Friday, July 23, 2010

Kyoto - Kinkaku-ji, Royan-ji, and Nishiki Market

Today was again a hot day. The girls said that they need a rest from running around in the heat. So Roy and me took of to see the Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. 

This is one of the main tourist attractions in Kyoto and as we expected there was a large crowd. The temple is similar in design to the Ginkanku-ji we saw few days ago. 

The layout of the surrounding garden is different, and the main difference is that the top floors and the roof of the temple are covered by gold-leaf coating. 

The original structure was burned in the early 1950's by a mentally ill monk, and the structure we saw is exact reconstruction that was built few years later. The roof is decorated by what we took to be a rooster, but later read was a phoenix (I found that surprising, as I didn't know that legend also appeared in eastern cultures).

The temple gardens are we came to expect very beautiful and meticulously maintained. 

Many of the Japanese tourists were interested in two kiosks along the pathway that sold small memorabilia from the location (this seem to generate more excitement than much of actual building).

We found a small shrine with a beggar cup. Apparently, if you throw the coin into the cup it brings good luck. Seems like many people had unsuccessful attempts.

At the end of the path there was a very beautifully located tea garden.

From Kinkaku-ji we walked to a nearby Ryoan-ji, a temple with a world famous zen-garden. 

We traversed the gardens of the temple, and then moved into the actual zen area. Here we took off our shoes and entered the wooden structure.

The garden is surprisingly small and very simple. In the middle of a gravel floor there were 15 rocks of various sizes. The garden is famous that from any viewing angle you can see only 14 of the rocks. We toured the temple and tried to get some of the mediative spirit of the garden.

One of the interesting items in the temple was a small scale model of the garden on a table with braille text. My guess is that this table allow blind people to "see" the zen garden.

Going out of the temple we reached a part of a garden with strangely cultivated trees. It reminded me of scenes from Dr. Seuss book. 

We returned to the hotel to meet with the girls. 

We went to center of town with some shopping in mind. Our first stop was the Nishiki food market. We briefly visited there in our first day in Kyoto, but this time, I got a chance for longer exploration of market and its wares.

Do they really serve Fugu?
Baby Sardines, Yum!
Parsly (note the packaging) and Wasabi roots

This is also gave me a chance to see artisans in action. One shop was specializing in making japanese omelette.  This was done on long prolong pans, where at each iteration the cook added some scrambled egg, let it harden and then rolled the omelette to form another layer.  He was working several pans in parallel, so he didn't have to wait at any step.

Afterwards the omelette was cooled in a special structure that gave it the desired square shape.

Another shop specialized in cookies made of dough and nuts or other fillings. The person made them in on the spot for show. First he laid out nice rows of dough (batter ?).
Then he poured nuts all over it.

Then, with a flick he removed all the nuts that didn't stick. He closed the lid on top of the combination and moved it to the fire in front of it. He had several of these "pans" on the fire, and after finishing preparing one, he shifted all of them to the right, turning over the middle one, and then emptying the ready cookies to a tray next to him and making a fresh set.

As expected, fish and seafood were dominant food here.
Asian gefilte fish
At the end of the Market is a shop of kitchen-ware. The shop was dominated by a large collection of Japanese cooking knifes of different attributes with different uses. After a lot of hesitation, we selected a chef knife to buy. As part of the treatment, they carve the owner name on the knife. Lior gave them the Japanese spelling of "Nir Friedman". We were very proud of the ease by which she did that.

One of the surprising aspects of Japanese life here is the mix of old and new, temples and pedestrians. In the middle of the covered shopping street next to Nishiki we run into a shrine, a temple, and graveyard (each at different location along the street). In front of the graveyard was a decorated spirit wheel.

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