Postscript from Japan - autumn magic plus


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December 12th 2006
Published: December 13th 2006
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Autumn in all its gloryAutumn in all its gloryAutumn in all its glory

The light and colours are simply amazing
Colin-San, as tour leader, led such a cracking pace around Honshu that there was no time to publish a blog. Consequently we decided on a few postscripts on different aspects of the trip. Each of us has chosen a subject of interest and one we think could help any friends planning a trip to Japan. Knowing the group some of you may guess that transport, shopping, accommodation, shopping, food, shopping and toilets will feature heavily.

More importantly for everyone the critical question of “where can you buy tonic in Japan to go with the 3 bottles of duty free gin’ will be addressed.

Ostensibly whilst we had come to see the autumn leaves it was mid November when we arrived and autumn was yet to arrive in Tokyo. So in the first few days every little glimpse of a red leaf was photographed many times in case it was the last one we saw. Instead we made do with the wonders of a Tokyo still dressed in green. Instead of leaves we did temples, parks, museums sights and shops.

We tripped down the centre of the Ginza on a public holiday when they had closed the street to
Ross and Helen in AsakusaRoss and Helen in AsakusaRoss and Helen in Asakusa

Hoping for good fortune and happiness ahead
cars and everyone was very festive, walked through Harajuka to see Japan's extreme teenage fashion in Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street); visited the Tokyo Forum and the Edo-Tokyo museum and had drinks on the top floor of the Asahi beer building designed by Philippe Starck to look like a giant beer, with white foam on top. An adjoining building built like a glass in black has a huge gold object on top. This golden flame weighs over 300 tons, and is covered in simulated gold leaf - making it gleam beautifully on sunny days. None of this has stopped the locals naming it the ‘golden turd’.

Leaving Tokyo to go to Kyoto most people just trundle their suitcase onto a train and go direct to their destination - but not this tour group. Using the cheap and efficient overnight carrier service that operates throughout Japan we sent our larger bags by courier direct from our Tokyo ryokan to Hanikawa Inn in Kyoto and we just took our small packpacks with us. Then we travelled (in order) by local Ginza and JR Yamanote trains to Tokyo station, the JR Hikari Shinkansen to Odawarra, then up the mountain on a small Hakone
Rikugien Gardens - TokyoRikugien Gardens - TokyoRikugien Gardens - Tokyo

The gardens have been designed to illustrate scenes from famous poems - and each vista is beautiful. We saw our first touches of red colouring in the trees.
Tozan private train to Gora, took a a cablecar and a ropeway past where Fuji was reported to be in the mist, caught a bus, ran for a pirate ship, and then another bus and the local train again before rejoining the Hikari for a luxurious ride to Kyoto and our next stop. That’s travel Colin-san style so if you ever sign up for a tour be prepared!


Oh, we of little faith, we cried, once we reached Kyoto - as this beautiful city turned on a magnificent autumn feast with every colour, tone and shade imaginable. The dark wooden temples with their red painted decorations seem to be designed to sit spectacularly amongst the matching colours of autumn. However this stunning season also attracted every second person in Japan who had come on the holiday long weekend to check out the leaves. We became part of the crowds that were literally swept along the streets as if part of the Tokyo train commuting crush.


Our Kyoto ryokan, a tiny gem just big enough for the six of us, was right next to the path leading to one of the most famous temples. Kiyomizu-dera (meaning pure
What a beautiful rock!What a beautiful rock!What a beautiful rock!

I had to take a photo of this rock and an elderly Japanese man took a photo of me taking the photo. He introduced himself and later sent us a copy - what a nice man.
water) has a vast verandah supported by hundreds of pillars. Legend has it that in Edo times if you jumped off this 13 m high structure and survived all your wishes would be granted. Luckily due to the lush vegetation below, out of 234 jumpers in the Edo period, 85.4% survived. The practice is banned now and we found that just getting to the edge of the verandah for a photo opportunity took all our strength, determination and tenacity through the crowds.

It is also the time of the Shichigosan (literally, “7-5-3”) festival for three and seven-year-old girls, and three and five-year-old boys at the Heian Shrine. Dressed in kimono, hakama or other formal wear, small children traditionally receive blessings on November 15th, but may visit anytime within the month of November. Omiyamairi is the first shrine visit at 30 days after a baby is born, when the tiny child, swaddled in white lace, is brought inside to the altar to be blessed. Between us we could do a complete slide show on this event.

A special recommendation from Col and I if you get the chance sometime, is to visit the Miho Museum, a couple of hours
The Tokyo ForumThe Tokyo ForumThe Tokyo Forum

It's Tokyo's entertainment and convention centre and is most spectacular. We saw it unfinished in 1997 so it was a treat to go back this time.
travel from Kyoto. This museum was the dream of Mihoko Koyama (after whom it is named), the heiress to the Toyobo textile business, and one of the richest women in Japan, to house the families private collection of Asian and Western antiques, as well as other pieces with an estimated value of between US$300 million to US$1 billion. Designed by I.M.Pei (of the Louvre extension fame), 80% of the building is underground to preserve the natural environment and to assimilate it into the surrounding scenery. The path to the museum is through a tunnel and over a bridge spanning two mountain ridges. Pei used the classical Chinese poem “Peach Blossom Valley” as his inspiration and literally moved the mountain to build the museum before replacing every rock and tree on top.

Close to Kyoto is the Shinto Inari Fushimi Shrine famous for the thousands of vermilion torii lining the paths on the hill on which the shrine is located. The torii gates are all donations from individuals, families or companies. The Inari spirit is thought to protect grains, especially rice, and is associated with wealth. This temple was featured in the film Memoirs of a Geisha and it is
First morning in TokyoFirst morning in TokyoFirst morning in Tokyo

Straight from the night plane from Sydney we went exploring the temple area of Asakusa. Helen and Jan spotted the first shops and Ross and Rick discovered food tastings!
very relaxing to wander up the hills through these bright orange red gates. We wondered if Christo had visited Fushimi before he did his New York gates.

Leaving Kyoto meant leaving the peak of autumn behind. Over the last week or so we saw late autumn and falling leaves in Koyasan, rain and winter garden preparations in Kanazawa and then snow falling on the peaks above Takayama. We felt as if we were visiting on the cusp of the two seasons.

It was fun to introduce one of our favourite countries to our friends Ross, Helen, Rick and Jan, and for them to see what a fascinating, complex and beautiful place it is. We hope you also enjoy the slightly belated experience.

Enough words - enjoy the pictures.





Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


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The Ginkakuji Temple Zen gardenThe Ginkakuji Temple Zen garden
The Ginkakuji Temple Zen garden

In 1492 the shogun built Ginkakuji or the Silver Pavilion. Modelled on the Gold pavilion plans to cover it in silver never happened. The Zen garden is renowned.
Ginkakuji gardensGinkakuji gardens
Ginkakuji gardens

It was at the Silver temple that we really learned what autumn looks like in Japan!
Colours galoreColours galore
Colours galore

Just when you think you can't see anything more colourful you round a corner and there is one more exquisite scene.
The Silver Pavilion from aboveThe Silver Pavilion from above
The Silver Pavilion from above

The story is that the shogun had run out of money - hence no silver. Others say it suited the ideals of Zen simplicity he was after. Who knows?
A carpet of leavesA carpet of leaves
A carpet of leaves

It only takes one big wind! Whilst visiting Nara Ross and Rick said it rained gold on them and people ran through the trees to catch the gold.
On the steps of Heian ShrineOn the steps of Heian Shrine
On the steps of Heian Shrine

Regardless of Buddist beliefs most Japanese children are taken to a Shinto shrine on such special days.
Miho MuseumMiho Museum
Miho Museum

Looking back to the mountain tunnel entrance and the bridge over the valley
Miho Museum entranceMiho Museum entrance
Miho Museum entrance

All you see as you exit the tunnel are the steps and entry to the museum
Miho Museum viewMiho Museum view
Miho Museum view

I.M.Pei decided that opposite the entry the 'Shangri-la' like view required a tree to frame it. No problems - a 50 year old tree was transported to the spot!
Miho Museum interiorMiho Museum interior
Miho Museum interior

The references to Japanese architecture in the structure and the vistas that open at every turn are wonderful and that's before viewing the collection of antiquities.
Inari FushimiInari Fushimi
Inari Fushimi

Each torii gate is a donation. They wind for 4 kms up the hills.
Inari Fushimi and usInari Fushimi and us
Inari Fushimi and us

It was a sunny day and very relaxing wandering up through the arches of gates.
The last of autumnThe last of autumn
The last of autumn

In Kanazawa it rained and the rain and winds stripped the trees.
Preparing for winterPreparing for winter
Preparing for winter

Kenrokuen Gardens in Kanazawa.
It's not just the trees!It's not just the trees!
It's not just the trees!

The stone lantern in our Kanazawa ryokan will be covered by a metre of snow this winter.
At the ensen in Takayama At the ensen in Takayama
At the ensen in Takayama

The more precious the object the greater the care.


13th December 2006

beauty col-san
What a great post blog Col-san and Lyn. Wish we were there. Catch up when you can. cheers Michael

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