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Japan – Kyoto – 3rd November

Helen didn’t have the best night sleep, it was pretty chilly in our room and the painted tigers on the walls did little to make us feel warm either. The bell rang at 5.50am and we made our way to the shrine area for the morning chant. The morning air was chilly and it took some time to warm up in the shrine room. The chants lasted for about 45 minutes as the sun rose behind closed doors. It was an interesting experience and really shows the dedication that the monks have to their traditions and beliefs.

Once the ceremony had finished breakfast was served in the dining room. Another vegetarian meal of rice, soup, pickles, shredded veg, spongy tofu and green tea. We both pretty much finished the breakfast, however the same textures and flavors do become quite tedious when you are eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The morning light in the corridor and our room needed some photographic attention so we duly obliged.

We made our way back down the village to where we got dropped off yesterday (at the wrong monastery) and headed for the cemetery; Oku-No-In which had been recommended to us by the Dutch couple we had met the night before and is a mass of graves stones, shrines and temples. So with clean air in our lungs and the sun on your faces we headed off down the road. Maybe due to the cooler air at this altitude the leaves on the trees were at a much more autumnal stage and they looked very picturesque. The intense reds and oranges really pop and with a blue sky backdrop they look lovely. The cemetery is vast and contains thousands of graves from common folk to military generals.

There is a stone in a wooden cage structure here, the Miroku Stone. You can only get one hand through the gap in the wood and you are supposed to lift the rock up on to a shelf. The weight of the stone is supposed to change for each person, the less sins you have the lighter the stone will be. Dave failed on his first and second attempt, his sins are too high! Third attempt he made it but that’s a bit late really!

After walking back to pick up our bags we jumped on the bus, in the right direction and we caught the next cable car down the mountain valley before catching the train to our next stop Osaka. We spotted a cool place on the internet before we left the UK called Hostel 64 created by an architecture firm in Osaka, so with Hotel Michelberger, Berlin from early 2010 in our minds we booked two nights stay here to complete our travel in Japan. We arrived and checked into our room which was a nice size and then headed to the roof for a look over the roof tops. The sun was shining which we haven’t had much of in Japan so it made sense to soak up some rays (and take some photos)! The light and shadows were fabulous, so after some photos we decided to head out to The Umeda Sky Building to see some views of the city and catch the sunset. We just about made it in time to see the sun disappear over the horizon in a fiery red glow.

We headed back to the hostel area to eat locally as we had read of a local Korean restaurant which seemed like a good idea. We had a map from the hostel but could not get our bearings and local landmarks were not where we thought they should be. In a nutshell in Japan there are lots and lots of Family Marts and convenience stores. One of these was marked on the map so we used that as our reference. That was not the correct Family Mart, it was on the other side of the block! Not knowing this, we ended up going for a little restaurant that specialised in Yakitori; Japanese barbecue chicken. We had a mix of chicken, salad, tofu soup and a rice ball. The rice ball was toasted over hot coals in a sticky sesame sauce served with pickles, lovely!

Feeling full and still frustrated from wandering around for an hour looking for Korean food we headed back to the hostel for a beer in the bar and then bed.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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