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Kyoto

“Its time to pray. “ Those are the words uttered by the great jack of all trades psychic next to me at the table to explain why his cell phone is ringing and he won’t silence it. I’d at least answer it if God was calling me.

The day started about 2 hours later than I’d planned when I got up about 7:30. I didn’t take long to get moving as I’d already put exactly what I’d need for the day in my bag the night before. I grabbed the bag and went downstairs to get my shoes, as you don’t wear your shoes inside a lot of places in Japan. I threw on a jacket as it was pretty chilly. I was out the door at 7:46AM, on March 1st.

My first planned stop was what appeared, at least on the map, to be a rather large temple. I knew nothing else about this point on a map, nor any other I’d planned to go to, but the morning was bright and sunny and I could feel the day warming up as I walked along. Not too many people were out and about.

Wakamiya Shrine

This was the first temple I came to and while not the one I’d intended to go to, I decided to go inside. However, a tremendous racket from the street road up on about 30 motorcycles, mostly sport bikes. It appeared to be a gang of bikers out on a Sunday morning ride. They kept revving their motors and it really was a sight. For the moment before the light turned green, the bikes sounded like a pack of dogs before the chase with the engines barking and yelping. The light turned green, a rider blocked the oncoming traffic and the gang turned right (note, as Japanese drive on the left, turning right has one turning across the path of oncoming traffic, much like an American left turn.) The last couple of riders were giving me the V sign and I V’d back. Then they were gone, thought their noises could be heard for some time.

I went into the temple grounds and walked around. I did get a picture of some of the woodwork inside the temple but didn’t stay too long.

Previously, I’d mentioned how the temples felt “New Ageish” with all of the modern and old thrown in together, but in some ways, I think its the same as older western religions also have old and new buildings together on a property. Its a bit different in China as the temples have almost no modern buildings on a temple grounds.

Kiyomizu Dera Temple

This was the temple I was aiming for, and I continued to head for it. It was in a very touristy district though with lots of shops. Many were not open yet, or were just starting to open up. I could see big tour buses. I paid about 600 yen for a ticket but I might be mistaken.

I suppose I wasn’t really “feeling” the temple touring today. The buildings are very interesting and beautiful, but they start to look alike. I saw a hiking trail on the temple grounds, and it appeared to be leading up to somewhere so I headed down the road to nowhere.

The trail wasn’t too developed and led through a dense forest. It was peaceful and the noise from Kyoto and the tourists was soon muffled by the ever widening wall of trees between me and civilization. I could hear birds singing and the rustling of the leaves. Other than stopping for some photos now and again, I walked on. I saw a couple of runners, a few hikers, and a couple of mountain bikers, all Japanese. There were a few shrines along the way as well. After about 1 and a half hours, I reached a large picnic area that also served as a trail head and parking area. I found a scenic overlook, got a few more photos and walked on.

The unknown temples

After a short while I came to a complex of temples and a park area. I saw one temple which afforded me a view of a monk offering up prayers on behalf of some people (I’m guessing). A couple offered some money to a monk who handed it off to another monk and then the head monk did some praying. Later a large group of people did the same thing and the head monk bowed his head and prayed some more. I left.

By and by I came to another temple, and managed to witness a wedding. It was interesting but I could only see things from behind. Very subdued affair.

When leaving, I saw a group of people with balloons and banners marching. They were stopped at a crosswalk, but when the light turned green they headed off. I’m guessing it was a parade, but it must have been the end of whatever parade or protest march route they had planned out. I followed them about 50 feet, but they all stopped and dispersed. Oh well.

My next stop was to head up a gift shop I’d passed earlier. I wanted to send Joe a doll, as I told him I’d send him a Japanese woman. Sorry it had to be so small Joe, but its all I could afford.

The Locomotive Museum

I was templed out so I decided to bring in some modern(ish) science and technology. I saw on the map that there was a steam locomotive museum which would be interesting, provided it was open. Along the way I spotted some sort of dessert pastry being sold. I bought two for about 150 yen. As I walked along I could picture the wonderful filling. One was surely red bean, but the other could be anything. Cream filling, fruit filling, or maybe even cheese! Yum. I bit into the first. It was dense, and was simply dough through and threw. Not very tasty. I chewed and chewed and ate it. The next one should be better. Nope, it was the exact same thing! I’d hoped I had bought two different varieties, but it appeared I bought a big and small one. Oh well.

The train museum was open and even cooler was that they offered rides on steam locomotives. However, I’d missed the last one by about 15 minutes. Bummer. But how was I to know. They had probably 20-30 locomotives on display, and I’m guessing many of the trains could be fired up and driven around. There were oil drips next to nearly all of the engines, so either they regularly greased those babies up, or they used them now and then. All of the engines were in a locomotive round house shed, and a turn table was up front. There was ample English available.

One thing I remind myself again and again is that I’m a tourist in a foreign country. One does not go to US museums and see 10-15 languages on each placard in a museum, so I shouldn’t expect to see excellent and in depth explanations in English on each display. However, this museum was quite reasonable. I took some photos, and then left.

Fushimiinari Taisha Shrine

This was my last stop today. While I didn’t see most of the things on my original plan, I’d planned to see this last. I might have skipped it, but the sun was setting and I hoped for some good photos. I could walk, but I was getting tired, and the sun was setting fast. I saw on the map that I could grab a JR local train that would take me there. . . but I’d left the train pass in the hotel. I figured the train ride wouldn’t be that expensive. It took a bit to figure out how to buy a ticket, but I figured it out.

Trains, museums, and even some noodle bars have a ticket machine that resembles a vending machine. You put money in, and push a button. Tickets come out. Simple, and helps remove the need for a person. This is understandable for train stations, but seems a bit strange in museums and restaurants.

Figuring out the right platform was the challenge. There were three or 4 platforms for the “Nara Line” which I wanted. I selected number 10 and got on. I asked a person sitting on the train if I was on the right train. He said yes, but after a few moments realized what I wanted and got up. He led me off the train, and then showed me where I needed to go. I was on the express train. I needed to be on the local train. This was one of the many examples of how nice Japanese people are. They not only tell you something, they’ll even walk you there.

The shrine was right in front of the train station. It is interesting as it has hundreds, maybe thousands of “Tori” which are the Japanese gates or posts. People donated them to the shrine for prayers. They line them all up so you are walking through virtual tunnels. I got to the temple a bit late and missed the sunset, but thanks to my tripod, I was able to shoot some photos anyway. The shrine went uphill and I walked and climbed a ton of stairs. I did get a great view of Kyoto though.

And now, a word about my cameras

After climbing up and up and up, and then down again, I went back to the hostel via JR lines. My legs are sore, but my back feels OK. My strategy of using the lighter pack and less gear paid off.

Arguably the heaviest thing is the tripod. I probably could have done well to have just mailed it back and purchased a lighter one, but I’m really happy with it. Its big enough that I can bring the camera up to my eye point, and the recently purchased ball head is great. With this tripod, one buys the legs, and then selects the head or top portion which moves around. You mount the camera to the head. I’d purchased a cheap one and it broke. The new one is vastly superior in every way, though it did cost a bit more than I’d liked to have spent at the time. But I think it was worth it.

The second camera is also pretty nice to have. I really like my 35mm lens, but its very limited in what it can do. You can’t zoom out, nor in. For some shots, its imperative to have access to the wide angle. For others, a telephoto is nice. With two cameras at the ready, I can use the 35mm for most things, but still can have a second lens should the desire arrive. Also, the D70’s remote is really nice to have. The 300 has a self timer, and an interval timer mode which I’ll set to fire off 3-4 shots, each one about 4 seconds after the one before it. This way I can move around and try different poses.

The problem with self timers is that when you turn them on and press the shutter button, the camera locks the focus and won’t refocus on you. So you end up blurry a lot. With the options the D70 and the D300 give me, the camera refocuses on you! Very nice.

Back to the Psychic

I am very impressed with the lack of pollution. The skies are blue with big puffy clouds. I can see for vast distances.

After getting back to the hostel I put away my cameras and set up the computer to upload the photos and write this. The man next to me is a psychic. He can read tarot cards. He’s studied Chinese medicine and other ways of religion with some of the very best masters. Some of these masters have treated presidents and kings. This man can find water, oil, and missing persons. He can talk to the dead and free souls from hell. However, he apparently didn’t foresee the circumstances that would lead to an “accident” that burned down his apartment. He’s here for a couple of months till he can find a new apartment. I’ll be out of hear in a hurry should I see him whip out the candles.

Then his phone rang out some alarm and he had to pray. I ate my ramen and wrote.

I first laughed inside at this guy as I’m don’t really believe in most of what he says he can do like fortune telling and what not.. However, a little bit ago some westerner came over and seemed to believe in the guy. I’m guessing that the westerner had a friend die about 3 or 4 years ago, and this psychic/holy man prayed a bit and chanted. It seemed to me that the westerner left feeling better about things, so who am I to judge. The guy helped someone in some way.

And now, for tomorrow.

There will be no photos for now, as I’ve got to get to bed early. It can take me 1-2 hours just to deal with the photos, so that will have to wait for another day. Its actually 10PM already. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the amusement park outside of Nagoya. Then after that, I’ll be running of to Hiroshima via overnight train. So its a big day in a way. A problem I foresee is my luggage. I hope the park will have big lockers. And a good safety record that continues through tomorrow and into the far future.
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