Thursday, April 23, 2009 ;
10:23 AM
Apr 4

Breakfast was yummy again. The best thing is, we are so stuffed yet felt so good cos we ate all those healthy food like tofu, steamed fish.

The gardens of Nishiyama ryokan.

The kids in their slippers, being loathe to go out for sightseeing! We had to check out as well, and they were having too much fun to want to leave. ds2's showing his teary face.

We checked out but asked the ryokan to hold our luggage. Then we headed for the Philosopher's Path. It is a 1.5km trail that is lined with cherry trees.

On the way there, we had a good view of the mountain. This mountain is where the Daimonji bonfire is lit during the Bon Festival (Festival of the Ancestors) every 16th of August.

It is a traditional event called Gozan no Okuribi. 5 mountains that surround the city will have a giant bonfire set alight. 3 of the fires have kanji character shapes. Daimonji (大) is one of them. The other 2 are shapes of a boat (funagata) and Shinto shrine gate (toriigata).

There is no bonfire now, but you can still see the daimonji shape.

And then, oooh!!! We literally gasped non-stop when we saw the Philosopher's Path!!!

In Chinese, it is called 哲学之道. Called this name because a famous professor of a nearby University used to take the 1.5km walks along this canal. He got a lot of inspiration during these walks. I think he was a professor of philosophy.

There were different varieties of cherry trees here too. Some were those that had white blossoms. Some had white with pink-tinged blossoms. Some had pink blossoms. Some flowers were almost red.

Even the crown shapes are different. Some branches hung low, some branches do not hang. Naturally I love those weeping cherries. The lower the branches, the nearer I can get to them!

These are the white ones. Makes the trees look snow-covered, eh?

I saw some birds perched on the branches, feasting on the nectar? So I asked Dh to use his DSLR to zoom in on the birds. I love pictures with flora and fauna together, so I am so glad he took these.


The Philosopher's Path is also very popular because a couple of important and beautiful temples are around this area too, so tourists visit them as well, like the Ginkakuji. We didn't, because we had time contraints and we had visited the Kinkakuji already, and we planned a mixture of places in our itinerary (didn't want too many temple visits). Must be balanced. :-)

Some of the trees had tags to inform us of the species.

A lot of tourists in large groups and locals on their family outings as well. Some even wore their kimonos to take pictures in a beautiful and natural outdoor setting.

Saw 2 very adorable siblings. I think they are Italian?

Dh took millions of photos, I think. I was busy keeping an eye on both kids who were so exuberantly running ahead of us. Several times I had to catch up with them and make them U-turn, backtrack and go back to where Dh had stationed himself. Here he is in the pic below. He climbed down the slope to where the canal drain is, to get different views.

When we walk around Kyoto, we hardly see babies and kids in the touristy areas. Perhaps with a lot of temple-hopping, and a lot of scenery-admiring, many would feel Kyoto is not as suitable for younger children as maybe Tokyo Disneyland.

But here, I spotted, in a rare instance, a slung baby. And another toddler in a stroller. Looks like the moms are having a "moms-day-out".

We didn't finish the entire Trail and proceeded on to Yasaka shrine.

From the bridge, we could see the rest of the cherry tree trail, still snaking onwards.

Yasaka shrine and Maruyama Park are in Gion. Gion district is the most well-known geisha area in Japan. The geisha are known as geiko, which is more specific than "a person of the arts" (geisha) as it means "woman of the arts".

We were in Gion at the right time for the festival of the cherry blossom dances (Miyako Odori) but failed to secure any tickets because it had all been snapped up. We tried booking too late.

Here we are at Yasaka shrine's gate.

Before the trip, I had exchanged Chinese yuan into Japanese yen at the Bank of China. There were no moneychangers in Tianjin that I can see and others told me it is rare in Japan too. So I thought I'd bring the entire amount I need. Hence, before exchanging the amount, I made calculations up to minute details, including train rides and admission fees to various areas.

Doing the budget made me aware that Japan is not a cheap place to holiday in, and so besides planning a balanced itinerary for our family dynamics, we also bore in mind not to spend too much. Thus, the parks and places we decided to visit are mostly free ones. Either that, or the admission is cheap. We only made exceptions when it is a rare place that is a must-see.

Since there were many places to admire sakura, I chose Arashimaya, Philosopher's Path and Yasaka Shrine/ Maruyama Park. These are all public places, free of charge.

According to, Maruyama Park is one of the most popular spots for locals to have their hanami parties. We wanted to soak in the atmosphere.

Maruyama Koen (or Park) also has a large number of weeping cherries, and they are lighted up at night too, creating a spectacular sight.

Ahhh, I love to faint scent of the cherry blossoms.

The weeping cherry tree. Like willow trees, with all the drooping branches laden with flowers.

The kids strolling around Yasaka shrine.

There are such water wells in each shrine. The kids like to follow and pour water, but we don't know the significance of it. We could easily check it up on the internet, I guess. This clips shows them having fun pouring water, but it also shows 2 things.

1. ds1 being very good at taking turns. He looked like he would enjoy another turn but handed it to his brother when ds2 asked for it. He had not always been like that when he was younger.

2. Dh "overreacting" a bit when ds2 wet his sleeves, and it was obvious that ds2 is very much more afraid of his dad? If I had shouted at him, he might have happily continued pouring. It was funny to see him at once drop the scoop.

The kids observed many adults queuing to rings the bells with thick ropes.

So when they saw a mini version, they did not hesitate, and rushed up to ring the bell too! The clip shows ds1 initially not knowing how to sound the bell. I should've not said anything and let him try a few more times. So you see, taking video clips randomly also allow us parents to review our actions huh?

People take turns to secure the spot for their hanami at night, so those on duty in the day just sleep or place their stuff on their blue mats.

A lot of people bring lots and lots of food and drinks. I see beer bottles here, and a stove with a huge pot! What will they cook? Hot pot? Wow...

Someone on duty, all bundled up snugly in his sleeping bag and blankets, still soundly asleep.

Many stalls were set up along the paths, for people who didn't bring enough food, or just for passers-by. We saw a lot of tempting dried fruit, nuts..

Finally Dh succumbed to the aroma of the roasted or grilled Japanese sweet potato.

Games stalls, cooked food, fruits stalls abound.

We saw a fruits stall dress up their fruits beautifully. This girl bought a pretty apple on a stick. It was so pretty, I had to take a pic. The apple was cored and sliced continuously into a spiral helix, so lovely.

When you have light green willows and weeping cherries, it seems even more beautiful.

Yasaka shrine lanterns in the day time. We have the night scene in a previous post too.

Traffic police directing traffic. They have a special and unique uniform.

We went back to the Shinkyogoku shopping district to buy souvenirs back. All of them are food products actually. Cinnamon cookies, yatsu-hashi... We bought just enough for business partners, a few friends, and ourself. Not too much space in luggage left anyway.

Then the kids needed the toilet again, so we headed into Takashimaya.
After toilet, they wanted to play at the kids section for a while. I browsed around all the 7 floors and saw some pretty stationery, which I couldn't resist, so I bought some paper.

That's when the kids were very engrossed in their car parking and car-lift system.

Screens tell the owners when their car is coming, to which lift and how far ahead they are in the line. Another shows the video images of the lift area when the car is called out by the computers and finally slips out of the lift onto the ground right in front of the sliding glass doors.

After Taka, we proceeded to Kyoto train station. We intended to take a train to Nara (a city about 30min away) to visit Nara Park, a famous temple (also UNESCO Heritage site) and for the kids to see all the very friendly and freely roaming deer in the park. We felt the kids would enjoy that the best, being able to pat the deer and to feed them (can buy deer feed from vendors there, we heard).

However, it started to rain, and we couldn't find the cheap lockers for our luggage. All full. There were more expensive options but we thought maybe it's not worth the trip anymore since it was raining. That would make it difficult to walk through the park.

So suddenly we had about 2-3hrs to spare. Fortunately the Kyoto Station is buzzing with activity. There were a few malls right above the station, many underground shops and restaurants.

After we had lunch, we decided to take turns to walk around, so I will sit with the kids at some benches while Dh walks around, then Dh will sit with them while I get to browse.

Dh decided very quickly that he didn't want to browse a lot, so I only sat with the kids for about 30min. During that time. they entertained themselves very well. Sometimes, I get the feeling they are all grown up and don't need me anymore.

It's true how fast they grow. Just a while ago, when they were both so clingy whenever we go out, and I thought I'd never get my life back... Now, they suddenly only have each other. They talked only amongst themselves, ignoring me.

I was seated with the many bags and a huge luggage. They left me behind and walked around, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes one following the other, around and around this centerpiece you see in the pic below.

Then they took a floor plan of the mall with a map, opened up the brochure, and sat down right there (a distance away from the benches where I was, far enough to be out of normal earshot). They then had a long discussion on the map, presumably about where to go next?

Several times they walked out of sight of me and I was constantly in a dilemma, whether to ditch all our bags with my precious Japanese snacks inside (ok, that sounds shallow of me) to go after them and pull them back, or let them be.

Fortunately, usually, after I was struggling to come to a decision, they would walk within sight of me again.

I contemplated shouting at them to get them to come back to me, which in Tianjin would be perfectly acceptable, since everyone does that, in higher decibels than me. However, I was in genteel Kyoto, and I haven't seen anyone shout here yet, so I didn't dare to attract too much attention by doing that.

For the entire 30min, they left me alone, thinking all these thoughts. Sigh.

When Dh was back, he said I had all the time I wanted to do window shopping. Hooray! He went to Starbucks to wait with the kids. They enjoyed yummy cakes and a coffee while waiting for me. So I needn't feel guilty at all. haha. Dh is also very smart, he knows how to enjoy himself while waiting.

As I walked around, I saw sooooo many things I liked! So many beautiful and pretty bags, shoes, clothes, stationery... cute gift shops, kids apparel... toys... books... food...

But I didn't buy any... Kept wondering if the same thing might be cheaper in Singapore, so ended up not buying.

Finally we took the shinkansen back to Nagoya.

We don't buy tickets for the kids, so they have no seats. So yup, the 4 of us squeeze into these 2 seats.

In comparison, the Tianjin-Beijing high speed train is much cheaper. 1 Adult ticket for 30min journey, 1st class seat: US$10.

1 Adult ticket for Shinkansen ride from Kyoto to Nagoya, 40min journey, reserved seats (Green car seats for shinkansen would be 1st class. ours are not 1st class): US$56.

The Tianjin-Beijing high speed train is also still maintained very well. Especially the first class cabin. The seats are wide and comfortable and there is a lot of leg room. The speed is very high too. So it is great value for money. Unfortunately, China does not have such a well-connected rail through the whole nation like Japan.

If and when she does, travel will be so much easier for all tourists. And the trains have to be maintained very well, like the shinkansen. But till then, maybe the Chinese high speed train will also charge almost as much?

Video clip shows some of the landscape passing us by when we are on the shinkansen.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

about us ;
-{dear-hubby}- dh
-{dear-son}-ds1 T
-{dear-son}-ds2 J
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