Michael Vaughn Otto


Michael Vaughn Otto

I am traveling in Japan for May 2012, and will be in Thailand for June 2012!

Asia » Japan » Kyoto » Kyoto May 16th 2012

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 ... read more
at Tenryu-ji with Michael Stusser
Tenryu-ji Temple Gardens and pond
the bamboo forest of Arishiyama

Asia » Japan » Kyoto » Kyoto May 16th 2012

Hiro and I took the bullet train from Tokyo, and I got off in Kyoto, while he continued on home to Kyushu. Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, and there are hundreds of Shinto shrines, and over a thousand Buddhist temples. There are 17 UNSECO World Heritage sites in Kyoto, designated such by the UN in 1993. I took the bus from the train station to the Gion district, home of the famous Geisha. I stayed in a traditional Japanese guesthouse, and slept on tatami mats and a futon, in a tiny single room with sliding screen doors. The bathroom and showers are shared, and there are only 6 rooms or so, the place is called Guesthouse Rakuza and it cost about 45 USD per night for a single room, which is cheap compared to ... read more
wandering around Gion, there are temples and shriens everywhere!
Kennin-ji Temple- twin dragons ceiling panorama
Kennin-ji Zen Temple- Kyoto

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Shinjuku May 16th 2012

After visiting Nikko, my friend Hiro and I went back to Tokyo for a few more days. I did some more sightseeing while he took care of apartment hunting, as he is moving back to Tokyo soon. I checked out some of the popular tourist spots, including Harajuku, which is essentially a shopping area, packed with tourists from all over the world. It was crazy!! There were so many people it was hard to even walk around - but there were lots of girls donning the Harajuku look - kind of a mix between porcelain doll and goth. There are also lots of hip and trendy stores, which kind of remind me of the haight ashbury district of San Francisco, or the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica. I also went to Yoyogi Park, where I ... read more
everything in English makes no sense!
Tempura dinner
trying to fit in by wearing a mask

Asia » Japan » Tochigi » Nikko May 11th 2012

I met a friend in Tokyo, Hiro, and we traveled together to the mountain town of Nikko, about 2.5 hours north of Tokyo. Nikko is known for its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Toshu-gu, Rinno-ji, and Futarasan Shrines. Declared a world heritage site in 1999, and founded in the 800s AD, the area is also known for its hot springs (onsen). We took the train together and transferred once, arriving in Nikko and checking in to our hotel, then proceeding to check out the main temple complex. With a combination entry ticket for all three major shrines, we explored the gardens of Rinnoji, complete with stone lanterns, water features, and beautiful landscape. Rinnoji itself is under renovation, so the front is covered by a fascade, and the building itself dates to the 1600s. Inside no pictures ... read more

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Asakusa May 6th 2012

Today I made the trip over to Asakusa, home of Senso-ji Temple. The subway ride was easy, with only one transfer, and upon exiting the station, I realized I was in for some big crowds! The first week of May in Japan is called Golden Week, and is a holiday period where most people take vacations, so everything is really busy and crowded! There were thousands and thousands of people just crossing the street! Before getting to the temple itself, one must walk down the main street where there is souvenir shops, food stalls, and mass crowds! As one of the very few foreigners in the area, I seemed to attract lots of stares and attention, and quickly a news crew came up to me and asked me if they could interview me for their TV ... read more

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Koenji May 5th 2012

Visiting the memorial of Reiki founder, Dr. Mikao Usui - Tokyo For my first real day of sightseeing in Tokyo, I decided to visit the memorial grave site of the founder of Reiki. The site is located off the beaten track, and is not a tourist sight per se, so it took some research to find the location, and luckily, I found perfect directions on the Internet before arriving. I took the Maronuchi subway line to Shin-Koenji station and proceeded through a neighborhood to the grounds of the Saihoji Pure Land Buddhist Temple where Dr. Mikao Usui and his family are buried. Reiki is a healing art, a type of energy work, that I began practicing at age 17, and visiting was high on my list of things to do. The grounds of the temple and ... read more

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Shinjuku May 1st 2012

Tokyo Day 1-2 I left LAX and flew on Singapore Airlines to Tokyo, it was a long flight but the service was fantastic and I had an entire 4 seat row to myself on the upper deck of an Airbus A380. It was surprisingly quiet and I had downloaded a few movies to watch on my iPad, so the time actually went by fairly quickly for an 11.5 hour flight. I did not sleep at all, knowing that I would land in the evening in Tokyo, and hoping to adjust to the time change as quickly as possible. I snuck a 20 minute nap to get some energy before landing. Immigration and customs was a breeze! I got through immigration in less than 5 minutes, got my bag 1 minute later, and walked through customs with ... read more
Garden path walk Tokyo
Shinto gate

Asia » India » Kerala » Alleppey November 16th 2008

I came to Alleppey after Varkala Beach, and it is the center for Backwater tours and houseboating on the miles of rivers, canals, and lakes that make up this area. They call Alleppey the "Venice of India". Well there are canals and rivers, but it is not quite Venice! It is very interesting though, crazy streets busy with Indian men wearing these skirt like cloth things around their waists (kind of like shorts)- probably beacuse it is so rediculously hot and humid! There are temples everywhere, and bells are ringing all day, the smell of incense all over the place, and fresh fish and fruit markets lining the streets. Because I am traveling alone, I decided to take a day tour on a small canoe, rather than staying overnight on a houseboat. This was a great ... read more
The Backwaters

Asia » India » Kerala » Varkala November 12th 2008

I flew down to meet my friend Marie in Varkala, an amazing beach town in Southern Kerala state, on the west coast of India. We stayed at a beautiful ayurvedic resort with lush landscapes, beautiful cottages, and mosquitos the size of small birds! At night, they come to your room with a iron pot full of hot coals, and burn this amazing incense to "smoke out" your room and keep the mosquitos at bay. Even still, it was DEET mania, and malaria medicine galore. The beach itself is a small strip of sandy area, overlooked by amazing red cliffs, where the main town is, which is remniscent of a small San Diego town. Many restaurants and shops overlook the beach and ocean on the cliffs, and there are dozens of huts and hotels providing accomodation. The ... read more
Varkala Beach
Varkala Beach, Kerala

Asia » India » Maharashtra » Ajanta Caves November 6th 2008

Hey everybody!! So check out my Rishikesh blog, it is finally updated... On to the next adventure. A Yoga group member, Amber, and I went to Aurangabad to visit the incredible caves at Ajanta and Ellora. We had to travel to the middle of nowhere to do it, but it was well worth it. Wow- these caves are incredible. And photos barely do them justice. We had to drive 2 hours to these caves, where I felt like i should be fliming an Indiana Jones Movie. At Ajanta, they are all Buddhist, and were built from 400BC to 800 AD or so. I will do a separate entry for the caves at Ellora, which were equally incredible. There was really nothing else to do in this place but see the caves, so we made a whole ... read more
The caves built into cliffs
Massive Buddha

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