Completing the circuit backwards

A while back I watched a ridiculous Japanese movie (do not watch - awful) in which a crazed mother attempts to resurrect her dead daughter by completing the Shikoku pilgrimage backwards, but inadvertently awakes great evil. As we were also completing this pseudo-pilgrimage backwards I could not help but worry what demons would be stirred. Until, that was, a friendly hiker said not to worry about which direction we were going. Phew. Now I have read a little more about it, in the film the mother completes the circuit 16 times.

29 12 09 - 23:09 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

88 temples and 1 mountain

Sainin (the 29th abbot of Ninna-ji and an imperial prince) in all his wisdom decided to recreate Shikoku's famous pilgrimage route behind his temple. As a devoted follower of the Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi*, Sainin wanted to build something in praise of his hero and Mt. Joju presented the perfect opportunity to realise such lofty ambitions in 1829. Completed in 1832 most of the structures were destroyed in an earthquake that struck the city the very next year. Fortunately the halls were reconstructed, and the 3km course remains popular with locals.

Beginning at the very edge of a neighbourhood clustered at the temple's North-Western corner, the trail winds around the mountain, returning a few metres from where it sets off. As we couldn't work out where the starting point was we ended up completing the entire pilgrimage backwards. Trailing through a forest of Japanese cypress (hinoki), the path is flanked by dozens of low-set stone posts on which the names of deities are carved in Sanskrit (gods of dance, strength, poetry to name a few). Most of the temples are merely small, wooden halls with cusped windows, though newly finished concrete versions are replacing many of those that have fallen to time and weather. Most altars have dusty plaster statues of Kobo Daishi and Kannon, bodhisattva of mercy staring blankly back.
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29 12 09 - 23:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Abandoned

Prayer-hall number 65 on the Omuro pilgrimage forms part of a priest's residence, though it is exceptionally difficult to believe anyone lives here at all. An eleven-headed kannon nestles deep in the shadows and is not open to the public. A side path leads up to a man made waterfall where many statues of Fudo Myo have been placed at the water's source. The single stream of water is used in the practice of religious austerity in which practitioners stand beneath it reciting sutras in hopes that the force of the waterfall will cleanse their spirit and awaken their Buddhist nature.

What is most interesting about the place are the abandoned shrines and altars on the hill above the house. We wrestled our way up an old path to find a handful of tiny shrines completely abandoned and crumbling to dust. All paraphernalia -and by extension the gods themselves- had been removed and spiders were doing their best to hide the rotting wood behind curtains of webbing. It certainly was an intriguing, if somewhat haunting, discovery. Not often do you find even the most insignificant of shrines so utterly abandoned. As these were just the empty houses I am sure there are no angry gods waiting to avenge their eviction...although I feel the seed of an idea for a new Japanese horror movie sprouting.

29 12 09 - 22:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Omuro pilgrimage

Rhod felt the need to purchase some incense, so we headed over to Ninna-ji (his favourite temple). It was not our intention to climb the hills beyond, but as we have visited so many times I wanted to explore the local neighbourhood. A group of small prayer halls jogged my memory and I recalled reading that there was a pilgrimage that mirrored the famous 88 temple-circuit on Shikoku. Because we started the course back-to-front I thought it was going to be far easier than it turned out to be (under the misunderstanding that there were 44 and not 88 halls), but perhaps that is a good thing as it was more of a hike than we had planned for and we might have given up what turned out to be a pretty walk. It was only when we had almost finished that Rhod mentioned he had noticed the halls had numbers, but thought 88 referred to a year and not the building itself.

29 12 09 - 22:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Monkey shaman

Sekizanzenin Temple sits at the base of Mt. Hiei and was founded as an offshoot of Enryaku-ji (at the mountain summit) in 888 by Anne, head priest of the Tendai Sect, on the orders of the high priest Jikaku Daishi Ennin . Ennin is credited with having made the temple's principal statue (Sekizan Myojin) whilst studying in Sekizan*, China, and like Bishamonten it is regarded as bestowing longevity and wealth. When the retired Emperor Go-Mizunoo visited the Shugakuin Imperial Villa he ordered the repair of the temple's buildings and presented Sekizanzenin with a sheet of calligraphy he had written himself.

Since the temple is located at the North-Eastern corner of Kyoto, where the spirit gate called(Kimon used by demons is said to stand, the temple has been widely worshiped as a protector from bad luck (back luck is believed to flow from the North East, one of the main reasons Enryaku-ji was built on Hiei-zan). It is believed that loans are easily repaid if you visit on the 5th day of the month, the festival day of Sekizan Myojin, and so many businesses have close links the temple. The custom of collecting debts on the 5th in Japan is said to derive from this custom.

Sekizanzenin's architecture is a mixture of Buddhist and Shinto, a reminder that before the Meiji restoration in 1868 both faiths were very much mixed. The Haiden has a ceramic monkey on its roof, the traditional totemic animal of Hiei-zan's native god. Located directly North-East of the original Imperial Palace (where a second statue of a monkey is placed in the deliberately misshapen North-Eastern wall - the two statues face each other across the city) the monkey is said to protect the city from misfortune.** The complex also houses the Konjinsha Shrine at its North-Eastern corner (omote-kimon - outer demon corner) and Aioisha Shrine, dedicated to binding couples in matrimony.

Sekizanzenin is also famous for granting wishes. As well as the usual votive candles and prayer tables, three sheets of paper can also be purchased (each depicting the takarabune - the treasure ship in which the Seven Gods of Good Fortune*** ride), one for each wish. Writing your wish onto the sheet, you then place it beneath your pillow for several nights before returning it to the temple to be blessed. After the blessing it is said the wish will come true.
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28 12 09 - 23:09 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sekizanzenin statues

A selection of Sekizanzenin's many statues.

28 12 09 - 22:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shinpukan countdown

Having delivered a party-bag of sweets and snacks to Akko and Yu-chan, we braved the sub-zero conditions to count down the New Year at the Shinpukan. Bands played to the beer-happy crowd and we tucked in to our toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles -symbolizing longevity- eaten on New Year's Eve) whilst a giant clock counted down the minutes. And magically, at the strike of midnight, my simple wish for snow came true (if only for an hour). A Happy New Year to one and all!

28 12 09 - 22:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A takoyaki sort of a New Year's Eve

Misako and Moko (Akko was sadly sick) came over to make takoyaki (octopus in balls of batter) before we braved the cold to count down the New Year. Whilst cooking we watched NHK's annual Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Battle) in which singing celebrities perform in front of a live audience. The shirogumi 'white' team (made up of men) and the akagumi 'red' team (made up of women) sing a mixture of pop and enka for nigh on four hours until the first strokes of midnight (from then on it is live footage of celebrating crowds and bells being struck in temples across Japan). Because of its huge audience (the show is now in its 60th year), to perform on the show is considered a career highlight for many singers*. Like the BBC Christmas schedule it is easy to see what happens to the license fee money collected each year, for this one show is filled with thousands of extras and massive set changes for each song (the costumes, hair-styles, makeup, dancing, and lighting are often as important as the actual performance). Although it is rather antiquated, there is something fun about a live show at the end of the year and I wonder why none of the British channels take the opportunity to do something similar. For the 5th year in a row the white team won (votes are collected from guest judges, the live audience and recently viewers at home).

Every now and then we changed channels to Hotel-Man, another annual show in which five comedians dressed as bellboys are paraded through a number of comedic situations. The idea (a very flawed one considering how giggly the participants are) of the show is that they cannot laugh else they face a punishment...this being rather stereotypically Japanese. Each smirk or giggle sounds an alarm during which rubber-suited men with huge truncheons race over to slap the comedians on the arse. Bizarre, idiotic and fun.
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28 12 09 - 22:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sekizanzenin Temple

The promise of a white Christmas has been shattered and in its place a growing bitterness has arrived in Kyoto as the Winter deepens. Blue skies and dazzling sunshine suggest warm and pleasant days, deceiving you into leaving the comfort of your house for fresh air, but the sun is a trickster and offers only fleeting warmth. To cycle away the morning chills still lingering in our bones we made for Sekizanzenin Temple, where preparations are already underway for the New Year crowds that will inevitably fill the grounds amid the sound of prayer bells and whispered wishes. Luckily for us there were only one or two visitors this morning, a flurry of monks in the background rushing here and there to decorate statues and fill trestle tables with good luck charms and straw wreaths for homes.

It is a profitable time for temples and shrines, a chance to fill coffers and perform important tasks for each neighbourhood. The city is fairly serene this week, most families cleaning their homes and readying themselves for the onslaught of New Year's Day*. Streets are filled with stalls selling ornaments, fresh mikan, mochi and decorations for the 1st of January, stations are bustling with those returning to their family homes in the provinces, and tourists seem to outnumber the natives for once.
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28 12 09 - 22:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Christmas bike ride - Yanagihara bank

I have been meaning to photograph the old Yanagihara Bank for some time now, but could not find the wooden building amongst the highway and train tracks until today. I should have known that the abundance of shoe shops was the biggest clue as to where the building might be...shoe-making being one of the traditional burakumin industries.

Yanagihara was the only bank in Japan to be founded by the burakumin*, started with money pooled by the local leaders of Yanagihara-cho** (one of Kyoto's buraku areas) in 1899. The bank made great contributions towards improving education (most of the buraku were too poor to afford proper education) and industry in the local area, and strove continually against buraku discrimination (something which had prevented the burakumin from borrowing money from other banks).

In 1920 Yanagihara Bank changed its name to 'The Bank of Yamashiro'. By this time it had greatly expanded and was no longer working solely for the buraku community. In 1927 the Bank of Yamashiro closed due to the global depression. The building was used as a shop and rent-house until 1994.

In order to widen and modernize Kawaramachi Street, Kyoto City bought the building in 1986 and planned to remove it. This threat to the old building brought about a campaign to preserve Yanagihara for posterity. In 1989 the city council decided that the old bank had cultural value as an original wooden building from the Meiji era (1868-1912) and registered it as a cultural property. The city re-opened the building as 'The Bank of Yanagihara Memorial Museum' on November 28th 1997. The Museum continues to promote the history and culture of the burakumin, drawing attention to their plights and continuing to campaign against discrimination.
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22 12 09 - 23:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Christmas bike ride - To-ji

To-ji - pin-up of Kyoto's tourist industry. Rhod - pin-up of the gelato world.

22 12 09 - 00:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Christmas bike ride - Fushimi

Next stop on our Christmas marathon cycle ride was Fushimi, home of the rice god and his messenger foxes. A thousand torii snake up the hillside to create a tunnel of bright vermilion, each gate a donation from a family or company in remembrance of a loved one or to curry favour with the gods. It is awesome and haunting, a commercial exploit that retains its mystery. Easy to believe that the kitsune stalk the overgrown brush still.

22 12 09 - 00:10 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Christmas bike ride - Tofuku-ji

It is a long time since Rhod and I cycled together for sightseeing, so we decided -as he has a two-week holiday- to prepare ourselves for the onslaught of delicious but fattening foods by riding down the Eastern mountains to the kitsune home of Fushimi. Taking the Keihan local train always made the journey seem rather long and tortuous, but by bicycle it really takes no time at all from our house. Afforded the luxury of weaving through the narrowest of streets and alleys, we escaped the congested traffic and investigated previously unexplored corners of the towns flanking the JR and Keihan railway tracks.

For lunch we settled down beside the old stables of Tofuku-ji, bathed in unexpected sun and once again pondering how lucky we are to take such sights for granted as part of our every day.

22 12 09 - 00:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Property of Nintendo

On one of our many treasured Christmas Bike Rides (more on those later) we took a couple of minor detours to swing by two of Kyoto's corporate landmarks - Nintendo's colourful original offices and their much more plain current location. It was by no means our first time visiting the buildings as I'm sure anyone who knows us would imagine, but the day was so clear and crisp - and we were so pleasantly unscheduled on our Christmas break - stopping for some photos seemed a great idea.

The area around Nintendo's old building is so full of 'old Kyoto' character that it feels like a totally different city to that in which their current home stands. A peaceful bridge over the Kamo river connects Old Nintendo's quiet side-streets to the busier main roads, and the decaying bridge also serves to keep the rumbling cars of modern Kyoto at a distance.

In stark contrast, anyone looking for a peaceful moment near the current Nintendo HQ would be out of luck. The giant cuboid building is neighboured by construction sites, similarly sized corporate headquarters for some of other Kyoto's other big boys, and an unkempt baseball field. The choice of a south-of-Kyoto-station location for the studio must surely have been based on practicality and expansion potential, rather than environmental concerns for the staff.

Thankfully, the mess of highways and main roads which create the industrial nightmare that southern Kyoto most certainly is do not manage to diminish a few stand-out landmarks; Not far from Nintendo stands To-ji, with its towering pagoda proudly defining the skyline from many positions (a sight famous across Japan). And to the east the twisting corridor of brilliant red gates which define Fushimi Inari can be found. Indeed, wherever you are in Kyoto, you're not far from a stand-out part of the city's remarkable history. It's just a shame that so few corporate buildings try to reflect the uniqueness of their surroundings.

21 12 09 - 23:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Secret Santa

Secret Santa* is a little bit naff and often more irritating than an itch you can't scratch, but I thought it would round off our Christmas party nicely. Rhod captured the surprised faces as presents were unwrapped, and there was one true gem. Apart from the more obvious choices, Dale's bright orange thermal long-johns gift was so out of left field that it is one of my favourite moments of the year. For those of you who don't know Dale, he is a man who shies away from colour and shirks clothes shopping, and so it must have been a delicious moment for Erina.

Tomomi received rainbow knee-highs and curry salt, Misako panda slippers, Moko a coca-cola glass and Haribo sweets, Akko a bento full of candy, Erina coasters, Etsuyo and Yukiko bath goods, Rhod kewpie keyrings dressed as Mario and Luigi, and for me a cuddly capybara (always the top of any Christmas list). Roll on Boxing Day and celebrating with a roast at Andy's house.
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21 12 09 - 23:52 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Christmas nabe party

To celebrate Christmas in Kyoto this year, we invited many of our closest friends around for a 'nabe' party. Nabe (pronounced nah-bay or nah-beh) literally means pot, and the preparation involves simply cutting up big chunks of vegetables and meats, ready to be thrown together into said pot, with different types of stock. The actual boiling of the broth all happens on the table, with anyone able to pick up ingredients and throw them in at will. Of course, someone usually takes the lead and in this case Tomomi stepped up to offer her suggestions for the best pot mix. We ended up with incredibly tasty Soy Milk broth, Curry broth, and Korean Kim-chi Broth as the centrepieces of a really warm and cosy evening. Presents were exchanged, lots of wine consumed, and the lack of turkey (or even a single roast potato) though always upsetting, was eased by the party atmosphere and the cheery guests. As is often the case in Japan, the party ended in a peculiarly regimented fashion with all guests filing out the door before midnight, but thankfully they left some great memories, and a huge pile of left-over sweets, snacks and drinks. Result!

21 12 09 - 23:51 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Christmas morn

Did I sleep well last night? Did I heck. There are presents under the tree that need opening and as an adult I am supposed to have some self-restraint until at least breakfast time...how could anyone sleep with that thought rattling about in their head? It is a brilliantly sunny day in Kyoto, Kirsty and The Pogues are belting out a tune, chocolate wrappers carpet the floor and we are tearing into the presents this very moment. Merry Christmas everyone. We truly wish we were with family, that the smell of turkey was filling the house, but for now it cannot be.

Life is like a jouney, who knows when it ends? Yes and if you need to know the measure of a man You simply count his friends Stop and look around you, the glory that you see Is born again each day, don't let is slip away How precious life can be / With a thankful heart that is wide awake I do make this promise, every breath I take Will be used now to sing your praise And to beg you to share my days With a loving guarantee that even if we part I will hold you close in a thankful heart.*
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13 12 09 - 21:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Oh Christmas tree

Decorating the tree is one of the hardest things about preparing for Christmas. It is not hard to find ornaments or tinsel in Japan, but it is extremely rare to find real trees for sale or decorations that are pretty rather than tacky. Our miniature tree is a little bling, a mixture of fake fir, shimmering optics and sparkling stars, but I am incredibly fond of the tiny fellow. Each Christmas we have tried to stick to a theme (dozens of mini Doraemon, temple amulets and good luck charms, Mitsuko's felt characters to name a few) but this year we pretty much failed. It was our intention to decorate the yule-tide boughs with animals from the Chinese Zodiac, but it has proven impossible to find all twelve creatures (we do have boars, cows, dragons and snakes) so we have made do with an explosion of ideas. Baubles, glass Santas, felt snowmen and nativity ornaments all scrap for domination. And I think it looks splendid.

13 12 09 - 21:50 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Grotto

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...well unless you count Rhodri all snug in our Christmas grotto.

13 12 09 - 04:23 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Akko

The wonderful Akko. Happy Birthday and Happy Christmas!

12 12 09 - 20:50 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Happy Birthday Akko

Happy 31st Birthday Akko.

12 12 09 - 20:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Home of Honen

Chion-in is one of those temples that inspires awe from the moment you set eyes on the immense gate (standing at 79 feet tall, this is Japan's largest temple gate). What follows, although impressive (the main hall alone can hold 3000 people), can hardly match the sheer domination of the entrance.

Pure Land Buddhism was founded in 1175 by the priest Honen, who taught that one could be reborn in the Pure Land (a heavenly paradise from which it is easy to attain nirvana), simply by calling on Amida Buddha in devotion and faith. Its simple teachings and applicability to common people helped Jodo Buddhism become the most popular sect in Japan. Chion-in Temple was built in 1234 on the site where Honen fasted to death in 1212. Due to earthquakes and fires, most of the present buildings date from the 17th century. In October 2002, Chion-in Temple was used in the filming of the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai. It was standing in for Edo Castle.

12 12 09 - 00:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The biggest bell

Chion-in's bosho is the biggest in Japan, measuring a mighty 2.7 metres in diameter and 5.4 in height and massive 74 tons. Bonsho are Buddhist temple bells, usually made of copper and struck with a heavy, swinging wooden beam or log. Around the top of the bell is a belt with 108 raised half balls representing the 108 evil desires that human beings find themselves repeating and repeating during life on earth. The bells are struck 108 times on New Year's Eve to purge people of these desires and thus give them a chance to start the New Year with a clean slate. The space below the 108 half-balls symbolizes a lotus flower pond and another section of the bell usually bears and inscription that mentions where and why the bell was created in the first place. Divided by a horizontal narrow belt, the space below represents grass.*

This massive bell was cast in 1636, during the time of Oyo Reigan, the 32nd chief high priest of Chion-in. At first, according to legend, no matter how many times the rings from which the bell was hung were recast, they could not support its weight. However, one day, Masamune and Muramasa, who were master sword-smiths, came to worship at the temple. Hearing this story, they combined their efforts to cast a set of rings, and the bell could finally be hung. It is said that you can hear Chion-in's bell in hell and is often shown on NHK during the New Year celebrations. No less than 17 monks (1 master and 16 assistants) are required to strike the bell.
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12 12 09 - 00:52 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Totoro tree and the Blue Cetaka

When Nishida-san told us we were going to practice calligraphy at Shoren-in he really underplayed the visit. We arrived at the temple gates with hundreds of other people, all pouring into the grounds and paying the hiked entrance fee. With autumn leaves all but shed, this seemed a little odd but I went along with it (having no choice really), dragged by the current of bodies shuffling through the covered hallways and into the large prayer hall. Compared to the scenes outside, the inner hall was relatively calm with many meditating bodies squeezed onto cushions. Large fires had been lit to burn prayer tablets on the veranda, and everywhere was the almost inaudible hum of chanting. Unable to stop, I turned to my right and saw that a painting had been hung on one wall, a strange blue creature staring back at me. This one small glimpse was to prove fortunate, because it was the reason for all the chaos.

Among all the national treasures and important cultural assets belonging to Shoren-in temple, the Painting of the Blue Cetaka* (a blue guardian deity of the Shoren-in temple) is perhaps the most famous and one of the three (blue, red and yellow) major cetakas in the whole of Japan. The temple chooses to show the painting only at special occasions (it is believed in this way that the item retains some of its original power), and many decades may pass before it is uncovered once more. We were truly lucky to have seen the cetaka, if only in passing. In the end we opted out of the calligraphy, escaping the throngs to photograph the giant camphor trees (similar to those seen in the Ghibli animated film Totoro) and in truth spending a good deal of time unable to find the exit.
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12 12 09 - 00:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Rhodri and the dragon

Rhod poses below Kennin-ji's ceiling dragons. The ink painting was finished in 2002, after nearly two years hard graft by the artist Junsaku Koizumi who used nothing but traditional materials. Celebrating the 800th anniversary of the temple, the dragons* were created inside the gymnasium of an elementary school in Hokkaido. Traditionally they are considered gods of water, and protectors of Buddhist teaching.
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12 12 09 - 00:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Eisai's dream

Kennin-ji is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, founded in 1202 by the priest Eisai (1141-1215). For its first years the temple combined Zen, Tendai, and Shingon practices, but it became a purely Zen institution under the eleventh abbot, Lanxi Daolong (1213-1278), an immigrant from China whose name in Japanese is pronounced Rankei Doryu. Eisai, known as the founder of the Japanese tea-ceremony, is famous for introducing both Zen and tea-drinking to Japan. During his lifetime he traveled twice to China to further his understanding of Zen, though his dreams of reaching India (the birthplace of Buddhism) was unrealised due to the instability of politics on the Asian mainland.

Kennin-ji is considered to be one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or 'five great Zen temples of Kyoto', along with the Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji, Tofuku-ji, and Manju-ji. Nanzen-ji (called 'First Temple of the Land') presides over the Gozen as head temple.
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12 12 09 - 00:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Zen master

It's been a whole year since I last saw Nishida-sensei and he hasn't changed one bit. He is still the same ball of energy and awful puns, the perfect balance of Japanese reserve mixed with cynical sarcasm. As usual he spent a good part of the day teasing me, this time clucking with amused concern over my weight loss. Last October I remember him making 'chubby' jokes so I guess I just can't win.

It is not an exaggeration to say that everyone who meets him ends up adoring him, which might go some way to explaining why it has taken us so long to find a window in his schedule. Rhod and I met him at Kennin-ji -the oldest of Kyoto's Zen temples- for some sightseeing before lunch at one of Gion's many tea-houses. The maiko-bento (named after the trainee geikos) was a superb mixture of sushi, tempura and an unusual pumpkin patty. Despite not really liking raw fish, I did manage to eat everything but the roe and enjoyed the rather formal-ish meal with old colleagues.

12 12 09 - 00:36 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Rainy bamboo

Here are the photos* from the last day of Maria and Josh's Kyoto tour. The rain held off for the greater part of the day which made a nice change. After spending the morning in the Manga Museum they crossed the city to see the bamboo groves at Saga, and ended by taking the tram up to Kinkaku-ji. Before picking up their luggage and making for Tokyo, they were both lucky enough to experience the delights of bus rides during rush hour. Safe journey home guys.
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05 12 09 - 00:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Not so tawdry

Can't say I love it any better, but Kinkaku-ji sure looks a whole lot better at dusk and without tourists.

05 12 09 - 00:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Colourful

Maria and Josh, dinner at Chiku-ya, and me wearing Omar's present to Rhod. I think it may be for kids, but was happy to find an item of clothing that actually fits for once. Everything else either makes me feel like I am being mugged by cotton or threatens to fall down.

05 12 09 - 00:22 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Nanzen-ji sunset

Nanzen-ji at sunset in autumn is just about one of the best places you could hope to be, especially with maiko (trainee geisha) strolling about with their entourage.

05 12 09 - 00:04 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Blast from the past

Maria and Josh came to stay on the final leg of their Japanese tour, already having hopped from Okinawa to Kyushu, Hiroshima to Wakayama. It was a pleasure to have them, though the weather didn't think so for the greater part of the time. These are some of the photos Maria took of Nanzen-ji, still smug in its autumn clothes.

04 12 09 - 23:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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

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