In Japan...

"Hey, is that a ninja up there?"
(Japan, Aug 20 - Sep 19, 2011)

September 06, 2011

Kyoto (kickin' it, old school)

Last time in Japan I didn't get the chance to do much exploring around the country. It turns out it is rather expensive to get anywhere. I wasn't about to waste the opportunity again, so this time I made sure to connect through Tokyo so that I could check it out before flying home. I also happen to have a friend in Kyoto, a fellow chemist no less also in Japan for research, so what better excuse to visit the old capital? Be warned, the following post contains images of temples that some viewers may find enchanting.

1) Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine

Located just outside Kyoto, we started the day at the Inari shrine at Fushimi, located on the side of a mountain. It's composed of thousands of red gates (torii) that weave a path up the mountain to various shrines. I love this straight from the wikipedia page:

"Since in early Japan Inari was seen as the patron of business, each of the Torii is donated by a Japanese business. First and foremost though, Inari is the god of rice."

The pictures were taken BEFORE the hike up the mountain, which is not advisable way to start a day in 80% humidity. The evening was spent wandering around the old district of Gion. Unfortunately no Geishas were to be seen wandering around between engagements.

2) Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple)

IT'S GOOOOOOOOOOOLD. Well, it's gold leaf, but it looks pretty sexy nonetheless. The blue heron (that I originally assumed to be fake due to its Zen-like stillness) complimented the regality of the temple rather nicely I thought. Check out his reflection in the 'Mirror pond' that surrounds the back of the temple.

The Temple of the Golden Pavillion as it is known, located just outside the city centre, is an understandably popular attraction in Japan. It even featured as a Macintosh desktop background at one point. Nevertheless, you must be respectful and abide by the rules of the grounds.

3) Ryoan-ji

Just down the road from the Temple of the Golden Pavillion is the Temple of the Dragon at Peace, a truly Zen name for a Zen temple in possession of a famous Zen garden...It's Zen, yo.

It was even the object of a scientific paper published in Nature, which I do not recommend you read unless you are interested in "inwardly propagating fires" (note the missing hyphen) and "medial-axis skeleton(s)". Nevertheless, even the naive should be able to enjoy this garden. With so many visitors though, it is difficult to feel at peace. Let's just say, dragons must have a lot of patience.

 Goodnight Kyoto, thanks for all the temples.


  1. I love that rule at the Golden Temple :)

  2. Thousands of gates donated by Japanese businesses - that's pretty amazing. I love Inari, the God of Rice! The images are just beautiful and surreal!