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Published: April 9th 2016
Our last day in Kyoto, the historical capital of classical Japan where we have seen so many beautiful gardens and temples but will have to leave hundreds more unseen.
We finished with a bang today, with one of the most famous temples and one of the best known gardens.
Rokuon-ji is better known as Kinkaku-Ji, the Golden Temple, because of the gold leaf that adorns its exterior. The gleaming building is one of the great sights of Japan. It was destroyed in a notorious arson attack in 1950 and was fully restored -some say better than the original. It sits above a beautiful reflecting pond in another lovely garden and is certainly a not-to-be-missed sight.
Our other stop today was Ryoan-ji, a temple famous for its stone garden but also home to some beautiful ink paintings and a larger landscape garden around a lovely lake. The stone garden is very simple and meticulously kept, designed to calm the mind and aid meditation (a state not encouraged by the crowds). Behind the garden there is a huge cherry tree and every time there was a gust of wind there was a collective sigh from the Japanese as a flurry of cherry
blossom petals fell. Cherry blossom snowstorms have a beautiful sadness to them as the too-short blossoming season ends. The Japanese have a phrase mono no aware
which is said the be untranslatable but refers to the ineffable sadness of life. The beauty of the falling cherry blossom is a metaphor that pervades the culture. The rest of the garden had many interesting and carefully pruned trees, including some lovely late-flowering cherry blossom and some in snowstorm state. I've decided my favourite is the pink weeping cherry (shidarezakura) but I was also very struck by the blossom we saw yesterday. It grew white and pink flowers on the same tree and a few flowers were mostly white with a single pink petal. I thought it was some kind of mutation at first but found a poster labelling it as peach blossom. However on further research I think it may have been Fugenzo or perhaps I was right about a mutation/ graft as I can't find an identical one anywhere online.
Apart from the gardens, architecture and geishas, we have been very much enjoying the food In Japan. We are eating a lot of bento boxes filled with a variety of ingredients,
some of which we can identify. I've discovered a taste for Japanese pickles which surprised me. The shops are filled with decorations and special sweets for the season so we have tried cherry blossom ice cream and cherry blossom sponge cake, both of which were rather good. Sweet rice cakes with red bean paste are another local delicacy. Then main problem with the diet is a lack of dairy (one in three Japanese women gets osteoporosis!) and an almost complete absence of fruit. For lunch today we had a very interesting and tasty multicultural fusion- Japanese pizza topped with lotus root and cod roe (Deborah) and duck meat and green onion (Danny). Yum!
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