The next day in Kyoto, I met a new friend, Michael, who is the owner or Osmosis spa in Freestone California, about 2 hours north of San Francisco, and one of my favorite places in all the world. They offer what is called an enzyme bath, which is cedar wood chips and rice bran in a large wooden tub, then liquid enzymes and water are put in to create a fermentation process. This process creates heat, and it can reach 140 F. It is kind of like steamroom and sauna at the same time while you are covered in wet sand or mulch. It is very detoxifying and warming, perfect precursor to a massage. Anyhow, I contacted Michael asking about enzyme baths in Japan, where they originated, and he happened to be visiting Japan at the same time as me! We decided to meet at his hotel and spend the day getting to know one another and visiting some of the gardens of the Arishiyama area of western Kyoto. We took the subway and train to our first stop - Tenryu-ji, a World Heritage Site. The temple itself was rebuilt in 1900 and is grand. Outside has the incredible 14th century
zen gardens, complete with a dry waterfall and a beautiful pond with ornamental carp. Originally built in 1339, it is one of the major temples of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, and Tenryu means heavenly dragon.
We went into the shopping area of Arishiyama and grabbed a great lunch of udon noodles and tempura local Kyoto vegetables. Of course we slurped, as is considered polite in Japan!! Lunch was about 1000 yen per person, or about 13 USD. It was raining this day, but we decided to venture out to see a recommended garden and historical building called Okochi Sanso. Built by a Japanese samauri movie star over the course of 30 years in the early part of the 1900s, the gardens are perhaps the most incredible I have ever seen. We wandered around the expansive garden, filled with varieties of Japanese maple, stone lanterns, and incredible views, where we sat in silence and admired the beauty. We both commented how incredible and magical this place is, and afterwards we had matcha green tea and a sweet treat in the tea house located on property. This truly is a special place.
We also visited another famous temple,
and a World Heritage site, Ryoan-ji. Famous for its rock garden and extensive landscaped gardens with a large pond with ducks, this is the kind of place where you would look up into the trees and see a magical buddha staring back down at you! And we did! We sat in the rock garden area for quite a while, taking photos, and exchanging picture taking with a couple of very friendly japanese tourists. We asked them to take our photo, then they asked us to take theirs, and then they wanted one of us and them together! They were so nice and it was fun interacting despite the language barrier. Ryoan-ji is the kind of place you could walk around and easily spend half a day just enjoying the scenery.
Last but certainly not least I must mention the famous bamboo forest of Arishiyama - made famous by the movie " Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". The walk through the forest is very peaceful, and hearing the wind blow through. The massive stalks of bamboo feels as though you are deep within an ancient forest in early Japan. No pictures could do this place justice as the atmosphere is
so serene and the smells and sounds so breathtaking. The Arishiyama area of Kyoto heads up the top ten of my recommendations for anyone to visit in their lifetime.
I am in Kyoto for one more night, and then I head south to the ancient capital of Nara, which houses some of the most important and oldest buddhist temples and monuments, then I head further south to Mt Koya, or Koya-San, also filled with over 100 Buddhist temples and one of the most important buddhist sites in the world. There is so much more to see in Kyoto! Luckily I will be coming back for 5 more days before I leave Japan, so I have saved some of the sights for my return. The adventure continues!!!
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