Saturday, June 9th
We left Inuyama early in the morning and headed to Hikone. We went straight to Hikone Castle.
Hikone Castle was very beautiful. It had a museum and tourists could go into the castle. The museum had neat antiques and replicas of items used more than 400 years ago. They also had the living quarters of the ruling families open for people to walk through. The layout was designed so that each room would have a view of some beautiful garden or pond. The living quarters were like a maze because of this, but it was easy to see why they designed it because it truly did give a peaceful feeling when strolling around.
The castle was designed for war, so it was not designed to be as tranquil as the living quarters. After a hike up a large hill, we crossed under the bridge that led to the castle. The bridge was designed so that if attacking armies were encroaching, the defending army could pull the supports and drop the bridge on the attackers.
Surrounding the castle and the living quarters was a large garden. The garden stretched on and even had a large tea house situated on one of the ponds. Chris and I decided that it might be fun to take part, so we took off our shoes and climbed into the tatami mats. Our server wore a Yukata and brought us our powdered green tea and little snack cakes. We drank the tea and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings that we could see from our perch.
After our tranquil garden we went to Kyoto.
Kyoto is a big city. A really big city. We pulled into Kyoto Station and decided to walk to our hotel. It was a long walk, especially with all of our luggage in tow, but after the Nagasendo trail, it wasn’t too much to handle.
Our hotel was an interesting choice. Chris had to coax me into agreeing to stay here because this sounded more like a hostel than a real hotel. It is called the 9Hours Capsule Hotel and the idea is that it just has the necessities- a bed and bathroom facilities. There were 8 floors. The floors were divided by purpose and gender. Girls got the bottom half of the hotel and the men got the top half. Showers/bathrooms were on a separate floor than the beds. The beds were “capsules” that were stacked on top of each other and ran down a hall. Each person has their own capsule which is big enough for the person and not much else. I didn’t like being separated from Chris because we had no way to communicate with no phones or internet, and people are not allowed on the floor of the opposite gender. I was also a bit nervous because we had to take only the minimum up with us to our small locker and had to leave our luggage downstairs with everyone else’s luggage… in the lobby. One thing that I have to say about Japan, though, is that it seems to be one of the safest places in the entire universe. You could leave your expensive laptop sitting in open view in a public place and come back another day and it would still be there unless someone brought it to lost and found. Other than this, it was a very clean dorm room experience. It was also very cheap per person. I did enjoy the experience, but I was happy to only stay one night then get a real room back.
6-10-2012 9:21:09 AM
Sunday, June 10th – This will be another post
6-11-2012 9:09:18 AM
Monday, June 11th
Inari Shrine and the Imperial Castle
We went to the Imperial Castle today. Even though the emperor and those related do not still live here, the palace is kept closed as if he did. So Chris and I walked around the outside of the wall. The wall was white. That’s about it.
We also went to Nijojo. It was another castle. This one was much more touristy. The castle was neat because the owner was afraid of ninja attacks, so he built “nightengale” floors. They look like normal wooden plank floors, but because they added a little metal device in between all of the planks, when you step on the floors, even very gently, they “chirp.” So far, there have been no ninja attacks on the castle. We couldn’t take pictures inside of this castle, but the screen walls were nicely painted with cranes, sakura trees, and large cats.
After this, Chris and I went to the Inari shrine here. Yes, we have been to an Inari shrine. But this one is much cooler. So let’s explain who Inari is. Inari is the god of rice and the harvest. People make offerings to him to make sure their crops yield good amounts. His messengers are foxes, or kitsune. So Inari shrines will have fox statues because if you make the foxes happy, they will tell Inari you are awesome and he will bless your harvest.
So, as I said, this shrine was much cooler. This shrine is famous for the katrillion tori gates that are lined up the path to the shrine. Yes, katrillion is a number. The neat thing about this is the effect this gives as you walk through the tori gates. The gates act as a tunnel. Once you enter the gates, you can feel the heat subside and a coolness flow over you as you ascend the steps to the shrine. The red and faded red gates are inscribed with people’s/corporation’s names and how much they paid for the gates. But they are in Japanese, so we don’t know what they said. People can pay from ¥400,000 (about $4,000) for a small sized gate and increases to over ¥1,000,000 (about $10,000) for a large gate equivalent for a gate.
6-12-2012 3:40:20 PM
Tuesday, June 12th – This will be another post
6-13-2012 10:43:42 AM
Wednesday, June 13th
We traveled to go see the golden pavilion today. It was originally the retirement villa of the shogun and according to his will it became a Zen temple after his death in 1408. It is really covered in gold leaf. Like a lot of temples and buildings here, it was burned down a few times because of wars or accidents, but the most interesting time it burned was in 1950, when a crazy monk set fire to it. They rebuilt it again in 1955.
After this, we activated our JR pass, which allows us to travel on a prepaid ticket for the next seven days. Our first stop was Himeji to view the castle.