A Palace, a Pavilion, and Pachinko

Note:  You can view Mick’s photos and video of this day here.

Well, I didn’t think I’d have so much time to blog today, but we are at the airport with about three hours to wait until the plane takes off.  I might just finish all this blogging before we get home (though it’s doubtful).

Kyoto has like 1400 temples, shrines, and other such sites.  We had one full day to view them all.  Obviously, we had to be selective. 

Upon finishing a traditional Japanese breakfast (which I will blog about tomorrow), Mick and I hopped in a cab and went to Nijo Castle, which was the Kyoto palace of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

   

This photo was taken in the outer area of the palace.  We were able to tour the inside of the palace, but unfortunately they wouldn’t allow photographs or even sketching of the inside.  It was really fascinating, however.  In some of the rooms they had life-sized dolls set up to illustrate scenes in history or the purpose of a particular room.  It was cool to see a traditional Japanese "home" after living in our ryokan room for a day.  Though the palace rooms were much, much bigger, they weren’t all that different from the rooms we were living in.

All the visitors had to remove their shoes and leave them in the provided shelves.  Funny to tour a public place in your stocking feet.

Another interesting feature of the palace was the floor, called the Nightingale floor.  When walked upon it squeaked in such a way that it sounded like lots of birds tweeting.  This was done intentionally to warn the inhabitants of someone trying for a surprise attack.

After touring the inside of the palace, we were able to explore the gardens surrounding it.  They were so beautiful:

It became very windy on this observation deck:

This was the view from the other side of the observation deck:

By this time I had a hankering for some traditional kyoto sweets, which are hard to explain but are very delicious.  Basically, they consist of a small "tortilla" (I use this word very loosely) wrapped around some flavored bean paste.  Might not sound yummy, but I assure you they are.  The ones I am eating here are strawberry flavored:


Our next stop on today’s tour was the Golden Pavilion:

This photo is a contender for this year’s Christmas card, so don’t be surprised if you see it again.  Mick and I found on this trip that it’s easy to get someone to offer to take a photo of you simply by taking a photo of yourself (Mick and I’s standard photograph).  Almost every time we did it, someone offered to take a photo of us together, but then asked if we would reciprocate.

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The Golden Pavilion is a very popular tourist spot, as witnessed by this photo:

Like Nijo Palace, the Pavilion had beautiful gardens surrounding it, as well as little memorials and offering places.
Here, tourists are trying to land their offerings (coins) in a small bowl at the foot of the statue:


Pachinko Success at Last

I’m sure you guessed that I wouldn’t leave Japan without playing pachinko.  In Kyoto, the pachinko parlours were a lot less intimidating than those in Tokyo, and this time we took advantage of the attendant and let him help us.

Here I am, boys and girls, finally playing pachinko!  It turns out it’s not all that complicated, but it certainly is a good way to get rid of some cash if you have a mind to do it.  Proceed with caution!

After we finally learned, a day didn’t pass in Japan when we didn’t play pachinko at least once.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ryokan

When we returned to the ryokan, the Okami brought us a delicious drink made with yazuya–it tasted like warmed lemonade.  After bathing and putting on our yakutas, we made our way to the dining room.  This is the view out one of the windows:

This night’s dinner was completely different than the one the previous night.  It started with fish topped with a broccoli-type vegetable in broth.

Next came some of that vegetable tempura I’ve come to know and love in Japan:
No meal (even breakfast) is complete in a ryokan without a little sashim.  Tonight’s featured different fish than the night before, but was similiarly presented:

How gorgeous is that?

Our next dish was Kyoto beef, lightly seared and terrfically delicious.

This night’s dinner would also feature shabu-shabu, but this time, with fish and tofu instead of beef:

The citrus shown here is yazuya, of course.

The final dish was simply beautiful–a gorgeous box of sushi:

It was almost too pretty to eat, but of course I did my best.

There was a curious couple sitting next to us at dinner–a older man, like perhaps 65, and a younger woman, like around 25 (if that).  I assumed it was a father and daughter traveling together.  When we sat down, the woman said hello in English and throughout the meal I could see her paying attention to us.  Finally, toward the end she asked us where we were from and explained that she had lived in Australia for six years.  Of course her English was very good.  There was something she said, however, that implied that it was not her father she was with and Mick and I got the creepy feeling she was actually with a "boyfriend."  Hmmmm.  Maybe you had to be there to get what I’m saying, but it was kind of weird.

After dinner, Mick and I were determined to go out and see the geishas on Potoncho-dori.  This is a street they walk down at night, getting to their places of business.  Here I am, walking down the street by day because Mick didn’t get any that night.

Unfortunately, we must’ve been out too early (around 9pm) because we didn’t see any at all.

We ended up in a much more familiar place to the likes of us:

I have to admit it felt good to be in a place that might’ve easily been in England or even Santa Monica.

I’m loving Japan, but I am also longing for home…

Holly West

3 Comments

  1. Good for you for finally playing Pachinko! That box of sushi was just beautiful. It did look like art. I would have been taking a zillion pictures there. Everything is so beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Antoinette

  2. Those sweets are called “Yatsuhashi”, at least that’s what the “tortilla” is made from. It’s actually a raw dough, like cookie dough, and they can be baked. The unbaked version is “Hijiri”. See here:
    http://tinyurl.com/2kbgfk

  3. Wow, that shabu-shabu looks delish! Also, I have yet to try Pachinko, and likely never will. Its so intimidating!

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