Friday, October 24, 2014

Tochoji Temple

According to legend, the Tochoji Temple was founded in 806AD. One of its structures houses a giant wooden seated Buddha (photos not allowed). My favorite part was the five-story orange pagoda. With its bright orange paint against the complementary blue sky color, the elegant pagoda contrasted with the tree-framed temple building as well as the modern buildings of the area.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Beginnings

The leaves have just begun to change in Seoul. After a couple of rainy days, the sun appeared in its glory today. Can't wait for more color!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Not your College Ramen

For our evening meal in Fukuoka, several in our group chose to go to the 5th floor of a mall where all the restaurants there focused on different ramen specialities. This would not be your cheap college meal. 
In front of the particular restaurant we choose, each person tapped the screen to select their desired ramen dish and inserted the correct amount of yen. Ticket receipt in hand, we gave the receipt to the waiter. I would have to say, it was quite tasty!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hakata Gion Yamakasa

Amongst the neutral colors of the Kushida Shinto Shrine in Fukuoka, this colorful structure caught my attention.
Standing around 10 meters, the Hakata Gion is one of twelve Yamakasa scattered throughout the city. They are an integral part of a festival said to have originated in the 13th century in attempts to secure protection against the plague. Each July, seven portable (but tall) Yamakasa are carried five kilometers through the city to the Kushida Shrine. With the exception of the ones presently displayed at Kushida, both the portable and non-portable ones are destroyed after the festival. 

The brightly painted figures and ornaments are created by traditional Hakata puppet makers. Inspiration comes from history and myths.

The image above, with its  strong female figure, tiger, and grimacing male figure reminded me of the  Kali Puja displays I saw in Kolkata, India. No string of heads here, but plenty of flamboyant emotion. 
Kali Puja display (detail)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kurokawa Onsen Village

As part of the trip to Japan, our group visited Kurokawa Onsen. This picturesque town has 24 hot springs for its visitors to enjoy. Scattered around the town, the baths could be found along the river, within the central part of town, further along in the woods, and even in a cave. Rather than be "cookie cutter" settings, each hot spring location had unique features - such as rocky pools, wooden tubs, outdoor secluded setting, facing the mountain, and more. 

Most in our group chose to do the 1,200 yen package, which allowed a visit to 3 hot spring locations. The hot springs all were to have relaxing effects and skin benefits, but the mineral contents of certain ones were said to help treat specific illnesses and conditions. At a temperature between 40°C and 42°C, the springs felt good, but I couldn't stay in that long before it got a bit much. The ones my friends and I chose to go to were smaller and overall felt a bit more intimate. The cave location was very steamy and quite a few nooks & crannies - a great way to get acclimated to the experience. A few had mixed baths, but we didn't feel that adventurous. 

A very unique experience, I would have to say it was quite enjoyable. The time was relaxing, but went rather quickly. After an equally enjoyable lunch (which also served horse meat and ice cream floats), our time was done. Our next destination: Fukuoka.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ice Cream at the Temple

Up and ready with lots of time to spare before breakfast was served, I joined a few others for an early walk. A small tree in the clearing glowed with its early autumn warmth in the early morning rays. A multi-lingual sign indicated that Kongohoji Buddhist temple was just up a short gravel driveway.     

A woman who had been sweeping came to greet us. Although she spoke to us in Japanese, it was clear that she wanted us to follow her. After following her through a few rooms of the contemporary building, she slid a door open and welcomed us to come into the worship room. Each of us was given a candle to light and place before the altar.  
Back in the entry room, the woman gestured for us to sit around the table. She then proudly gave each of us a small soft-serve ice cream. My first at a Buddhist temple. Knowing we had to get going in order to be back at the hotel in time for breakfast, we thanked the woman for her hospitality. What a great start to another beautiful day in Japan.

Monday, October 13, 2014