Sunday, July 14, 2013

Japan 2013: Byoudo-in & Adventure Time!

This morning we had arranged to have breakfast at the ryokan, & since Aoi-chan & I get up pretty early, we went for breakfast at 7:00 am. It was the full Japanese-style breakfast, with soup & rice, pickles, fish, & a individual. bubbling pots of yudofu (tofu in broth). 

Charlie & Brendan had vegetarian versions, with no fish & more veggies. It was delicious! 

Aoi-chan got tired of sitting in the high chair pretty quickly, so we took turns walking with her around the big breakfast room & making friends with people :) The view of the Uji River from the breakfast room was gorgeous!

The weather report said that the weather would be better in the afternoon, so we decided to go to the closer of the two shrines we wanted to visit in the morning. The Byoudo-in Buddhist temple is practically next to our ryokan, so we headed there right after breakfast. 
at the entrance to the Byoudo-in Temple

The Byoudo-in was build around 1050 & is famous for it’s beautiful Phoenix Hall, surrounded by a reflecting pool. We had visited the Byoudo-in 6 years ago & it is a very beautiful place. 

Unfortunately for Momo & Hiroshi, the Phoenix Hall is being renovated, so it’s completely covered by grey canvas :( 

Momo lined us all up for a photo in front of it any way :) 
a photo from our trip 6 years ago

The museum on the grounds, which contains many of the treasures from the Phoenix Hall (which became too fragile over time to stay in the not-very-weatherproofed building), is built right into a hill & is purposely tucked-away so it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the place. 
entering the museum

Most of the treasures are statues of the Buddha & many boddhisatva playing musical instruments. They are all nearly 1000 years old & still amazingly beautiful. 

After a trip the the gift shop to buy presents & omamori, we went back to the ryokan for a little rest. Then we headed out to buy tea & have some lunch. 
omamori & ema (wooden plaques) from Byoudo-in

The weather was threatening rain, so we kept an eye on the sky as we strolled along. 

One place we had to visit was the Mitsuboshi tea shop, which we found on our first visit to Uji 6 years ago, & which we’ve gone back to visit every time since. The Mitsuboshi tea shop has been growing & selling green tea for 500 years & has provided tea not only to some of the famous samurai of the past, but to the Emperor of Japan as well. They have a little museum on the second floor of the shop which Momo & Hiroshi enjoyed visiting. I stocked-up on their delicious green tea, green tea crackers, & sweets. The owner was there & he served us delicious iced green tea himself. Afterward we went to lunch at a little soba shop nearby. Aoi-chan had fallen asleep on our walk to the tea shop & she stayed asleep all through lunch, making it a very peaceful time :)

We went back to the ryokan for a bit after lunch, then Momo, Hiroshi, Aoi-chan, & I decided to take a taxi to the farther of the temples we wanted to visit, the Mimuroto-ji. We went there on our last visit to Uji & it is amazing. They have pots & pots & pots of water lilies in bloom growing everywhere & it’s just gorgeous. The hillside is also covered with hydrangeas, but the taxi driver said that they were no longer blooming. On the way over, the sky turned very dark & thundery. Fortunately, we had borrowed a couple umbrellas from the ryokan when we left (mine was back in the room) because it was looking like rain. We got to the Mimuroto-ji just in time to discover that they weren’t allowing anyone in because of the danger of lightning. Sigh. We wanted to find a place to weather the storm, so we decided to head for the Genji Monogatari Museum, about 10 minutes walk from the temple. This museum is dedicated to the very first novel written in any language, the “Tale of Genji” which was written by Shikibo Murasaki (a woman) about 1000 years ago. The museum wasn’t really a good place for Aoi-chan, but we thought we could at least get out of the rain for a bit. After asking directions, we found our way there just before the sky completely opened-up. There was a little cafe there, so we ordered drinks & took turns keeping Aoi-chan entertained. It was probably a good 40 minutes before the rain let up enough that we could continue on our way.

We had decided to meet Charlie & Brendan at the wonderful, old sweets shop that we visited when arrived, when we were done with our adventures, so I texted Brendan & they were still up for it. It was only about 5 minutes walk from the Genji museum, so we got there in no time. Charlie & Brendan took a bit longer,  so we decided to eat dinner there first (& then have sweets after). 

Aoi-chan had had enough of sitting & got fussy, but once again the ipad saved the day. They have all sorts of apps for her & she played with them raptly while we enjoyed dinner. 

We walked back in light rain, which was actually pleasant because it had cooled-down so much. There were clouds hovering over the hills & the evening was really beautiful.

Tomorrow we leave Uji for Matsuyama, which is about 3 hours train ride south of Kyoto. We feel so glad that we’ll get to see Momo, Hiroshi, & Aoi-chan once more before we leave Japan, so tomorrow’s good-bye won’t be so sad. 

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