Our Japan tea tour became even more interesting and insightful with our amazing Tea Master and Historian, Bruce Richardson, as he shared his abundant knowledge with us throughout the itinerary, including Japanese influence over American architecture, Japanese tea culture and aesthetics featuring “The Book of Tea” written by Okakura Kakuzo, and more.
We had a wonderful, action-packed first day in Kyoto, Japan. We visited the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Golden Pavilion Temple, Ryoan-ji Temple’s Rock Garden, and enjoyed a bento box lunch in the Imperial Palace Garden.
The highlight of our first day in Kyoto was a tea ceremony demonstration while wearing Kimono. We ended the day with visiting the bustling food market, Nishiki Market, filled with delicious smells and hungry people from all over the world.
On the second day, we started with a delicious and nutritious buffet breakfast at our hotel. Our chartered bus took us north to visit the Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine and a very special Flea Market that is only open on the 25th day of each month. This Flea Market is famous for amazing deals offered by a wide variety of great venders. We then visited a textile shop, where we witnessed the beauty of kimonos and enjoyed shopping.
Then, we headed south to Uji, where we spent the rest of the day exploring the Byodo-in Temple, tasting Sake, and hiking up the Fushimi-inari Shrine.
These two days in Kyoto gave our curious travelers ample exposure to mystical Japan and traditional Japanese beauty.
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Tea Master, Bruce Richardson, explains the influence of Kiyomizu-dera Temple over American architecture.
Leisurely strolling on Ninen-zaka street in the early morning.
Each store invites customers with its unique facade and sign.
Such as this.
Beatufiul gate of Kiyomizu-dera Temple. We were early enough in the morning so that we missed the massive crowds–about 10,000 people visit the temple a day!
The largest 3-story pagoda in Japan!
Our beautiful tickets to the temple–they will make great book marks!
Inside the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. These iron shoes and other weights were used for strength training. It is now said that whoever can pick these up will have good luck and strength.
The god of business prosperity!
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is known for its clear spring water. Drinking or washing your hands in the water is a way of purifying yourself.
With monks visiting from China.
These stones honor children who have passed away. The bibs are given by the grieving parents in hopes that their child will transfer to the next world peacefully.
Our ticket into the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji Temple, in Kyoto.
The beautiful Golden Pavilion and Mirror Pond.
The phoenix on top of the roof brings goodwill.
Our wonderful group of travelers!
We made it just in time for the beginning of Cherry Blossom season.
This small reservoir was used to wash hands.
A small stream of spring water that was once used specifically to make tea.
An ancient tea ceremony room once used to entertain the Emperor.
A serene rock garden with 15 boulders that symbolize perfection. There are many theories behind the true symbolism of the boulders and gravel.
The oldest Camellia tree in Japan.
A stone washbasin. Four Kanji Characters on the surface, “吾唯足知”, reminds us a Zen teaching: “I am content with what I am (have); Rich is the person who is content with what he is.”
Lunch at Kyoto Imperial Palace Garden.
Colorful bento lunch box.
Delighted to capture cherry blossom in full bloom.
The cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life.
Cherry blossom reminds us life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also short.
“In joy or sadness flowers are our constant friends.” By Okakura Kakuzo
Getting ready for traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
Special hairdo for Kimono.
Gorgeous in Kimono.
The host explains about tea ceremony.
Fukusa, lined square cloth made with silk, is used to purify the utensils.
Total sereneness except for the light swishing sound the bamboo whisk makes in the tea bowl.
Bruce Richardson capturing each step of the ceremony.
Learning how to whisk up a bowl of matcha.
Demonstration of how to enjoy a bowl of tea.
“Ichi-go Ichi-e” means “we only have this opportunity once in our lifetime. The exact event can never be replicated.”
Some of the food on display at “Nishiki Market”, the bustling food market in downtown Kyoto.
Snoopy, the Kabuki actor.
The buffet breakfast at Kyoto Century Hotel.
The entrance to the Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine. On the left and right, you can see one lion statue with its mouth open (symbolizing the “ah” sound) and one closed (“mm” sound). Together, they symbolize the entirety of the world, the beginning and end.
We witnessed a shrine ceremony performed by shrine priests.
A prayer board at the Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine.
The god of business prosperity. It is said that if you can rest a small stone in its nostrils, you will surely become rich.
These small structure is used specifically to pray for protection from lightning–a must of avid golfers!
The Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine’s flea market only open on the 25th day of each month.
Silk thread at the market for less than $2.
These beautiful kimonos were for sale for just $10!
Nishijin-ori Kaikan’s (Textile Shop) amazing Kimono Fashion Show!
The long sleeves show that she is an unmarried woman.
Kimonos are made to make the woman appear flat-chested as a sign of innocence.
Bruce Richardson showing us traditional Japanese art and explaining the importance of vacancy and simplified.
Byodo-in Temple is found on the 10 yen coin.
The front of the Byodo-in Temple.
A giant Buddha made of Cypress wood and covered in gold leaf is found inside the temple.
Hojicha Ice Cream at the Byodo-in Temple. The stone post says, “Byodo-in where the Meiji Emperor visited.”
At the Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan (Sake Museum).
The perfect spring water used to make pure sake, Japanese rice wine.
The museum had wonderful displays of all the tools and process needed to make Sake in the past.
These barrels are used to store Sake.
We enjoyed tasting three different kinds of Sake, including a Plum Wine.
The fox (kitsune) is the sacred messenger of the Fushimi-inari Shrine.
This fox is carrying a bunch of rice.
Before entering the Fushimi-inari Shrine, we cleansed our hands with purifying water.
At the Fushimi-Inari Shrine. Dropping your busines card inside is said to give you success in your business.
“Omokaru-ishi (heavy, light rock)” tells you how easy or difficult to realize your dreams.
The fushimi-inari Shrine is known for having 10,000 total Torii vermillion coloredgates.
Each gate was funded by different donors.
One of Shintoism’s key worship points is nature. This location in the Fushimi-inari Shrine is used to show gratitude for mountains.
We finished the wonderful long day with a delicious Matcha Brownie!
Click here to see the photos from the second half of our fascinating trip.
Meet the Author: Kiyomi