Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mexican food

El Latina. The best Mexican food in Kyoto (according to  The owner lived in Mexico for 5-10 years. The food was quite good; it was great to taste jalepenos again! It is only about a 25 minute walk south of our apartment. the restaurant is in the basement of a non-descript office building. It is more of a bar, but has 3-4 tables too. Very dark. The kids were like "why is it so dark in here?"

Here are the kids with what is left of the nachos. M had a quesadilla!!! We ordered nachos, quesadilla, chorizo, tacos and enchiladas.  YUM.

We have also been to taqueria Pachanga, which is about 10-15 minutes walk north. That place had more of a "japanese" taste to the dishes, and was more spanish than mexican, but was also good. We should head back there.  Soon.

Last night while the kids were at gymnastics, Wendy and I went out to eat and I had the best beer I've had in 8 months.  Here's a shout-out to my current favorite brewery in the world:  I had the longboard lager, and while it's expiration date is April and it had a Christmas label on it, it had hops in it and tasted sooooooo good.

Today it is in the low 80s here in Kyoto. We had a pretty quiet morning, and then went up to the store to buy the kids art supplies for school. We're going out for the "best mexican food in Kyoto" for dinner.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cherry blossoms #3

Yet another day of me wandering around taking pictures of cherry blosoms.  I spent 2 or 3 hours walking the city, starting at Gion, heading back around to my favorite temple in Kyoto so far (Kodaiji) and ending up walking up the Kamo river and home.  It is definitely the nicest day we've had all year (well, since November anyway). It is currently 68 or 70° and bright and sunny.

Not a lot of commentary today, just pictures.

This is the big cherry tree at the temple near Gion (Maruyama park)

white blossoms

pink blossoms

a view in Maruyama park

A white tree in Maruyama park

walking south from the park towards a lot of temples (Possibly Chorakuji?)

one of the buildings in the temple area

I was playing with the zoom in feature on the camera today...

Just a typical street view in Kyoto.

And another one.

This is the serpent sculpture at Kodaiji

its body is made of wood and the spines are made of roof tiles

this is its head

It winds through the "sea"

here is a movie of the serpent sculpture

More views in Kodaiji (古代寺)

Beautiful red blossoms on this tree

My favorite building at Kodaiji; the paint colors are amazing

Trying to get an artistic view of the pagoda and blossoms through the bamboo

walking home along the Kamo river (鴨川); this is the view from the Sanjo bridge near Starbucks.

The flowers are beautiful

There is more than just cherry blossoms; these yellow folks are coming out too.

A view looking east along the canal near Marutamachi (丸太町)

The path walking home north along the river.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

more cherry blossoms

A few more pictures today. It was overcast but the Philosopher's walk was so crowded.
Looking north along the Takano river

along the Philosopher's walk

a canal near the Philosopher's walk

Near Yasaka shrine

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sakura (さくら(桜))

It's Cherry Blossom season!  It is late this year because of the unseasonably cool Spring we've had, but they are starting to come out. At the recommendation of my Japanese professor at Pomona (thanks Lynne!) I went to the imperial palace "on the way home" from work today. Of course, it started to cloud over and then rain as soon as I got the camera out.  Here are the best pictures from today.
People were everywhere in the northern part of the park; there was one huge group of 20 or 30 college students drinking and yelling "Kampai!"

about 1/2 of the trees haven't opened up at all, and some are just starting

There are beautiful white and pink flowers

Proof I was there. A nice man offered to take my picture.

Most of the rest of them didn't turn out because of the rain. Tomorrow I will take some pictures along the river and down on southern Higashiyama (東山).

Sunday, April 1, 2012


The kids and I made our way down to Nara yesterday. I have been wanting to go to Nara for a long time. It was the first capital of Japan and there are some truly ancient buildings there.  After a bit of a late start, we took the train down (a new train line for us, the Kintetsu line) and arrived in Nara about noon, just in time for a brief rainstorm. The weather forecast said it was going to be pleasant and sunny so all three of us were underdressed. But it wasn't too bad and the rain stopped pretty soon.

Nara is famous for its tame wild deer. The founders of one of the shrines there (in the 700s!) asked for a sign from the gods, and the god arrived riding a deer. That sounds like a sign. Since then, the deer have been revered in Nara. The deer wander all over the city looking for handouts. You can buy little deer cookies to feed them. The deer look quite well fed. They can be slightly aggressive; they come at you pretty fast if you have a cookie. I was warned of this by my former student, Julie, but I guess I wasn't quite prepared for how aggressive they are when they see you with one of the cookies. We saw two separate packs of deer take down two different women during the day. Advice to you: if they're coming for you, throw the cookies!

We saw a 5 story pagoda which was built in the 700s and restored most recently (after burning down five times) in 1426. Its amazing how old it is.
I included N for scale.

After that, we went to Todaiji Temple, which is the largest wooden structure in the world. And, amazingly, before it was rebuilt in 1709, it was 30% larger! The cherry blossoms are starting to come out, so pretty!
blossoms along the road

a very large wooden gate on the way to Todai-ji. WATCH OUT FOR THE DEER!

the exterior terrace (?) or wall (?) around Todaiji

the kids in front of the structure

Todaiji. The original building had either 5 or 7 doors in front instead of 3, it was a lot bigger. They have scale models of the original complex which had matching SEVEN story pagodas flanking the main temple. Amazing.

It contains the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), one of the largest bronze statues in the world.  There is a hole carved in one of the support beams which is the same size as the Daibutsu's nostril, and if you crawl through it you are on the path to enlightenment. The line was very long or I would have struggled my way through, but it was a tight squeeze for N, so maybe I won't fit...  

N has reached enlightenment!

M on her way towards enlightenment.

A look up at the beautiful decorative roof.

This lantern is a "National treasure" but I am not sure why or what it is. But it is 4.62 meters tall.

The whole courtyard is open with cherry blossom trees along the perimeter; just a few of them are blooming but in about 2 weeks it will be absolutely gorgeous here.

Finally, we walked through a few quiet streets and paths along the eastern edge of the city to Kasuga Taisha Shrine. This shrine was founded as a family shrine for the Fujiwara clan and was the one where the god arrived riding on a deer, establishing their dominance in the park.
This tall gold tower is just to the east outside the gates of Todaiji. This type of tower is usually on the top of shrines or temples (you can see one on top of the pagoda) so I think it has religious significance but I don't know.

Very interesting roots along our route ...

The shrine is surrounded by thousands of stone lanterns, moss covered trees and paths, and is amazingly beautiful.

The main gate of the shrine. We didn't go in on this trip, the kids were getting tired.

Little tiny tori and shrines are everywhere, so beautiful.

After the shrine, the kids wanted to bring home new pet deer, so we found two small tame ones to bring home. Their names are "Smoothie" and "Jewel."

There is a lot more to see here in Nara, so we will be back!