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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Japan Day 13- Uji!!

Today began with yet another fabulous, Japanese home-style breakfast. Toast, jam, rice, side dishes leftover from last night, salad, & tofu.


Both Nozomu-kun & his dad, Dai-kun were running fevers today (probably caught colds), so they & Hiroko decided to stay at the house. Momo, Aoi-chan, Charlie, Brendan, & I wanted to go back to Uji, which is a town in the tea-growing region around Kyoto, a bit closer than Nara. We have traveled to Uji on every visit to Japan so far, & last time (2 years ago) Momo, Hiroshi, & Aoi-chan stayed with us for the Umi no Hi weekend at a ryokan (traditional inn) in Uji. There's something about Uji that I dearly love. Could be the tea :) Or the sweets shop we visit every time, that has been in business for about 500 years & makes the best anmitsu (you'll see later :), or the lovely temples & shrines. Either way, we always manage to return to Uji.

We decided to take a taxi to Fushimi Station, because it's just a few stops by train from there to Uji. From Uji station, we took another taxi to the Mimurotoji, which is a Buddhist temple known for it's gardens & flowers. It's not as old as some of the temples we've visited, dating from the early 1800's, but it is a lovely place. There are the usual crazy stairs to get to the main temple complex, but there was also a side road on the side, so we took that instead of climbing up the stairs- whew! You are greeted by a wonderful sight when you arrive at the main complex:





Renge (water lilies) in pots & pots & pots, all over the place! Water lilies are a Buddhist symbol of rebirth & most Buddhist temples have some. The ones here are spectacular.

One of the nice things about this temple is that it's not nearly as crowded as the more famous ones. It also has a load of fun things for a small child to do. There are statues where you can do things to help with healing or to obtain good luck, along with the usual shrine buildings where you can put a coin in the box, ring a bell, & say a prayer. There was a rabbit statue with a chamber, with a stone egg inside, & if you could make the egg stand up you will have good health. Charlie did it, I tried & failed, & Aoi-chan... had fun :)




Having failed the healthy bunny test, I decided I should stack the odds in my favour by buying an ema in the shape of the Buddha's feet, writing my wish (in Japanese I wrote 'I hope my back gets better") and hanging it with the other ema nearby:


Aoi-chan really enjoyed putting coins in things & then doing stuff, often aided by Charlie. They rung  a very old bell:


Then Aoi-chan wanted to pray at a small shrine:




Then she rubbed various bits of a stone statue for health:


While we were wandering around the grounds, I noticed a group of pilgrims arrive, & they started chanting at the main temple "front porch" area (in the distance, in the first photo), with a bell accompanying them. It was really beautiful & haunting.





Then we headed down the biiiig steps:


And then Aoi-chan wanted to say one more prayer (with Charlie's help) at a tiny shrine:



We retraced the taxi-ride to the temple about halfway to the station to have lunch at our favourite sweets shop in the world. On the way, Aoi-chan fell asleep in the "baby car" (carriage):



Since this is a major tea-producing region, many things have green tea in them. Our soba noodles had green tea in them:



And then the sweets... oh the sweets! Charlie had a parfait featuring green tea ice cream & syrup, & Brendan's was similar, but in a waffle cone:


I had my fave- matcha (powdered green tea) cream anmitsu with green tea syrup. It's matcha ice cream & vanilla ice cream with fruit, odango (mochi balls), a dollop of red bean paste, & a kuri (chestnut) on top, on a bed of unsweetened gelatin cubes, upon which you pour the syrup. I took a handful of lactaid tablets & dug in! Oishii!


Aoi-chan woke up just as we were finishing. We went across the Uji River on a bridge & looked for a conbini so she could have an onigiri, but it was all shops selling green-tea things, like tea & snacks & ice cream. She wanted ice cream, but Momo wanted her to eat something non-desserty first, so we scrounged some of our travel crackers & cheese & Momo gave her some little fish sausages that she carries just in case. This worked, & since we were walking past the Byoudouin Temple as she finished, we decided to go in.

The Byoudouin Buddhist temple was built in 1053(!). The main building, called the Phoenix Hall, is the only original building left because it is surrounded by a pond, which protected it from fires. It's a very famous site in Japan, & is on the reverse side of the 10 yen coin. Momo gave Aoi-chan a 10 yen coin to compare, but Aoi-chan didn't see the resemblance :)


The golden phoenixes atop the Phoenix Hall


When we all visited the Byoudouin 2 years ago the main hall was undegoing renovation, & was covered by a big tent, so we took a group photo in front of it :) It was very satisfying to come back & take a group photo in front of the real thing this time.

Then we walked back down the street of shops in search of tea & ice cream. There is a tea shop, called Mistuboshi, that we visited on our very first trip to Japan 8 years ago, & where I was made to feel right at home, given a cup of green tea & engaged in conversation (in my rudementary Japanese of the time) by a group of ladies. It was kind of magical. I have returned to buy tea every 2 years since, & they actually remember us there! I bought some tea & mentioned that we'd been there before, & the grandma in charge got all excited & said she remembered us. Her grandson rung up my tea purchases, & as we left she ran after us & gave me a box of sweets & told us she couldn't believe how big Brendan had gotten. We reminisced for a bit & I was so glad to be able to have a proper conversation with her. Every visit to Uji is magical!!

Momo found Aoi-chan some ice cream, & then we walked to Uji Station to take the train back to Kyoto.


We decided to go all the way to Kyoto Station to buy the shinkansen tickets for our return tomorrow, since we're traveling together to Tokyo. Momo and Aoi-chan are going to Tokyo, rather than back home to Atsugi, because we are planning to take Aoi-chan & Nozomu-kun (and Hiroko-san of course) to Disneyland on Thursday. So Momo will stay with her mom in Tokyo.

After buying our tickets we took the subway to Takeda Station & the bus home. Charlie & Brendan took Aoi-chan home while Momo & I shopped for dinner food. The plan was to make a load of rice & have lots of side-dishes, which is exactly what we did. Dai-kun was able to see a doctor at a local clinic for his cold, & Nozomu-kun was able to take a nap (his first since arriving) & was feeling much better too. There was an after-dinner repeat of the small child futon apocalypse before ofuro & bed time:




The kids went to sleep with no trouble at all :) Tomorrow, back to Tokyo!

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