What I saw and where I went

Today I am winging my way back from Japan (in fact, this post is scheduled to go up right around the time my plane lands), where I spent three weeks in Tokyo and Kyoto, which were amazing and wonderful. Thankfully I had a bilingual host — Japan is very difficult to navigate if you don’t speak Japanese and I don’t recommend it — and we had amazing food, visited beautiful places, and did spectacular things. My poor Instagram followers were also subjected to a deluge of images (come back, Instagram followers!).

Rather than making you all suffer through a painstakingly detailed travelogue complete with gazillions of pictures, I selected some of my favourite experiences for you. Oddly enough, food doesn’t play a big role in these photos, mostly because it’s hard to take good food photography with a phone, and I didn’t want you all to think that Japanese food is revolting and horrific, because it is not. I hope my adventures make you want to come to Japan yourself, as it’s a pretty great place.

The Great Buddha at Kamakura is, as promised, great. I got up close to see the offerings, and paid a few yen to get inside, which was absolutely amazing. Being able to see the construction from the interior was splendid.

I traveled to Japan to see sakura, and I was not disappointed. I spotted these at a temple when we ambled around, and they only capture a small part of the beautifulness we saw.

At Meigetsuin/Ajisaidera, which has absolutely beautiful gardens and also bunnies! This is an array of prayer tablets, which are traditionally burned at the end of each year.

Macca served in the teahouse at the top of another temple in Kamakura. There’s a lot of staircase walking there, be warned. We had a stunning view of Fuji-san from here…if you squinted.

A photo from Tokyo’s largest pet cemetery on the grounds of Kindaiji Temple, which, be warned, is the saddest place I have ever been. It was huge and I was not expecting to find it as depressing as I did, but it’s filled with photographs of pets with all species and offerings of food and flowers. If you like the idea of having a weeping fit on the grounds of a temple, I highly recommend going there.

Beautiful handmade pottery and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) from a really lovely tea we had in Harujuku. This entire tea service was absolutely spectacular — Sou Sou in Harujuku is highly recommended for this and other delights!

My host and I went walking among the sakura on a dull day, and we picked a lake with loads of birds. This tufted duck was one of many waterfowl we saw.

One of the things that I loved most about the areas of Japan I traveled in is that I never knew what I would find around a corner. Temple, shrine, ancient home, beautiful cemetery — in this case, Yanaka Cemetery, where people were walking home at dusk through the sakura, petals swirling around them.

In Kyoto, things close early. Night scenes like this one on the cobblestoned bystreets were common.

At Nara, where the deer are extremely serious, I caught this father and daughter feeding fish at dusk, surrounded by curious pigeons.

Himeji Castle has just been restored, and it is absolutely stunning. Lots of beautiful sakura on the grounds, and we wandered through the West Bailey, though we didn’t go up into the Main Keep because of the crowding.

Busy, tiny kitchens are the norm in Japanese restaurants, many of which are also quite small. Here, I saw chefs working in a tiny space to produce stunning food, all coordinated and dancing around each other in the elegant choreography that is a working kitchen.

We visited the Site of Reversible Destiny, which is one of the weirdest and most astounding places I have ever been, and definitely recommended for visitors to Kyoto, especially on a weekday, when no one’s there. It’s basically impossible to describe, but could be loosely defined as an art park. It’s peculiar, disorientating, and splendid. Much like Japan, you never know what to expect.

A rabbit sits serenely at the Site of Reversible Destiny.

Would I go back to Japan? In a heartbeat. I already have a list of things I didn’t get to do that I want to do, like see the Miyako Odori and watch the fall foliage come in. This turned out to be an excellent and rewarding trip, and I’m so glad I went. Many thanks to my lovely host, who took such good care of me and took me on so many astounding adventures that I wouldn’t have found on my own.