Dawn to Dusk Exploring Kyoto
Alex: First of all, who is Junji?
Olly: He was our guide. He drove us around Kyoto and showed us temples … gardens … conveyor belt sushi … and monkeys.
Your mom, DeeDee and I met Junji 10 years ago when we came to Kyoto. I knew you would like him too. Tell me a little about your trip Kyoto with Mom.
Well… I fed Japanese monkeys.
You FED monkeys?
Yeah. I fed them apples, peanuts, and… I think sweet potatoes. Also… there were these binoculars to see the monkeys. Every time I tried to use the binoculars, there was a monkey sitting on the them! Also… Dad… I got this ninja costume. A real ninja costume from a real ninja store.
How did you know it was a real ninja costume?
The sword can go on my back and the handle is made out of rope. Also, there was a house on stilts and they didn’t use any nails!
No nails! Why not?
Well.. because nails get old and break. They rust. The wood locks together and it lasts longer. Like this (Olly crosses and interlocks his fingers). I learned that from Junji.
Mom told me you went to a lot of vending machines. What was that drink you liked?
We stopped at like 10 vending machines. They had cans of peach nectar that tasted like honey and peach. I drank them like all the time…
What was the biggest difference between Kyoto and Tokyo.
Wow. Kyoto was… like… much older and much more natural. There were lots of gardens and temples. There were no massive buildings like Tokyo.
Which do you like more?
They are so different. I think I like Tokyo more. It’s massive. I think Mom likes Kyoto.
We woke up early with the sun as it streamed in through our bamboo blinds.
A slow start.
Oliver soaked in our small wooden tub for 45 minutes. He did the traditional wash off on a little stool before getting in the warm water.
Traditional Japanese breakfast. It was one of our favorite meals of the trip.
Pretty morning light in our room.
Sketching our kaiseki dinner from the night before.
Junji took us first to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. It was as beautiful as I remember from my last trip.
These school girls were giggling and smiling at Oliver. Finally, they asked to take a photograph with him.
After the bamboo forest, we hiked about a mile up a steep hill to see Japanese Macaque monkeys in an open park at the top. Olly walked backwards up the first section.
At the top there was a park where Japanese Macaque monkeys roamed freely. They walked right up to us. My camera doesn’t have zoom, so all these shots are right next to the monkeys. The one rule was to avoid eye contact.
Pretty views of the river and the mountains surrounding Kyoto.
People inside the bars. Monkeys outside.
We bought little bags of peanuts and apples to feed the monkeys by hand.
Oliver loved this.
Oliver was so good at remembering not to look the monkeys in the eyes.
Junji found this mask.
As we were leaving the park for our hike down, we saw this guy relaxing in a tree.
A quick stop at a playground on the way down where Junji demonstrated for Oliver how to use the cable swing.
Ringing the bell to get the attention of the deities before making a prayer.
A walk along the river.
Junji took us to his favorite moss garden, Saihō-ji, known as the Moss Temple. It felt like a hidden gem—we were some of the only people there. A truly special place.
As you can tell by all the photos, we really liked it here.
Junji told us that he had visited Saihō-ji 2,000 times—the most of anyone. Oliver wondered if Junji had ever played tag around the moss garden. There is always a first. Junji (fully suited) and Oliver probably did 3 laps around the moss garden—I think he got a kick out of it. Junji is a sport.
Junji knows the gardeners and introduced us to them. We learned that moss can turn bright green within seconds of being watered.
We look green.
This photo is for DeeDee—”very important moss”.
Oliver asking Junji for one more lap of tag.
Junji drove us up a windy road into the hills to this beautiful river.
These two are fast becoming friends.
Conveyor belt sushi for lunch.
Olly went for the salmon roe first.
Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Beautiful Zen Buddhist temple.
Here is the Lego version.
We say goodbye to Junji for the day back at our ryokan.
After a quick rest, we head back out to explore Gion and then Ponto-chō by the river.
The streets around our ryokan.
Late afternoon shadows.
Gion was packed with so many people waiting on the streets to see a Geiko emerge from the okiya where they live. Trying to get away from the crowd, we cut down a side street and saw these two walking towards us. A special moment for Oliver to see a Geisha without people swarming around them.
Cutting through Yasaka Shrine as we walk down to Ponto-chō.
This is pretty much our vending machine order now.
A nice time of day to walk around Ponto-chō.
We loved peeking into all these little entrances off the narrow cobbled alleyways.
Tiny bars and restaurants.
Lots of young people sitting and drinking along the river.
We sat and listened to this nice guy play the shamisen for a while. We liked it so much, we bought some of his music to bring home with us.
Back at Yasaka Shrine at dusk. A beautiful and quiet time to walk around.
Sketching the bamboo forest as kaiseki is served in our room.