shrines & temples


Visiting shrines and temples is a big part of visiting Japan. Since there are so many many, I think it’s important to think about what I’m searching for.


To be honest, I was not that that impressed with Sensoji in Tokyo. I did not realize that there were so many schools of buddhism in Japan. Chinese people tend to think that Japanese culture is very homogeneous.

My idea of Japanese buddhism was probably best represented by the Shingon school: “Huiguo had foreseen that Esoteric Buddhism would not survive in India and China in the near future and that it was Kukai’s destiny to see it continue in Japan” (wikipedia). What I was expecting was probably something like Kongōbu-ji (金剛峯寺) with its 140 granite stones. When we visit Koyasan this time, we will be staying at Jokiin (常喜院) across the street.

I’m thinking the atmospheric temple in Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Assassin is Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) in Kyoto. Apparently, Japanese people say “jump down from the Kiyomizu stage” when they do something bold. Also looking forward to borrowed scenery in Tenryū-ji (天龍寺).


One thing I really enjoyed in Tokyo is seeing torii (鳥居) between random modern buildings. See Hie Shrine (日枝神社) above.

This time, we will be visiting Kumano Hongū Taisha (熊野本宮大社). Wikipedia describes its use of “natural unfinished materials” blending “effortlessly into the natural environment” which is exactly what I look for in a shrine.

In Kyoto, in addition to the famous famous Fushimi Inari Taisha, I’m looking forward to the Matatabi-sha Shrine (see below) which is right inside the shopping arcade. Also “Nishiki Tenmangū is home to a rather interesting form of fortune telling in the form of the Karakuri Omikuji. In glass cases, robotic shishi lions wait to be fed coins that will bring them to life, dancing to traditional gagaku court music as they move to fetch a paper fortune and drop it into the tray for you.” (discoverkyoto)

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traveling together

It was very clear from the beginning that we have different approaches to travel. Instead of pushing him to do all the things that I want to do, I figured it would be easier to start with his preferred approach and make changes slowly.

In 2012, our first ever trip together was a 9 day architecture tour of Chicago with three stops in Wisconsin.

In 2013, our 10 day visit to San Francisco included a bike trip around Napa.

In 2015, our 11 day trip around the Pacific Northwest included biking around Mt Hood and hiking along the People’s Coast.

In 2016, our 12 day trip to Germany and Austria included biking around Salzburg lakes, biking along the Mosel river and castle walks. The fact that we had an amazing trip despite getting off at the wrong train station and me suggesting that we walk to the next train station gave us a huge confidence boost.

This year, we are doing a 16 day trip to Japan with a stop in Vancouver. I don’t love big crowds but, having lived in Shanghai and Beijing, I have my ways of finding serenity in a sea of people. This is his first trip to Asia so not quite sure how he will respond.

For the three days in Kyoto, I’m thinking we can break it down into six segments. This way, if we get run over by tour groups, we will just tough it out knowing that a quiet break is right around the corner.

Segment #1: We are staying in an apartment in Nakagyō-ku (中京区) so I’m thinking we can kick off our first afternoon adventure at Cao Cafe Ishikawa (picture above) which is open from 11:30 to 3 am on Sundays. Nishiki Market followed by Nishiki Tenman-gū (天満宮). Pickle shopping at Murakamijyu Honten. Pontocho Alley followed by Shirakawa-minami Dori.

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Segment #2: 6 am bamboo forest stroll followed by coffee at % ARABICA (picture above). Walk across Togetsukyō Bridge (渡月橋) followed by exploration of Tenryū-ji (天龍寺): “The main 14th-century Zen garden, with its backdrop of the Arashiyama mountains, is a good example of shakkei (borrowed scenery)” (lonely planet). Looking forward to comparing and constrasting with Humble Administrator’s Garden, which is also famous for 借景. Followed by all you can eat lunch at Gyatei.

Ishibei-koji (石塀小路)

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Segment #3: Coffee at efish followed by pottery admiration at Kawai Kanjiro Memorial Hall. A stroll around Ninen-zaka, Sannen-zaka, Ishibei-koji (picture above).

Segment #4: 6 am Hōnen-in (法然院) visit. Climb to the viewpoint above Ginkaku-ji followed by lunch at Omen. Paper shopping at Kamiji Kakimoto followed by tea at Ippodo.

Segment #5: Walk around Nijō Castle from 3 pm to 5 pm (supposedly this place is very busy in the middle of the day). Tour Sanjo-kai Shotengai. Gotta see the Matatabi-sha Shrine which is right inside the shopping arcade.

Segment #6: 6 am walk around Inari-yama


Him: This is not as good as Space Odyssey
Me: You cannot compare every film to Space Odyssey!!!

Whereas Space Odyssey could be a grand display of Nietzsche’s ideas on recurrence, Moon is perhaps a quiet meditation from a more human perspective

Clone II learning wood carving from Clone I brings to mind this particular passage from Nietzsche: What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

Just as the starchild in the last scene of Space Odyssey could be a reference to Bodhisattva (菩萨), Clone II puts on his yellow sleeping suit and starts a new journey at the end of Moon. Let the adventure begin.

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grateful (COUNT=1416)


i++ Last Sunday, magazine reading @ offsite, one of “10 new coffee shops with the best interior design in Toronto” per blogto

i++ Last Saturday, people watching @ dark horse canary, another one of the 10

i++ Les pains au chocolat La Fournée Dorée

i++ Excellent STL dinner @ Bristol Seafood Grill

i++ Citrus BBQ party featuring pickled plum with lime zest, carrot sauteed in orange juice, fried lemon, kumquat and Jess’ super amazing Bergamot cake