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Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 8: Under an hour south of Kyoto via train is the ancient capital of Japan, Nara. As much as we liked Kyoto, we may have liked Nara even more. It is a city full of UNESCO World Heritage sites, scattered amidst a large park that makes up its “downtown” area.

One of these sites is the Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara Park. We saw tame Sika deer everywhere, roaming freely and waiting for people to feed them senbei (rice crackers). We also visited the serene Yoshiki-en Garden, just out of the main area, but very beautiful.

Another UNESCO World Heritage site we visited that day was the ruins of the imperial Heijo Palace, west of Nara. It used to serve as the emperor’s residence and government offices. The audience hall has been reconstructed, as the original buildings were lost through time and abandonment.

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 7: We visited Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We could see Kyoto from the huge veranda of the temple’s main hall, supported over the hillside by massive pillars. We spent a couple of hours in the area before spending the rest of the day checking out some shops on the preserved heritage districts of Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka (“three-year slope” and “two-year slope.”

For our last night in Kyoto, we indulged ourselves at Kyokoyado Yasaka Yutone, a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) in the old streets of Kyoto. We loved soaking in the room’s private bath and breathing in the wonderful scent the steaming water released from the hinoki (cypress) wood. The inn served a wonderful kaiseki (traditional, multi-course Japanese dinner) and traditional Japanese breakfast.

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 6: Fushimi Inari-taisha is 15 minutes from Kyoto Station. We arrived early to beat the crowds. The big red torii (gate) welcoming us was only the beginning, as there were thousands of torii lining the winding path up the mountain. The 2-hour walk is a spiritual pilgrimage to the top, and a number of tea houses and shrines can be found along the way.

After the hike, we went to Kizakura Kappa Country, a popular local restaurant and craft brewery. The food and beer pairings were delicious. The Japanese culture is perfect for the craft beer scene!

As we headed back to the train station, we came across a small Oiran procession, perhaps in practice for an upcoming matsuri (festival). Oiran were a hybrid between traditional geisha and entertainers. The friendly performers posed for pictures and let Catherine try out the massive, 15cm high footwear the lady wore.

We also took a quick tour to Uji, a town famous for its matcha (green tea powder). We wandered the stalls and bought some delicious omiyage (souvenir snacks).

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 5: We headed west to Arashiyama, famous for its bamboo forest. What an amazing place! We later took the Sagano Romantic train that rode along the Katsura River through gorges. We didn’t find it all that ‘romantic’ zipping past the scenery in a train crammed with passengers!

Next we explored the futuristic Kyoto Station. There are 11 floors of shops, restaurants and offices above the train tracks and subway lines.

Lastly, we took a stroll on Gion (Kyoto’s famous geisha district), viewing beautiful wooden buildings and even a few young geisha apprentices in beautiful kimonos walking to work.

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 4: Today we visited another UNESCO World Heritage Site; Enryaku-ji Temple. The temple is located on Mount Hiei overlooking Kyoto and near Otsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture. We took a cable car up the mountain from the Sakamoto Station, and a 10 minutes walk to the top.

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 3: We first came across Choho-ji Temple, nestled amidst a Kyoto business area.

Later, we visited Nijo-jo Castle; another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beautiful buildings and grounds are surrounded by huge walls and moats, all built in the 1600s. Next, we sought refreshment, so we headed to Machiya Brewery for our first taste of Japanese craft beer, and enjoyed two bowls of amazing ramen at Men-ya (Noodles House).

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

Day 2: Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is a city full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today, we visited three of them in close proximity; Kinkaku-ji Temple, Ryoan-ji Temple and Ninna-ji Temple.

Along the way, we stumbled upon the Waratenjinkan Shrine; a serene shrine without the crowd.

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

Kansai, Japan – May 2014

We took this trip in May 2014, and would like to share the beauty of Japan with everyone.

Day 1: We explored the Nishiki Market in Kyoto, and stopped by a couple of temples. All pictures were taken with the Olympus E-M1 and E-M5.

(For more pictures, check our Facebook or Google+ or Flickr.)

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