Featured On the Go — 27 November 2018

Shantidharm and Deepa sent us captioned photographs of their visit to Japan: Osaka, Kyoto, Lake Biwa, Nagahama, Arashiyama, Fushimi-inari, Uji.

In September 2018 I visited Japan for a month together with Deepa, my Japan-born partner.

Our departure flight on 4th September was postponed because of a typhoon. Osaka Kansai airport was closed, so Air France booked us a flight the next day with arrival in Tokyo Haneda. To be able to move easily and take the Shinkansen train to Osaka, we gave our luggage to a baggage delivery service at Haneda airport to deliver it to the address of Deepa’s cousin in Kuzuha. It is a very convenient service when you have a lot of luggage and nobody to pick you up at the airport. Prices vary according to where you send the luggage.

We spent a month in Kuzuha, between Osaka and Kyoto, not traveling too much; we wanted to stay in the area where Deepa’s cousin had made a house available to us.  The farthest we went was around Lake Biwa-ko, which is north of Kyoto. Otherwise we enjoyed visiting Zen temples and places around Kyoto and Osaka. There are so many places to see that even one month is very short, especially when you take it easy and do not rush every day to see as much as you can.

Here are some photos I took during this stay in Japan.

Osaka 1

In Osaka business district. In this part of town there is a lot of space; sidewalks are large and not crowded. Tall and modern buildings everywhere.

Osaka 2

A small street in old Osaka. There are many restaurants, shops and shopping arcades in old Osaka; it is very lively and can be quite crowded during peak hours.

Kyoto

On a bridge, down-town Kyoto. The area is usually populated by lots of people, but somehow it always feels quiet; pedestrians do not cross the street until the light is green for them, a lot of discipline and respect make walking in the street a real pleasure. Kyoto is very touristic but remains an interesting city, especially if you start exploring the parts not visited by the average tourist.

Kyoto

A narrow street in Kyoto. Located next to the river, these lanes are full of restaurants that get very lively and crowded in the evening. During the day it is nice and quiet; most of the shops and restaurants are closed, so it is easy to walk around and discover the old Kyoto architecture.

Kyoto

A small coffee shop in a back street of the Shichijo district. Walking off the tourist tracks in Kyoto, many nice coffee shops, handicrafts shops and small typical hotels beg to be discovered. Away from the main streets there is always a good surprise waiting around the corner…

Biwa

Early morning on Lake Biwa. I took this photo from our hotel window which overlooked the lake. This is the largest freshwater lake in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture, northeast of Kyoto. Because of its proximity to the ancient capital, references to Lake Biwa appear frequently in Japanese literature and poetry. We spent a week-end driving around this lake and we also took a boat to Chikubu island.

Biwa

A huge Buddha statue, by the side of the road at the entrance of the city of Nagahama, north of Lake Biwa. We liked this town and enjoyed walking around. It has a beautiful park, a castle, a lot of small temples and traditional houses with gardens.

Nagahama

A tatami room in a traditional Japanese house in Nagahama.

Nagahama

A Japanese garden seen from inside of a traditional house in Nagahama.

Nagahama

Nagahama. After the rain, drops fall into the fountain, plop, plop!

Vegetarian meal

A vegetarian meal in a country side restaurant near Shiga. Satchan, our friend, drove us to this vegetarian restaurant; all products are fresh and local. From the table we sat at we could see a rice field bordering at the edge of the restaurant. The rice we ate was from the last harvest of this field. We enjoyed our meal very much as well as the atmosphere; clean and spacious.

Arashiyama.

Boats on the river in Arashiyama. These boats are driven manually by means of long bamboo sticks; they are used to transport people at night for a cruise on the river. Arashiyama is a nice small village near Kyoto, famous for the Tenryu-ji Zen temple, its bamboo grove, its bridge, and very good green tea ice creams.

Arashiyama

View from the window of a restaurant in Arashiyama. We had a good Japanese lunch in this hotel-restaurant located next to the river with this splendid view from our table. I saw the clouds in the sky and it was looking so beautiful, I took a photo with my iPhone. A few minutes later the sky was clear.

Arashiyama

Walking in the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. This bamboo forest is a main attraction in Arashiyama, located just next to the famous Zen temple Tenryu-ji. We walked there on two occasions, one day with sunshine and the next under the rain.

Arashiyama

Stone Zen garden in Tenryu-ji, Zen temple in Arashiyama. Tenryū-ji – more formally known as Tenryū Shiseizen-ji – is the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The temple was founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha; its first chief priest was Musō Soseki.

Arashiyama

A Pond in Tenryu-ji, Zen temple in Arashiyama.

Fushimi-inari

Walking through one thousand gates in Fushimi-inari. This Shinto shrine is mainly dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, whose messenger foxes appear in many guises throughout the temple. The colorful Romon gate and the main buildings are well worth a look, but the main attraction is the 4-kilometer winding uphill path that passes through the gates. At the base of the hill, the gates are thick, but as you climb the hill, they thin out. This allows you to enjoy the forest with its atmospheric sub-shrines placed throughout the journey.

Fushimari-inari

A monk walking up the stairs in Fushimi-inari. While going for a walk through the one thousand gates, I took a photo of this Shinto monk walking among the visitors.

Fushimi-inari

Middle temple in Fushimi-inari. Very colourful temples; the whole place glows in red and orange. On a sunny day it is magnificent. To visit this temple site it is recommended to come around 9 am.

Byodoin temple

Byodo-in temple. This temple is independent and does not belong to any Buddhist sect. Byodo-in temple, one of 17 World Cultural Heritage sites in Kyoto, has a typical Pure Land garden that consists of a hall (Amida-do) and a pond. Inside the hall is a figure of Amitabha Tathagata (Buddha).

Byodoin temple

Private! Entrance of a house in the compound of Byodoin temple.

Typhoon warning

Typhoon warning: Protect your shop or house, typhoon is coming! Two days before our return flight, a typhoon came over the region where we stayed. While we went for a walk the previous day, we saw how people were protecting their house or shop or restaurant. I found this one very funny because the protection did not look that strong in case of strong winds and rain. Fortunately this typhoon was not so strong and no damage was recorded compared to the previous one.

Deeshan

Deepa and Shantidharm in Japan. This photo was taken by our friends one evening when they invited us to a restaurant in Osaka.

As an anecdote, a second typhoon came to Japan two days before our departure on October 3rd, and also did not create any damages. Osaka Kansai airport stayed open and we were able to fly back to France as planned. We experienced this second typhoon in our small house, hearing strong winds and rain pounding the whole night.

A few days later we left for the Osaka airport with a big sunshine overhead and stayed for one night at the gorgeous Nikko Hotel adjacent to the airport.

Shantidharm is the co-founder of Meditationfrance, a successful online platform for holistic therapies in France. He lives in South of France with his partner, the Japan-born Deepa. meditationfrance.comdeeshan.com


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Kennin-ji zen temple in Kyoto – video by Shantidharm he took while visiting the Kennin-ji temple and its gardens in Kyoto, Japan
Where to Meditate in France? – profile of meditationfrance

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