Japan, part four: kyoto

I have one more set of vacation photos for you guys. My brother and I spent the last few days of our trip in Kyoto, where we did some serious sightseeing. On the agenda: love gods, golden temples, and (to quote a touristy website I consulted) "the ultimate torii gate experience."

Photo snapped on our guided tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Walking garden on the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

We saw this logo everywhere we went in Japan. I looked it up, and apparently it's for Yamato Transport Co., Ltd., one of the country's largest delivery service companies. Crazy cat lady that I am, I absolutely love it.

Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto known for its large wooden veranda and beautiful views.

Part of the Kiyomizu-dera temple complex, the Jishu shrine is dedicated to Okuninushi, a god of love and matchmaking. Most of the shrines we visited sold little charms, but these ("Improve the love fate of your zodiac sign") were my favorite.

The Jishu shrine had lots of informative English signage.

A statue of Okuninushi and his rabbit messenger.

Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), a Zen Buddhist temple whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf.

Kinkakuji's gardens include these statues at which people toss coins for luck.

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for the thousands of torii gates that line the walking trails behind its main buildings.

Fox-themed "ema" votive pictures at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.


Japan, part three: hakone

After spending a week in Tokyo, my brother and I rode the Shinkansen, a bullet train, to a hot springs spa in Hakone. The spa was so relaxing and the scenery so breathtaking that I was bummed we were only there for two days.

Our first day in Hakone. That's Mt. Fuji off in the distance to my left.

One of Hakone's many spectacular views. There's Mt. Fuji in the background again, and in the foreground is the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, modeled after a pirate ship.

Hakone is a volcanically active area, and these eggs are boiled in the sulfurous water at Owakudani. For lunch one day, we had several eggs each, some fresh strawberries, and baked sweet potatoes. Yum!

Inside "Symphonic Sculpture" at the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

My favorite piece in Shinji Ohmaki's "Proof of Existence" exhibition at the Open-Air Museum.

Our Japanese style room at the hot springs resort.

Best surprise: There's a Little Prince Museum in Hakone! The book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is a long-time favorite of mine, and the museum is adorable.


Japan, part two: tokyo

Round two of my Japan photos includes bits of my one-week stay in Tokyo. The city was a strange mix of overwhelming and quaint, with 7-story mall complexes right next to tiny Shinto shrines. My favorite parts of Tokyo were small and unexpected--a failed search for a flea market that led us to a street festival, a tea house nestled in the back of a florist, a pop-up shop run by Japanese women who make lace...

An incense burner (joukoro) in front of a shrine in Ueno Park.

Japanese macaques in Ueno Zoo.

A 17th century pagoda that stands in the grounds of Ueno Zoo.

Random cuteness in the Ikebukuro District.

Mint tea at the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House.

The Best French Toast Ever Made.

Inside a hot springs resort in Odaiba.

Foot spa that turned out to be less than relaxing thanks to the surprisingly sharp stones we had to walk on. Also a peek at the beautiful fan-printed yukata I got to wear.

One of many public parks on the grounds of the Imperial Palace.

The epicenter of Tokyo teen fashion and culture. Japanese street style is pretty wonderful. The shop girls in particular had amazing stuff going on, but I was too shy to ask for any of their photos.

Dream vintage shop in the Harajuku District filled with antique petticoats, blouses, and dresses like this one in the front window.

Dancers at a street festival my brother and I stumbled upon.


Japan, part one: blooms

Hello, readers! I'm back from my long blogging break with photos of my recent trip to Japan. My big brother works for a medical software company that gives its employees a free international trip every five years. A longtime anime fan, he decided to go to Japan, and he brought me along with him! We spent two weeks in Tokyo, Hakone, and Kyoto, and it was just spectacular. I want to share the experience with all of you, so I thought I'd break up my photos into a few separate posts. First up: flowers. We visited Japan right in the middle of cherry blossom season, and the trees were literally dripping with blooms. Between the cherry blossoms, floral shops, and numerous public gardens, I was in flower heaven.