Sunday, September 24, 2017

Our Last Trip of Summer - Kyoto

Konnichiwa, Tyson, Audrey, Charlotte, and Christine!

As our last trip with Tag, we decided to go to Kyoto. It was the capital of Japan from 794 to 1868, and because of it, there are so many temples and shrines that are historically very important and are the origin of Japanese culture.

This is Kyoto Tower right in front of Kyoto Station.

This was our first stop in Kyoto... Guess what's inside here!

These are the tickets we needed to purchase in order to go inside. From what are written on them, they seem to be charms. The small one is for kids and it is for doing good at school and for being protected from traffic accidents, and the big one is for adults and it is for having a good luck and for raising a good family.

So, our first stop was the Golden Pavilion Temple (Kinkakuji)! Yuki and Tag were very surprised at how golden it was! This was built as a retirement villa for this shogun (samurai/military leader), Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 13th century.

There are so many shrines and temples to visit throughout Japan, but this Golden Pavilion Temple is so breath-taking and also very unique that we would definitely recommend visiting this place if you ever come to Japan!

They had a coin toss here, too.. and this time, Tag said he wanted to try, so he tried! It was very hard to get the coin into the box in front of the buddha statue!

There are so many buildings in Japanese cities and we rarely see any nature, but when we come out to those historical places, it makes us realize Japan indeed is a very beautiful country with beaituful nature and rich culture!

The rest area:

They had a little shrine inside this retirement villa:

Kyoto is also known for their green tea. There are many green tea flavored foods in Kyoto or in Japan for that matter. When we lived in Kyoto, some of the Church members told us that in their school, green tea comes out of water pipe instead of water! But because of the words of wisdom, we do not drink tea nor eat tea-flavored foods. Tea is a big part of Japanese culture that when we say we do not drink tea, many Japanese people ask what we drink instead. In Japan, Church members are allowed to drink wheat tea.

We found this golden ice cream! Yuki really wanted to try so we got it. It is actually a regular vanilla ice cream, but it has a thin layer of golden paper on top of it! Gold didn't really have any taste to it, we don't think, but it just felt weird eating gold!

We found teddy bears in monk outfits. ;P

After visiting Golden Pavilion Temple, we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is very famous for their thousands of red torii gates, and it is actually Yuki's mom's favorite place in Kyoto!

They believe foxes were the messengers of gods, so they have statues of foxes all over this shrine.

As you can see from this map, this shrine has those torii gates through the mountain. We have never been to the top, but we hear it is quite a trip and the view is very beautiful when you do make it to the top.

People saying prayers. You can see those girls in kimono (traditional Japanese dress)!

Walking through torii gates...

They had a little shrine for this big piece of tree! Plus the donation box..., which we found very funny.

They had a shrine specifically for doing better at schools and for passing entrance exams for schools (that's what it says on that white board).

They had many paper cranes that people folded as they made wishes that they'd do better at schools and/or pass the entrance exams for schools.

They had festival stalls outside the shrine.

So, those 2 places are the must-visit places in Kyoto recommended by Yuki's mom! We are glad we got to visit them with Tag to conclude our summer adventure... Usually, it gets dry but stays pretty hot here until mid October, but this year, it cooled down quite fast as soon as we entered September. Fall is here!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The End of Summer... Bon Odori (Summer Festival)!

Konnichiwa, Tyson, Audrey, Charlotte, and Christine!

So, a while ago, we talked a bit about obon holidays. In relation to that, many communities hold bon odori (summer festivals) during summer.

They put up many lanterns...

And they set up a stage.

On the stage, several people dance bon odori in circle. Anyone can join in and dance bon odori around the stage. Even if you don't know how to dance, you can just watch people up on the stage and copy them! It's not hard at all!

Also, as you can see in photos, many people wear yukata to bon odori, which is a casual version of kimono, a traditional Japanese dress. Many people dress up in yukata during summer and go to festivals. It is pretty.. but there is a certain way to put it on, and it is not easy wearing it!

They have many stalls at the festival for food and games, too!

For this game, you scoop out little bouncy balls with a special scooper. The scooper has a round plastic frame, and there is a very thin paper in the middle. This thin paper will break when it gets wet with water, so you need to be very careful and try to scoop out bouncy balls.

For this game, you pick water balloons with a hook. A hook is tied to a string made of tissue paper. You hold this string and try to catch the rubber band tied to each water balloon with the hook. It's hard, because the string made of tissue paper will break when it gets wet with water and the hook will fall off.

For this game, you pick a string and pull it. Then, you get a prize tied in the end of the string. There are so many strings that it's hard to guess which prize you might get!

Yuki wanted to scoop some fish...

It is much like scooping bouncy balls. Only that you are scooping gold fish instead of bouncy balls... Does it sound mean? Yuki's grandma never allowed Yuki's mom to do this when she was little, but Yuki... He likes animals, including fish, and he likes to raise gold fish, so we do this only sometimes. This is a very common game at summer festivals in Japan. We've read that people started doing this as a a game in Japan in 1810!

Yuki actually did not catch any.. but they gave him 5 fish to take home!

We have taken home gold fish that we got from summer festivals in the past, and some of them lived for a couple of years. We were hoping some of them would survive this year, too, but sadly, none of them did... :'( Yuki decided after that that he will not do gold fish scooping anymore, because he realized it is not good for gold fish. We will see if he still feels that way at the festival next year.

In our neighborhood, we always have this summer festival on the last Saturday of August, right before kids go back to school. It was very bitter sweet that we finally had our local summer festival. Summer is over now...!

A Day in Kobe

Konnichiwa, Tyson, Audrey, Charlotte, and Christine!

We decided to have a relaxed outing in Kobe one weekend.

Then, we came across yosakoi festival in the city!

Yosakoi is a mixture of traditional Japanese dance and modern dance. Their costumes are also traditional Japanese with a taste of modernity in it. Yosakoi is very popular and there are many schools and groups that perform yosakoi.

There are many yosakoi festivals, events, and competitions throughout Japan.

After enjoying some yosakoi performances, we headed to China Town. Yuki thought maybe you guys have China Town in Virginia, too?

To many people in the world, we, Asians, might seem the same, but each country in Asia actually has its own unique culture. We are not sure how, but just from people's appearance (or maybe the atmosphere), we, Asians, can tell which country they are from as well.

Can you see Pekin Duck!? We have never tried it yet..

It is in Japan, but stepping inside this neighborhood, you can experience totally different atmosphere!

Everything in China Town is so colorful and pretty! We believe those are lucky charms.

After going to China Town, we headed up north. This photo is of along the railway. Can you see someone wrote "No Curry, No Life" on the wall?

We found a little shrine in the corner of a neighborhood.

There was another shrine in the middle of big buildings...

It's just very interesting to see all those shrines in the middle of cities in Japan, especially considering how Japanese people are not religious at all. Shinto religion is deeply rooted in and is a part of Japanese culture and everyday life!

This is where we wanted to go! Soraku Garden. We think this could be the only (famous) Japanese garden in Kobe!? This was a part of residence of the former mayor of Kobe.

We wanted to check out the lantern festival they had. Especially during summer, there are so many lantern festivals throughout Japan!

It was actually a very pretty Japanese garden! It got dark soon after we got there, so we couldn't fully enjoy the garden. We definitely want to go back there again during the day!

They made lanterns with traditional Japanese umbrellas.

We then went to downtown Kobe to have dinner. We usually don't go out at night, so whenever we come out to the city at night, it kind of takes us by surprise how bright it is with all the lights from stores and neon signs and how many people are out!

In Japan, people ride bicycles a lot. They sometimes park their bicycles on the side of the street, because there are not enough bicycle parking lots (or maybe because it's just more convenient that way), and it is a big problem for some cities.

We did not eat Kobe beef for dinner, but we wanted to share with you that Kobe is famous for this special beef called Kobe beef. Have you heard of it...?

The basketball player, Kobe Bryant, was named after this Kobe beef! His parents came to Japan and tried Kobe beef, and they loved it so much that they named their son after it!

Also, when President Obama visited Japan in 2009, he made a request that he wanted to try Kobe beef (and tuna)!

We have tried Kobe beef before, and we did not find anything special about it, haha...

We did not spend much time in Kobe this summer, so we were glad we got to explore a bit around Kobe that weekend with Tag!