Tuesday, March 31, 2015

happy birthday!

 I could take pictures all day. and on my birthday- that may be all I did.  Kent is very patient when we go on vacation- or just out and about! He wrangles the four kiddos while I wander around to get pictures I want.

One of the most famous temples in Kyoto has 10,000- yes TEN THOUSAND!- torii gates on it's property! My biggest birthday wish was to take fabulous pictures there.  Considering we were in Kyoto at one of the busiest times of the year- and it was a saturday- it was going to be difficult to get pictures without people in them!  so- we got up early- around 6- and got the kiddos ready- and took an early morning train (around 7) out to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  It was AMAZING.  and nearly empty.  Definitely my favorite location in all of Kyoto!

The walkways were peaceful and calm, the air was cool and crisp, and the colors were vibrant in the early morning sun!

there is a short path near the base of the shrine that has hundreds of small-closely spaced gates that make for such an astounding sight.
 our kids ran up and down the path!  the bright orange is really amazing.

 view from the top! all of the gates have japanese kanji written on the backs of them.

I can't remember- but I think Zeb took this picture for us!
there's a giant mountain behind the shrine where all of the other gates can be found!  the hike is 2-3 hours roundtrip and we decided to do it all!  the tori gates lining the steep mountain is just too impressive to miss.  
people donate the gates. the largest ones cost a million dollars to construct and put up!!
you just can't believe that they keep going and going and going!!  some of the gates are bright and shiny and new- while others are faded and chipped.

all along our hike- we stumbled upon cemetaries, smaller temples, groups of little shrines, and old buildings.

many shrines have rows and rows of long strands of paper cranes.  we found out that one person makes a strand of ONE THOUSAND cranes by themselves in one calendar year- and then hangs them at the shrines. It is said they will be granted eternal good luck- or possibly be granted one eternal wish (such as a long life or a recovery from illness or injury) by a crane.  They are aways brightly colored and beautiful!!  we've got to learn how to make paper cranes!!
I mean seriously- how did all of these gates get WAY up this mountain?! it's unreal.
these were all attached to a giant bell metta was trying to ring!
mack gets the best seat with the best views.

I love this picture.  It's taken at a temple on the very top of the mountain- after lots and lots of stairs and lots and lots of moaning and groaning! but I think everybody was happy to be at the top.
on our way back down- they had a break area with great views and ice cream.  I love this picture of Zeb and the random Japanese guy looking out over kyoto while enjoying their ice cream cones.  Japanese people LOVE soft serve ice cream.  it is EVERYwhere.  even on mountainsides.
also on our descent- Ike took a pretty bad tumble.  He was jumping down steep stone stairs and Kent warned him repeatedly that it wasn't the best idea.  You live and learn, huh?  we bought him a little stuffed fox at the bottom to make him feel better :)  He is still sleeping with it.  The fox is the animal symbol of the fushimi inari shrine.
Orange may become my favorite color by the time we leave Japan! Red and Orange are very important colors in the Shinto religion.
everybody ringing their bells~

after our trip to Fushimi Inari- we hit two big markets.  One was a shrine sale at the Toji temple.  It was hot and crowded! but full of good street food and Japanese treasures.  we ended up getting a print of the giant carp fish windsocks for 'Kodomo no hi'- Children's Day- a spring holiday here.

Japan is such an OLD country!  just in Kyoto- kent had to stop and help three different elderly people who had fallen in the road!  most of them just keep walking and taking care of themselves until they die.
After the toji market- we went to Nishiki food market!  a long alleyway with food shops, restaurants, and all sorts of japanese 'goodies'.
and statues of raccoons with giant testicles.
 they also had an awesome temple right in the midst of all the craziness!

and everybody needs baby octupi on a stick to suck on, right!??!

Japan definitely has it's assortment of weird fishy creatures that I would never intend for human consumption! but they love their strange snacks and ingredients.
it reminded me of Pike Place market in Seattle!
we ended up having dinner at an Italian restaurant to finish the day!  Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the japanese smells and consistent menu items.  I need something to cleanse my palate and taste 'new'!  we got pizza and gnocchi :)

I also got a few more pictures of the blossoms at 'our' shrine at home!

My birthday was fabulous!!  I just can't believe that life gets better and better with every year that passses! I hope that continues forever!!  Happy 34 to me!!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

day 2!

day 2: Arashiyama and the Golden Pavillion

The golden pavillion is a must see in kyoto.  It's covered in gold leaf!  it's super shiny and pretty cool looking.

 our kids love to light candles and burn incense at all of the temples!  I think I've mentioned it, but I love the smell of the incense now.  When we first arrived- I didn't like it much- but now it's so familiar and very 'japanesey'.
 metta seems to be growing up more and more every day.  she's really fun to talk to and is always excited about life.  I love her.
 at the golden pavilion they handed out this green drink filled with gold flakes!!  I'm assuming it's green tea or something of the sort.  The boys thought it was crazy that people would drink something that looks this green AND has gold flakes in it!!
 for some reason- here more than any other place- our kids were an attraction!!  metta and zeb and mack are crouched in front of this group of women getting their picture taken!  we had to tell the kids that if they were polite to everybody who tried to talk to them and get their picture taken with them- we'd buy them something special.  they were all really good to be pleasant and give smiles and peace signs for photos :)
this family wanted a pic of us ALL. So I had them snap one with my phone as well!

After our visit to the golden pavilion- we made our way out to 'Arashiyama'- a section of town a little ways out from downtown.  We rode a tram through some fun neighborhoods and through lots of cherry blossoms!!
 Many of the older Japanese still wear tradition kimonos and yukatas out in public- but it's even more common for the young people to dress up here in Kyoto!   it's so fun to see all of the bright colors and patterns!
 we did a decent hike up to 'monkey park' in arashiyama.  I love monkeys.  and I love hiking!
 and I love hilarious sign translations!!
 metta was convinced that these monkeys were going to poo on us!!  maybe because I told her they poo on people who whine about hiking :)
 the view from the monkey park is pretty awesome and well worth the hike!!  I love that japan is full of hikes and mountains.
 I think the kids were accustomed to monkeys because of our recent snow monkey trek. they paid almost no attention to these monkeys!! although they weren't quite as fun to watch or play with as the monkeys in nagano.
 we did get to go inside the monkey house and feed them all!  we walked inside a building on the mountain and they stayed outside.  It was kind of funny to be the ones caged in!!!
 our goal on the trip was to make sure and plan in plenty of fun down time for the kidlets so they wouldn't freak out on us!!  the monkey park also included a playground.
 these boys were all laughing so hard together!

 In all my life in the US- I've only seen one park with a slide this big!  but they are ALL over the place here.  Kent is convinced they have all of these amazing parks to make up for the boring temples and shrines all of the kids get dragged to and from :)
 mack was such a pleasant and wonderful kiddo.  Just hung out in the baby bjorn and smiled at people.  He loves his brothers.
 He had his very own temple in Arashiyama.  that 2nd Kanji is 'ryu' or dragon.  His middle name.
 It's located right next to the Bamboo forest.  this place was ASTOUNDING.  the pictures can't do it justice. It was so calm and peaceful. and the threes were all so tall and amazing.

cell phone pic.

 sometimes I forget we are traveling all over JAPAN!  a lot of the uniqueness is becoming a bit 'normal' and 'commonplace' for us!  And then I see things that seem so authentically japanese and I remember where we live.  It's so exciting!
 look at this old woman.  She is Japan.

 I am really impressed with our kids and how well they did.  We did have to remind them often that these places were temples and shrines and are sacred and holy to many of the people around us- but overall they were very well behaved!
 everytime we turned a corner- there was something else that was beautiful.  I took over 1500 pictures!!!!

 The japanese LOVE these Tanuki statues. we see them EVERYwhere.   they are especially common at places of business because they represent economic growth and good fortune.  But if you take a close look- you'll notice what look to be like the tanuki's legs- are actually his giant testicles!!

I could not believe it when I heard that!  I did a bunch of research and found this to be the simplest explanation:
'Because the Japanese terms for a small ball of gold ("kin no tama") and testicles ("kintama") are so phonetically similar, the image of a tanuki with a gigantic testicular region is now associated with good fortune and stretching one's money.'
pretty funny, huh?

Just before we boarded the train to head back into Kyoto- we passed a little shop with free samples.  Somehow I failed to notice the sign explaining what the samples were.  Probably because there was a lady handing out other samples that she kept saying were "NOT spicy".  I took a bite of one of the chips pictured below. and then nearly died.  see those two screaming ladies on the package?!  that was totally ME!!!  and see the 15 peppers pictured?!  they indicate level of spice.  It was surely the spiciest thing I've ever put in my mouth.  I had welts on my lips.  I wanted to die.  literally.  Kent thought it was all so so funny. I was miserable for quite sometime.