Osaka Jyo- Osaka Castle
I recently have been quite busy diving around Indonesia and visiting fantastic places around Bali and as a result I was not able to complete my second blog post about my Holiday in Japan. Here we go with part 2.
Once we left Okinawa we landed in Kansai Airport. My wife is from Nara. Nara used to be the ancient Capital of Japan, before even Kyoto, during the Nara Period. The City of Nara is between Osaka and Kyoto and in about 40 minutes, we can reach both places by train.
In the past years I have been visiting regularly this fantastic place, however, I could visit only during the winter or towards the end of winter ( JAN-MAR ), as this was the time I was not busy in North Sulawesi managing the diving center.
In addition to this I have been every time paying visit to the great temples of Kyoto and Nara and the beautiful parks of the region but I have never being able to actually be there during the Sakura ( cherry blossom ) time. Every year I have been imaging these places with pink trees around them and thought they must have been fabulous.
Do not get me wrong, as a visit to Japan , especially Kyoto or Nara is worth during anytime of the year.
In August last year I have made the decision to book my flight for the end of march so that I could once for all witness these beautiful event.
When we first arrive in Osaka, I have noticed that the weather was colder than what used to be in the previous year and I kid you not when I say that after one week of temperatures cooler than expected , I was starting to worry that also this year I would have made my way back to Indonesia before the start of the Sakura time.
The weather was not that great as well so I have spent lots of time preparing for my new business here in Indonesia and went jogging every second day to the old Heijyo-Kyuseki ( Emperor palace area, a UNSECO World Heritage Site ) which is very near to my parents in law house and it happened to be a very good ground to watch the Sakura as the have so many trees in the park. So run after run I was looking at the trees and checking the blooming progress.
Heijo-Kyuseki, the Emperor palace area during the Nara period
Patience paid off well, towards the 10th of April the Kansai region started turning into pink ;) . What a moment , the weather improved and it was time to visit my favorites sites in the area.
Sunset and Sakura match very well at Osaka Castle
The first place we visit was the Osaka-Jyo ( Osaka’s Castle ). all around the Castle there is a very pretty park with many Sakura trees. It was very nice scenery. It was also very nice seeing how this event attracts many young people and families doing picnics. During this time the atmosphere is so warm and you can really tell that everyone is happy. Fantastic!
They said that it has been Hideyoshi, one of the greatest warlord, samurai of Japan and owner of the Osaka Castle , that ordered to his people to organize a party and to bring 700 sakura trees and to plant them in the surroundings of the Daigo Temple in Kyoto. He asked to do that in just 3 days and the people accomplished such a difficult task in 1598. His 1300 guests were very delighted to party in such as beautiful park.
Wakayama Castle during Light Up
After few days we went for a week-end to pay a visit to my brother in law, his wife and the cousins in Wakayama city . In Wakayama there was the same happy mood around and we went to visit the Castle during the night. It is very nice that during special time and festivals in Japan they organize a light up of the interesting sightseeing places.
The Park in Nara
Daibutsu, The Big bronze Budah in Japan, It seats in Todaiji Temple in Nara
In Nara we went to the park where there are hundreds of deers and we had a nice breakfast picnic.
I have added also some pics that I have taken in 2011 about Todaiji Temple, also a UNESCO site . This temple is very ancient temple ( 8th Century ) and it is home of one of the biggest bronze Buddha in the whole Japan.
The place is extraordinary, in the entrance there are some huge wooden posts , thinking that all of this was built more than 1000 years ago makes me appreciating the place even more.
Todaiji temple is the biggest wooden building in the world.
Todaiji Temple in Nara the biggest wooden building in the world
Todaiji’s Giant Entrance
Kinkaku-Ji- The golden Pavilion in Kyoto
The highlight of our sakura tour was , of course, in Kyoto . We went to the golden Temple Kinkaku-ji, the temple of the golden pavilion. This temple is really made by gold and it is a very nice place to visit. After admiring the golden beauty we had a walk in the garden and there was a place where we could make a wish throw a coin and if we could centered a small pot just a couple of meters away our wish is supposed to come true. There were few people really trying with a huge number of coin to get this done. When was my turn I could get the pot at once , with my surprise as well , and a bit of envy of the people around me trying so hard. Well, I cannot tell my wish otherwise it won’t come true :) .
Tetsugakuno-michi Philospher’s Path
After leaving the temple we walked along Tetsugaku no-michi ( the philosopher’s path ) . all along the walk (a couple of KM at least ) we had a sakura trees. There were many artist painting as well , some selling small postcards paint. A small river going along the path was carrying all the petals of cheery blossom along in its stream. A very special place that can carry you away with its beauty.
An actress made up like a Maiko in Kyoto
We then had a nice lunch at a local restaurant, that served us with a very tasty pork schnitzel, steamed rice , miso soup and salad and of course as a stink we had some very fine hot green tea. After getting our energies back we headed to Gion, the famous Geisha District . The wind started blowing and the petals of sakura where flying everywhere adding a surreal touch to our emotions. We could not see any Maiko ( wrongly called Geisha, the Maiko are the Geisha apprentice and they are the ones that actually have to make up with white on their faces).
A couple of year before we could actually see few Maiko walking briefly along a near by street to Gion so we decided to try our luck and see if we could see any of them in this other road with many ochaya ( the place where the Maiko belong to). Our decision proved to be the right one as we could see a couple of them quickly walking from a place to the other.
Heron by the River of Kyoto
It was around 4 o’clock and we had a bit of time before heading to Kyomizu-Dera which is a beautiful temple on top of the hills of Kyoto a perfect place where admire the sun setting behind the mountains. We sat by the river as many others did. We were relaxing our feet as the day had been quite intense for our legs until then and we still had a final long stretch to go. While sitting there we could admire few Herons flying from side to side of the river and then standing still to catch a fish in the water. In the same time there were a couple of hawks flying on top of us. Kyoto interesting wildlife was the last thing I was expecting from the trip.
Sakura by the Kyoto river
The last part of this trip was going to be one of my favorite , it is about a 40 minutes walk taking it slow stopping shooting few pictures here and there. It starts at Yasaka Jinja, ( Yasaka Shrine, an ancient, holy, sacred Shinto place ) where often there is a Maiko dressed up for the tourist to take a picture. The walk then continue through the Maruyama Park where there is on of the oldest and biggest sakura tree of the area.
Very old Sakura Tree in Kyoto
From there we went through Nene’s road ( Nene was the wife of Hydeoshi), which is a beautiful street going up the hills, all the building are still Japanese old style and there are many souvenirs shop selling Japanese handicraft as well as pottery and there are also few restaurant and shop selling japanese sweets. Once we passed the nice Nene’s street we arrived we arrived a Ko- Daiji , which is a Zen-Buddhist temple and where you can see a very ancient monastery Bell. In Ko-Daiji is nice to stop a while and visit the gardens around the Temple which are beautiful.
Once we left it took us only 10 minutes up hill to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kiyomizu-dera. A fantastic temple built with wood. Not a single nail was used to construct this temple , all peace have been perfectly fitted one to the other, making this structure so durable. By the Temple there is a 13 m high wall. Japanese people believe that if you want to start a new business you should take a plunge and jump from the top of the wall……. surviving will ensure you success in your activity. Even though today jumping is forbidden and I am starting a new business, in no circumstances I would have taken that jumped, I actually wondered how many of the survivor crippled themselves.
At that time was sunset time and I have got the shot that I was waiting for the whole day.
Sunset from Kiyomizu-Dera with Sakura
Japan is a wonderful place to visit and I suggest to spend most of the time around Kyoto, Nara and Osaka as they have so much culture to offer and really let you bound with the Zen feeling of this fascinating place and culture.