Monday, July 22, 2013

Lovers in Japan

I'm going to attempt to do all of Japan in one blog post that hopefully won't be too ridiculously long. So here goes.

We left on Friday June 14 in the morning and arrived in Tokyo Saturday evening at around 4pm. The flight itself was only about 10.5-11 hours long but we crossed that weird line that exists between North America and Asia and made it the next day. Saturday night was spent trying to find a delicious restaurant that also had an English menu and then wandering downtown Tokyo, eventually making our way to the Tokyo tower. This is where my photos will take over the story-telling with my commentary throughout. Enjoy!

(all photos taken with either iPhone 4S or Panasonic GH2, for those who care).

Lanterns set out at a Shinto shrine near Tokyo tower.

Tokyo tower with the lanterns in the foreground.

Pretty sweet angle of the Tokyo Tower.

The Tokyo Temple in the best view I could get. Right next door was where we went to church that day (it was English speaking, thank goodness).

This is a picture of the Tokyo temple to show you all just how much it was right in the middle of an urban area.

Saw this outside a business while taking a cab in Tokyo. I thought it was cute.

One of the busiest intersections in Tokyo, right outside the Ginza shopping district.

This was one of the guard towers that sits on the corner of the outer grounds of the imperial palace. We never set foot in the inner grounds or got to see the imperial palace at all. Oh well.

Ryan loved carrying around that umbrella and felt particularly Japanese while doing so. No idea why his face looks both skeptical and suspicious.

All the trees look like this on the outer grounds of the imperial palace. I immediately fell in love.

Pedicabs were everywhere in Tokyo.

The tour we took on Sunday took us to a Buddhist shrine and a mile-long market selling all sorts of Japanese kitsch (which I totally love and ended up buying my pair of chopsticks here). So here's the gate you walk through to enter the inner temple grounds.

This pagoda was rather impressive. I couldn't stop taking pictures of it.

The pagoda, backlit.

Back view of the gates and our guide's Pikachu marker to make sure we are following the right tour guide. I also managed to get an interesting candid picture of my mother-in-law, Andrea, and half of my father-in-law, Craig. 

One of the Buddhist statues that people were praying to.

This is what was inside the temple: lots of gold leaf things and people praying. 

Another Buddha statue for praying.

"Authentic" Japanese shaved ice. This was peach flavored and it was actually delicious despite the toxic pink color.

Sister-in-law Stephanie, Craig, and Ryan standing next to some Buddhist temple thingy.

Stephanie with an odd Japanese cat.

We took a ferry ride around Tokyo and got to see some more of Tokyo's famous architectural structures such as Skytree (the tall one), the tallest radio tower in the world.

This is Rainbow Bridge (this picture is mostly for Mom).

Pretty sweet boat sitting next to the dock.

Tokyo train station. The architecture makes it stick out against all the skyscrapers.

This thing was delicious, even if it sounded silly.

Tokyo from above. It's a massive city, guys.

The tour took us on top of a building (can't remember which) and we got to see Tokyo from way up above. This place also served as a wedding venue and this was on one of the windows. See Tokyo tower in the background piercing the heart?

These are the Tokyo towers (the two buildings with the swoopy designs). So you got Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Towers. Very confusing...

Tokyo tower in the daylight.

Vending machines are EVERYWHERE in Japan.

Ryan is modeling the day's tour guide sticker. As you can see, we were headed to Mount Fuji and a small village near the mountain called Hakone.

The clouds in Japan are incredible. 

What looks to be an abandoned amusement park and gas station. It didn't look active at the time, at least.

Driving up the mountain and the clouds below were thick!

The clouds were thick on the mountain as well.

"Hey, look, I can see the mountain!"

A wide shot of our stop up on Mount Fuji.

Up on the part of the mountain we stopped was a Shinto shrine. I can't get enough of these gates!

I forget what exactly is on these pieces of paper/small fans, but I think it's something along the lines of people's prayers/wishes. 

Ryan would look rather smashing as a wingaling Shinto monk guy.

Ryan, Andrew and friends have discovered something!

It wouldn't be a trip to Japan without eating some soft-serve ice cream cones!

Ryan loved his cone.

Our authentic Japanese meal we had in between tours that day. I basically only ate the tempura, fried chicken, tuna and rice.

The best and only picture I got of Mount Fuji. She was really shy that day.

In Hakone, we took a cable car up to a smelly mountain being mined for sulfur. The ride up was neat...

The smelly mountain and fumes emitting from the mining process.

After the smelly mountain, we took another boat ride on a lake. Alas, this was not our boat.

That pirate ship was too photogenic.

 Selfies on the boat!

The scenery for this boat ride was pretty amazing!

Silly duck pedal-boats.

That evening, we took a bullet train to Kyoto. It was fast and it was SO. MUCH. FUN.

My dinner that evening consisted of a nicestick (white bread with a kind of sweet cream in the middle, SO GOOD!)

And one of these things. It was like a chocolate graham cracker with strawberry paste in the middle.

We stopped by the Shogun palace first thing in the morning. We had to take our shoes off and no cameras/photography was allowed for the tour inside (hence the reason for a lack of photos of the Shogun palace). This is how the "nightingale" floors worked in the Shogun palace. It was a type of security system and all the floors squeaked when you stepped on them. The sounds coming from the floors when you walked on them were both silly and incredibly annoying.

The Shogun palace garden. So pretty!

Do as the sign says!

The Temple of the Gold Pavilion. The outside is covered in gold leaf. Such an amazing sight!

The tree next to the building is supposedly the oldest bonsai tree in the world. It's so old that it's starting to look like a middle-aged normal tree!

To be perfectly honest, I can't remember where this is. This could be the imperial palace (Kyoto was the capital of Japan for 1000 years before Tokyo took over) or it could be the Shogun palace. Meh, it was cool looking.

One of the imperial palace buildings.

another cool shinto shrine gate.


When we went to Deer park in Nara (just outside of Kyoto), we were told that the deer are domesticated and well-trained. There are vendors that will sell packet of cookies (deer-friendly ones) for 100 yen and you can tell them to "bow" and they will bow their heads and you give them a piece of the cookie to reward them. Some deer were more well behaved than others.

Andrew (brother-in-law) and Ryan are tickled to see deer up close.

Ryan bonded with this one in particular.

This deer, whether or not you had a piece of cookie for him, would stick out his tongue like this and keep it there until you gave him something, even if it was a piece of dirt or your hand.

Andrew and Andrea really loved that tongue deer.

Stephanie was a little anxious around the deer.

The deer just wandered around the area, like people.

A sign describing the injuries a deer can inflict on you. And a deer who was ready to demonstrate on willing (and not so willing) volunteers.

The giant building that housed the giant Buddha inside. Fun fact: this building burned down. A lot. And was rebuilt. A lot.

Incense as an offering/prayer to Buddha.

The world's largest bronze Buddha (he is over 50-feet tall).

They are really protective of their stairs...

Craig fed the not-so-well-behaved deer and had a jolly good time doing it.

The minute the cookies went into his hand, the deer swarmed him and were rather insistent and pushy.

Side Story: What you see above happening to Craig happened to me minutes earlier, except I wasn't so jolly. Ryan and I were ahead of the others and I wanted to buy some cookies and feed the deer since I spent most of the time taking pictures. At the same time I was buying the cookies, Ryan gets pulled aside by a young Japanese boy who wants to practice his English by giving Ryan an interview. So Ryan is distracted while I swiftly am overtaken by a swarm of deer. The combination of being mauled, nibbled, and also being alone (I was screaming Ryan's name to no avail) made me go into a panic and so I disposed of my cookies immediately, wrapper and all, and got away from the deer, tears welling in my eyes. I was pretty shaken for the rest of the afternoon/evening.

Next, we visited a Shinto shrine with hundreds of stone lanterns.

I just thought this lion's expression was particularly derp-esque.

I loved these stone lanterns. Each one was just slightly different than the other.

After my deer incident, I decided to try and redeem myself with the deer. These ones were very sweet, but didn't appreciate my "cookie" that was actually air.

Yeah, this deer wasn't buying my fake cookie trick.

The Fushimi Inari shrine, or "Shrine of a Thousand Gates". It literally had thousands of gates lined up like so.

They just kept going for a long time. It was neat walking through them, except for the spiders all along the top. EEK.

And they were huge.

Being Asian.

The entrance of the shrine of a thousand gates.

That night we partook in authentic and delicious tonkatsu. My mouth is watering for it right now.

Well, that took longer than expected. The next post will be about my day in Xi'an, China (which was our next destination after Kyoto). And then the third part will be our time in Beijing. Hopefully I can be more concise than this post, but I absolutely loved Japan and couldn't stop taking pictures. I would go back in a heartbeat, no questions asked.

Until next time!