Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Kyoto

Nara Day Trip

Tuesday morning we set out for the day to visit Nara. Along the way, we stopped at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. This is one of my favorite Shrines. Fushimi Inari Taisha has many parallel rows of Torii know as Senbon Torii or thousands of Torii gates.

The grounds are so expansive. There are multiple shrines of all different sizes. This was one of the larger ones. Many people were making their wish.

This large Torii near the center of the main shrine leads the way to the Torii paths.

As we walked up, we saw a cute lucky cat on the Shrine. He was there during our entire visit!

The passageways with all the Torii are really unique to walk through. The Torii were donated by local businesses. The writing on the Torii identifies the donor. The smaller Torii cost about ¥400,000 or ($4,000). The larger ones cost well over ¥1,000,000!

We waited patiently to take a few pictures without people. Well, almost with no people. The sweet lady in the last one waited while our picture was being taken.

The Shrine is dedicated to the God Inari, the Shinto God of rice. I also love the foxes serving messengers and sent to protect the shrine.

We left Fushimi Inari Shrine and caught a local train to Nara.

The first stop in Nara was at the Kofukuda-ji Temple. The most prominent feature of this temple is the five story pagoda.

The main temple hall is adjacent to the pagoda. Cindy was able to obtain another temple stamp. While we were waiting for the nice man to complete the stamp, he asked where we are from. Chicago, we replied. With his limited English he replies, America and Trump. Yes, we laugh. America and Trump. 🇺🇸🙄

We worked our way through Nara Park on the way to the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Cindy had a chance to see all the deer. Perhaps the best entertainment is watching people feed the deer. Before too long, she was ready to buy them treats.

Quickly they came running!

Oh, how funny. They start out so sweet. Before long they are aggressive and nipping your butt!

The deer were hilarious. Check out this one. He’s sticking his tongue out at Cindy.

Eventually, we found a sweet one.

We continued our walk through the park and worked our way towards the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. This shrine has many lanterns along the path as you approach. They are so cool with the moss covering them. Occasionally, you will spot a deer with the lanterns.

I loved this picture. I was able to capture Cindy in the middle of so much Japan. The deer, the lanterns, the couple in the Kimonos, and the Torii gate.

The deer fountain to cleanse before visiting the shrine.

After our visit, we walked across the park again to the last temple on our Nara tour. The Tōdai-ji Temple is home to a large bronze statue of Buddha Vairocana. The building is 157 feet high and remains one of Japan’s largest wooden buildings.

We enjoyed our walk through the temple and viewing the Buddha. As we made our way back to the train station, we decided there was one more thing on Cindy’s Japan list we needed to complete. We needed a visit to a cat cafe. With ease using Google Maps, I was able to locate a cat cafe in Nara very close to the train station. For ¥600 we spent 30 minutes pestering and playing with the cute and not so cute kitties.

This guy was asleep in the toy box!!

We caught a limited express train back to Kyoto and enjoyed a delicious pizza for dinner.

This was a great day. We saw 4 Shrines/Temples, deer, and cats. It was a fun day exploring and experiencing Japanese culture!

Kyoto Kickoff

Monday morning we caught the Shinkansen out of Shinagawa Station. Our destination was Kyoto. The trip took about 2.5 hours.

Yet again, I was giddy with excitement as we waited to board.


Most of the marquees in the trains stations and on the trains flip between Japanese and English. This is especially helpful when you don’t speak (or read) the language and you need to make sure you are about to get on the right train. No one is checking your ticket as you board the train. Therefore, the important task of getting on the right train is the responsibility of the passenger. It’s also important because the tickets issued are for a specific train. This is different than taking the local trains. Those you can ride whenever and if you get on the wrong one it’s easy to switch at the next stop in 2-3 minutes. The Shinkansen less forgiving. If you get on the wrong one you may not stop for 25-30 minutes. That’s a long way in the wrong direction with the wrong ticket. Our train was at 10:40. The 509. Anyways, we made it no problem and with much excitement. Plus, we had a view of Mt. Fuji sling the way!

Upon arriving in Kyoto, we took our luggage to our hotel. It was still too early to check in, but we had temples to chase. First on our list was the Kinkaku – The Golden Pavilion. The clear skies and afternoon sun created perfect lighting for our visit. Gold foil covers the upper two levels of the Pavilion. On top of the structure is a shining gold phoenix.

The Gardens were beautiful. We were able to catch a few views of the temple from different angles. The benefit of it not being spring and having full foliage.

Lots of prayer cards!

After leaving the Golden Temple, we hailed a cab to the Ginkaku-ji Temple or the Silver Temple.

When Dave and I planned our trip in August, Manami suggested we visit the Silver Temple. We didn’t make it because it is more remote and off the beaten path. When I mentioned to Manami, Cindy and I were visiting Kyoto, she said, “Julia, please be sure to visit the Silver temple this trip.” Ok! I am so glad I listened. The Silver Temple and the gardens are incredibly serene. It definitely moved into my top five favorite Temples. I would love to live close to the temple and visit frequently. The moss covered ground and curving pathways are perfect for a walking meditation. So much zen.

Near the main structure was a sand garden and large sand structure. The large sand structure symbolizes Mt. Fuji. Just to be clear, the large structure that looks like a stone, is actually sand!

The sand garden was really cool.

By the time we were leaving the Silver Temple, we didn’t have enough time to make it to another one that afternoon. So, we had a cream puff and shopped.

We made our way back to the hotel and checked in. I’m happy to share, our room is directly across from the Kyoto Station. We can watch and hear the trains. My favorite of course are seeing the numerous Shinkansen trains! That entire building is Kyoto Station.

We set out for dinner. We went to Kyoto Station to explore the dining options. Kyoto Station is ginormous. Lots of food and shopping. After dinner, we visited the Kyoto Tower. The night view was lovely.

Kyoto Tower was built in 1964. The tower is 430 feet tall. It is built on top of a building. The 800 tons of weight doesn’t affect the building that serves as its foundation because of the ingenious design. It has the design and appearance of a lighthouse. Kyoto Tower was built in the city center as a beacon for industry, culture, and tourism.

As we walked back to our hotel, we could see the reflection of Kyoto Tower in the glass of Kyoto Station.

We had a great start to our first afternoon in Kyoto. Tuesday we will work our way south to visit another famous Shrine and the city of Nara. Cindy’s Japan adventures continue!

Nijo-jo Castle

Before leaving Kyoto on Sunday, Dave and I went to visit Nijo-jo Castle. 

The castle was completed in 1603 for Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to unify Japan and establish period of peace and prosperity for 250 years. Throughout the past 400 years, the castle has continued to witness significant Japanese historical events. In 1994, Nijo-jo Castle was registered on the UNSECO World Hertiage list. This picture is the entrance gate to the outer gardens. 

This is the entrance to the interior gardens and castle. 

Photos of the inside of the Castle are not permitted. The castle consists of six connected buildings. The interior walls are decorated with beautiful wall paintings and intricate carvings in the hallways connecting the rooms. The best part of walking through the castle was the sound of the squeaky floorboards. The sound is similar to the song of a nightingale and caused by the clamps moving against the nails in the wooden boards and support beams. Unfortunately, according to the brochure, it is a misnomer the squeak was intended to announce the presence of intruders. Oh, well. It’s a fun theory. 

The gardens were beautiful. The islands represent a crane and turtle. Symbols of longevity. 

Hopefully, from these pictures you can see the expanse of the castle. 

From the base of the keep tower that burned down after a lightning strike in 1750, a view of the castle and Kyoto were visible. 

We finished our walk around the gardens. 

Check out the fall color popping out on the Japanese Maples. Dare we dream of fall!?!

As we left, we were able to walk through a water mister. Ahhhh… 

We took the 11:58 Shinkansen back to Tokyo. As per a request from one of my readers, I took a picture of the inside. 

And our cute bento boxes for the ride home. 

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine 

TripAdvisor listed the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine as “the #1 most popular Japanese site for foreign tourist” for three years in a row! We went to visit early Saturday morning and can understand why the site is so popular. In fact, it’s my new favorite Shrine. 

We arrived before 0800 because I read the Shrine will get very busy. Plus, in this part of Japan, it’s extra warm and steamy during the summer months. It was an easy two stop train ride from our hotel. 

We were so early, we caught a glimpse of the priests going to work! 

The Shrine is famous for the 1000 Torii. Torii are the famous red gates of the Shinto religion. 

The main buildings of the Shrine were beautiful and well maintained. 

The Shrine is dedicated to Inari. First and foremost, Inari is the god of rice. Second, the god of fertility and industry. Torii gates mark the entrance to sacred ground. Typically, they are made of wood or stone and painted. My research told me the color the Torii is painted is known as vermillion. Vermillion is a bright red made from the mineral, cinnabar. It is considered the color of life and eternity. The Torii at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine have been donated by those who have been successful in business in honor and gratitude of Inari. The writing on the Torii identifies the donor. 

The extra large Torii such as the one in this picture cost the equivalent of $50,000. 

The number of Torii present was impressive. 

Besides the Torii, the Shrine had many different smaller shrines. 

This Shrine was dedicated to this tree. I couldn’t find information about the tree. But, I can appreciate showing the tree respect. 

Fox are considered messengers from God and act as guardians of the Inari Shrines. They are set in pairs at the main entrances of the Shrine. 

We only saw a small portion of this Shrine. It is possible to climb to the top of Mount Inari. It’s takes about two hours. 

We decided today was not that day! Look how sweaty I was after walking around for only 30 minutes!! 

I hope when you visit, we have time to go to Kyoto and visit Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. Please, do us both a favor an don’t plan that trip during the summer!! It’s so HOT and muggy! 


We took a quick trip on Friday from Kyoto to Nara. We expedited the trip by traveling on a Limited Express Train. The typical hour trip only took 35 minutes! 

Not only is the route orange in Google Maps, so was the actual train!

Once in Nara, we made our way towards Nara Park. Within Nara Park are several famous Shrines, Temples, and deer!! The deer are a sacred part of Nara Park and considered “messengers of the gods”.

For ¥150, you could buy deer crackers from street vendors. The deer started early begging for crackers from this vendor. Look at the first picture- the deer in front is sticking his tongue out at me! 

We didn’t buy any crackers. Instead, we enjoyed watching other visitors feed them. 

The deer weren’t shy. They walked right up looking for a snack. 

Our first Temple we visited was Kofuku-ji Temple. Pictured here are the Temple’s Golden Hall and five-story pagoda are a National Treasure and date to 1425. The Eastern Golden Hall was built by Emperor Shōmu and the pagoda by his wife, Empress Kōmyō. The pair of buildings represent the ideal of marital harmony. 

Other beautiful buildings were also on the Temple’s grounds. 

As we continued through Nara Park, we saw even more deer. My favorite was watching people take selfies or pose with the deer and the deer would poop or pee and the tourists didn’t notice! Ha! 

The first Shrine we visited was Kasuga Taisha Shrine. The walkway to the Shrine has over 3,000 stone lanterns. No worries, I didn’t take a picture of them all. Although I tried! They were really impressive and unique. 

In keeping with my tree theme of the summer, look at the tree growing inside the remains of an old tree! 

After visiting the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, we were ready for lunch. It was approaching 11am and starting to really heat up. We doubled back to the area around the train station where there was a conveyor sushi restaurant. It was well air conditioned, served cold beer and delicious sushi. For those reasons, I could have stayed all afternoon. 

But, we had the Todai-ji Temple to visit. The Todai-ji Temple is also a World Heritage Site. The current structure was completed in 1709. The Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden building in the world and houses the largest bronze image of Buddha dating back to 752 (the head however has been replaced and only dates to 1692).  

Now that’s a Big Buddha! 

My favorite spot in the Great Buddha Hall was behind the Great Buddha. There was a lattice door allowing a delightful breeze to come through. Plus, as Bill would say, we got a chance to see Buddha’s pooper. Can you tell how hot it is!?! The breeze felt amazing! 

Buddha’s Gold Pooper. 

We continued around enjoying the great hall. 

The fierce warriors are guardians to protect Buddha from evil. 

And how about this guy? If you rub the corresponding body part on him as the part that ails you, you will be healed. I rubbed his knees and gave him a high-five! 

We started to make our way back to the station to head back to Kyoto. We chased the shade the entire 20 minute walk. We purchased our train tickets for the 1400 train to Nara. While waiting to depart, I checked the weather. No wonder we were so hot! Heat index of 119!!!! Wow! 

Returning back to our hotel, we enjoyed a siesta that we earned from enduring the days heat and humidity! Plus, as Dave continues to remind me, we are on vacation and naps are always ok! 

Train Crush

Today, Dave and I took the Shinkansen from Shinagawa to Kyoto. It was a little over a two hour trip. 

I took a few pictures in the station because I LOVE the Shinkansen. It’s such an easy, comfortable, and convenient way to travel around Japan. 

We arrived in Kyoto around 1300. We dropped our bags with the concierge at our hotel and went out to eat lunch. We found a ramen joint. We both were happy because we haven’t enjoyed good ramen in a couple months. 

We returned to the hotel to check in and crank down the AC. My English student, Manami, helped me plan out our schedule. We needed to hit the ground running to see the “best of Kyoto Temples” during our visit. We caught a taxi from the Ryōan-ji Temple. The Ryōan-ji Temple is famous for it beautiful 15 stone rock garden. There are indeed 15 rocks. Dave and I both counted. The significance of 15 rocks is unknown. More significant is the lack of trees and presence of only the 15 rocks and white gravel. The garden dates back to the 1500s. 

Just as impressive were the moss gardens and pond. 

The second Temple we went to visit was the world famous Rokuon-ji Temple. More widely known as The Golden Pavilion. It was breathtaking. If only the pond water was still! The Golden Pavilion is justly named. It is covered in actual gold leaf! 

Our visit in the afternoon summer sun was perfect for pictures. The gold was stunning. 

The gardens were beautiful as well. 

We returned to our hotel after visiting the Temples and decided to eat at the Beer Garden on the roof of our hotel. It was an amazing view. We were surrounded by mountains. More importantly, we watched the Shinkansen roll through every 2-3 minutes! All of this while watching the sunset. I told Dave I have developed a train crush on the Shinkansen. It’s truly my favorite way to travel! 

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