and it was an easy place to enjoy while we both recovered from heavy jet-lag.

The Shosei-en Garden, popularly known as Kikokutei* Hall Garden, is currently part of the Higashihongan-ji Temple (although separated from it physically). Its landscaping is attributed to Ishikawa Jozan and Kobori Enshu and dates to the Edo Period, but the large pond may originally have been part of the Heian estate of Minamoto no Toru, younger son of the Emperor Saga. It is one of a number of such Kyoto ponds that are all that remain of the great gardens of the Heian aristocracy. (more)

24 10 08 - 12:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


24 10 08 - 11:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Upon the very pinnacle of Todai-ji's grand roof, crows circle, putting the size of building into context.

24 10 08 - 11:16 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Not so big

This small model sits at the back of Todai-ji's big Buddha. It is of Kamakura's giant Buddha, when it was once housed in its own Daibutsuden.

24 10 08 - 11:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Todai-ji Temple's Daibutsuden Hall is the world's largest wooden building, housing a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as the Daibutsu (the largest bronze statue in antiquity). To provide some perspective, the fingers of the statue are the size of a human. The temple also serves as the Japanese headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism. (more)

24 10 08 - 10:57 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


24 10 08 - 10:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hall of the second moon

The Nigatsu-do (The Hall of the Second Month) is located to the east of the Great Buddha Hall, on the hillside of Mount Wakakusa and overlooks Todai-ji. It is perhaps most famous now for the spectacular water-drawing festival, when monks -somewhat paradoxically- run around the veranda with lit torches.

24 10 08 - 10:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Look at the horns on this bad boy!

24 10 08 - 10:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kawaii desu yo!

In a few years time Nara will receive an ancient set of statues for 1,300 years. Although I could not understand most of the advertisement, it seems that the city is preparing a grand welcoming for the artifacts from Kyoto (the old capital) which has housed the statues for the last millennium. And what better way to educate the people than with a couple of cute characters, both wearing deer horns. Only in Japan!

24 10 08 - 10:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Frantic feeding

Mi-chan somewhat over-reacting to being surrounded by deer.

Rhod bought some senbei and was soon surrounded, the deer nipping at his legs and tucking into his cardigan. He then went into school-master mode, ticking off the more boisterous beasts to little effect. (more)

24 10 08 - 10:42 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The fogs of Kameoka

Kameoka is known as one of Japan's foggiest cities. It's relatively new name (previously it was known as Kameyama) means 'turtle hills' in allusion to the surrounding mountains. Without fail I would throw back the bedroom curtains and discover the early morning draped with thick fog, harbringer of a sunny day. Walking home late at night, the first fronds of fog would curl about the buildings and seemingly pour from the rivers and streams. A time for horror stories around a cracking fire. (more)

24 10 08 - 10:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mi-chan and the big Buddha

With her belly as round as Buddha's, we decided to end our holiday to Japan in Nara, a city that -although we have visited many times- Mi-chan has never been. After an unfortunate delay in which Mi-chan fell asleep on a train heading towards Kansai airport (completely the wrong direction and wrong train for Nara, something she blamed on being pregnant), we caught up and spent a relaxing afternoon walking through the parkland. Our trail took us past Kofuku-ji's impressive pagoda, through Nara's park filled with deer, around Kasuga Shrine, up onto the veranda of Nigatsu-do and down to Todai-ji in which sits the world's largest bronze buddha.

The most memorable part of the day was Mi-chan's happy shriek of 'Deer! Deer!' I wonder if she had ever seen one in the wild. Although cute, after being swamped by a whole herd chasing after the sembei wafers purchased from one of the many vendors, it is easy to grow tired and frightened by their gnashing teeth. Jumpers and coats beware. (more)

24 10 08 - 10:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shika shika

Stinky, muddy, lecherous, demanding, frightening, noisy, occassionally cute Nara deer. Messengers of the gods, or tasty wartime snack?

Tame deer roam through the town of Nara, and might be considered 'tame' unless you happen to have any shika sembei (Deer Biscuits) in your hands.

According to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijo-kyo. Since then the deer were regarded as heavenly animal to protect the city and the country. Some of the deer have learned to bow in response to tourists' bows, but mostly to win a present of food.

24 10 08 - 10:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Race to descend

With the sun slowly disappearing behind the hazy shadow of mountains, we hurried to descend the mountain before darkness came. With screaming baby, we skittered down the slopes, slipping once or twice on tree roots. At the halfway point Rhod sat waiting with a sleeping Kitty. Picking them up we raced the rest of the way down, legs screaming, until we were standing again in the car-park, a mere 4 hours after leaving. (more)

24 10 08 - 09:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fire retardant

After a trip to Ho-Masubi, Gil is not impervious to fire! Level Up!

24 10 08 - 09:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Protecting Gil

After two hours of sweating and struggling up the crumbling earth paths of Atago, Erina lumbered with a baby that howled for a great part of it, we passed under the Kuramon (Black Gate) and up stone steps that led to the main shrine. I was left with the impression that most of the precinct, overgrown and little more than meadow, was once much grander, the temple filled with buildings and a grand avenue. Now there are broken walls, a scattering of stone lanterns and a soothing calm. Bone weary and slick with sweat and dirt, it seemed strange to me that such efforts went to constructing a shrine so remote from the imperial city below. Happily we prayed for Gil at the home of the god of fire and set our sights on the return journey.

24 10 08 - 09:45 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Buddha and his wonderful realm of Christmas beasts

We received our first Christmas present today from Mi-chan, who has created some amazing creatures* from The Cute Book that we gave her as a birthday present when we visited Japan. Waiting for baby to be born, she has put her talents in sewing to brilliant use and finished off our spectacular Christmas tree. In attempting to better last year's theme of Japanese amulets (whilst realising the luckiest tree in the world at the same time), we have decided to create a mixture of Buddhist/Christian decorations. And for any who might scratch their heads at Buddha (brought all the way from Nara) sitting on top of the tree, perhaps it should be a good idea to remember that Christmas is a celebration of peace, hope and giving...something especially espoused by Buddha.

Thank you Mi-chan.

24 10 08 - 09:34 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Roof and sky

According to the Kojiki (Japan's oldest surviving book), Atsuta Shrine was originally founded around 100 AD after the site in Nagoya was chosen for the shrine to house the Kusanagi no Tsurugi. Throughout its history, the shrine's buildings were maintained through the efforts of shoguns such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Tokugawas. The Nobunaga-Bei, a 7.4 m high roofed mud wall, was donated to the shrine in 1560 by Nobunaga as a token of gratitude for being granted a victory at the Battle of Okehazama.

24 10 08 - 09:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sword of the gods

Atsuta Jingu was originally founded about 1900 years ago, when the sacred sword Kusanagi-no-tsurugi, one of the Imperial symbols, was enshrined. Atsuta was chosen as the site for the shrine by Miyasuhime-no-Mikoto, daughter of Owari-no-kuni-no-miyatsuko and wife of the then Prince Yamatotakeru-no-Mikoto, who had died leaving the sword in Hikami.

Ever since Atsuta Jingu has been specially revered by people, ranking second only to the Great Shrine of Ise. The shrine has not only enjoyed special privileges of the high official ranks of Myojintaisha and Chokusaisha, but it has also won popularity among people, who call the shrine by the familiar name of Miya (the Shrine). Moreover, the geographical character of the fertile Owari Plain has fostered a faith in Atsuta Jingu as protector of agriculture. This can be testified by the fact that many of the festivals and divine services show close connection with popular life centering around agricultural industry.

24 10 08 - 09:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The idiot box idol

The Nagoya TV Tower is an electric wave tower. It is the oldest TV tower in Japan, and was completed in 1954. The tower is 180 metres high, and has two observation decks at the heights of 30 metres and 100 metres. In the 1992 movie of Godzilla vs Mothra, the character Battra attacks Nagoya and destroys the tower after being hit by a tank missile. I was just happy to get back down safely.

24 10 08 - 09:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Golden dolphins

Once you have worked your way up the keep of Himeji's Castle there is really nothing else that compares. Not knowing Nagoya, the castle seemed a good place to start and so we strolled through the expansive grounds to the post-WWII replica. Biting my tongue, we took the elevator up and I enjoyed the views though really wanted to scream from the roof 'It is not real! It is a theme park ride!' I enjoyed the peace of the castle, if only to see Rhod ride a golden dolphin. I did not enjoy dropping and breaking our camera. Nagoya was going to be an expensive day out.

24 10 08 - 08:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The valley of thunder

Arashiyama used to be a thirty minute bike ride away. I can't count the times I have waded in and boated on the river, buying tacky souvenirs and exploring the temples hidden in shadowy bamboo groves. Once, it housed the summer villas of the nobility, set in Saga's moor and amongst the meadows beside the Katsura river. Now it is preserved as a tourist honey-trap, crowded in all seasons (there was even a report claiming that in the next few years it will again overtake Kiyomizudera as Kyoto's favourite tourist destination). My last memory was of snow-covered mountains, but this time the sun was out and the trees were still green.

Rhod and I lingered long enough for an ice-cream. Maybe it is the familiarity of the place still that prevents me from missing it. Perhaps that was the theme of our entire trip. Both of us do not believe in our hearts that we will be away for long, and perhaps it will be in our backyard again soon.

24 10 08 - 08:23 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


This sums Erina up effortlessly.

24 10 08 - 08:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Love found

I know that the title of this post may seem a bit oblique, but the pictures have a certain significance to Rhod and I.

24 10 08 - 08:16 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


The home of the fire god is a quiet one. The city sprawls like a pale lake in the bowl of the mountains, and the high meadows of the mountain seem unchanged since the first men set about constructing the temple buildings. The shrine is nothing spectacular, the plain wooden walls intricately carved, but lacking any of the showier flourishes of those in the ancient capital, but why should it be. The pilgrimage to Atago is not about admiring the sleek lines of the buildings, but rather obtaining something sacred. Those who come, come to receive a gift from the god.

24 10 08 - 08:13 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Atago-san: Abandoning Rhod and Kitty

Every single person we met on the mountainside lied to us. At first I believed that they were misinformed, but looking back on the day I wonder if they were not trying to be kind by urging us on through false hopes. There was a unanimous agreement that from the halfway point the climb became easier. This just was not true. I vaguely remember two points where the path levelled out and it was like a welcome slap in the face, but the reprieves were short. For two hours we climbed, and the little markers driven into the ground to give pilgrims an idea of how far they had travelled, only made us despair at the distance left. I would like to say that when we reached the fortieth marker we celebrated, but again disappointment bit at our heels. The last marker sat just inside the gate of the temple, but not at the temple itself. The precinct was large, sprawling, and crowned with dizzying staircases of stone.

24 10 08 - 08:12 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Journey to Atago: The beginning

Atago Shrine, sitting at the very top of Kyoto's highest peak (on Mt. Atago in the North West of the city), is home to the god of fire and the mother shrine to more than 800 'Atago' shrines throughout Japan. Although destructive by his very nature, and feared by mortals, the fire god is not evil and does what he can for mankind, providing them with light, warmth, a means of cooking, and the heat for forging weapons and tools. If the people affront him by neglecting his worship, however, he has been known to burn cities to the ground.

24 10 08 - 08:03 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Portrait: Rhod

24 10 08 - 07:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sake's sake

While Rhod was at the Tokyo Game Show, Erina drove me to Okinatsuru Oishi Sake Brewery to try the local varieties of rice wine. The old buildings are part-museum and part-working factory. We walked around the shop and watched from a first floor window as down below bottles were labelled ready for filling.

A kindly old gent let me try three or four varieties, all of which made me more than a little drunk. While I am not a great fan of sake, the tastes are remarkably different. My favourite was a 5 year old variety stored in aged wooden caskets, that leant their flavour to the drink. Okinatsuru is building up somewhat of a worldwide reputation, showing their products in a recent London wine festival.

Erina and Gil posed in front of the tanuki statue outside the main shop.

24 10 08 - 07:52 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Sitting on a wall close to the Oomoto sect's bath-house we spotted this headless statue of buddha. There was something about the battered old thing that made me wonder what had befallen the poor fellow and what he might have seen in his time. Was it the storming and destruction of the castle that spelled the end, or was it some malicious soldier that kicked the head off?

23 10 08 - 12:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kameyama Castle

For nearly 300 years Kameyama Castle guarded the northwest passage into Kyoto. Following the death of its master, Akechi Mitsuhide, the castle slowly fell into ruins and by the time of the Meiji Restoration no attempts were made to save what remained. Much has been made of Akechi's betrayal of Oda, though it was Akechi who found his promises broken and his family attacked.

23 10 08 - 12:29 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

In ruins

Kameyama Castle is no more than crumbling walls, koi filled ponds and scarred statues. Slowly trees have grown to hide the hints of old buildings and weeds have throttled the less-used paths. The government might well have let the remains of this once powerful castle crumble to dust, had it not been for the Oomoto sect, whose founder remembered playing in the ruins as a child.

23 10 08 - 12:23 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The shrine of beauty

There is a small shrine behind the main hall of Yasaka-jinja, crowned with dozens of pennants that proclaim it to be a shrine of beauty. Although I can find no information about the history of the tiny shrine, it is particularly popular with visitors. Water bubbles out from a tiny spring and it is said that to dab the water on your face guarantees clear and beautiful skin.

Is there some truth in this or was it a marketing ploy to draw women into the shrine?

23 10 08 - 10:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Six months seems a long time to be away from friends, especially when you return to discover one of them six months pregnant. I was so happy to see Mitsuko again, married and with baby bump well developed. The nice thing about six months is that it is not long enough to make meetings a little awkward. We went for sushi and the on the advice of her doctor, hiked up into the Eastern Hills for a long walk. I do not pretend to understand the thinking, but apparently she needs a lot of exercise now she is in her final trimester.

Chion-in is Mitsuko's favourite temple, so we struggled up the hundreds of steps to sprawl out on a bench to catch our breath. The day was reminiscent of the summer, bakingly hot though minus any of the uncomfortable humidity. We craned out necks and searched for the umbrella hidden in the rafters (one of the architects who helped rebuild the temple placed the umbrella in the rafters to help bring rain and thereby ward off fire), skittered across the nightingale floor (intentionally squeaky boards designed so that when the Tokugawa family stayed at the temple, they could detect unwanted intruders at night), and drifted off into a daze at the relentless humming of monks.

23 10 08 - 10:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

And the sun goes down

23 10 08 - 10:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Replacing fortune

Kitty poses in front of folded up omikuji.

23 10 08 - 10:07 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Pleased to meet you

23 10 08 - 10:03 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.

Literally "sacred lottery", these are usually received by pulling one out randomly from a box that one shakes, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. The omikuji falls out of a small hole, scrolled up. Nowadays, these are sometimes coin-slot machines. Unrolling the piece of paper reveals the fortune written on it.

23 10 08 - 09:56 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Temple wildlife

Anao-ji was started in 705 as a place for the worship of Yakushi, the Medicine Buddha, and since the middle-ages it has also been famous for its statue of the historical Buddha lying down shortly before his death.

This statue of Kannon is not open to the public these days, although officially it is to be displayed once every thirty-three years. It is said to have been carved in the early tenth century. According to the legend, a certain man ordered it made, and paid in advance. The statue was delivered before the deadline, and the man was so delighted with it that he presented the sculptor with his favorite horse. He soon regretted the gift, however, overtook the sculptor, shot and killed him with an arrow, and took the horse back. Hearing nothing about the matter for several days, the man became curious and sent a servant to Kyoto to inquire about the sculptor's health. He was amazed to receive a report that not only was the sculptor in fine (and uninjured) condition, the horse was there with him! He decided to take a look at the statue of Kannon and discovered that there was an arrow sticking into the breast. It was clear that Kannon had protected the sculptor. Going out to the stables, he saw that his horse was indeed gone. Overwhelmed with remorse, the man confessed, repented, and devoted his life to Kannon.*

23 10 08 - 09:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Anao-ji Temple

Anao-ji Temple is the 21st of the 33 locations on the Saigoku -Western Japan- pilgrimage (it is one of the 33 temples in Western Japan authorized to issue amulets in the name of the Boddhisattva Kannon). Anao-ji's Buddha, as its name suggests, is reclining under a blanket (the blanket being a somewhat later addition, almost an out-of-place afterthought). Under the head is a lotus-flower-shaped pillow. There is a story about this Buddha that concerns a monk whose beautiful grand-daughter was very sick. He searched for a Buddha to cure her and this was the very one. Today, many people come her and rub the part of the Guatama Buddha where they are sick. It is said that your illness will be cured if you pray while rubbing the part of the Nehan statue that corresponds to the ailment on your own body.

The main image of the temple is a Seikannon, which is also called Migawari Kanzeion and Yakizu-no-Kanzeon. There is a mysterious legend behind this image, but it was stolen and is now missing. In the precincts is one of the famous Tamba Gardens said to be from the end of the Muromachi Period. On the 3rd January, the Fukutabae is held at the temple. On this day monks throw cards from the roof of the main hall. Catching a red card brings good luck. Alternatively those who can catch three cards are promised a lifetime of happiness and wealth.

23 10 08 - 06:11 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A short train ride to Kameoka

The train ride from our old house to Dale's house is less than thirty minutes, but has to have some of the most spectacular views in Kyoto. After leaving Saga-Arashiyama station, the railways cuts straight through the mountains and bridges the Hozu-gawa a handful of times as the river constantly twists back on itself. While Hozugawa station sits on a bridge over a dizzying void, there are many other glimpses of pine carpeted valleys and turquoise waters that can only be seen from a train. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to take photos as the train emerges from tunnels for only split seconds. These are the best I could do.

23 10 08 - 06:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Back together again

23 10 08 - 06:06 - kieren - Photostory| four comments - §

The princess and the frog

The makings of a beautiful fairytale.

23 10 08 - 06:05 - kieren - default| No comments - §


Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.


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