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Published: October 30th 2009
Our room in the ryokan.
Today we met the Love Stone.
We started the day with coffee and pastries at, well, Starbucks (it's that comfort thing again). We also took care of laundry. For those of you wondering how we're managing to travel for six months with only tiny carry on rolling duffles, the answer is that we're doing laundry about once every five days. However, the idea of finding a Japanese laundrymat and then trying to figure out the kanjii instructions on the machines was a bit daunting. Fortunately, the staff at our hotel are so nice. They not only speak excellent English but also offered to wash, dry and fold our clothes for only 500 Yen (about six dollars).
With that task out of the way, we started a tour of the famous Kyoto temples.
Our first stop was Sanjusangendo Hall. It's an enormous building (50 ft x 400 ft!) built in 1266 (!) and home to not 1, not 100, but 1001 life-sized wood statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. They stand solemnly, row upon row, like an army ready to march. In addition to the 1001 Kannon statues there are 29 statues of other gods and an
Angelique looking a bit more at home in the ryokan.
Next up was Kiyomizu Temple, possibly the most famous temple in Kyoto. It's perched atop Mt. Otowa and has stunning views of the city. It was originally built in 798 (!!) and then rebuilt in 1633 (incredible to think that this wooden building - made of local cypress - is nearly 400 years old). However, even more interesting is the smaller Jishu Shrine which is tucked behind it ("the dwelling place of the god of love and matchmaking"). That's where the Love Stones live (the "Cupids of Japan" according to our brochure). There are two of them, cutely decorated and situated about 30 feet apart. Legend has it that if you can walk from one to the other, blindfolded, and not stray off the path, you will meet your true love. Well, we decided not to test our marriage in that way but instead purchased a marriage blessing from the gift shop.
As you can imagine, this is a popular place for singles (and their parents).
All of the Kyoto temples are popular destinations for school field trips - everywhere we went, we were surrounded by huge groups of Japanese school children wearing different uniforms.
Adrian enjoying the futon.
So what luck that dozens of vendors have set up their stalls selling ice cream, cookies, candies, etc just outside of the shrines! It was a great way to sample Japanese sweets. Today we tried a chestnut-flavored cream puff which was absolutely delicious!
We then crossed over a bridge and found ourselves in the Gion district. It's one of the few functioning geisha areas left in Kyoto and probably in all of Japan. The streets are narrow and the buildings are more traditional, somber wood structures - a stark contrast to the flashier neon, glass, steel buildings in the nearby shopping district. We were very lucky to actually see several geishas, in full white face makeup and beautiful kimono, shuffling their way to their evening engagements. They were, however, very good at disappearing into a building or alley whenever a tourist would try to snap their photo.
In the evening we took the metro over to the Westin to meet up with Nick and Emily. The Westin is in a great location, in the east part of the city near many of the temples in a beautiful wooded area. We sat in the lobby and talked about what
Sanjusangendo Hall. Too bad we were not allowed to take photos of the statues inside.
we'd done that day, our impressions of Japan, etc and then headed out to dinner at a sushi restaurant on bustling Sanjo Dori street. It was so nice to catch up with them, especially since we won't be seeing any other family members until Angelique's mom comes to visit us in New Zealand in early February.
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