Saturday, March 15, 2014


This past Thursday and Friday, I had the privilege of chaperoning the grade 8 class on their field trip to Kyoto.  I have not traveled to Kyoto yet and was excited about going there.  I was also excited about being able to spend some time with the grade 8 students.  I had 8 girls in my group.  Some I knew a little as they attend the same church I do.  Some have visited me in my office for various reasons, and some have been on the Futsal team I was assisting.  I also was able to get to know some students I really haven't had the opportunity to chat with previously.
Kyoto is 475 km from Tokyo on the Nozomi Shinkansen.  Our travel time was about 2 hours and 20 minutes.  It was a great way to travel!
Nozomi Shinkansen arriving at Kyoto Station

A closer view of the train
Here is a link to a YouTube video of what it's like to ride.  The camera isn't high tech enough to get clear pictures outside the window, but you still get a bit of an idea of how fast we are traveling.  It is quite smooth, considering the speed.  The last part I slowed down considerably, so the audio gets kind of wonky.  :)

Once arriving in Kyoto, we dropped our bags at the New Miyako Hotel and turned around to catch a train to Nara.  It was a wet day, but it wasn't a down pour all day, but by the end, I knew I was ready for a dry, warm place.
First place was the Kofukuji.

Kofukuji Temple
 Can you see the rain coming down in this next picture?
Five story Pagoda
We walked from the temple area into the Deer Park.  The deer were at one time considered divine messengers of the gods.  They are quite friendly and not afraid of people at all.  As a matter of fact, if they know you have some food, they can become quite aggressive.  You can purchase senbei (like a rice cookie) and feed it to the deer.  According to a reliable resource, there are over 1000 deer in the park!  Here are just a few.
Notice they are de-horned
Trying to see if I have something to eat.
Many gathered under the tree to get out of the rain.
Next we walked to Kasuga.  The students were required to count lanterns.  There are reportedly over 3,000 lanterns!  Each lantern can have a paper with a family name on it.  If the family has paid their quarterly tithes, the paper remains there.  If they have lapsed on their tithes, the paper is removed.  There is a candle inside and when lit the names can be seen clearly.
These are larger lanterns and do not have a paper with family names.
Here you see many of the lanterns, some papers are ripped, which may be due to the weather, not a failure to pay tithes.
Our next stop on the walking tour was Todaiji.  It was raining pretty hard and I decided to just take a picture from a distance and didn't actually walk to the temple to see the big Buddha.

That was the end of our Nara walking tour.  We took the train back to Kyoto and had a few hours of free time.  By 7 p.m. we had taken a bus to the Gion Corner.  It has a neat theater that presented some of the traditional Japanese Cultural activities, a tea ceremony, listened to a Koto (a large harp type instrument), Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), Gagaku (Ancient Imperial Court music and dance), Kyogen (traditional Japanese comic theater), and Kyomai (traditional Kyoto Japanese style dance).
Unfortunately the puppet show was not performing.  I've been told it's the best part of the show.
That evening the whole grade 8 class and chaperones went ten pin bowling.  It's been a while since I've gone ten pin bowling.  It was fun. 
Friday's weather was very unpredictable.  One moment it would be sunny, the next it would be raining and we even had a few snow squalls.  That did mean I took my umbrella, just in case.
It was a bus riding day and we stayed in the Kyoto area.  The bus took us to the different places, but we still walked around on the grounds.  We also had a tour guide who traveled with us on the bus.  She would tell us about various historical buildings as we were traveling from place to place, but she only spoke in Japanese.  I did not grasp too much of what she was saying, but some of the chaperones would give a brief synopsis once we were off the bus.
First stop was Kinkakuji.  Here was a Zen temple.  It looks like one could achieve a sense of calmness if you stayed here long enough.
 Next stop was the Ryoanji.  This is a famous zen garden that has 15 stones.  They say the most number of stones seen at once is 14 stones.  The monks carefully rake the garden in a precise pattern. 
This is the small scale model of the garden.
One end of the real life garden.
The other end of the real life garden. 
Next stop was the Toei Uzumasa, which is like a theme park.  There were some people dressed up as Geisha, Ninja, and Samurai walking around that you can take your picture with and there were activities and performances to go see.

Next stop was Kinoshima Jinja.  This was quite interesting because it has a three sided torii,.  There is some speculation that this was a place for water baptism for Christians.  Shintoism would refute that because having something like this on a Shinto shrine property, would desecrate the property. 
Notice the three sides?  Some say it represents the Trinity, the three Gods.
Next stop was the Nijo-jo.  It is a Shogun castle, that still has some of the original paintings, but they are beginning to fade because of the elements.  There were no lights and no cameras allowed.  It reminded me of the Emperor's Nikko home I visited last year. 
Our last stop before heading to the Shinkansen station was Kiyomizudera.  The bus parked towards the bottom and we were able to walk up to the Buddhist Temple.  There is this large veranda that is supported by these massive pillars.  The construction of this veranda is amazing.
Picture of Kyoto in the distance from the veranda.

This was taken below the veranda which is at the top, where I took the previous picture.
Street with shops that have good ideas for omiyage. 
We also stopped for some coffee.  Yum! 
Russian Coffee
We hopped on the bus which brought us back to the Kyoto station where we caught the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and then trains back to Higashi Kurume. 
The trip was a great learning experience for me.  Some of the students mentioned that having learned about these in class and seeing them helped them to remember the history as well.  I did feel very privileged to be able to go as a chaperone.  The students behaved quite well and I had many good conversations.
In case you think that I remembered all this information as we traveled from place to place, that would be incorrect.  Ms. Fischer had a terrific journal that the students also had and were required to write in during various times of the day.  That is where much of my information came from.  I'm glad I had a copy, to help me remember. 
There were a couple of unrelated things which I thought were interesting...
Gardeners manicuring the moss!
Close up buds!
Beautiful flowers
Using a crane to trim trees.
Sign for women's toilet.  It's a women's kimono.  I think there is a men's kimono for the men's toilet.
If you wish to see more of the photos, you can check out my other Kyoto pictures.
Thank you all for your support in various ways!  I hope you are able to get a little taste of the world I live in her in Japan, as well as the great ministry CAJ has here in Japan. 

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