Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 2 (Friday, May 30)

With our sleep patterns totally screwed up, my wife and I both woke several times during the night. Eventually, however, we rose for our first full day in Japan. The plan was to relax that morning at Mo’s uncle’s place, spend the day touring Kyoto, and then return to Osaka that evening to visit with a childhood friend of Mo’s. We also had two important errands to run: exchanging money and picking up the train tickets we would need for travel later in our vacation.

We were a little slow getting away that morning and it was almost noon before we reached Kyoto. The city is extremely close to Osaka and the two of them, along with the city of Kobe, form essentially a single metropolitan area. Kyoto is one of my favorite cities in Japan due to its history. Founded in the 8th century, Kyoto is a former capital of Japan. It is an historical treasure, well known for its temples and shrines, and is of such importance that the Allies purposely chose not to bomb it during WWII.

We stepped out of the train station and focused first on finding a place to change money. Mo’s Mom noticed a large post office nearby and we headed there. That may sound strange, but the Japanese postal system offers financial services (though many smaller post offices do no have these services available). The line was long, but we changed our traveler’s checks (the preferred option, as exchange rates are better than cash).

Welcome to China
From the post office, we headed to Kiyomizudera, or as it’s translated, the "Clean (or Pure) Water Temple." Like Kyoto, this temple has been around since the 8th century, though most of the current buildings were constructed in the 17th century. Kiyomizudera is one of the most famous temples in Japan and known for its three running springs, which people drink from, praying for health and good fortune. You can drive to the entrance, though it is slow going due to the crowds. Most people walk up the long hill to the entrance, taking time to peruse the shops lining the street.

Arriving at the temple, our sons noted the some of the buildings had a bright orange color. “China!” the boys called out, pointing at some of the buildings which, to them, resembled some of the temples they’d seen in the previews for the movie Kung Fu Panda. We assured them we hadn't change countries in the middle of the night.

Outside the entrance:

A picture of myself and the boys. The main hall of the temple is to the right and the city of Kyoto is in the background.

A couple of places to get water. In the second picture, it is pouring into a pool and I’m standing behind the boys, making sure they don’t fall in.

Long shot view of the temple grounds. This doesn't capture everything.

After visiting the temple, we headed through the many shops. Coming to Japan, Christopher hoped he would meet a ninja. This store made him happy.

For more information on Kiyomizudera, please click here.
We left the temple area and walked back towards the station. On the way, we saw another well known Kyoto tourist location: Yasaka Shrine. A picture of Mo and the boys is below.
Computer Games – The Universal Translator
As it drew towards evening, we headed back to Osaka. Our plans were to get changed and head over to visit Mo’s friend’s, Naoko, where we would spend the night. Unfortunately, Christopher zonked out and became impossible to wake up. Knowing he and Andrew were both still worn out from their trip, we let them sleep as long as we could, calling to let our friends know the situation and that we were running late. Eventually, though, we had to get them up and get going. Christopher slept on the train ride over, but eventually woke up after we arrived. (Mo claims I was zonked out along with them and has said she will produce witnesses, if necessary.)

Mo and Naoko have known each other since the two were in kindergarten. Naoko and her husband, Naoki, have two boys: Daiki (age 9) and Shigeki (infant). We visited them on our last trip to Japan and they had visited us when we lived in Portland. We worried whether the boys would be able to play together, but it was needless. Andrew and Christopher brought their DS and Gameboy. Daiki had a DS and a Wii.

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