Shae came for a visit in early March for 2 weeks of exploring Japan and getting to see her favorite (albeit only) sister!
The Sakura (cherry blossoms) weren't in full bloom in our parts of Japan during that time, but we took a trip up to Kyoto and were able to find a few.
When traveling that far, the Shinkansen (Japan's bullet train) is the only way to go! Traveling at speeds up to 186mph Shae got to experience Japan's fastet train ride!
First thing we did upon arriving in Kyoto was to grab a snack....did I mention my sister and I are BOTH pregnant and were both in our 1st trimester...aka hungry ALL the time?! Bad combo I know, two pregnant sisters! Nonetheless, we found a Cafe Du Monde and Shae had to take a photo in front of the sign. (Though we actually only got a donut from the connecting Mister Donut)
After dropping our bags off, the first "official" Kyoto stop was to see the 1,000+ Torri Gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Though I had been to Kyoto before I didn't get to see this particular shrine and it was at the very top of my list for the current trip.
This Shrine was the setting for a scene in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Shae and I felt like "Little Chiyo" as we ran from the rain on the pebble walkways under the hundreds of torri.
So many torri!
(Each of which is donated by a Japanese business...they are all different sizes and heights)
After the Inari Shrine we trained it in the opposite direction to see the Toji Temple.
The Toji Pagoda is the tallest wooden structure in Japan. It's 54.8 m high! (See that diva in hot pink rain boots...she's 5'11" and that pagoda makes her look tiny!)
That night for dinner we walked all over and after getting the "X" from several places, due to them being overcrowded, we finally settled on a Chinese restaurant at the bottom of the Rihga Royal Hotel.
It wasn't terrible food, but way too overpriced considering my Dim Sum was way too mushy for my liking, the noodles were slimy and the spring rolls which one would think can't be botched were the worst thing of all! (But then again as said before Shae and I were in our 1st trimester and thus a bit picky with our food...as in most things made me nauseous!)
Day two in Kyoto - Shae and I got up early, hopped on a bus across town and got off at the Kyoto National Museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for the month due to construction! (Of course there's no way we were to have known that, but that's what happens sometimes in Japan and we just have to go with it.)
No big deal...right next door was the Sanjusangendo Temple, a National Treasure and also on our list of things to see.
There were many schoolgirls at the temple on a field trip, and their assignment was to interview tourists. We were their target audience and thus got questioned....followed by a photo...naturally!
Then it was on to GION! The place Shae wanted to see the most. Why? To catch a glimpse of Geisha, of course!?!
We stopped to have a snack (and Geisha gaze) at none other than Starbucks! Yes the Geisha love coffee too!
The Shirakawa canal in the Gion district, running behind many of the ochaya. On the other side, is a lovely path, lined with dozens of sakura trees.
A lady literally stopped us on the sidewalk and pointing to these two young ladies said, "they are real Maiko, Geisha in training." I guess we really looked like tourists and she thought we should know! (Naturally, we felt she was giving us permission to act like tourist and take out our cameras to capture the moment! Which we did.)
Lunchtime = soba and tempura...always a yummy choice!
I don't even remember what this temple was called, but we went inside nonetheless, just to follow four girls dressed in Geisha garb. Whether the girls were real geisha or not, they were dressed like them and we wanted their picture.
We tried to be discreet...
That night we got to see a Kabuki performance at the Minamiza Theatre!
Seeing a real kabuki perfomance was on my Japan bucket list. Though it wasn't translated and was performed in Japanese, it was a drama and therefore one could (sort of) guess what was going on. I loved it, Shae got a little bored, but in the end we were both glad we experienced it.
"No pictures during the performance please"... Sadly we don't have any pictures of what the show looked like, but basically it was Japanese actors dressed up in heavy make--up and traditional Japanese garments - singing, dancing and acting. Quite a show! (Oh and no females in Kabuki, the performers are all men!)
During intermission everyone left to go get snacks, we brought in our own (yes, it's something they allowed, we didn't sneak or anything. In fact in Japan, they recommend bringing your own sustenance, which I love! I hate having to hide an entire bag of home-brought popcorn in my purse for Nick!)
Day 3- Our last day of exploring Kyoto!
I'd seen the Golden Pavilion but wanted my sister to see it in all it's "gilded" beauty
Definitely worth seeing a second time
The water in front of the Golden Pavilion is called Kyoko-chi (Mirror Pond), and for good reason...it reflects everything, making the effect that much more dramatic!
Last stop - Ryoanji Temple
The most famous part of the temple grounds is the Rock Garden. This "Zen" garden is bare of trees, with only 15 rocks and white gravel covering the ground. (If you look closely you can see the gravel is raked in perfect lines)
Another great trip to Kyoto, this time with my sister. And the fun didn't end there...more to come on the rest of the adventures of Brittany and Shae in the next post... (lets just hope it doesn't take me another 2 months to finish it!)