Posts Tagged ‘Kyoto’

This morning I hit the Kyoto Manga Museum before I left for Osaka. It’s an impressive place. Formerly a school, it now houses a simply massive library of manga (Japanese comics) and related exhibits. You can read archives of comics dating back all the way to the 60s. That’s if you can read Kanji. For the visiting gaijin, they have a small section of comics in foreign languages. The true immensity of this collection cannot be overstated; any fan of Japanese pop culture should go there and wander the 3 floors of shelf after shelf, and then reach their infamous “Wall of Manga” for a truly astonishing trip back in time through the history of it all. I wish I could share some photos of this place, but they forbade the taking of them.

The shinkansen to Osaka didn’t take long, but then figuring out the Osaka subway system caught me off guard. There’s very little there in English, so I had to play Sherlock Holmes and match a list of English station names to the Kanji on the map. Then it was another adventure of figuring out how the crazy (non-Engrish) ticket machines work.

I booked a hotel near the famous Dotonbori area of Osaka, and it turns out I’m right in the middle of this area called Amerika-mura, which is Osaka’s version of Tokyo’s Shibuya. Crazy J-pop fashionistas and stores with anything you can imagine. Just a few blocks walk to the arcades of Dotonbori. Everything open 24 hours, insanely cheap and delicious food in restaurants and on the street… I am going to bed early so I can wander the streets with the other vampires after dark.

2013-09-06 15.04.25

Probably the most cliche shot of this neighborhood, but I had to take it. The crabs’ legs are actually moving.

Street food

Street food

I don't know who this chef is, but he's big in Japan :)

I don’t know who this chef is, but he’s big in Japan 🙂



Kyoto, Japan:

I started the morning on the way to Nanzen-ji, which, so far, is my favorite spot in Kyoto. Along the way to it from the subway station is Konchi-in, well worth stopping by to see their “yet another beatiful zen garden.”

When entering Nanzen-ji you are immediately impressed by the enormous Sanmon. Further investigation into the grounds will eventually bring you through a few more Zen houses and their accompanying gardens. Yet another beautiful garden, oh no.




Backyard of Tenju-in

It was in the Leaping Tiger garden when I lost it and commented to another gaijin that I wondered if there was anything ugly in Kyoto.

The Hijo rock garden was nice but there was a recording playing on speakers there which killed the ambience.

Onward and upward, I hiked through to Honen-in, which had a very neat cemetery, but the actual temple was closed to the public and the temple grounds were not striking, nor ample. Worth a pass unless you have never seen a Japanese cemetery before.


Buddha statue at Honen-in

From there it was on to Ginkaku-ji, which is reputed to be one of Kyoto’s main attractions, with throngs of visitors. It had more people than the other places, but I till managed to get a load of nice photos that make it look like I was the only one there. The weather probably kept the tourists at bay, though the sun did come out for a few minutes, finally. And I didn’t have to employ my umbrella.




It’s like every corner you turn at these castles and shrines, you think, “Oh no, another beautiful landscape…” or, “Oh no, another well-done piece of architecture with 100 lives worth of art poured into it,” and you become spoiled.

It was raining again, which kept the roaming hordes of tourists at bay, and so it was kind of nice to have the run of the place. My umbrella, I employed it…

I started the day at Nijo-jo castle, the former palace of the Tokugawa Shogun. It’s still under restoration but it’s impressive. The floors are specially made so that they squeak (to alert the inhabitants to people sneaking around or approaching) and still do so after hundreds of years. The sound is similar to birds chirping, and so they are called “nightingale floors.”

Inner gate, Nijo-jo

Inner gate, Nijo-jo

Just a little side garden, Nijo-jo

Just a little side garden, Nijo-jo

After the castle and palace, I headed north to the monastery at Daitoku-ji, where there are 4 zen houses open to the public. Access to the general monastery area is free, but each house costs a couple of dollars to access. Not a big deal, and all but one let you take photos inside. Since it was still raining, actually pouring, I literally had each house to myself. It was… zen! Really, there is no better place to wait out a storm, than in a zen garden.

In Daitoku-ji, every turn you come around, it’s another beautiful scene. And in every zen house, every turn you come around is another beautiful garden within that scene. Oh no, it’s storming out… whatever shall I do, in a beautiful place made for meditation?

It’s an amazing place. It’s got to be even nicer when its not raining.



I ended the day with a stroll through the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, which were a bit disappointing because nothing is in season. And after so many days of storm, it’s looking a bit haggard. Not their fault, I am here in the wrong time of year.


Soggy road to Kyoto

Posted: September 3, 2013 in Travel
Tags: , ,

I headed out of Nikko early to catch the shinkansen to Tokyo and then to Kyoto. Turns out I took the wrong train out of Tokyo. It was technically the right train, but not the one that is permitted on the unlimited rail pass. The conductor was nice, though; he didn’t throw me off the train. Instead he told me which train to switch to at the next station, no harm done. But I forgot my umbrella on that train… the umbrella which I had bought so I didn’t have to keep borrowing HotelFrontDeskBob’s, and never actually used. So it was brand-new, never opened.

I got to Kyoto later in the afternoon, around 4pm. Transferred to the subway, and as soon as I started walking up the exit tube, I could hear the rain start to pour down. No umbrella. I waited until it let up a bit, and then took a wet slog down the road. Waiting at a pedestrian crossing, it started really pouring down, and a nice old lady came up to me and shared her umbrella. The Japanese are really friendly people. As soon as the crossing turned green, I thanked her and darted under an awning across the side of the road to wait out the next break between pouring buckets. Gee, wish I had that brand-new umbrella… Thankfully my hotel was just a half block more.

Realizing that I had not only left my umbrella on the train, but I had left something behind at the hotel in Nikko, I called them and confirmed that it had been found. “No problem, we can mail it to you.” Awesome.

The Japanese diet, after a week, is making my skin really oily, and I am breaking out. Probably too much carb, too much fried stuff. Not easy to eat healthy when you are on the road. My memory is also quite obviously impaired…

My hotel is right across the street from the Kyoto Imperial grounds, which I cannot visit because they make you register a week in advance, something which I did not know going into this. Ah well, there are like a bazillion other castles, gardens, temples, and shrines in Kyoto where I will happily spend my soul, and the imperials can sit inside their lonely gilded prison. I am most certain that they will miss me and my charming presence.

As I was checking in and toweling off, I bought another umbrella at the hotel desk. This time it’s a smaller one that I can put in my bag, and it won’t get me in trouble for accidental subway stabbings like the one I already lost. But it’s convenient easy-to-lose size so my hopes are not high. Just watch, I will lose it, and then it will rain buckets on me in my next destination, and I will buy another umbrella and not need to use it… This is not the first umbrella I have lost, either; I think I have owned 10 of them in the last year.

I found a grocery store and stocked up on a carb-free meat feast to purge the breaded, deep-fried fatback tempura from my system. People give Americans shite for what they eat; you ought to see the crap that the Japanese do for fast-food. My God… just grab a handful of something, bread it, deep-fry it, and then soak it in sugar sauce. Then pre-package it with lots of preservatives. And serve it on bread.