We spent five wonderful days in Kyoto. Historically Kyoto is the home of the Shogun and the Shogun was the military leader of Japan. The above picture is of the Nijo Palace, the Shoguns' primary residence. It is surrounded by a moat, and gravel paths. The gravel was used so the guards could hear anyone approaching in the dark. Even the hallways were designed so that the floors would sing like nightingales (any weight would cause the slats to rub together making a birdlike noise) so intruders could not sneak into rooms and attack the Shogun or his guests.
Here are more pictures of the Palace and its grounds.
The fall leaves were just beginning to turn. If we could have stayed another two weeks we would have seen some spectacular landscapes.
One day we went into the mountainside and spent the afternoon in an open air onzen. The Japanese bathing experience is wonderful. They have co-ed onzens but Angela and I were at one where the men and women used seperate facilities. No cameras were allowed but if you go back to Kyoto - Part 1 you will find a link to a book of photos that will give you an idea of what it was like. You take off all clothes, bathing suits are not allowed, and wash yourself while sitting on a wooden bench, using a hand shower, soap and a cloth. When you are fully clean you enter a hot bath. Ours was a large marble tub that could comfortably hold over a dozen people. There were only four or five of us that day in the men's side. The water in this one came from natural sulfur pools and is very hot. In some baths there might also be a cold bath to cool down in. You can lay in the hot bath, listen to birds and smell the pine trees. Your thoughts rise up like steam and drift away with the clouds in the deep blue sky. I know, I'm getting carried away but it was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. I used five or six different onzens while in Japan but this one was special.
We also visited the Bamboo Grove in Ashiyama. Among the many mistakes of a novice traveller that I made was not going to the grove on a weekday. We waited till Saturday of a long weekend to go. Another mistake was leaving a non-density filter on my camera without realizing it. For two days I couldn't figure out why my exposures were so slow (doh). I would love to go back and try it again.
I used my point & shoot for this shot.
I used the slow shutter speed to get some bamboo abstracts.
A cemetary connected to the grove.
And back in Kyoto. There seemed to be so many of these little alleyways throughout Japan.
While viewing these gardens an insect stung me on my knee (I was wearing shorts). A guard noticed it, came over and without a word put a bandage on the bleeding wound.
I loved the coke machine outside the Nature therapy center that persues health & beauty. A little ironic.
Even the parking lots were beautiful.
I believe this was part of the Philosophers Walk.
And at some point I started seeing Japanese brush strokes everywhere.
I found myself being intrigued by bicycles. Bicycles seem to be a lot more utilitarian in Japan than in Vancouver and used by a wider variety of people. They were often in the landscape and the combination of the new, to me, landscape and the practical but to my eyes beautiful bicycles was irrisistable. I took a lot of pictures of bicycles, usually parked against walls, but my favorite, and one of my favorite photos from the trip, was this one.
There were many memories from Kyoto that I didn't record with my camera, and may not be as interesting in the telling as they were in the living. I will always remember it as a time of fabulous meals (the Kyoto style mackerel sushi, ramen soup, and a unique pizza among them) as well as an exciting cultural buzz and powerful sense of tradition. But we had to leave. We had one more stop before we headed back to Tokyo.