Sunday, March 18, 2007

Kyoto + Night + Lights = Ooooh, Aaaaaah

Well, haven't been able to get online until now since our hotels haven't had the Internet in rooms or anything... unfortunate, but just the way it is. Been too tired to write until now anyway, but today was a (relatively) easy day so I'm in pretty decent shape.

Our final day in Kyoto on Thursday was lovely. It started out with a long bus ride out to Ryoan-ji temple, which has exquisitely manicured grounds and a Zen rock garden which was once part of someone's cottage. On the bus ride down, my family started up a conversation with a group of uniformed Junior High School kids who were on their way to Kinkaku-ji for some sightseeing. It was quite amusing to see everyone try to communicate with each other, with my mother occasionally slipping back into her Spanish and my uncle impressing the girls with Japanese vocabulary he was being fed by Yoshiko and myself. I think this little interaction was a definite highlight for everyone, including the kids. They don't get to talk much in English I'm sure, and they were quite good at getting together in groups to figure out answers and respond to everyone's queries.

We did eventually get to the temple, payed our dues and went in. The highlight of the temple was a bit of a let down, partially because mood is such a huge factor when visiting this kind of place. The whole Zen thing is about peace and tranquility, which is something hard to achieve with groups of high school students running around the grounds. But the garden was in fact very peace inducing...

The grounds were what really made the trip worthwhile, with an army of groundskeepers kept hard at work. These poor folks were busy cleaning the hundreds of square meters of moss carpeting in the surrounding gardens.

After a bit of a stroll in the residential area around Ryoan-ji and Kinkaku-ji due to us getting turned around a bit, we boarded a bus which eventually took us to Sanjusangendo, which was quite the treat. This building is the longest in Japan, and is filled with a thousand and one (exactly) statues of Buddha and some iconological depictions of various protectors and such.

On the grounds of the temple, some of the plum and cherry trees were in bloom. Got this lovely shot of a plum blossom. I've recently gotten acquainted with the Aperture Priority mode on my camera and have been playing around with different depths of field with interesting results. Glad to be back into the swing of this photography hobby of mine.

Photos were not permitted inside, which is understandable. I've never been very comfortable taking pictures inside temples anyway, so here is another outside shot of the looooooooong main building of Sanjusangendo.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we did a bit of shopping before getting some rest at the hotel, having dinner and heading back into the Higashiyama area to check out the great Hana Touro. Really amazing to walk the streets lined with paper lanterns and get a feel for what Kyoto must have been like so long ago. We've been quite lucky with the weather so far, and though we've had a few cloudy days, there have been no major rain events... though it has been pretty cold. I feel about the same now as I have all winter in Utsunomiya, not sure what little weather quirk has put Spring off for a few more weeks. My poor little Yoshiko has even come down with a bit of a cold what with all our walking in the cool night air. My parents and brothers have gotten right into the swing of taking care of her though, offering up lozenges, sweaters and anything else they can to keep the little Japanese part of our family comfortable. Here is an example of the decorated lanterns which line the streets.

The final destination for us on our night walking tour was Kiyomizu-dera which, as we could see from out hotel, was quite lit up. Here is the outer gate and one of the buildings, just fantastic.

Here is the group.

This is one of my favourite shots, very similar to one I took from about this spot during the day. This gate with the city in the background was really beautiful.

I am also getting the hang of the whole long-exposure thing too, the S3 takes great night shots. I am really pleased with the crispness of the pictures.

Finally, around shut down time, we made our way up to Kiyomizu-dera and were quite taken with the view. This temple sure is amazing, with its network of pillars and beams. I can understand why it's up for one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

And on the walk out, we were even treated to a view of Kiyomizu's pagoda, lit up and showing up at the end of a quiet street. Of course as I setup to take the picture, a car showed up.... but nonetheless.

And that was it for Kyoto. We left our fabulous hotel and hopped a ride to Osaka on a Rapid Service JR train on Friday.


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