Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving in Kyoto

This past Thanksgiving we decided to do things a little different. While everyone else was waking up early to start cooking turkeys and the rest of their Thanksgiving meal, our little family was getting on a plane and heading for Kyoto. We decided to go and see the beauty of the fall leaves. This was a magnificent adventure and fabulous way to remember our blessings. So after dropping off our bags at our hotel (above picture) we headed out and began our exploring.
Our first stop was the Golden Temple. It is nicknamed that because it is literally gold. The scenery and the weather were amazing and I couldn't wait to start snapping pictures.

This little bit of scenery was fascinating. As I went to snap a picture of this fascinating face a gentlemen motioned for me to step forward as I did so and looked up I saw that the sun light lit up the eyes on this face.

My children's favorite thing to do on this trip was to look for coy fish and we saw plenty of them. However, watching the kids trying to find them was better than seeing the fish themselves.

After going to the Golden Temple we decided to go to a monkey park. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the bottom of a small mountain and explained that the park was on the mountain. So we bought our tickets and started the beautiful walk up the hill side just hoping to catch sight of a primate. Eventually we got an eyeful of monkeys, but before that we saw this awesome sign. Read the bottom of it.

For anyone with a fear of monkeys I do not recommend going here. However, if you are like us and are fascinated by them this is a great place to go.

This monkey actually ran and jumped in the picture when I pulled out my camera to get a shot of my husband and son. He ran and posed and when I was done walked away. It was great.
We never know who or what is watching us from the hill tops as we are bustling about our busy lives below.
As we came off the hillside we walked passed a pleasant river where some cranes were have dinner.

At the end of our first day we finally retired to our hotel room and dad went out foraging for dinner. While we didn't have our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, our children enjoyed a feast of PB and J and some McD's. Our hotel room was called modern traditional. We slept on futons that we set up ourselves and our only other furniture was a coffee table. The modern part was the plasma t.v., kitchen appliances, electric toilet etc. It was nice being in a room where I didn't have to worry about my children breaking anything or falling off of anything.
The next morning while many were testing their sanity with black Friday events, we went on a peaceful stroll through an endless walkway of torii gates, (I'm told there are several thousand... we obviously did not see them all.) This place was called Fushimi Inari.
There are stone foxes everywhere as they were viewed as being heavenly messengers.

Walking through these, especially because there were a few spiders, and the path was orange, made me feel like I was at a haunted house at Busch Gardens.
In case you were wondering what I would look like if I was still pregnant here is your answer. That is my baby's foot sticking out from under my coat.
Next we went to a Buddhist temple that is famous for their fall leaves, Tofukuji. We were not disappointed.

Can anyone guess how long it must have taken to rake all the gravel into this pattern, this must be a test in patience. Unfortunately one of my two year old's favorite things are rocks. He doesn't just pick up one here and there, he picks up handfulls of them and throws them comparing how different size and shape rocks move differently. Now that being said, you can see how walking through here caused him to exercise will power to a degree none of us thought was possible. So many rocks all perfectly organized and they were calling his name.

After a break back at our hotel we decided to go for a walk through Gion. For anyone who has seen Memoirs of a Geisha, this is that place. Yes, this is the small section of town where you can occasionally still see Geisha, those pretending to be Geisha, and some who still just dress traditionally.

As the sun went down we realized we were no longer used to the cold. Although it was still in the high 40's we were so cold and our children had to wear their North Dakota gear just to stay warm.

Even at night they have the leaves lit up beautifully.
One thing that has made me laugh living over here is seeing the random photos of American celebrities advertising things. My all time favorite is this picture of Tommy Lee Jones that is on Vending machines everywhere.
As we were walking up the hillside to see the leaves at another temple in the evening, my daughter noticed this blue spot light and announced that there was a night rainbow. We smiled and tried to explain to her that it was a light. She then told us we were wrong and explained that is was a night rainbow and how night rainbows are always blue. Oh that my imagination and determination were still as prevalent as hers.

The next day we decided to walk down the street to the Shogun's castle. It was such a beautiful day and was made even better for our children when we stopped at a park. The one thing that we could all learn from our children is that there doesn't have to be any barriers between cultures. My children have played in parks many places in this world and there never seems to be any hesitation. Children are so happy to see each other and play together even if they don't speak the same language, it doesn't seem to matter.

Here my daughter chases bubbles with this cute group of children.

One thing that we loved about this palace are the floors, we weren't allowed to take pictures or we would have. The floors are called nightingale floors. They are so called because they are designed to sing like a bird as they are being walked on. The Shogun had these designed so that intruders (yes, that would be Ninjas--Jas adds) would not be able to sneak in and attack him.

The grounds here were really lovely as well.

This crane found an amazing spot to rest and was kind enough to pose for a photo.

Ah, my family.

It was fun finding trees that were the same color as my children's clothing.
I love this photo because my son was mesmerised with the willow branches, he was sure they were going to get him.

I loved this tree because it looks so much like a painting my parents have in their house.
In the evening we decided to walk through the shops by our hotel and through Gion again. As we were out and about we saw several Geishas going to or coming from appointments. I only took a couple of pictures of the women that either waved or did not seem to mind. Most I chose not to photograph as I don't like feeling like paparazi. Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate having a camera shoved in my face and I didn't want anyone else to feel that way. That being said, I couldn't get over how people would shove their cameras in the faces of these poor women. I understand the fascination however, their poise and silence as they make their way through throngs of people waiting to catch a glimpse of what can only be described as a painted mystery. If they did not have their makeup on no one would even stop to give a second look. But these faces are the faces of mystery and we all feel the need to solve a mystery.

This was in front of a restaurant and I am a sucker for creative advertising so we got a picture.
This beautiful Christmas display was in the window of one of the stores. It was so pretty and peaceful that we all just stood for a moment and enjoyed the view.
Now one of the greatest adventure we had on this trip was that our sweet oldest boy became ill. I brought what I thought were enough changes of pajamas for him but I didn't account for him getting so sick. So the last night when he was out of pj's he had to wear the only item of extra clothing we had left, my extra night shirt. He didn't even seem to care the little trooper, he wore it proudly, determined to make it look manly. And with that our journey came to an end and we found ourselves with a renewed gratitude for the beauty of nature, good health, more importantly the good health of our children, the kindness of others and that McDonalds can be found around the world. Most of all, we are thankful for family