At the end of February, I visited Kyoto and Iga with my friend Megan, who was visiting from New York! :) I’ve known Megan for a long time, and was excited to hear that she was in Japan looking for some jobs and sightseeing! I was EVEN MORE excited to hear that she was interested in meeting up for a few days!
First stop was Arashiyama, an area known for a monkey park, temples, and the bamboo forest that I visited during my last trip! :) After walking around the temple a bit, we had lunch at the vegan restaurant on the temple grounds. This was the same restaurant Justin and I visited on our first trip! This time, however, the menu was changed!
|Our food came with a cute little instruction pamphlet… in ENGLISH! :)|
|A delicious meal! :D|
|Little squids? Or octupi??|
That night we headed to our hostel, where we wanted to get an early start on bed. Little did we know that we would be talking to a very interesting lady who was originally from the Ukraine, but lived in the UK for a while before deciding to teach English in China. It had been a while since I had met somebody as interesting as her, and I really enjoyed listening to her stories. First of all, she was a very tall lady with short, crazy messy hair. She had an interesting way of speaking as well, in that if she wanted to, she would say something, but she would kind of sometimes leave the conversation and space out a bit thinking about things. I forgot what her name was, it’s such a shame! We shared the room with her and two girls from China who were pretty sweet and gave some interesting insights on our topics of conversation. We got less sleep than we wanted but she was such an interesting person that I didn’t mind haha!
The next day, Megan and I split up for the morning, and I went to Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, which is supposed to be a great spot for viewing plum blossoms. They had a whole section where you could pay to enter and walk through plum blossom groves as well. I JUST missed the plum blossom festival at this temple (it had been on Feb 25th) but it was still beautiful!
Toutekiko (Stone Garden)
Said to be Japan’s smallest rock garden, it is elegant and quite famous, despite being extremely small. On the right side of the garden, there is a flat sheet of rock, and the circular wave designs represent falling drops of water. Just as one drop of water becomes a small river, and then a large river, and finally a large ocean, this garden expresses the preciousness of one drop, and the fact that one drop leads to a big sea.
|The “Sleeping Storehouse”|
Minzou/Menzou (“Sleeping Storehouse”)
This building was used to store things and let them “sleep;” today it would be called a storage shed.
|This sign was so cute! <3|
|These rocks were so interesting! They were tied together with a piece of rope. I saw this repeated in a few places. I am sure it means something!|
I really liked Daitoku-ji! We couldn’t take any pictures inside the main temple, but it was still a wonderful experience! We went at the end of the day when there was a really chill vibe. Again, highly recommend! I can’t speak highly enough of this place. :)
Our next stop was Nijo Castle which we ended up speeding through because we came through a bit late… The grounds were really big but it was cloudy and started to drizzle a bit towards the end. I think that if we came back a little later in the spring or the summer, the grounds would be much more spectacular. Anyway! We still had a nice time! We got to go through the castle, which we could not take pictures of. Inside, though we learned that this castle, as well as the main Daitoku-ji temple, were built with Nightingale floors!
Guidance protection against the climate of cycads (Japanese Sago Palm)
We cover the trunks of the cycads with the sheet of rice straw called “Komo” to protect from the cold at this time of year. In Nijo-jo Castle, a special ornament which is visible like many umbrellas pile up on this sheet. The beauty of cycads dressed in rice straw has become the Ninomaru Garden’s winter scenery.
And that was it for the Kyoto part of our trip! It was nice to see some different parts to the city!Next was Iga, the Ninja City! Iga is located about three hours or so south of me in Mie Prefecture. It is not actually that far, but between the changes in trains, it took a while. At one point, we took this tiny train that was only ONE CAR LONG. I wish I had gotten a picture of it! We were winding through some mountains, so I guess it was necessary! When we got to Iga, we found the trains painted like ninjas! :) I guess they really know what they are famous for!
|Initially this FREAKED ME OUT haha!|
|Pretty cool run down of the tricks we saw!|
|The museum even had a few different displays of secret codes ninjas used! This one, using colored rice grains in particular formations, was especially interesting!|
|A teeny shrine in a wooded area near the castle.|
On our way home, it started to snow! It was beautiful to be taking the train home while looking out the window at snow. However, by the time I got home, the snow disappeared. I guess it was only like this in the mountains!
Anyway, it was a fun few days! :D I got to see a lot of new things, and even though the weather didn’t cooperate towards the end, I enjoyed my time with Megan! Megan, thank you for visiting, and for letting us take you around! :D I am glad you were interested in onsen and Yamachan’s and everything else. :) You were a chill guest to have and I am sorry we didn’t get any pictures of the two of us together. D: I hope you remember Komono and Mie fondly!