Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Kyoto was the former capital of Japan and is home to hundreds of Buddhist temples. We visited many over the few days we were there.

Don't walk here!
 As we walked through the temples and gardens we noticed there were no leaves on the pathway or the floor of the garden. Workers came through and picked up all the leaves and "cleaned" the moss of dead pieces. We toured the areas in October so I imagine this is their busy season!

Moss covering the grounds

All these temples made us hungry! Time for mandarin orange sherbet with small candies on top and cucumbers.

Cucumbers on a stick!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pigs and Slides, oh my!

After visiting the Kyoto Imperial Palace (sorry, no pictures!), we passed this shrine. Most shrines are guarded by dogs or foxes. This was the first time we ever saw it guarded by pigs. Yes, pigs.

Later in the day we were walking around looking for something tasty when we passed a school. The children come out and go down the slide before getting on the bus! How cool!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


One stop we had to make while in Kyoto was to wear Nintendo started. Dustin and I both grew up playing Nintendo games. We just had to see where it all started. While researching I could only find the name of the road. I took that information to our base travel company. After a good laugh they started searching for more specific directions. Finally they gave up and called the Nintendo offices in Tokyo to get better directions. Finally we were able to narrow the location down to five blocks down a street.

In Kyoto we took a bus to the nearest stop and then used a geocache website to get us right to the spot. We walked down narrow streets until we came across an alley with a small chain guarding it.

That's it! The million-dollar Nintendo company that we know and love started in this alley.

As we walked out to the main street to catch a bus back to touristy areas we met a man walking. Often when we are traveling Japanese locals will ask us where we are from and want to talk with us. A coworker explained that they want to practice their English. Most of the time when we say we are from Iwakuni-shi in Yamaguchi Prefecture we get nods, but no real recognition. That would be like saying I'm from Clinton, Ohio. Okay, great. I have no idea where that is, but go on. This time he immediately recognized the name from the Japanese news programs regarding the Osprey protests. It was nice to have recognition, but not for that!

Oh well, we still got to see the starting place of Nintendo!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fushimi Inari Shrine

First on our list of shrines and temples in Kyoto was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The whole area has multiple shrines dedicated the the gods of rice and sake. The shrine is at the base of a mountain with many trails leading around the mountain, to a small lake, and to various other shrines.

Built in 1499

It is a good walk from the bus stop and the streets are lined with stores and vendors. According to our brochure they were selling small "cookies of fortune". They are from the 19th century and are said to be the start of fortune cookies. That's right, folks. Your Chinese dessert really started in Japan.

After browsing through a few stores we continued up the mountain to the main shrine. There were many people walking around and worshipping in this area. We walked through the prayer areas and came across an entry gate guarded by foxes.

The foxes are a symbol of messengers. One has a key in his mouth for the rice granary and the other a ball.

One of the main draws for this shrine is the hundreds of torii gates on the trails around the mountains. It is an amazing sight. Each torii is donated by businesses and the shrine as a whole is often visited to pray for wealth.

A little down the path we came to a fork. Which way should we take?

Finally we came to an inner shrine where visitors would write their prayers on cardboard foxes and hang them on the shrine.

Fushimi Inari was interesting to visit. We have seen the torii gates before all over Japan but never so many in one place. It was a beautiful sight. We spent a few hours hiking around the mountain, following the torii paths, and enjoying the fall colors.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just get on with it already!

Our first morning in Kyoto did not start out the way we had planned. The city is laid out in a grid pattern which makes understanding where you are and where you need to go pretty easy. North is uphill. During my research I was shocked to discover Kyoto does not have a thriving subway line. Instead the city's public transportation is an intricate web of buses. (Okay, to be honest, Kyoto does have subway lines. Two to be exact. One goes north/south and the other goes east/west. Neither of which had stops near any of our destinations.)

The city does offer an all-day bus pass for 500 yen (about $6) that will take you anywhere in the city central. Destinations outside the city required a little extra money.

Finding the right color, letter, and number! We can do this!
Our tourist office on base did not have a map of the bus stops. Neither did our not so fabulous hotel.  I did have a map of the roads in the city and we had walked from the train station the night before so we set off in a semi-familiar direction...

...and came across a business man peeing on the side of the building. Not in an alley. Just dropped his fly and peed between a barber shop and an apartment building. It was an not an auspicious start to our Kyoto vacation.

Bus Depot
Finally we made it to the bus area of Kyoto station, purchased passes, and mapped the shortest way to our destinations. Finally we were ready to start sightseeing! Or at least doing something more than riding buses around the city. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a second. There's a Starbucks.

Check out my smaller-than-small size! Take that Trenta!

Now we live in the Japanese version of the country. Really. So when we come across stores only in big ol' cities we just have to visit. So we did. There were so many nationalities represented (and come to think of it.. not many Japanese) that it became a game to try to figure out where each group was from. Oh, Starbucks. A glowing beacon in all the kangi, hirigana, and katakana.

"Attention all tourists. Meet and convene here before embarking on our confusing city. We are your last respite!"

Ahh. A little piece of home in this strange (yet exciting) country. Now to the temples and shrines - oh my!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hotel in Kyoto

Our trip to Kyoto was a little last minute. With the weekend also being a Japanese holiday I had a hard time finding a hotel. Two co workers spent time calling or looking online for me. I spent hours searching the English websites. I even went to the base's Tour and Travel department to see if they could find something. The man that helped me recommended we stay in nearby Osaka and take a train over every day. Whew! We just need a room over our head!

Well, that's all we got.

Awkward hallway

Big for Japan! Nothing on the walls was strange.

What is this? I don't understand. Where's my card?

Step-up into the bathroom. Not fun in the middle of the night.


There is no scale here but this is about the size of one person.
It was convenient to the tourist areas in the city; albeit not up to the price tag we were charged for the weekend. The beds were "western-style" which means "really hard and uncomfortable". While looking around I was startled to find that the Gideon Bible was not in its customary place.

One positive was the breakfast buffet every morning. It had a mixture of tasty food and the best raspberry bread!

Dustin's Breakfast
So after a yummy breakfast we filled the water bottles, tied our sneakers, and hit the road. We've got some sights to see.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Traveling to Kyoto

Alright! Back on the exploring and adventuring journey! Columbus Day is also a Japanese holiday called Sport's Day. It became a national holiday after the Olympics were held in Tokyo in 1964.

We decided to take the shinkansen up to Kyoto on Friday afternoon so we could have extra time to explore. After a two hour ride we walked around the train station looking for something tasty. Around one corner we came on a wall of tasty!

Oh My!
Unfortunately we decided we needed some real food in our tummies before this decadent treat. After a quick bite from the 7-11 we continued down to the local train that would take us closer to our hotel. One thing that was different were the guard gates on the train tracks. Most train stations we have been through are open track. Here there was a gate up that only opened when the train was present. A coworker explained that they are to keep people from jumping on the tracks.

We took the train and walked to our hotel. It made it a late night, but meant we were already in Kyoto to explore the next day.

Vending machine was out of tea!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where's Waldo?

Okay so maybe not Waldo, but we are still here! We have been a little out of sorts recently with lots of work activities going on.

But we just came back from a long weekend vacation in Kyoto so prepare for a few posts from the old flavor.

I am also working on redesigning the header with new pictures.

More to come!