Wednesday, April 8, 2015


We made it!

After a long journey via LAX and Seoul, we made it to Osaka, Japan and from there onto Kyoto.  Customs was ridiculous, possibly because this is a busy time of year for tourism in Japan -- cherry blossom season. 

Btw, my Amazon expedition retro-blogging (which I left hanging about a year ago) will stay on hold for a bit probably, as I try to capture this trip.

So, it's technically EARLY Thursday morning here (but its Wednesday afternoon in Boston).  We arrived in Kyoto Tuesday evening, and spent yesterday visiting the beautiful Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).  This was originally the villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (a samurai and leader of the Japanese government at the time).  Yoshimitsu was a successful and prosperous leader, appreciator of the the arts, and Buddhist.  Upon his death, the pavilion was renovated into a Buddhist temple at his request.

The pavilion is covered (inside and out) in 20 kilos (~44 lbs) of gold leaf and it sits at the foot of a mountain, reflected in a pond called Mirror Pond.  So, it's beautiful.  We wandered around the pavilion and its surrounding temples and structures and gardens.  It's freezing here, by the way.  And I thought I could leave my Boston gloves and scarf at home :(

Kinkaku-ji reflected in Mirror Pond

My mom and me posing with the pavilion (as we do...)

Another view -- can you see the golden-ness?

Ryumon-taki (Carp Rock) -- said to look like a carp swimming upstream, about to turn into a dragon.

Lookin up at the Sekka-tei Tea House.  Sekka-tei means "place of evening beauty".
Evidently a good place to have your late afternoon tea with a great view down onto Kinkaku-ji.

Looking down toward the pavilion.

Lighting incense and ringing the bells in front of one of the surrounding temples.

These seemed to be little prayer tablets.
People wrote messages on them about what they were hoping for and hung them here in front of the temple.

Prayer candles.  We thought about buying one for Jack to "find employment" ;)
As we reached the end of the site, we encountered lots of kiosks and shops selling sweets, especially green tea flavored sweets and special seasonal sakura leaf flavored sweets (traditional during cherry blossom season).  By the way, this is what my mind used to think when I heard "sakura".  Now it is this:

Keiko's beautful shot on the Kamo river (which she took a few days earlier)

We spent some time sampling lots of rice crackers and various flavors of rice flour dough (mochiko) sweets, sometimes filled with red bean paste (yatsuhashi) or formed into balls dipped in black sesame paste (dango).  Then, back to the hotel for our first class with Keiko (since we weren't allowed to set up and paint on site at the temple.

Tea ceremony sweets with gold leaf -- special for Kinkaku-ji!
They are, of course, filled with red bean paste.

As this was our first class, Keiko focused on showing us her process using a sketch she'd made at Kinkaku-ji that morning.  Very cool and fun to watch her.  We all took a shot at our own painting for the day based on our pics/sketches, but the real technique lessons will start today (Thursday) after our visit to two local towns: Miyama (known for its traditional thatched roofs) and Ine (a fishing village famous for its funaya (boathouse) architecture.  More to come...

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