Wednesday, November 23, 2011


After an exciting weekend of festivals I headed off on a short day trip to Nara. Nara is an another ancient capital of Japan and has remained a very important religious city. It's here that the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha) is located. Actually there are 8 sites (temples, ruins etc.) in Nara that have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I made it to 5 (for the record... Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji, Kasugataishi, Yakushi-ji and Kasugayama Primeval Forest).

Painting in the park - Nara by girl from finito
This is a small park located just below Kōfuku-ji Temple - it has a great view of the five story Pagoda and was really popular with the artists. It was nice to take a break and inspiring to see people painting.

Nara by girl from finito
Nara, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.
Kōfuku-ji Temple is also where I had my first school trip photo.. These girls rushed over and in pretty good english asked to take a photo with me - I whipped out my camera and asked for the same..Awesome!
I think my favorite part of Nara was the Kasugayama primeval forest. A sight to behold pure forest lined with thousands of stone lanterns.

The path through the forest led to the Kasuga Taisha Temple. An lovely temple full of bronze lanterns.

Nara by girl from finito
Nara, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.
A note about the deer. It's believed that the deer were messengers of the god that resides in the Kasuga Grand Shrine and as such are protected creatures. Although not evident by the pictures I posted, they are everywhere in Nara - generally hounding the tourists for food or deer biscuits (on sale in the picture for 150 Yen). As one guide book noted the God must have stopped using the deer or has become really fond of biscuits.

Finally I found out in Nara that i actually don't mind red-bean paste (which was a shock). I tried freshly made mochi (glutinous rice desert) filled with red bean and it's one of the most delicious things.

Monday, November 21, 2011

京都時代祭 (Festival of the Ages) - Kyoto

I have way too many pictures from Jidai Matsuri - the Festival of the Ages - in Kyoto. So I've just posted a slide show of some of them. Jidai Matsuri is one of the three largest festivals of Kyoto - the main attraction being a parade of traditional costumes from Kyoto's history with about 2000 people participating!  It takes about an hour to watch the whole thing pass by you!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kurama Fire Festival .. 鞍馬の火祭り(くらまのひまつり)

Kurama Fire Festival by girl from finito
Kurama Fire Festival, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.

I literally had arrived in Kyoto the day before this festival and almost missed it completely. Thank goodness for tourist websites and a mostly flexible plan. My friend Virginia made it up for this and so did her co-worker Kristin. It was pretty nice to go with people especially since my jet lag was in full effect!

So first things first - the back story. (from here)
This festival held at Yuki-jinja Shrine reproduces the scene of receiving the deity in Kurama. At 6 o'clock in the evening, watch fires called kagaribi are ignited all at once in front of the houses, and people holding up small and large taimatsu (pine torches) parade all night long announcing in loud voices the arrival of the festival. 
Guys, it was a downpour but that didn't stop people from attending. Karama is about 45 minutes out of Kyoto and the train was packed! The trains in Tokyo weren't as bad as that ride up. Ah but it was worth it.. lots of crazy torches, shouting, kimonos and ...loin cloths.
Kurama Fire Festival by girl from finito
Kurama Fire Festival, a photo by girl from finito on Flickr.

The start of the festival was kids carrying torches with their parents the parents shouting "Sairya" and the kids responding "Sairyo!" and then it moved up to the larger torches that required 6 or 7 people to carry them.

The only downside was the route we walked on - which required wandering through a few(very muddy) feilds behind the main streets where the action was taking place. 
The other side-Kurama Fire Festival by girl from finito

Not much to complain about!
Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Japan... coming soon

Kinkakuji: Gold Pavilion - Kyoto by girl from finito

Ah, the travel high... I'm still coming down off of it. And as much as I had planned to blog and upload things as I went along that just did not happen. I was in Japan for 3 weeks - 3 weeks! - and I have so much to say about my time there but I'm going to have to go a little slowly - I have only uploaded about a weeks worth of photos so there is a lot of background work to do. 
To start you off here is a nice shot of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.  So relax a little and I'll be with you all shortly.