A-mazing and…

Konbanwa!

I am behind a post from our October break…so this post is part Kyoto and part just life. So, onto the old city.

Kyoto is the former capital of Japan-it was the center of everything in Japan for 1200 years (starting in 794), before it was moved to Tokyo (formally Edo) in 1868. October 22 celebrated this long history by giving a 2-hour parade showcasing all of the periods, shoguns, and more.

We left Osaka that Wednesday morning to take the short journey north. Our first stop was the parade. We found a spot about half-way through the parade route. It was raining, which was a bummer to stand in, but the parade kept going. We stayed for about 45 minutes or so watching from the beginning, which was the current period and left somewhere in the early periods. Not sure where exactly, sorry. What was really neat about this parade was the elementary students sitting across the street. They must have been on a field trip to experience this living history…and you could tell when someone they loved rode in on his great horse…or someone they hated for the cheers and jeers were equally booming. That was very helpful since the woman speaking through the speakers (which are attached to the traffic lights) was speaking in Japanese.

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After some shopping in a lovely market, we headed to our next stop…the Golden Temple. Again, not so fun to walk around and visit because the ground was slippery and slightly muddy…but the views and grounds of this ancient retirement retreat was just so pretty. Here is a brief history on this temple:
Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Temple whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf. The temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and according to his will, it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408 (Japan Guide.com). For more reading of historical things, visit http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3908.html

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There is a lot to see but I didn’t take a lot of pictures-we were on a mission to get to all of our stops. Lovely gardens…small shrines, ponds-and a LOT of people. That’s what we get for touring on a holiday/parade day. Still, it was worth going to and a little bit exciting as we ran into groups of young ladies wearing traditional kimonos. It made everything seem older-more traditional!

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Next we headed over to Kyoto station for dinner and shopping. Just in case you didn’t know…most of the really good shopping/eating is done at the train stations. Especially the Kyoto station-it was huge! We had Chinese-and got lost several times trying to get back up from the basement. Which by the way…in case you didn’t know…the Japanese love their basement shopping. So, we lost our way several times trying to find our car-we knew where we parked, but exited the station on the opposite side, which looked like the side we came in on…and wandered around looking for our car. Paul suggested we hop a fence…I of course said no way. Luckily, I was right because once we walked along a street, up a hill, and over a bridge, we realized that if we had hopped the fence, we would have ran smack into train tracks…that we couldn’t cross. So…points for following the rules.

We finally found our car and headed out to find the old village of Gion-where you could dress up as a samurai, geisha, walk cobbled streets still lit by fire-would have been so cool. But, we couldn’t find it. We drove around for about 30 minutes-either it doesn’t exist, or google maps was playing a cruel joke on us. We drove up into a hilly neighborhood…down on very narrow streets, got turned around (on purpose and on accident)…you know, come to think about it, we spent a lot of time getting lost in Kyoto.  We finally decided to abandon this leg of our journey as it was getting dark and we still had one more stop before driving 2 hours home.

Final stop…Fushimi Inari. This place was very cool. Especially since there are some very famous pictures of this temple. You know the ones…the HUGE reddish orange tori gate at the base of the temple…AND the path of gates? Yes, they actually exist. Yes, they are massive. And yes, I’d love to hike the mountain paths just to follow all the gates.

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It was dark by the time we arrived, but as I drove down very narrow streets to find it, I wasn’t lost. Because, you can’t miss that gate. Because it was late their weren’t many people around, which made it nice. We have already expressed our interest in sightseeing at odd hours as to not by around so many crowds (see post from Osaka). Temples are always intriguing as they have a calmness and tranquility about them. It was true here as well. For more historical reading on this temple, see http://inari.jp/

We gave up trying to take pictures in the dark (and it was starting to rain) and headed back to our car. Paul started giving me directions and I followed without question…oops. That was a mistake…apparently we turned left onto a one way street. Well, it was too narrow to turn around so I kept going hoping to make it to the end without trouble. Of course, a nice Japanese man stopped us to announce “wrongu way” which slashing his hands in a firm x motion (that happens often in Japan). So I “sumimasen”-ed several times while bowing my head to the man. I thought I was good…until the police car turned down. He proceeded to flash his lights, and use the bullhorn to tell me (I assume) I was going the wrong way. Well, now I couldn’t go straight anymore because he was blocking the mouth of the road…and cars were coming in behind him. So what did I do you ask? Get out and cry like a little girl? No. Start screaming like a crazy gaijin? No. Back up in tiny increments, pull forward, back up, pull forward…all in tiny increments while trying to not hit poles, a house, or run off the road into the famous side ditches…YES. That was loads of fun. Not to mention the police car followed me as I did each manoeuvre and then followed me down the road for several blocks while he presumably laughed at me and debated making my embarrassment peak as he pulled me over. Luckily, I wasn’t high on his priority list as he soon pulled off making me loosen my death grip on my steering wheel. But to our defence….it is confusing. It was a one way road, but head lights were still coming at me. Motorcycles and mopeds apparently can go where ever they want.

By the end of the night..we had had an a-mazing trip. It was both wonderful…and very much a maze!

Random pictures:

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Owl I painted from the photo of an owl I met at the cafe

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Happy Halloween!

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Delish Thai eats!!

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This Christmas tree is $98. And it’s only 3 ft high-tops!

Now, onto regular life. Much has happened these past week since break-but it’s all normal day stuff. We had conferences that went well-all of my parents came. I know…that’s never happened before! We’ve eaten at some really great restaurants-last night Paul found a brewery that served delicious beer brewed downstairs and yummy tapas style food. Halloween came and went rather uneventful in the way of Halloween. We had to make an emergency trip to the consulate to get papers notorized for the sale of our house…which FINALLY happened! Yay-NEVER BUYING A HOUSE AGAIN. Just saying.

We are in full-swing SAT testing season-and Paul is in charge. I have been helping each weekend which earns extra $$.

Paul’s officially coaching boys basketball now and they had their first game against varsity girls and won by 2 (though some of their team was missing I hear) and played another school in small tournament style games this past Saturday. They lost all games, but did well overall for their fist official game of the season. They will travel to Kobe in December for a game series!

My class is going great-just working through our regular days getting ready for a new unit and report cards getting done for the first half of the year in December.

The city is abuzz with Christmas as lights and music are popping up all over. It’s very pretty and I find I am excited for Christmas-I like seeing Japan’s interpretation of holidays and how they decorate. Very festive. there is also something about walking downtown with trees and lights everywhere.

The temperature is dropping quickly-yay! It’s ranging about mid 40s to mid 50s regularly.

Sunday we went to the zoo. It’s only 500 yen (5$) which is way cheap for a zoo. There were animals I have only heard of but never seen in person…and the animals were so close! There were appropriate barriers for safety, but I felt like I could reach out to them. I had a staring contest with a snow leopard and I won-he was gorgeous and majestic sitting on his tree perch eye level. I also saw black swans! They are beautiful as well. I definitely like the black swan better than the white. No surprise there I am sure.

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I have ordered my turkey and keep stocking up on things for Thanksgiving. We are trying to get a group together for dinner on Saturday following T-day.

I have been helping the middle school drama prepare for their Greek play by sewing costumes-that’s been a lot of fun! I can’t wait to do their hair and makeup!

Last week my high school kids (National Honour Society) put together the NIS talent show…and let me say. We have talent! It’s amazing to watch the middle and high school kids follow their passions on stage. And, it was the night of the girls with guitars. Electric guitars, acoustic, full band (2 guitars, piano, and drums)-Ozzy and other classics-then we had K-Pop dancing, hip hop dancing, beat boxing, piano, sax, singing, EDM hippie dancing…all kinds. The kids did a great job planning and the show was great (even with the major technical difficulty in the beginning).

Overall-time is flying by. Anyone on a one year contract is already having to talk about new contracts or leaving. I can’t believe it’s already November…literally flying by. We decided not to come back for Christmas-instead we are looking into spending Christmas traveling through Vietnam, Cambodia, and spending new year’s in Thailand!!!!!!!!!!

SO, I leave you with that. It doesn’t feel like there is much to write about-miss you all!
Sayonara!

K + P

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