a blog about the cultural experiences my husband and I have because of our work abroad...what's delightful and beautiful about different countries and cultures...what we have learned from living and working in countries other than our home country...and how those experiences have changed us

Friday, June 22, 2012

Japan Part 2: Kyoto

From Fukuoka we took the bullet train to Kyoto. I love riding on trains. They are so much more comfortable than airplanes.
We picked up treats in the train station for the ride. Stephen got a rice treat that he said his mom used to make when he was a kid.
I bought a decadent crepe. :) Such cute packaging.
The train didn't go so fast that I couldn't take a few pictures as we traveled. We made several brief (they aren't kidding about "brief") stops between the cities of Fukuoka and Kyoto including Hiroshima.
The gracious behavior we noticed in Fukuoka was on display on the train. When the ticket collector entered our car for the first time he removed his hat, bowed, and greeted us all before he began stamping tickets. And then for each person he had a bow and a smile and pleasant words of greeting and thanks. All the way up the car he did this. When he came back through the car just as he was about to exit he turned around and bowed.
There was also a woman who went through the train offering snacks and beverages. She also bowed just as she exited each car. Stephen read about the different bows that the Japanese use. The lower the bow the more important the gesture, carrying more respect. In Cambodia bowing is also a common practice but it is also accompanied by a hand gesture like is often used when praying. At first I kept doing the Cambodian style of bow, but really the Japanese style is much easier, especially if your hands are full. :)
On our next to last stop I couldn't resist taking a picture of these high heels. Craziness I say!
We took the hotel shuttle from the train station and then we got our first glimpse of the city of Kyoto.
Then from our hotel we had this view of the city with mountains in the background.
Behind our hotel we took a hike on a bird watching trail.
For dinner that night we just decided to take a walk and see what we happened to find. Not far from the hotel we saw a sign that said Cordon Bleu. It was set back from the road and we weren't sure if it was even open but we went in anyway. No one else was in the restaurant but the woman who greeted us showed us their dinner set menu choices: only two, basically the same except one had more courses. We decided to be adventurous and it turned out we got to experience fine Japanese cuisine, a six course meal plus dessert and coffee.
The first course was gone before I thought to take a photo. :)
Second course. Look at that presentation!
Third course. A kind of potato soup. Yum.
Fourth course. So many flavors!
Fifth course. A marinated sweet tomato.
Sixth and main course. Delicious. I kept saying that with every course.
And finally dessert and coffee. What an experience!
The following day we spent the day walking around Kyoto and into gardens and temples. Throughout the city we would see women dressed in traditional kimonos like this beautiful one this woman is wearing.
Or like this woman with face painting also.
And this darling little girl with her mom. :) We saw her at Kiyomizu-dera temple, one of the two Unesco World Heritage Sites we visited that day.
Here Stephen is doing a ceremonial hand washing before entering the temple. We walked our legs off in Kyoto but it was great!
As we were walking around Kyoto we noticed that just ordinary homes had beautifully detailed roof design.
And some had interesting Asian creatures too.
Kyoto Station was cool just like the one in Fukuoka with shops and restaurants. We went to the station for a late lunch one day and then found this wonderful dessert shop called Berry Cafe. We each bought a slice and they were as delicious as they were beautiful.
Inside the box was an ice pack to keep this delicate dessert perfect until you were ready to eat it. Brilliant!
We spent five days in Kyoto and explored in a different direction and into different temples and gardens every day.
To enter this garden we had to remove our shoes, a common Asian practice. There was a boardwalk throughout. These raked gravel gardens are amazingly neat. Stephen loves these.
This giant gravel garden was at the entrance of the second Unesco World Heritage Site we visited in Kyoto: Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion). 
The quintessential Japanese garden, part of the Ginkakuji Temple. So beautiful! 
As we were walking into the garden a young boy ran up to Stephen and explained that he was a junior high student studying English and would Stephen mind if he asked him a few questions. We saw groups of students on field trips all over Kyoto. They all wore uniforms like the students in the above photo. Then as we were leaving the garden another student with a different group ask me if I would answer some questions for them. About six of them took turns reading questions from their notebook. Their last question was could they take a photo with me. :) 
In all the touristy places we saw ice cream and other treats made with green tea and sesame. I had to try an ice cream cone for myself. Pretty yummy. 
Twice we stopped at this Bubble Tea shop in a huge shopping area of Kyoto. We ordered hot ones. I'd never had hot bubble tea before, only cold bubble tea in Seattle. Those are black tapioca balls in the bottom of the cups. The girls who worked in the shop were really sweet.
We saved the most strenuous hike for our last full day in Kyoto. Fushimi-Inari Taisha, the gates of prosperity shrine. There are thousands of these red torri (gates) throughout the shrine area.
Huge torii.
 Medium torii.
And small torii. Some of the ones in the right hand side of this photo were only a foot tall. 
It was an awesome hike! The next day we took our second bullet train ride to Tokyo. 

1 comment:

  1. We didn't get to spend much time in Fukuoka - just landed and got on the bus to Kumamoto. Looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing.