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Kyoto travel

The bamboo grove at Arashiyama

The bamboo grove at Arashiyama

Sixth in  a Series

At first, it wouldn’t seem that heading to some of Kyoto’s most popular attractions during cherry-blossom season would qualify as an escape.

But the key to finding the peace and quiet we were seeking amid the throngs, my wife Catharine and I found, was to just keep walking — and climbing — once we got there.

On the same day we visited the Ryoan-ji Zen rock garden and the Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion), we boarded an antique narrow-gauge railway that carried us in romantic style to Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto. (You can also take more modern trains from Kyoto station, or take a bus or the subway.)

It was obvious when we arrived that however they had gotten to Arashiyama, a good portion of everyone visiting Kyoto had conspired to visit at the same time as… Continue reading

Buddha in the gardens at Ryoan-ji temple, Kyoto, Japan

Buddha in the gardens at Ryoan-ji temple, Kyoto, Japan

Fifth in a Series

Kyoto has so many cultural and spiritual treasures that spending just a few days there can be an exercise in frustration.

But once you accept the fact that no matter how long you stay, you’ll probably only scratch the surface of what’s there, you can zone into a sort of Zen state and do and see just what you can. I’m sure most visitors, as we did, vow to return in the future to take in more. Still…

Even coming back

Many times will never be

Enough so chill out

Well, I never was very good at Haiku, but acceptance of the inevitable is key. Pick your battles and go forth and conquer what you can — even in the crush of visiting hordes.

I was impressed with the Zen-like demeanor of a German couple we met… Continue reading

Sunday afternoon in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

Sunday afternoon in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

Second in a Series

My previous travel experiences in Japan had been very brief before my wife, Catharine, and I flew off to Tokyo in early April, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

How much of a language barrier would we find? Is Japan as expensive as it’s reputed to be? Would we face greater-than-average logistical  problems there?

Those taking an organized tour to Japan can avoid most of these potential problems, of course, but — just as some people enjoy figuring out how cars or watches work — I like figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B while traveling as efficiently and economically as possible.

I also like to follow my own schedule, choose my own lodgings and restaurants, and not have to follow a guide around. (This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed some wonderful… Continue reading

A shrine near Kyoto boasts hundreds of vermillion-colored gates.

A shrine near Kyoto boasts hundreds of vermillion-colored gates.

My wife, Catharine, and I are just back from two weeks in Japan, with the jet lag to prove it. And while I don’t count jet lag among the reasons to travel to (or from) Japan, it would never be enough to keep me away.

Here are eight great reasons to travel to Japan — 10-hour trans-Pacific flights notwithstanding. (This list is intended to provide an overview — I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of traveling there in future posts.)

  • The People. We were continually amazed and impressed by how polite and helpful the Japanese people are. This ranged from our airbnb hosts and attendants in subway stations to cashiers in grocery stores, servers in restaurants, and just about everybody else we came in contact with. We were never made to feel unwelcome or rudely dismissed by anyone of whom we… Continue reading

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