Kyoto-Nara-Mt. Fuji-Tokyo, Japan

Travel Blog by Jen 
April 2010

I spent a week in Japan traveling from Kyoto to Nara, Hakone, Mt. Fuji and Tokyo. It was beautiful how the landscape and cultural heritage of Japan changes from one prefecture to the next, as we travel by train. It went from the very traditional (Kyoto, Nara) to the natural (Mt. Fuji), to the ultra modern (Tokyo). Belatedly, I realized that a week's stay isn't enough. Fellow travelers whom I've met on this trip were spending 3-4 weeks to cover the major cities. I wish I had time like that! But given a week, here's what I covered:

* Climbed up to see Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto in the rain!

Lush trees surround the Kiyomizudera Temple

* Saw Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto

A typical Japanes Garden always has stone, water and trees.

* Had a leisurely walk through the small streets and alleys of Kyoto, passing by old houses and stores selling Japanese souvenirs, sweet treats, ceramics among others.

Many stores sell souvenirs such as porcelain bowls and cups.

Japan is also known for its sweet treats.

Frontage of a typical Japanese house

* Visited Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto.

* Spotted a maiko (a geisha's apprentice) in Gion District in Kyoto, popular for its the many teahouses (ochaya) and restaurants. Today, maiko and geiko (or geisha) can still be seen moving about through the streets as they go from one engagement to another.

* Admired the beautiful Kinkaku-Ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto. The first two stories are covered in gold leaf. It shone in the light!

* Visited the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. The free Palace tour was already fully booked for the whole season but we were extremely lucky to have to still caught the cherry trees still in bloom!

* Walked on the 'nightingale floors' of Ninomaru Palace in Nijo Castle. The floors were constructed to squeak when anyone walks on them so as to warn the shogun of intruders.

We also took a lovely stroll through the Castle's gardens. The cherry blossoms were still in bloom at that time!

* Visited Kofukuji Temple and also saw the 5-story pagoda -- the 2nd tallest in Japan.

* Saw the Giant Buddha housed in Todaiji Temple in Nara.

* Fed the the free-roaming deers in Nara Park. Deers are believed to be messengers of the Gods.

* Slept in a traditonal Japanese Inn (ryokan), experienced Japanese hospitality and sampled authentic Japanese cuisine. While there, we also bathed in the public bath. (see related post, "My Ryokan Experience")

* Be amazed at the sight of Mt. Fuji in all her majestic glory!

* Hopped on the Hakone Ropeway to see the Owakudani Boiling Valley -- a volcanic valley with sulphur vents and hot springs. While there, you can also try eating one of those blackened boiled eggs which is believed to prolong you life by 7 years.

* In Hakone, we went on a cruise along Lake Ashi. You might just get lucky to get a view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day. Along the bank are many hot spring resorts.

* Strolled through Hamarikyu Gardens in Tokyo. Such is the contrast between the old and new. In the middle of the pond is an old Japanese Tea House set against a backdrop of Chuo's modern buildings.

In this park is a 300-year old pine tree.

* Cruised along the Sumida River in Tokyo. In 35 minutes, you can cruise from Hamarikyu to Asakusa, passing under 12 bridges and giving views of many old and new building along the river bank.

* Went to Asakusa Kannon Temple, Tokyo. This is a Buddhist temple that houses Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. The street leading up to the temple called Nakamise is lined with many shops that sell Japanese souvenirs and various local snacks.

* Visited Akihabara "Electric Town" in Tokyo. If you want to go shopping for the latest electrical gadgets, this is the place.

* Ate everything Japanese :-) Meals are usually sold in bento boxes which include soup, salad, rice/noodles and fish/pork/chicken, and cold or hot tea. Most restaurants have a plastic food display out front which makes it easier for foreigners to order.

* Rode on their bullet-train called the Shinkansen. Blink and the train will disappear. That's how fast this train is.

* All photos used here are the writer's own.