Japan – Day 2, Nara

I woke up this morning ready for my trip to Nara. The helpful concierge at the hotel had given me the train schedule and a map to Nara along with some of the highlights I was to be sure not to miss. I opened the curtains to my room and saw some dreary skies. Although it was quite grey out, I decided to go on. How many chances does one get to explore a new country? That and I am really not a museum person, which would have been the alternative.

The train to Nara was uneventful, and it was likewise grey there too. I think I made my best investment of the trip yet when I stopped at the local 7-11 and picked up an umbrella. Not more than 3 minutes walk out of the station did it start to drizzle. It stayed drizzly all day, so I had to balance the umbrella and my small camera. I opted not to use much of my Nikon D100 today due to the weather. Even with the weather I couldn’t be happier. Walking around all the different temples in this quaint town was something to experience. There I met several citizens, both human and deer. Apparently deer are somewhat revered in this town. The foliage was mostly still on the trees, which made for some fantastic scenes. One of the temples, Daibutsuden, has one of the largest seated Buddha statues I’ve ever seen. What was nice is that they allowed people to take pictures there. Most other temples and buildings restrict photography to the outside. I also ended up at the Kasuga Temple that has hundreds of stone lanterns that are covered in moss and look amazing. the fall colors also helped accentuate and add more magic to the surroundings.

Tomorrow will mostly be a travel day back into Tokyo. I am going to try to hit a couple of antique stores in Kyoto before jumping on the bullet train back into Tokyo and see what I can do in the afternoon.

Kasuga Shrine

Japan – Day 1, Kyoto

My first full day in Japan was a beautiful one. I started out early since I had a few places I wanted to visit. First on my list was Nij? Castle. I walked outside and felt the nice crisp air. Believe it or not, I have missed cold weather, and feeling the 50-ish-degree weather was great. To my absolute delight on the way to the castle I saw a couple of trees in bright red and yellow. Being from New England I have become accustomed to Fall foliage, and having been in Singapore for over a year I have missed that season. Last week a friend of mine had visited Japan and she saw the foliage. I arrived here fully expecting to see bare trees in complete winter mode. A smile grew on my face and stuck when I saw one, two, and more trees still with their leafs just for me. To top it off, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I explored Nij? Castle then asked to go to the next temple on my list which is right on the Philosopher’s Walk. The taxi driver dutifully said “hi” and drove me to this amazing temple right on the water and fully clad in gold. It is one thing to see Wats and Chedis in gold, but to see an ornate building that is completely in gold is something else. Kinkaku-ji - Golden Temple

Me and 1000 of my closest tourist friends walked around the lake with the temple and the surrounding park to take pictures at all sorts of angles. When I was done, I took out my handy guide book and went off in search of the canal to walk the Philosopher’s walk. It took some time but I found a canal and started to follow it. It took me through a neighborhood which was quite picturesque. The strange thing was that around the time I was supposed to find another temple, it wasn’t there. Stranger still I had to walk away from the canal to walk on the streets by several houses. Eventually I found what looked like a shopping center, and the guard-post lady was baffled at my question as to where the next temple I was to find was. Turns out the taxi driver mis-understood me and took me to Kinkaku-ji temple instead of Ginkaku-ji! It didn’t help that I somehow found a different canal that was about the same number of blocks away from the temple and started walking. Another taxi was hailed, and I was back on track. Ginkaku-ji is also a very nice temple, and is known as the Silver Temple although it never got its silver overcoat. The actual canal to walk down was quite beautiful, and I enjoyed the scenery and temples along its path.

For my next day I decided to visit the town of Nara upon the recommendations I had heard throughout the day.

Off to Japan

My time in Singapore is coming to a close, and I’ll be moving back to the U.S. Before I head home, I decided to take a quick trip to Japan, as I have only had a chance to see Narita (the airport in Tokyo), and figured I would do well to better explore the country. My trip is a short one, only 6-ish days, and I have chosen to visit Kyoto and Tokyo.

Before flying out here I was given the good advice of getting a Rail Pass. This can only be purchased outside of Japan and then redeemed when you arrive. The timing of my trip forced me to take United Airlines, but I was fortunate enough to have enough frequent flyer miles that I was able to be upgraded to Business Class. This makes the flight go a lot smoother and quicker. One thing I am amazed at is how backward the American flights are. Although the plane was a Boeing 777 the “entertainment” system was something out of the 80’s. I hate to gripe, but Singapore Air and Thai Air have on-demand movies with about 1000 choices on their international flights. On this flight we had a choice of 3 movies that were not on-demand. Fortunately I had a few tv shows saved up on my mac, so I was happy.

I landed in Tokyo, made my way through immigration and quickly got my bag off the luggage belt. It did take me a few minutes to figure out where to pick up my Rail Pass, but once that was done I hopped on the “Narita Express” to Tokyo station to make a connection to Kyoto. It takes about an hour to go from the airport to Tokyo station. I was also lucky enough to board a Shinkansen train to Kyoto (a bullet train). The ride took about 2 hours, and it was a very smooth ride. Metro North in Connecticut feels like an off-road ride comparatively. I arrived in Kyoto in the evening, and after checking into my hotel, which is located right at (in?) the station I walked around and found a small sushi restaurant to eat at.

View of the Kyoto train station from my room
View of the Kyoto train station from my room