Japan · 8 Days · 57 Moments · August 2015


31 August 2015

Sayonara Nippon!
I was almost brave enough to try the dried octopus (since I like octopus sushi). Almost.

30 August 2015

Our last train ride - heading to the airport. The JR Rail Pass is a must if you're traveling around Japan (make sure you order it before leaving for your trip!!!)
Took a stroll through the Japanese garden at our hotel.
The Prince Sakura Tower in the Shinagawa area of Tokyo, our home away from home on the last leg of our trip. Again, they pretty much provided anything you can think of!

30 August 2015

Godzilla! 😱
...and then out came the robots!
The main part of the show was basically like watching live action anime, complete with the back story and all...
So we couldn't go to a crazy, over-the-top area and not partake in something a little crazy ourselves. We visited the Robot Restaurant for the late show. The entrance and lounge area was indicative of the guadiness and silly fun to come.
The crazy, loud, over-the-top Shinjuku area. This is Times Square on steroids. Tons of casinos, restaurants, jazz clubs, and regular party clubs in this area. The main pedestrian strip is Kabukicho, directly in front of the JR Shinjuku station.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a huge bronze statue at the Kōtoku-in Temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. They think it dates to 1252. The last structure that it was housed in was washed away by a tsunami in 1498, and its sat in the open air since then. The statue is referenced in a poem by Rudyard Kipling named "The Buddha at Kamakura."

29 August 2015

Seeing this store made me laugh - I remember play fighting with my cousins and telling them they looked like a monchichi 😂😂😂
Sooooo the samba parade was all good until we happened across this particular float and band. I didn't pull my phone out fast enough to get a pic, but there were guys in full black face and Afro wigs, and wearing shackles on their wrists dancing in front of this huge mammy-looking float 😑
If you want sushi on the cheap, look for a kaiten zushi spot. This is the equivalent of fast food sushi in Japan. The sushi chefs prepare plates of sushi and load it on a conveyor belt that loops around the sushi bar. If you see something you want, grab it. Don't see something, then call out what you want to the chef and they'll fix it for you. At the end, the server will tally your total based on how many empty plates you have (the plates have varying price points).
The Asakusa market area - perfect place to shop for souvenirs or trinkets. The area also has a few temples and shrines, and is very near the SkyTower. It's also the oldest shopping arcade in Japan.
We headed over to the Asakusa area to check out the market there, and ran into this Brazilian samba parade completely by accident. Who knew?! Apparently it's the 34th annual samba parade that's been held in Asakusa.
In Japan you spend so much time in train stations that it starts feeling like a second home. That didn't prevent us from getting lost several times - or from experiencing riding the train during rush hour (now at the top of my list of things to never do again).
The National Art Center in Tokyo. Keri dragged me here to see a manga art exhibit.
Good morning, Tokyo!

28 August 2015

This tasted like the worst fake sugar ever. Stick to the regular Japanese fruit flavored sodas!
The Imperial Palace in Kyoto. The thrones for the Emperor and Empress are kept here and still used for the official coronation (although the Imperial Family now lives in Edo Castle in Tokyo).
Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. The present building is a reproduction, as the original pavilion was burned down by an arsonist monk in 1950. The upper two floors are covered in pure gold leaf and lacquer. The building is topped with a bronze phoenix.
Nijo Castle in Kyoto, home of the last shogun - Yoshinobu Tokugawa. The shogun and Emperor shared power up until this point - Tokugawa's resignation as shogun restored all power to the Emperor. The interior of the castle is composed of several audience chambers and ministerial offices, as well as the shogun's private quarters. The feature that I liked most were the nightingale floors - designed to make even the softest step sound like the call of a nightingale as a security system.

27 August 2015

Kyoto Central has to be one of the nicest train stations I've ever visited. It's a destination in and of itself. Continue up the escalators to see these stairs that change color and design regularly, plus a rooftop terrace with great views of Kyoto.
We finally made it to back to Kyoto Central Station. We decided to grab dinner at one of the restaurants, so we headed upstairs. I saw this Cafe du Monde and immediately headed that way - only to be bitterly disappointed because they don't make beignets 😡😡😡
Love the home architecture here!
The Randen Station also hosts this art installation named the Kimono Path that mimics the bamboo grove. The poles are all wrapped in kimono silk, and leads to the Pond of the Dragon fountain.
After all of our walking, we visited the Randen Station to partake of the natural hot spring foot bath there.
After leaving the Fushini-Inari Shrine, we headed over to the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama - so peaceful and ethereal.
Second attempt at street food - this was delicious!
First attempt at street food. Some type of croquettes featuring octopus. Wasn't a fan.
Passed by several additional shrines on the way down.
Saw several little shrines featuring frogs
This is as far up as I was willing to climb. It was the equivalent of climbing 9 stories.
...and then we come to the beginning of the gates. Each gate is paid for by a family or company as a way of garnering blessings. They are placed ascending the mountain to make you think of ascending to a higher plane or to heaven as you pass through each gate.
A monk offering a prayer to one of the many fox statues throughout the shrine.
The Fushini-Inari Shrine is a Shinto shrine made up of a thousand individual gates or shrines that ascend up Mt. Inari. First there are the main buildings for offering prayers...

26 August 2015

The Royal Park Hotel, our home base in Kyoto. They literally provided you with everything - daily toothbrush and toothpaste, a hydrating facial mask, a humidifier, pajamas and slippers - and it all came standard with the room!
The rest of my Kiyomizu-dera Temple pics. The three streams of flowing water each represents a different blessing that you receive when you drink from that particular stream.
Making new friends!
The Love Stones. Folks were rubbing them for good luck in love. If you can walk between the two stones with your eyes closed, you will always have blessed relationships. We saw two teenage girls helping guide their boyfriends to make the walk 😂
The Kiyomizu-dera Temple is a World Heritage Site with an awesome view over all Kyoto. This one is a Buddhist temple. It's pretty noisy and very commercial (the antithesis of a temple lol), but makes for great sightseeing. We saw several pilgrims lighting incense and then "bathing" themselves in the smoke before going inside the temple to pray. I have no pics of the inside, cameras were not allowed.
Strolling uphill on our way to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Visiting the various temples and shrines in full kimono dress seems to be very popular. Also passed by the Hokanji Temple, a 5 story pagoda.
Grabbed a noodle bowl for lunch! Our server helped Keri broaden her horizons and try a beef curry noodle bowl that she loved.
The Yasaka-jinja Shrine. One of Kyoto’s most important shrines in the Shinto religion, the Yasaka-jinja Shrine overlooks the Gion entertainment district and sponsors the city’s biggest annual festival: the Gion Matsuri Yasaka-jinja Shrine is considered by some to be the spiritual heart of Kyoto. At the very least, it’s the spiritual heart of the Gion entertainment district, over which it presides with stately grandeur. It’s almost impossible not to visit this gaily painted shrine as it sits right in the middle of the main Southern Higashiyama sightseeing route and it’s just below Maruyama Park, which is the city’s most popular cherry blossom viewing destination.
The Gion historic and traditional entertainment district. Kyoto's geisha live in this area.
Seiganji temple, another of the 7 temples in Kyoto’s Shinkyogoku shopping arcade. It contains a seated statue of Amida Nyorai.
The Nishiki Market, full of interesting (and "different") foods to try.
Strolling along the Kamogawa River. The statue at the end is of Izumo no Okuni, famous for a kabuki dance that she performed alongside the river in 1603.
One of 7 temples in the Shinkyogoku shopping arcade.
Shinkyogoku market - Kyoto’s Shinkyogoku shopping arcade is the second oldest shopping strip after Asakusa Nakamise in Tokyo which established in 1872.

25 August 2015

First glimpses of Japan
Estimated time to Tokyo...but not having someone sitting in between us makes it so much better!
Descending through the cloud blanket to Minneapolis
We're ready!

23 August 2015

Packed and ready to go!