Ehhh, good enough

A menacing  kitsune  at the entrance to Fushimi Inari shrine .  

A menacing kitsune at the entrance to Fushimi Inari shrine. 

Day 4 began in a cozy, warm room and it was never warmer thereafter. Knowing how warm the northwest is becoming, I truly didn't prepare for the coldness that is Kyoto. Once again, we had to deal with the terrible transportation system that doesn't really assist foreigners. So when you find out the bus isn't going where you intended you jump off and try to find an alternate route. Eventually we made it to Fushimi-Inari, a torii-filled shrine I have wanted to visit since I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. Like the days before, my foot was still in pain, but that didn't stop me from wanting to reenact one of my favorite scenes from the film. I didn't know that Fushimi-Inari was actually a shrine filled with kitsune (fox) statues as opposed to the shishi (lion dogs) at each torii (gate). Also, I didn't realize that there were multiple shrines to see along a mountain. Because it was a pretty light traverse I had ambitions on making it to the top to get a photo of the view of Kyoto, but that hope was quickly dashed as my right foot began to give out and we became pressed for time if we wanted to make it to Kiyomizudera at a decent hour. So once we reached the halfway point, there happened to be a view that I openly told Ian was "good enough for me." An English speaker heard me say this and had a laugh. Throughout the day this more or less became my quote.

The view from halfway up is good enough for me and kitty. Also, I didn't make it to Tōji temple, but I could see it. Tōji temple houses the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan. Good enough.

The view from halfway up is good enough for me and kitty. Also, I didn't make it to Tōji temple, but I could see it. Tōji temple houses the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan. Good enough.

After we left Fushimi Inari, we made our way to Kiyomizudera, that is after we stopped for some udon. Kiyomizudera is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has a brilliantly orange entrance, and was made without a single nail. In fact it's probably for this reason it was under restoration in the main area which was a bummer, but it was still beautiful from what I could tell. Other notable mentions in Kiyomizudera were the shrine for business luck being a big fat black Buddha type figure, a housed horse statue with business cards thrown into the housing, a shrine for the love god Ōkuninishi symbolized by rabbits and a man with a hammer, and a tree filled with nails representing the "2am visit" death curse that women wished upon the men who betrayed them. Maybe they wouldn't have to constantly restore the building if they used some of those nails for things other than curses.

The main shrine on top, a pagoda and me with the love bun. 

The main shrine on top, a pagoda and me with the love bun. 

Once we left Kiyomizudera we continued to walk up a path filled with shrines and shops in hopes of reaching Yasaka Shrine. It's really, really easy to get distracted however when there is a shrine every 20 steps though. We found an unmanned building with weird art sculptures and the request that if you take photos that you pay the frog.

Creepy cool art.

Creepy cool art.

We passed a pagoda that I'm sure was important, but entry was barred as it seems most shrines close between 4-5pm. It seems a lot of things shut down early in Kyoto in contrast to Osaka and Tokyo, though Ian and I are sure that is due to how cold it is in Kyoto. We saw a big Buddha statue from afar that initially I wanted to see up close, but after realizing I'd need to walk a bunch to pay to see a statue that I could clearly see from afar I decided once again that my view was "good enough." We continued on and stumbled into a double-temple exhibit. One was Entoku-in and the other was Kodaiji. Entoku-in was created by Nene, the wife of Hideyoshi, to mourn his death. Samurai would pay respects by bringing Nene big rocks for her North end garden. I also got to see (but not photograph) a screen painted by the famous painter Hasegawa Tohaku.

Nene's samurai rock garden

Nene's samurai rock garden

By the time we left Entoku-in and walked over to Kodai-ji it was almost dark, but that's okay because both were lit up at night. While it would be lovely to see the garden during the day, we were surprised with the rock garden being lit up with a 2 minute show projected on the rocks and building. We then walked around the lit bamboo forest which was beautiful and reminded me of Miyazaki's The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Cherry blossoms falling over water before the dragon arrives. 

Cherry blossoms falling over water before the dragon arrives. 

Beautiful bamboo forest, no filters or editing needed.

Beautiful bamboo forest, no filters or editing needed.

We never did make it to Yasaka shrine before closing, but with all we did, it was good enough. Also, I would have liked to see Gion in the day, but again, decided it was good enough and that perhaps the night scenery was closer to the romanticized vision I have of it as there were less tourists and gift shops. Finally we ended our night with dinner at a restaurant in Gion, eating different sticks of yakitori, karaage, and drinking Mikan chuhai. It was probably my favorite meal in Kyoto so far, though none of the food in Kyoto has been bad. Definitely better than good enough.

The third stick was my favorite, wrapped in shiso with plum sauce. 

The third stick was my favorite, wrapped in shiso with plum sauce. 

Nihon niha Bōken!

Ok, I'm finally posting the beginning of my adventures in Japan (Nihon niwa Bōken). After scrambling all day to make sure I had everything I needed for my trip, I had a meal with a few of my favorite people, petted Rusti bun goodbye and was whisked away to Canadaland by my best friend, Lindsey. After arriving at the airport, I worked on my newest piece for the What's Up! April cover while waiting for the plane. I also worked on it in the Taipei airport and while in transit between Narita airport in Tokyo to Osaka. I am still working on completing it from in Japan which is great because it was highly inspired by my last trip to Japan. I'll discuss that once I can release the finished art. :)

Anyways, after about 20~hours of travel, we finally got to Osaka Station where we were picked up by Joe-san, our host at the AirBnB we chose based on fantastic artwork alone.

Joe's super cute & silly AirBnB listings!! 

Joe's super cute & silly AirBnB listings!! 

We knew immediately what fun it would be to hang out with him and from the moment he picked us up at the station, we were off to enjoy the ramen I had been craving for so long! He ordered us a spicy ramen which I was a little worried might be to spicy, but it had a miso flavor similar to that which I prepare at home with just a little extra spiciness than I would usually add. It was exactly what I wanted after such a long trip. We didn't stay up too long to socialize on Sunday night, just long enough to get unpacked and find the convenience store and shower.

Joe ordered us a couple bowls of spicy ramen and it was everything I could hope for. 🍲

Joe ordered us a couple bowls of spicy ramen and it was everything I could hope for. 🍲

The next morning, Joe planned out an itinerary with a bunch of the things Ian and I wanted to do. He and Tatsuya, his friend, picked us up and brought us to Osaka Castle. There we walked to a local train station to get the Shoryū/Amazing Pass. This pass granted us free entry to tons of places as well as free subway rides for two days. Initially, he had us on a crazy fast schedule, but we decided to take it slow and really explore the area of Osakajo. After walking up the Osaka Castle, reading the history and appreciating all the ARTifacts (sorry, I couldn't help myself, but they really did  have some incredible art), we walked around to see a view of the city. From the top I discovered there was a garden area below and I do love me some Japanese gardens! We snacked on some karaage & Kobe beef, talked to a local, and then were off to explore the garden and turret houses. I should note that between talking to the local and grabbing a snack, I found my first Gashapon machines! If you don't know what Gashapon is, it is basically my greatest obsession and money waster in Japan. Remember those toy machines in grocery stores with crappy toys/candy. Japan does it way better. It also costs a lot more (¥200-¥400 per capsule gift), but I just can't seem to control myself when it comes to these silly things.

After exploring the turret houses, we wandered over to the history museum which was closing up, and I discovered the HQ for NHK Osaka which is where Domo was created as a mascot for. We finally hopped over to Umeda to explore HEP-5 in hopes of going to the giant carousel.

The beginning of the gashapon collecting.

The beginning of the gashapon collecting.

We wandered around looking for yummy foods. The problem with walking around for food in Japan, however is that you can wander for hours. Not because there isn't any to be found, but there are almost too many options. 😖  After dinner, we shopped around and although I had insisted I wouldn't buy anything at KIDDYLAND, I was paralyzed in excitement, actually hyperventilating when I saw the huge Sailor Moon display (see cover photo.) It could very well be one of the happiest moments in my life. 😂 Needless to say, I knew I would be going overbudget on buying things, sooo I used my credit card instead. After about 45 min of browsing Sailor Moon merchandise, asking Ian if I want "this? Or this?" we finally left and made our way to the top of the HEP 5 building to ride the Ferris wheel. I won't lie, it was a little  scary riding a Ferris wheel that was hundreds of feet above hundreds of people shopping and above a train station, but it was a beautiful sight. We finally grabbed some dessert with a large chocolate cake parfait and then made our way back to Joe's house.

 

We asked if he wanted to hang out and were up til about 3am chatting. We even did a FaceTime with his children and wife who were next door while he was drinking with us. Our language barrier is sometimes difficult but I think we definitely have an amazing friend in Joe. He is very kind, has an interesting history, and is open-minded and friendly. I am looking forward to years of friendship. So that's essentially day 1-ish.

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