Japan Honeymoon – 50%

It’s pretty lame to start every post with a jetlag update.  But, seriously, both people waking up to the morning at 11:58pm was not funny.  We lay down less than 3 hours ago!

Mixing half-ass attempts to sleep, shower, and magazines, we killed enough time before getting breakfast from 7-Eleven at 4:30.  Oh thank heaven.  Then we took our first nap of the day until like 8am.

The first destination of the day was Fushimi Inari Taisha, the head shrine of the Shinto rice god.  For some reason, few travel websites mentioned this place and most Kyoto maps didn’t include it.  However, it was one of the the most representative places in Japan, with its thousands of red torii gates covering the foot paths over an entire mountain – a scene in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed here.  We had a good hike about 1/10 into the trail… and we saw enough.

Our feet still hurt from the day before, and hiking up an mountain didn’t make it better.  The human body is a incredible thing such that it can compensate one part with other parts, so my pain in one foot eventually became pain in both feet and both knees.  Yipee!

After some mid-day takoyaki, we took a bus to Kinkakuji, the Zen Buddhist temple of the golden pavilion.  This attraction did not waste our time – immediately after paying the entrance fee, we were greeted by this gold-covered building shining in the sun.  To me, though, it was one of those attractions where physically visiting and reading about on Wikipedia don’t make much difference.  It’s not like they let us touch the gold, you know.

Riding on the bus was pretty much the same experience as everywhere else, with one unique thing: when coming to a full stop at a red light or a bus stop, the driver always turned the engine off.  It was weird to hear the complete silence as if the bus stalled.  Wouldn’t this be really energy inefficient?  Or was this a practice geared at minimizing pollution?  As a driver who frequently tailgate buses and trucks, I think I can appreciate this.

Thirdly, we visited Kiyomizudera, the Buddhist temple with a huge wooden platform.  This structure was among the 21 finalists for 2007’s New Seven Wonders of the World selection.  It was on a hill with a good view of the entire Kyoto, which meant more stairs and slope climbing for our burning feet.  It surely was impressive, but I’m not convinced that it deserved to be among the world’s top wonders.

We saw large groups of students everywhere today, mostly likely due to the Culture Day holiday activities.  It was very nice seeing youthful people in school uniforms because they reminded me of the childhood that I had and the high school years that I missed.  Scary to think that my age has doubled since then!

On the way out of Kiyomizudera, someone stopped us with a question in Mandarin with a weird accent.  Turned out to be a small group of Japanese people learning Chinese that just wanted to greet us, and perhaps practice having a dialogue a little bit.  It was a nice and friendly encounter.

Since we were already in the Higashiyama region, we checked out Gion and ate an okonomiyaki dinner nearby.  It was hard to say that we got enough enjoyment out of it to justify the sharp pain that came with every step.  I was kicking myself (only if I could) for not bringing Tiger Balm on the trip.  The good news was that we easily found it at a local drug store; the bad news was that a standard-size container of it cost over 11 freaking US dollars.  That’s like 4 times the average price I’ve paid for Tiger Balm!  This Japanese version better have crack in it!

The foot pain put us to bed by 7pm.  Yeah like that’s gonna help with adjusting the jetlag.