As we left Tokyo on the shinkansen that Saturday morning, we traveled back in time to a more traditional, more historical Japan: Kyoto.
I cannot say enough about how awesome the Capsule Ryokan we stayed at was. The owner greeted us at the door (in very good English, I might add), and showed us how our room worked. Yes, the room required explanation. It even came with a binder of instructions! Every Sew’s dream room!
It was a tatami mat room with futons, with a secret storage area for luggage.
Amazing. So just like last time, I spent an embarrassing amount of time playing with the toilet again.
Anyway, we started off our tour-of-a-billion-temples with a “hearty” breakfast.
We checked out Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji, famous Buddhist temples.
We grabbed a day bus pass, and rode the tourist-line to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, famous for its scenic hillside location.
“I want to go there!” I stated. Monkey Mountain, I called it.
Well, it really is a mountain. And to say it was a huge strenuous climb at the end of an already long day was an understatement. Not to mention the place closed in thirty minutes, meaning we had to high-tail it up 75 meters. The first real test of our marriage was whether or not to kill Mrs. Sewing for insisting on such a crazy and painful idea. But eventually we made it to the top of Arashi-yama (mountain).
And I was not disappointed.
There were Japanese Macaques everywhere! But you can’t look them in the eye, or else they will attack you. Mr. Sew, having fear-of-monkey instilled in him from a very young age, grew very anxious and insisted we go inside the “safe” area of Iwatayama Monkey Park. Well, even cooler—you can feed them from inside!
Centuries of historical significance aside, I still think this is the coolest thing we did in Kyoto. But, to appease scared husband—after climbing down the mountain we indulged in some fried onigiri (rice balls) from a vending machine by the river. Food is so fun in Japan.
The next day we went back to metropolitan life—to the city of Osaka.
Which, by the way, incited some sort of castle-fever in me. Mr. Sew had only planned on visiting one castle. We ended up going to seven. I love castles. While in Kansai/Chugoku regions, we also visited Himeji and Hiroshima castles.
Himeji (on the left) is considered the “best” castle in Japan, since it has not been reconstructed (most have burned down, or were bombed in WWII), but the main keep was closed due to reinforcement work.
After Osaka, it was off to Hiroshima. What I now consider to be the most depressing and emotionally “heavy” place I’ve ever been.
It sounds ignorant of me – but I didn’t really care much about our (the US) involvement in WWII before my visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Of course I knew the bomb was bad and killed a lot of innocent people, but I was always more interested in the nuclear physics and the process in which the physicists at the time came up with the “A” and “H” bombs.
Yet through seeing the actual blood-stained clothing of small children who had literally melted from the heat, and the wax figures of their skin dripping off as they attempted to walk home to their parents, my shallow knowledge of history has changed. The preserved body parts showing the effects of cancer, the pictures of patients charred beyond recognition, and the cranes—oh, the four little pieces of paper that Sadako never got the chance to fold—it hit me very hard. The Peace Memorial Museum was a powerful and sometimes gruesome visual reminder of the cruelties of a nuclear war.
I asked Mr. Sew why in the world he would ever want to come back to the heart-heavy museum (he had been to it before). He replied that I would have turned around and ran right out had he not been there, and he is right. I’m glad that he helped me through it though—I have gained a new perspective on our world history, and shared in the grief that all humanity should feel for the loss of life. In this case, the loss of an entire city within the blink of an eye.
Upon exciting the museum, we walked around the park in a dazed funk, trying to process all that we had seen. We stumbled upon Sadako’s monument, the famous spot where people leave their paper cranes.
Renewed with a drive toward world peace, Mr. Sew and I were kicking ourselves for not remembering to bring our cranes. We had left them in Hawaii. Luckily, however, we can still send them via mail, so that’s what we’ll do after our second reception (courtesy of Miss Glasses’ post with the address).
Too sad to be hungry or interested in doing anything, we did our laundry in the hotel and went to bed.
In order to cheer us both up, the next day we headed via ferry to the island of Miyajima, famous for its giant torii gate which sits in the water.
It was low tide as we checked out the Itsukushima Jinja shrine, so we could see plenty of beachy critters.
We also visited a temple with a bonsai palm tree growing in front. You don’t see that everyday.
And I just had to try the local specialty of fresh grilled oysters with lemon juice and soy sauce. My mouth waters at the memory, they were so good! Mr. Sew, who decided he was not an oyster fan, let me eat his. Yay!
Once we had browsed the shops, and taken a picture next to the “world’s largest rice paddle,” we decided to head back on the ferry. With one week left (and one post left) on our journey, it was time to ride the bullet train off to the island of Kyushu.