Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cherry Blossoms and House Update #1

Gardens at Ryoanji Temple

Last week I had the pleasure of showing one of my favorite families around Kansai! We spent two days touring Kyoto and one day visiting Nara and Osaka. What a great time to go sightseeing with all the beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere! On the first day we went to Kinkakuji, aka the Golden Pavillion, and walked to Ryoanji temple, which is famous for its zen rock garden. I thought it was going to just a boring spread of gravel but it was gorgeous!!!! There is a huge garden surrounding the temple with tons of different types of trees and flowers. It was so peaceful since we visited right before it closed and all the crowds were gone. I actually loved it more than Kinkakuji! I would love to visit again in the fall to see all the beautiful autumn leaves. After that we went to Arashiyama and walked around the bamboo forest before having dinner and heading home.

Dr. Seuss trees at Ryoanji Temple
Zen Rock Garden at Ryoanji Temple

The next day Seisuke came with me and we toured the Imperial Palace. We were lucky to enter the private grounds which are only open to the public on certain days. It was nice to see, however, I would not recommend this place on a hot day with lots of people because it is very spread out and the gravel everywhere makes it feel very hot. After that we headed over to Tetsugaku no michi, aka Philosopher’s Path. This is one of my favorite spots in Kyoto—a beautiful path along a river near Kyoto University and Ginkakuji lined with cherry blossom trees. We bought food at a grocery store nearby and had a picnic right on the river. The best part was when the cherry blossoms would fall down on us like snowflakes! It was magical! After our big lunch of sushi, okonomiyaki, yakitori, tofu, and pineapple, we headed over to Kiyomizu-dera. This temple and Kinkakuji (which are located on opposite ends of Kyoto) are probably the most famous places to visit in Kyoto. Kiyomizu is located up in the mountains and you hike up a hill lined with souvenir shops and soft serve ice cream vendors tempting you with their different seasonal flavors (we opted for Cherry Blossom and Green Tea swirl). Parts of the temple were under construction, so it’s not the best time to visit, but you can’t beat the view! Up in the mountains overlooking hundreds of trees of different colors and a view of Kyoto city in the distance. It is worth visiting! On the way back, we stopped in Gion/downtown Kyoto area and I told my friends to go to the department store basement and pick up some delicious take out! The food floor in all department stores in Japan are a great place to visit to try a variety of different Japanese foods and they often give out samples so it is also a great place to go if you just need a snack!
Enjoying the views from Kiyomizu temple
The last day of their visit we met up at Nara station and walked around Nara park. I knew this would be a huge hit with the kids because Nara is filled with hundreds of deer roaming around and you can buy sembei crackers to feed them. It is such a peculiar sight to see these wild deer roaming around the park and yet they seem so comfortable around humans. We walked through the park to Todaiji Temple. This temple is famous for the giant Buddha and the architecture is amazing. It was the perfect place to visit because the kids enjoyed the deer and the parents were impressed by the temple. After that we had another bento-type lunch in the station and then took a train to Osaka Castle. Since it was rainy that day, there weren’t any picnickers out and it made for a mellow walk through the castle grounds and a leisurely visit inside the castle. It was a lot to cover in one day, but the kids were troopers and were able to walk A LOT (basically all day) without any complaining or whining! The three days flew by and I am sad that we couldn’t spend more time together but I hope they will come visit us again soon!

The next day Seisuke was supposed to participate in a local festival so I went with his parents and their friends to watch him. He dressed up in an authentic samurai costume with a few other people and walked around the town with local families. There were different vendors selling food, produce, and crafts so we picked up some stuff to take home. The only problem was the weather that day was horrible! It was cold, stormy, and being outside was almost unbearable. The festival wore all of us out so everyone took a nap after lunch. Then, in the afternoon, Seisuke and I started working on our house!

We painted some swatches using paint made for painting over wall paper. We plan on painting some of the bedrooms instead of redoing the wall paper since it will be cheaper and faster. The only problem is the wall paper is kind of a dark beige so I hope the color will not show through.

After that we started cleaning the greasy kitchen. There is still a lot to do, but we’ll try to make more time to work on cleaning the rooms this month so we can start stripping the walls. I cannot wait to reveal the wall paper we picked out! I am very excited about it!!! We have a long way to go but hopefully the end result will be what we envision. :)