Friday, November 23, 2012

Japan Trip - Kyoto, day 3

On our 3rd day, we headed towards the western part of Kyoto, known as Arashiyama. But first, we had a breakfast of a gigantic apple. Honestly, this apple as the size of a large orange!
We were planning on heading right for a temple, but we were distracted by ice cream. What, you don't eat green tea ice cream at 10 am?
We finally made it to Tenryu-ji, one of the major temples of the Rinzai school of Zen. Like most other structures in Japan, this temple, originally built in 1339, was reconstructed multiple times. The present buildings date from 1900.
Tenryu-ji is famous for its 14th century Zen garden. One part of the garden features a Zen sand and rock garden.
Rocks and sand are cool, but I much prefer this part of the Zen garden, with beautiful trees, a large pond, and rocks placed in and around the pond.
Aren't we cute?
I have to say, one of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing the Japanese maple trees with bright red leaves. I think this photo looks like a Christmas maple!
Really, does it get much more beautiful than this?
Poor Bobby was starting to get a little bit tired of me taking so many photos of red leaves.
But there was more than just red leaves! I have no idea what kind of flower this is, but it's pretty cool looking.
After visiting Tenryu-ji, we headed towards the neighboring bamboo grove. These bamboo are huge!
And there are so, so many bamboo in this grove. It is eerily quiet in here.
Our next stop in the Arashiyama area was the awesome monkey park! This stop wasn't on our itinerary, but how could we say no to monkeys? We entered the park and had to walk up a mountain for 30 minutes before we got to the monkeys. All along the path were signs warning you to not look the monkeys directly in the eyes. There was also this sign with a very strange use of English.
After hiking for 30 minutes, we came to the main feeding area of the monkeys. You can roam free around the park and around the monkeys, but if you want to feed them, you have to go inside this structure and feed the monkeys through the fence.

The park is home to over 200 Japanese macaque monkeys. These monkeys are wild animals (hence the warnings about looking them in the eyes), but they are used to human presence and aren't phased by us roaming around.
It was really difficult to leave the monkey park; I could have easily spent the whole day there! But I knew we had one last sight to see before heading back to downtown Kyoto. Our last temple of the day was the stunning Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. Originally building in 1397 as a retirement villa, it was soon converted into a temple. However, in 1950, a crazed monk, who had become obsessed with the temple, burned it to the ground! So the temple we see today was rebuilt in 1955 and is an exact replica of the original structure.
I'm really happy we saw the Golden Pavilion at near-twilight. The position of the sun near the horizon made the side of the building light up as though it were on fire. It was such a remarkable sight.

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