Saturday, October 17, 2009

Last Day in Kyoto
We all were up bright and early and had a large breakfast at the hotel to hold us over for our busy morning. We wanted to see Nijo-jo (Nijo Castle). Here the last Shogun returned power to the Imperial Court. Since we arrived as the grounds were opening we were told to stroll the gardens since the house wasn't open for viewing for another 15 minutes. I think we ended up walking the gardens for about an hour. It was immense!

The karamon main gate to Ninomaru Palace

Etta striking a pose half way up to the overlook
Once we were done walking around the gardens we headed for the palace. Turns out you are not allowed to take pictures inside. My mom later thought it could be because someone high up doesn't want duplicates of some of the artwork inside the palace. I'm not sure it that's the reason, but we were sad to miss out on some wonderful picture opportunities. It was a massive palace. The one thing that will always stick in my memory are the wooden floors. The corridors are made of wood (rooms are tatami) and squeak when walked upon, referred to as nightingale floors. You can even listen to the sound if you go to the link.
After the castle we headed to Gion. Here I thought I was in for a long drive but it took like 15 minutes. It's just in another section of Kyoto. If you aren't familiar with Gion then you haven't read my favorite book, Memoirs of a Geisha. Gion used to be the entertainment district pre-WWII with many tea houses and geisha. My mom and I really wanted to see the now touristy spot.
The main street still has tea houses bust mostly restaurants now. It was still a little early to sit down for lunch so we just walked around looking. Everything looked so old and so Japanese. Funny saying that even after living in Japan several years now.

There happened to be a shrine at the end of Shijo-dori where we parked, Yasaka Shrine. We figured it was worth checking out. We weren't disappointed.

Someone had just gotten married and I took a picture of them while they were having their photo session. I don't understand the head gear, but thought everyone would like to see traditional Japanese wedding clothes.

Here are prayers tied to strings

Then we ended up seeing a wedding ceremony

a procession to the reception
The place Eric and I looked forward to seeing the most was for last, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. If you've ever seen the Memoirs of a Geisha movie, then you've seen a small fraction of it. The main character as a child had run to a shrine through many torii gates to give her offering and pray to become a geisha in the future. I always thought that the shrine looked cool because I had never seen so many torii gates placed like that. Turns out it's located in Kyoto not far from Gion. It would be our last sightseeing stop before returning home.

My mom and dad
first row of gates
your choice, left or right

Etta particularly enjoyed running down the long corridors

Turns out Inari is the goddess of business. Each torii gate has been donated by a business and the writing on the gates are the names of the businesses that donated the gate. Very interesting.
We were all a bit exhausted (and hungry) after this and made our way to the car. We snacked and napped (except poor Eric) all the way home. No problems with the toll road this time and made it home in less than 4 hours. I even had to make dinner since we got home in time to eat.
It was a wonderful trip and we would have never tried sightseeing with the girls if it wasn't for my parents. It's hard dragging little kids around to places of no interest to a 2 and 3 year old. We're happy we could see some of Japan's famous historical sites and to have shared the experience with my parents.

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