Japan Kyoto | Tokyo

Kyoto

On a recent trip to Japan, I was fortunate to stay a few extra days to explore Kyoto and Tokyo. When exploring a city, I try to walk to as many locations as possible to get a better sense of place. I was fascinated by the sense of order as I walked towards the first temple.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple

One of my favorite locations was Otagi Nenbutsu-ji. The temple was founded in the middle of the 8th century and has been relocated to this site after several natural disasters, including flooding, typhoons, and civil war. There are twelve hundred wonderfully individualistic, moss-covered stone statues representing Buddha disciples located on the hillside, covered with varying amounts of moss, leaves, and ferns.

Nembutsu-ji Temple at Adashino

From the Heian (794-1185) to Edo (1603-1868) periods, when people died without kin in Adashino, they would be left on the hillside without tombstones or proper burial. Today, over eight-thousand roughly-carved stone Buddhas, collected from the surrounding area, honor the souls of the deceased. On the grounds there is also a beautiful walking path and bamboo grove.

Tofuku-ji Temple

The Tofuku-ji temple is the head temple of the Tofukuji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and is one of the five great Zen temples of Kyoto. In the drizzling rain, the moss covered grounds, meticulously kept gardens, and long wooden bridges were serene and tranquil .

It was easy to loose track of time in the beautiful zen rock garden.

Rokuon-ji

Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple originally built in 1397, was burned down in 1950, and rebuilt in 1955. Each floor has a distinct style of architecture: shinden, samurai, and zen. When the temple was rebuilt, the top two stories were covered in gold leaf - to purify negative thoughts and feeling towards death.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha, located on Mount Inari was enshrined in 711, and is the most important of several thousand shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Behind the main buildings, is the entrance to Senbon Torii - the famous orange and black wooden gates which wind their way throughout the sacred mountain. Numerous statues of foxes (thought to be Inari's messengers), can be found throughout the walkway. People come from around the world to visit the shrine and pray for plentiful harvests, success in business, and well-being for friends and family.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

One of my most memorable experiences was waking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove at sundown. Surrounded by bamboo, the leaves whispered calmly in the breeze, while stronger winds caused the towering stalks to collide, creating haunting echoes high above my head.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence for the Tokugawa Shoguns and is a incredible example of feudal era architecture. The extraordinary attention to detail, from the floorboards that warn of intruders, to the decorative embellishments of the karamon gate, are awe-inspiring.

Tokyo

Yoyogi Park

I was excited to come across three early-blooming cherry trees in Yoyogi park.

"The cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short." —Homaro Cantu

Tsukiji Fish Market

While visitors aren't allowed in the inner Tsukiji wholesale fish market until after 10 am, I arrived early to have breakfast and walk around the outer market. There I found everything from restaurants serving sushi and rolled omelets, to vendors offering strawberry mochi, salted cherry blossoms, dried fish, restaurant supplies, and more.

Once in the inner market, I quickly discovered most stalls had sold their fish and were cleaning up for the day. Fortunately, there were still a few vendors open, allowing me to take photographs.

Tennoji Temple

Tennoji temple, originating in 1274, is a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism and has a large bronze statue of Buddha that was created in 1690.

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Julieanne Kost
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