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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Japan : Kiyomizudera Temple and Gion, Kyoto

PREVIOUS - Read HERE for Hotspot #24 and #25
NEXT - Read HERE for Hotspot #28

Hotspot #26 and #27 : Wooden Stage and Geisha
“Next will be Kiyomizu.” Hubby reminded me. We took the same bus #206 and headed to Kiyomizudera, a “pure water” temple.
Walking uphill to the temple was freaking tired, I swear! But we were entertained by locals in kimono and yukata that walked around the area, buying sweets and pickles. We finally reached the main entrance where lots of visitors lingered around and taking pictures.

“HAHAHAHA!” Pasrah. We quickly ran away and hid among the school kids, hoping that he will not see us.

We paid 400yen each for entrance fee, and entered the best known wooden stage temple and stopped right on the most jut floor that overhang from the main hall, 13 meters above the hillside. This stage allowed us to view the numerous cherry and maple tress that I believed, would be nicer in spring and fall. From this stage as well, we saw Kyoto city in the distance.
Similar to one of the castle in M’sia, this temple’s main hall was built without the use of nails. Behind the hall, there was Jishu Shrine, with two stones 18 meters apart. If you can find a way to from one to the other stone with your eyes closed is said to bring luck in finding love.
“No thanks, I already have you.” Guess who said to who.

We then walked to the left side of the main hall, walking on the wooden trails fixed on the hill wall. It was quite scary to see that this trail was under construction. Without thinking of the capacity that it would take, we carried on, just to take few shots of the wooden stage.

From this view, I saw Otawa Waterfall that is divided into three separate streams, longevity, success at school, and fortunate love life. Visitors were using a cup with long poles to drink from them, according to their intention. Same goes to Koyasu Pagoda, visitors came to visit it as it is said to bring easy birth and safe childbirth. So please, come to Kiyomizudera when you are in 38-39 weeks of pregnancy ya. Hahaha!
“Maiko!” Not again. Why maiko visit Kiyomizu???

“Oversized maiko…who are camwhoring with other oversized maiko.” LOL!
Yes, there was a service for visitors who’d like to play as maiko but I had no guts  to ask for the price.

We walked down the trail and snapped few shots by the pond. It was getting dark and this area will be illuminating during annual Hanatoro event, as well as during autumn leaf season.
“Eh, do we still have time to catch maiko at Gion?” I started to panic, on the bus, back to Gion, the famous geisha district. I really, really, REALLY wanted to see them.

“Not sure…they can be seen on their way to work, around 4pm.” I checked on my wrist watch, it was already 5.30pm.

"Nevermind, let's go!"

We tried our luck and waited at Hanami-koji Street, towards the Gion Corner. We’ve waited for almost 30 minutes, before we had a glimpse of the first geiko…or maybe a maiko.
Note : Geiko is Kyoto dialect for geisha, while maiko is geiko apprentice.

I tried to capture her but I can only capture her shadow! SERIOUSLY! I don’t know how they walk in tight kimono and geta, BUT THEY WALKED VERY FAST!

Without glasses, short-sighted, in dark, I was cursing myself for not professional enough in capturing moving maiko. I should have practiced hundred times before I signed for this job. So, I waited. Hubby? He was just standing there like a lamp post.
“Ayang! I saw maiko!” Hubby pointed to one cute maiko that just went out from one dark alley. “Be ready!” He said.

Right after she came out, I turned into paparazzi mode and quickly ran behind her, WHEN SHE JUST WALKING! Shame huh? I was running while she was walking, and she was right before me?!
I Click! Click! Click! Non-stop! And she gone.

I ran back to hubby and preview the shots. IT WAS TOTALLY BLACK! NO FACE! NO KIMONO! NOTHING!

“WHYYYYYYYYY?” I blamed hubby for nothing.

“Just use auto mode. No use if you set AV or TV. Trust me. Maiko purposely move around to make sure that all pictures will look shaky.” Hubby THEN suggested.

Again, I waited. Exactly like Antonio Banderas in Desperado.

This time, two maiko walked out from the taxi. “Wah, take taxi ar now!” Hubby told me that maiko getting fedup with tourist, for some of them tried to get close to these maiko and accidentally knocked maiko’s face with their lens. Ok, no comment. Hahaha!

Clever. I waited at the traffic light and luck was on my side, the traffic light changed to red! Thank you God!
I swear, flashes were everywhere. Pity them. Hahaha! Well, THEY are the attraction in Kyoto. What else! I went back to hubby with a big smile, though some of the pictures were shaky. Hubby requested to call the night off, but I requested for another shot of maiko. Crazy wifey.

Not for long, I saw another maiko, with her caretaker and manager. She was forced to stop when the manager was greeted by one rich-looking lady, who I suspected somebody who is regular or noted in that area. Ya, maiko is full of discipline and respectful. They have to be nice to their customer, as expert hostesses. So I have no view whether it is a good job or not.
Satisfied with what I had, we went back to Jam hostel and thank god, THE THAI GUY ALREADY CHECKED-OUT!

And so I slept, peacefully. 

Read HERE for Travelista version.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Japan : Fushimi Inari and Sanjusangendo Temple, Kyoto

PREVIOUS - Read HERE for Hotspot #22 and #23
NEXT - REad HERE for Hotspot # 26 and #27

Hotspot #24 and #25 : Tori Gate and 1000 Arms

We returned to Kyoto Station and since Fushimi Inari is located just outside the Inari Station (two stations from Kyoto Station via JR Nara Line), we chose to visit this place first. At least, the ambience will be different than what Chawana has experienced earlier.

It was noon and at this point of time, I was super excited to see this Shinto god of rice. Looking at the first out of thousands of tori gates, I started to ask hubby to take my pictures. But the tori gate was super huge that he had to decide, either my face or the whole tori gate. Haha!
“Warning! You are going to see lots of red color!” Almost all structures in this area are red, from the biggest tori gate, to the shrine ground, to the smallest miniature of tori gate.
We headed to the trails behind the main buildings where it led to the woods of the sacred Mount Inari. Earlier back in M’sia, we managed to watch a documentary about Shinto, which has enlightened Fushimi Inari in it. In the documentary, they talked about foxes that acted as the messengers of Inari. And so we knew why there were many fox’s statues on the shrine grounds.
“Which one is the most expensive?” I asked hubby, knowing that every tori gate is donated by individuals and companies, has its own price.
“The bigger the tori gate, the expensive it costs. So, if you see small tori gate, sure small budget…” The cost starts around 400,000yen for a small sized gate, and increased to over 1 million yen for a large sized gate.

“I agreed. Kasta kan? Hahaha!”

Every tori gate is carved with date and its donator’s name at the back of the gate. Meaning, the blank side is the front. That was why I saw nothing inscribed on the gate, when I entered Senbon Tori, the parallel rows of thousand tori gates.
There were two trails and we chose to go for the left side upward, and planned to return via the right side downward. The density of the gates was gradually decreased, half way up. We tried so hard to take a shot without other visitors, and thanks to the architect of the tori gate, the curve of the trail had given us many perfect shots.

At the end of the trail, we stopped and setup the tripod. We waited for other visitors to finish camwhoring, but looking at these camwhores taking their own sweet time, I felt like shoving them away.
In a glance, we took ours. Snap! Snap! Snap! “Haiyo, use tripod la, easy…” I whispered to hubby’s ear.

Without taking off the tripod, I carried the camera along the way. I simply placed it anywhere I like, set the timer, and voila! Going down the second trail, then only we saw the carvings. While turning back, we saw mount hikers came down in their hiking suits, with their hiking equipments. They might have spent 2-3 hours up there.
We had a quick refreshment (takoyaki) before we walked back to Inari Station, took a train ride back to Kyoto Station, and walked to the bus stop area. Looking at the bus map, every bus stop has its own bus route. Kyoto city bus is encircling the city. Either we go counter clockwise, or vice versa. We checked and confirmed that we should only take bus #206 to the next two hotspots. Other than this number, we just ignored. Easy huh?
P/S : I will not stop thanking Chawana, for they had given us many tips on bus ride. It is color coded and numbered, so too bad if you printed the map in monochrome. Hahaha!

But this time, I should also thanked hubby, for suggesting Sanjusangendo. A temple that famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Well, besides history and culture, we also love to know about religions around the world. So, seeing 1000-armed Kannon in Japan’s longest wooden structure hall, was really interesting.
Too bad, photo capturing wasn’t allowed. We are allowed to bring in the camera but anyone who is caught taking pictures will get sentence. So, don’t ever try ya.
Entering the temple hall, we were welcomed with burning incense sticks. The hall was super huge and long. In the center of the main hall, sits a large wooden statue that is flanked by 500 human statues on each side, standing in ten rows. Each Kannon is perfectly carved on one piece of large wood coated with gold paint, with 11 heads and 1000 arms, to help them fight the suffering. FUYOH!
“But that doesn’t look like 1000 arms to me.” I complaint.

Well, actual statue has 42 arms, minus two regular arms, multiply by 25 planes of existence. FINE! I DON’T WANT TO KNOW. Hahaha! (Small pic shows a portion of Buddha in lines. CAUTION : YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE PICTURE!)
Before those thousand goddess took me to the next level, we got out from the hall. Next to the hall, there were lots of sakura flowers, blooming strikingly. We walked around the garden and snapped more pictures. I swear, the garden was BEAUTIFUL! (Terasa nak buat jer kat Palmiera Cacatus.)
"Kiyomizudera?" I asked hubby.

"Yup." "JOM!"

Read HERE for Travelista version.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Japan : Arashiyama Sagano Scenic Train and Bamboo Groves, Kyoto

PREVIOUS - Read HERE for Hotspot #21
NEXT - Read HERE for Hotspot #24 and #25

Hotspot #22 and #23 : The Romantic Train and Thousands of Bamboos

When we woke up, the Thai guy already in his non-flowery shirt. He’ll be in Kiyomizudera Temple, that was what he said. We prayed not to bump into him since Kiyomizu is listed in today’s itinerary, alongside Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari, Sanjusangendo, and Gion.

There were two shared bathrooms and one shared toilet outside the dorm. Luckily, we, Asian, woke up earlier than others, so there was no definition of queuing to bathe. Since we booked this hostel for two days, we left our bags in the dorm lockers. After a quick light breakfast of 2 packs of cereal each, we went down and started our journey.

The hostel reception provided us the map to bus stop, 750 meters towards a shrine located at the end of the street. Posting postcard isn't my thing, but here in Kyoto, it was quite fun to do. I posted a postcard to MasMZ since she personally requested it. Same to Fatt, who requested Hiroshima postcard for her personal collection.
P/S: Thanks to Chawana again, for the advice of getting around Kyoto via bus.

Walking along the Gion district gave a different view compared to Tokyo and Hiroshima. In Tokyo, everything was fast, informative, and helpful. In Hiroshima, everything was slow, peaceful, and friendly. But in Kyoto, it was some sort of something that was stuck in between of Tokyo and Hiroshima. Not too fast, not too slow. Not too friendly, not too ignorant. Touristy was my first impression, but I still love it.

Too early to make any conclusion, we hopped on a bus via back door, to Kyoto Station.

P/S: Thanks to Chawana again and again, for telling us that the bus entry is at the back door, while bus exit is at the front door.

On the bus, we purchased Kyoto City Bus One-day Pass with 500yen each. Once arrived, we had a quick pose in front of the Kyoto Station, before we walked into the station, and took a train ride to Saga Arashiyama Station on JR Sagano Line.
The train was completely full with teenagers in school uniform and officers in coat. We had to squeeze in, to run from these school kids who disobeyed the train policy, by talking loudly. Kore wa kyoka sa rete iru? Shinai yo!

Once arrived, we had to walk out from the JR station, and walked to the Saga Torokko Station. There, we saw an info board of map around Saga Arashiyama, IN JAPANESE!

Again, I sang “Gunakanlah bahasa kebangsaan kiiiiiita, marilah amalkan ramai-ramaiiiiii…” Hahaha!

To recap, back in Malaysia, we did discuss with Chawana of getting on this Sagano Scenic Railway a.k.a Sagano Romantic Train, since they didn’t include it in their plan. Due to that, hubby and I kept on watching the scenic train’s video that full with sakura trees along the track, over and over, to convince ourselves that it is worth to ride. Eager to know whether the video is true as it takes, we decided to try.
We then walked in, and purchased two tickets, with the price of 600yen. That was the price for one way ride, right to the final stop, Torokko Kameoka Station. Meaning, to come back to Arashiyama, we are needed to walk to the nearest JR Station, and take JR train for free. Else, another 600yen is burnt.
“Ok. The moment of truth is yet to be revealed, in one hour time.” We waited for the train to board at 9.07am.

“Eh, wanna eat first?” It was 8 in the morning. Cannot tahan already.

“There, got oba-chan (auntie) selling onigiri.” We approached her.

“Sumimasen, korewa…fish?” I looked at hubby and said “Fish apa? What is fish in Nihongo?”

“Cookbook…cookbook…” Thank god hubby asked me to copy some keywords in our Tour Cookbook! “Haa, sakana.”

“Ah…korewa…sakana?” I repeated to the lady.

“Iye. Ano…” She said no and paused. Looking for the right word, I guessed. So we paused, as well. Nganga.

“Ee…salmong! Salmong!” She confidently told us while pointing to one of the onigiri.

I looked at hubby, “Haaa…salmon la tu…”

“Ni, salmon, kudasaiiii.” Ignoring proper grammar, I showed two fingers for two pieces of salmon onigiri. We then ate in front of the classic steam coach, outside the Saga Torokko Station.

Once finished, we went back inside and got into the designated red-yellow coach and sat on assigned wooden bench, as per printed on the ticket. No one was standing. But trust me, the moment the train started to move, everyone was standing! You know why???

With emerald green river, topaz brown hill, the picturesque was nearly perfect. NEARLY! Why? Coz sapphire pink sakura trees were not fully occupied the trail. Cit!
On the move, train officers came to approach passengers for picture service (with charges). Simultaneously, the info along the 7km was broadcasted in 25 minutes of train ride journey. It directed passengers to look on the right and left of the view. Since it was a one-way ride towards Kameoka, sitting on the right side of the train was the right thing to do. But dream on, seating is auto-arranged.

Taking photos while standing in slow-pace-moving-classic-train wasn’t easy. I gave this task to hubby since he managed to get one spot near the window, behind another passenger’s seating. Meanwhile, I just continued agape.

The train, once, stopped in a very dark tunnel that showed the old signboard of Arashiyama Torokko Station.
Few minutes later, we saw people rafting on the river. We then reached Kameoka Station and disembarked. All the passengers quickly ran to the end of the train and started to snap pictures, including us. When the train boarded, everyone was waving to the train. Sporting kan? Hahaha!

I grabbed few fridge magnets from the station store, and we walked to the Umahori Station (JR station). Internet said it was only 5 minutes walk. LIAR! It was double up! (Maybe the empty field made it longer.)
With JR train, time taken to get back to Arashiyama was cut into half. Once arrived, we went back to the info board (that written in Japanese), trying our luck to find the Bamboo Groves’s location.

“I remember Chawana said, they had to walk in between small alleyways between houses. Let’s not wasting our time, I’ll ask him.” I walked to the rickshaw puller nearby. Luckily, he spoke English very well and showed us the direction. He initially invited us to ride his two-wheeled rickshaw but I rejected. No money lah. We can't even afford to rent a bicycle pun...
Though locals didn’t really know what is Bamboo Groves, more or less, they understood that I was asking for “BAMBU”. The direction became easier after I asked one urban-Japanese chick (and she spoke English quite well too), where she was helpful enough to walk us to the small alley.

“Aaaaaaa…arigato!” I thanked her once I saw lines of dried-bamboo-leave-fence, on both sides.

Since Chawana had taken lots of pictures of this hotspot, we basically got the idea on how it looked like. So we just enjoy the view of thousands of tall-straight-thin bamboos. Walking the quiet path while watching the bamboo stalks swayed gently back and forth was pretty attractive. For centuries, these bamboo have been used to manufacture baskets, boxes, mats, and other local products. "Ala macam kat M'sia takde pokok buluh." I recalled what Chawana said. Hahaha!

Suddenly, I saw maiko! “Maiko! Maiko!” I hinted hubby to take photo.
“Is she a real maiko? What is she doing here?” We looked around. Clearly, no customers to serve.

“Can’t wait to see real maiko in Gion, tonight!”

“Let’s go. We have three more places to go before chasing maiko/geisha.” Hubby smiled.

Read HERE for Travelista version.  

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