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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Japan - nothing like Disneyland - whew!

We've been talking lately about how much Disneyland has put a damper on our vacations in the past....  Because Disney has re-created nearly every setting, making places like Venice and Paris seem like movie sets, it can make a 500 year old building seem like it was painted to look that old.  Although, Disney, thank goodness, has yet to recreate the magestic places I saw in Japan, which was what made this trip a little more special than others! 

Saturday, May 2nd

When we arrived at the airport in Korea, we exchanged our won for yen for the trip!  How rich do I look in this picture?!

Our flight was only an hour long from Busan, Korea to Osaka, Japan and we were served lunch and drinks!  

When we finally arrived in Kyoto, we met up with Jess, who had arrived in Japan a couple hours earlier than us, and together, we began our quest for some CHEAP dinner!  About 30 minutes later, we reluctantly landed at McDonalds, which had 150 yen cheeseburgers.  I ordered a plain cheeseburger meal and this is what I got: 4 plain cheeseburgers, 1 order of fries, and a coke – I have no idea what I said to make them think I wanted 4 cheeseburgers!


I ended up giving 2 of the cheeseburgers to a high school couple sitting next to us and the other to Kev.  Long story short, we ended up asking the high schoolers where we could find good sashimi and the girl ended up inviting us to her grandmother’s house for sashimi later that night! 

After McDonalds, we waited for a train to take us to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  I was shocked at the style of the trains in Japan.  Some of them looked European, while others doted bright green, 60’s style, velour cushion seats! 

These pictures were taken at the Fushimi Inari Shrine (...probably one of the most incredible places on the Earth!)   We stayed here for about 3 hours until the sun went down and walked the never ending paths through the lush forest up and down hundreds of stone steps!  There were hardly any people there at night time... so it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves! 

The colorful things hanging by Kev are actually origami cranes - all connected into long strands... there were millions!

This was the view 1/4 of the way up the pathway!

After the Inari Shrine, we headed in the direction of “grandma’s house.”  The girl from McDonalds told us to take a train to a certain spot and then call her and she would give us directions, but when we called from a pay phone, there was no answer.  L  We were dissapointed, but decided to make the best of our night and walk through the neighborhood to another train station.  We were pleasantly surprised when we came upon this neighborhood festival of sorts!  The festival surrounded a buddhist temple which boasted this Sake Shrine!  I’m sad we don’t have any pictures of the long rows of food and game booths, but we do have these pics:

Some of the Japanese high school students with Jess and I at the festival.

After spending some time here, we moved on to the Gion District of Kyoto, where tea houses line the river, and Geisha can sometimes be seen walking the streets!  After doing some extensive research on Geishas in Kyoto, I can tell you that this Geisha has been a Geisha for many, many years!  (Hint: she's wearing grey, and her lips are fully colored in.)


Check out this guys shoes!


Sunday, May 3rd

After breakfast at the hostel, we decided to check out the Toji Shrine, which was in walking distance from our hostel.  We were so excited to see that there was a huge flea market going on!


We spent the next hour and a half walking and shopping.  I bought these 2 hand painted, one of a kind, traditional Japanese wooden dolls...


After we had spent more money than we should have, we headed over to see the actual shrine, which was our purpose for coming here in the first place.  At this point, my fever was coming back, so Jess and Kev walked the grounds, while I rested at a Buddhist temple and tried to get my fever to go down.  Here are some pictures from within the grounds of the shrine.

When they were finished seeing the shrine, Kev snapped this picture of me sleeping against the temple because he thought I looked so pitiful.  My fever was really high at this point, so they walked me back to the hostel!  (You can read the rest of my day on the blog below this one) L

These were some of the Geisha Kev saw while I was sleeping!


How awesome huh?! 

Monday, May 4th

I took another tamiflu pill, and was feeling a little bit better, so we decided to go to Kinkakuji Temple. There were so many people there that I felt like I was going to give everyone a flat tire! L  Although, regardless of the ridiculous amount of people, the place was absolutely magical!


There was a place where you could try to throw coins into a stone bowl.  I had no luck, but Jess got it in on her 2nd try!

We then headed over to the Arishiyama area, which was my favorite, I think!  We saw these weird little gremlin statues…

….  ate the cheapest thing we could find for lunch…

… had tea and soy flavored ice cream…

 … found an incredible bamboo pathway…


…. at the end of the bamboo pathway, the road came to a dead end.  We decided to walk left and see what we could find.  We came upon these stone stairs which were surrounded by gorgeous and lush foliage.  We sat on these steps for a while, just taking it all in.together….


…. and ultimately found ourselves in this paradise – a gorgeous river with a small restaurant and mountains on either side filled with lush green trees! Kev, Jess and I all sat at this restaurant drinking sake and coca cola while taking in the magestical sight we had found on our adventure.


As the sun was beginning to go down, we all decided it was time to move on and see what else Kyoto had to offer!  We took a bus to a mountainous area near Gion called Higashiyama, where once again, we were overwhelmed with Japan’s beauty! Here are some pics:

By this time, it was close to 8pm, and my body was starting to shut down… I started coughing up a storm, so Kevin made me wear my mask so I didn’t get anyone sick.  This is how I felt about that!


We then walked to have dinner and ended up here!   It was a sushi restaurant where plates of food would come around on an assembly line style machine.  If you found something you liked, you simply grabbed it off the line and ate it!  Then when you were all finished, the workers count your plates and give you the bill!  Each plate was $1.00 unless otherwise noted!   It was an awesome way to end our stay in Kyoto!

I went back to the hostel after this, since I was feeling a little yucky.   We all went to bed (in the same room, on floor mats by the way), and caught our plane back to Busan the next morning!   Overall, Japan is incredible and even though I was sick, it was completely worth all the cash I had to drop to make it happen!! 

Special thanks, again, goes out to my husband for taking such beautiful pictures and for letting me use them on my blog! J  Love you babe!

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