2011 Japan Vacation

Hikone Castle

Worth the trip.

Hikone Castle

We had originally planned to go to Himeji, until we discovered that the castle there is in the middle of extensive renovation, and will be for quite a while. Hikone, despite being close to Kyoto and highly-recommended, had few non-Asian tourists. Not only did a group of old men eagerly photograph my tall, blonde sister, one of the many schoolboys marched up and read his report to us.

Hikone school report

He was so earnest that we tried hard to get a picture of him, but not only was he shy, the report was written on the back of the poster.

Hikone school report

Kappa Country

The second sake brewery we briefly visited was Kizakura Kappa Country. We just took a quick walk through the public areas and made it to their restaurant in time for lunch. With their sake, of course.

Drinking at Kizakura Kappa Country

We just had a glass each, but when the waiter saw us taking pictures, he brought the bottle over.

"Aw, man, the dude in the hat took my spot."

I love the look on the deer’s face. They were surprisingly well-behaved this time, perhaps because we weren’t in a tour group, and stayed far away from the cracker vendors.

Monk and Deer, on the way to Toudaiji in Nara

Kamigamo market

As we were finishing up the tea ceremony and lunch at Tondaya (which was just as cool as expected), Nellie was chatting with our cute little Polish guide about kimonos, and she mentioned that she’d bought the one she was wearing for only ¥1000 (~$13) at the monthly flea market at a nearby shrine.

“It’s on the 25th of each month”.

“Oh, you mean tomorrow. I think we’re going to need directions.”

So off we went to Kitano-Tenmangu. The flea market itself wasn’t terribly photogenic, but it was full of bargains of all sorts, and the shrine was quite nice (see the earlier picture of kids playing, and probably a few more soon).

The next evening, we were sitting in our hotel room planning our upcoming adventures.

“It would be really cool if we could find another flea market like that one.”

“Well, according to this, there’s a monthly craft and food market at Kamigamo shrine. Tomorrow.”

This market was in a slightly more scenic location.

Kamigamo Craft/Food Market

Kyoto Tower

…looks less hideous at night, especially with the base hidden.

Kyoto Tower

Kasuga Taisha shrine

I could spend a few days wandering around this place. Not just because there are several days each year when they light all the lanterns, but there’s apparently a lot more to see.

Kasuga Taisha shrine through the trees

Patience: not always rewarded

Nellie really wanted to get a shot of the doors, the leaves, and the temple behind, but there was an old guy standing in the middle of it, and every time it seemed like he was about to walk out of the frame, he’d turn around, pull out his phone, or wander right back into the middle.

When he finally started to walk away, Young Mother And Adorable Little Girls walked in, and of course the girls wanted to play in the leaves, and of course mom wanted pictures.

Unknown temple on a back street near our hotel

Know your Miko!

Fake Miko, Toei Studio Park:

Staff cosplay at Toei Studio Park

Real Miko, Kasuga Taisha shrine:

Miko at Kasuga Taisha

Still no miko magic on display, sadly…

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”