Day 7 (2 of 2).
In the midst of tea plantations and cloud forests, the town of Ella situates at an elevation of 1000m above sea level and maintains a relatively cooler climate than the surrounding lowlands. Well known for its scenic valley view of Ella Rock at the Ella Gap, and a laid-back backpacker’s atmosphere, there is no surprises that the hill town has developed into the most popular tourist hub in the entire hill country. Almost all businesses in Ella are somewhat related to tourism. Because of its decent guesthouse and restaurant selection, convenience of transportation, and pleasant surrounding scenery, many travellers including us chose Ella as their base to explore the area’s hiking trails and tea plantations.
Since July 1918, Ella railway station has been an important stop on the Main Line, the oldest railway line in Sri Lanka running from coastal Colombo to Badulla in the hill country, via Kandy.
Just like other railway station in the country, curious dogs were often the first to greet us on the platform, especially when we had breakfast in our hands.
Depending on the time of day, visitors would either get off at Ella from the red or blue train.
We stayed at Zion View Ella Green Retreat for two nights. A number of guest houses, including Zion View, are erected on the valley slope facing the Ella Gap, one of the most scenic spot in town.
Every room in Zion View has a terrace overlooking the Ella Gap.
The terrace was the perfect spot to watch the sunrise over Ella Gap with the silhouette of Ella Rock.
It was also in Ella that we had our first Sri Lankan egg hoppers for breakfast.
The two German Shepherds at Zion View always welcomed us at the hotel entrance.
Walking on the railway tracks is often the the most direct routes to go between attractions. Because only a few trains would pass by Ella daily, both the locals and tourists would use these tracks as footpaths during the rest of the day to reach their destinations.
From our guesthouse we walked half an hour on the tracks to visit Kithal Ella falls. We reached the falls just before nightfall.
Just a few kilometres away from Ella, Halpewatte Tea Factory is a popular tea plantation that offers factory tours for tourists. The factory can easily be reached by tuk tuk.
Halpewatte is one of better known tea plantation in the UVA Ceylon tea region.
Founded in 1971, Halpewatte is a family run business.
Visiting a tea factory is a good way to learn more about the variety of Ceylon tea.
From the factory, we enjoyed a panoramic view of the tea terraces and surrounding scenery.
Among the many restaurants, we picked AK Ristoro in a quiet neighbourhood off the main road for dinner.
We chose to dine at the lovely veranda area at AK Ristoro.
AK Ristoro serves good fusion food with Italian, Japanese and Sri Lankan touches.
We couldn’t resist but to order a can of the local Lion beer to wash down our delicious dinner.
At night, the Main Street of Ella is flanked by lights and signage of restaurants and souvenir stores.
RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.25
Day 11 (2/2).
When people mention “Sapporo” many will immediately think of beer. Established in 1876 as Kaitakushi Brewery (Pioneer Brewery, 開拓使麦酒醸造所), Sapporo Beer is the oldest Japanese beer. It was the pioneer period when the Meiji government raced to settle on the Island of Hokkaido ahead of the expanding Russians. A regional government known as Kaitakushi (開拓使) or Hokkaido Development Commission was set up in Sapporo to oversee the island’s pioneer development . Reference to the northern Pole Star, a red star is used as the symbol of the Kaitakushi. This Kaitakushi red star appeared throughout the old Hokkaido, from building facades such as the Sapporo Clock Tower to bottle labels of Sapporo Beer.
After visiting the Former Hokkaido Government Building, we made our way to the Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール博物館), the historical brewery about half an hour walk from Sapporo Clock Tower. We have decided to spend the last few hours of our trip to learn more about beer making in Hokkaido. We also planned to fill our stomach at the museum’s Beer Garden with a Genghis Khan or (Jingisukan, ジンギスカン) lunch. Not sure if it has anything to do with Mongolia, the Genghis Khan is a local Hokkaido dish serving grilled lamb and local vegetables on a special round grill. Perhaps in reference to the lamb eating custom of Mongolian soldiers back in the prewar years, Genghis Khan (Jingisukan, ジンギスカン) has become a popular local dish after a sheep farm was set up in Hokkaido in 1918. The first Genghis Khan (Jingisukan) restaurant opened in Tokyo in 1936. Decades after Genghis Khan restaurants continue to flourish in Hokkaido. For our 2019 Hokkaido trip, a hearty meal of grill lamb and draught beer at the historical brewery of Sapporo Beer offered us a satisfying closure.
On our way to Sapporo Beer Museum, we passed by Sapporo Factory (サッポロファクトリー), a shopping and entertainment complex housed in a former brewery of Kaitakushi Brewery, the predecessor of Sapporo Beer.
The building of Sapporo Factory was renovated and converted into a commercial complex in 1993.
At Sapporo Factory Hall, there is a small exhibition house that tells the story of beer making in Hokkaido. The Kaitakushi star can be seen at the small exhibition house.
We arrived at Sapporo Beer Museum after another 15 minute walk from Sapporo Factory.
Visitors gathered at the entrance to wait for the museum to open its door.
An enormous brew kettle greet all museum visitors at the entry hall.
On display are some of the earliest beer bottles from the late 19th century.
No matter how the label design has evolved throughout the past century, the star of Kaitakushi remains as a visual focus.
The evolution of marketing posters reflects the social and cultural changes in the past century.
Since 1966, the Beer Hall at Sapporo Beer Museum has been a popular restaurant serving the Mongolian barbecue Genghis Khan.
Genghis Khan is self served on a special round grill.
We ordered different kinds of lamb meat.
Not to be missed were the special draught beer at the Beer Hall.
The bear sculpture in the gift shop reminded us of the wilderness of Eastern Hokkaido.
After the hearty lunch, we walked around the museum ground for a bit.
Until it was time for us to pick up our backpacks at Cross Hotel and headed for New Chitose Airport. This concludes our 11-day Hokkaido journey.
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HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)
Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)
Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)
Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)
Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)
Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)
Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)
DAY 4 (3/3): MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28
At 2pm, we returned to Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館) to check in. Although there were hiking trails venturing further out of Shirahone Onsen, we weren’t in a hurry to go out. Instead, we opted for spending a relaxing time at the ryokan. Since there weren’t any restaurants available, we made ourselves delicious local cup noodles bought at the souvenir shop on the main street. Our room was spacious and decorated in traditional Japanese style. The air was filled with fragrance of the tatami. Yet the thing that delighted us the most was the large window looking out to the dense vegetation. We ended up spending the entire afternoon reading novels, devouring local snacks and enjoying the ryokan’s hotspring bath from time to time.
Near the bus stop of Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉) , a sign board indicated the availability of onsen bath at each ryokan for outside users.
At 2pm, we checked in at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館). The ryokan is located adjacent to a lush green ravine.
Shirahone Onsen remained quiet during weekdays. The lobby of Tsuruya Ryokan was airy but felt a little empty.
Our room was a comfortable Japanese style room came with traditional furnishings.
Through the large window, we could just stare at the lush greenery and circling insects all day long and wouldn’t get bored.
It was the perfect time to open a bottle of beer from the Japanese Alps.
The Nissin cup noodles we bought from the souvenir shop came with flavor of local miso, and it was undoubtedly one of the best cup noodles we ever had.
Adjacent from the onsen bath, the drinking room offered two water sources: local spring and the famous milky hotspring of Shirahone Onsen. The mineral rich onsen of Shirahone Onsen is drinkable and said to offer a number of health benefits.
The bath facility at Tsuruya Ryokan was neat and clean. Outside of weekends, it is quite possible to enjoy the bath all by yourself.
Similar to many traditional ryokan, the indoor bath at Tsuruya Ryokan is a large wooden pool filled with the milky hotspring.
The outdoor pool was definitely my favorite. It felt divine to breathe in the cool fresh air from the Mount Norikura (乗鞍岳) and enjoy the lush green scenery while submerging into the milky hotspring of Shirahone Onsen.
Like many ryokan, dinner and breakfast were included in the booking. For dinner, we had Hida beef sushi as one of the appetizers.
Yaki-zakana or grilled local fish was another tasty dish.
Sashimi of various types, including carp fish, was a delightful alternative to the grilled fish.
In the next morning, we had some delicious steamed local vegetables and hotspring congee for breakfast.
Soap made with the milky hotspring water of Shirahone Onsen was a decent souvenir.
After a day of pure relaxation at Shirahone Onsen, it was time for us to get moving again. There were only a few buses leaving the onsen village each day. We took the 10:15am bus to leave Shirahone Onsen.
We get off at Sawando Iwamidaira (さわんど岩見平) and crossed the road to wait for a bus heading to Takayama (高山), our next destination.
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE
Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)
Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)
Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)
Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)
Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)
Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)
Our driver Sangzhu dropped us near our hotel Trichang Labrang (赤江拉讓藏式賓館) in Barkhor Old Town. After dropping off our bags, we stopped by the eatery beside the hotel for a quick bite. The friendly eatery owners, a talkative young couple, were excited to welcome us and chatted with us. We ordered a Nepali platter, fried momo and two cans of local beer to celebrate the completion of our road trip. The momos were quite delicious, and went well with the beer made with Highland Barley. It was the last full day of the trip. After filling our stomach, we didn’t want to visit any attractions, but spent time wandering in Barkhor Old Town, checking out souvenirs, watching people, and photographing anything that interested us, until the dinner time. For dinner, we decided to try the Tibetan hotpot at “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱们的藏餐馆).
After returning to Lhasa, we stopped by the small local eatery next door from Trichang Labrang Hotel. The young owners were friendly and talkative.
To celebrate the completion of our 6-day road trip, we ordered some local beer and highland barley wine.
The most delicious snack we ordered was the fried momo (Tibetan dumplings).
For dinner, we revisited the “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱们的藏餐馆), the atmospheric courtyard restaurant nearby.
Again we ordered the highland barley wine (青稞酒). The wine came in an interesting bird-like pottery jar.
The main dish of the meal was the Tibetan hotpot. It came with vegetables, melons, beef, ham and yak meat.
We wanted to linger around Barkhor Old Town for a little longer after dinner.
In front of Jokhang Monastery (གཙུག་ལག་ཁང༌། 大昭寺), pilgrims, worshiped on the stone pavers as usual.
Other than pilgrims, tourists also gathered at the Jokhang forecourt.
In front of Jokhang main entrance, more pilgrims gathered to worship, including some Buddhist monks.
The sky was getting dark but the Jokhang forecourt was getting even more crowded.
Some pilgrims preferred to stay near the large flag pole in front of the Jokhang.
Around Jokhang, groups after groups of pilgrims and tourists walked the kora in clockwise direction around Lhasa’s most sacred site.
The kora route was flanked one side by souvenir shops and the other by the majestic facade of the Jokhang.
Along the kora route, many pilgrims were performing prostration the entire way.
Some tourists treated the pilgrimage forecourt as a public plaza and sat on the pavers to chill out among the pilgrims.
Among pilgrims and tourists, chilling out in the Jokhang forecourt included this large and gorgeous husky.
We would certainly miss the spiritual atmosphere of the Jokhang forecourt.
On our way back to Trichang Labrang Hotel, we passed by one last time the store where we bought our bottled water everyday of our Lhasa stay. The next morning, we would take the airport shuttle bus near the Potala and fly back to Hong Kong via Chengdu. Although short, it was a delightful experience for the three of us on the unique Tibetan culture and magnificent Himalayan landscape. Hopefully next time we could have more time and travel further to the western corner of Tibet.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet
DAY 2 (1/4): YEBISU GARDEN PLACE AND TOKYO PHOTOGRAPHIC ART MUSEUM, Ebisu (恵比寿), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15
On the second day, we decided to stay close to the area around Shibuya. We hopped on the Yamanote Line and went one stop over to Ebisu (恵比寿). Known as the God of Fishermen and Luck, Ebisu is a popular divinity in Japanese mythology. It was then used by Japan Beer Brewery Company to come up with the brand of Yebisu Beer back in 1890. Established their production facilities near Meguro, Yebisu Beer is one of the oldest beer brand in Japan. In the modern era, the train station and the surrounding community was named after the brewery as Ebisu. In 1988, the beer brewery were moved to a new location. The original brewery site at Ebisu was then transformed into a commercial complex consisted of office towers, retail, and museums known as the Yebisu Garden Place. The Western architectural style create a unique atmosphere, attracting young couples and the local community to dine, shop and relax.
Many tourists go to Yebisu Garden Place to visit the Museum of Yebisu Beer. We came specifically to visit Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP Museum). Opened in 1995, the museum is known as the only public museum in Japan dedicated to photography. The museum has recently gone through two years of extensive renovations. Three wall display of world famous photographs marked the museum entrance at the end of a colonnade. Three exhibitions were on and we opted to see them all. The first one was “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, a selection of works taken by Japanese photographers during the present Heisei era (平成). The second was Museum Bhavan by Dayanita Singh, a renowned female photographer who captures the various faces and colours of the magnificently complicated Indian society. The third was World Press Photo 17, the annual award event to compliment a selection of works by the world’s photojournalists in the past year.
The Yebisu Garden Place offers a lot of pleasant public spaces for the community of Ebisu.
Two traditional red brick buildings mark the entrance plaza of Yebisu Garden Place.
Many people arrived at Yebisu Garden Place about the same time as we did, probably going to work.
We arrived at Yebisu Garden Place in the morning at around 9am. We had breakfast at one of the cafe near the entrance of Yebisu Garden Place.
The interior of the cafe was causal and sleek.
Across from the cafe, the Yebisu Beer Museum offers visitors a glimpse of the history of Japanese beer. While a Mitsukoshi department store occupies the opposite side of the entrance square.
A barrel vault atrium and a gentle ramp frame the central axis of Yebisu Garden Place, with the Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon at the terminus.
We then walked under the canopy to the airy Central Square.
The design of Yebisu Garden Place is dominated by classical layout and axial arrangement.
Classical architectural elements include the colonnades that appear in a number of locations in the complex.
At the Central Square, there were benches painted with playful patterns that marked the 20th anniversary of the complex.
Yebisu Garden Place is frequented with locals. We saw a few who came dressed in traditional garments.
The Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon is a famous luxurious venue in the area of Ebisu.
Our main reason coming to Yebisu Garden Place was the TOP Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art Museum), formerly known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
The entrance colonnade of the TOP Museum offers visitors a pleasant approach.
Shōji Ueda (植田正治)’s Sand Dune and My Wife III (妻のいる砂丘風景III) , an iconic Robert Capa’s D-Day shots, and Robert Doisneau’s Le baiser de l’hotel de ville (Kiss by the Hotel de Ville) provide a dramatic setting for the museum entrance.
We stayed at the museum for about two hours, seeing three exhibitions including “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan, and World Press Photo 17. The TOP Museum is a fantastic cultural institution for anyone who love photography. It offers temporary exhibitions on four levels of museum spaces.
Visiting Nara and Kyoto in Japan, where historical temples and old timber houses mushroomed across the landscape and lined along the alleyways of the ancient capitals, is a close encounter with what we consider as the heritage of Japan. A brief visit to Kofukuji on our way out of Nara Park provided a proper closure to a fruitful day of cultural heritage when we had already seen Horyuji, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha. A prominent representation of the Nara Period (AD 710-794), the Buddhist temple had seen better days in history, primarily during Nara Period and Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185), when Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha controlled much of the politics and religion of the kingdom. Since, Kofukuji had gone through a gradual decline. The anti-Buddhist policies of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) gave the temple its final blow, when Kofukuji was forced to be separated from Kasuga Taisha, such that Shintoism could be separated from Buddhism.
Kofukuji is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism in Japan. Hosso, known as Yogachara in Indian Buddhism, is the school of Buddhism focused on meditative and yogic practice and believed that human experience is primarily constructed by the power of the mind. This school of philosophy was founded by the famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang (玄奘), who visited India in the 7th century for Buddhist teachings and scriptures. Some of Xuanzang’s pupils were later responsible to bring the teachings of Buddhism to Korea and Japan. As the headquarters of Hosso, Kofukuji was once a large temple complex comprised of 175 buildings. Today, only a few of the original architecture remained. While we were there, the Central Golden Hall was under renovation and covered with scaffolding. We could still, however, admired the ancient architecture of Kofukuji Temple, including the Octagonal Halls, Eastern Golden Hall and the iconic Five-storey Pagoda.
We passed by the iconic Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) on our way out of the Nara Park.
At 50m, Kofukuji’s Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) is Japan’s second tallest, and an iconic symbol of the city of Nara.
The beautiful Eastern Golden Hall (東金堂) houses a large wooden statue of Yakushi Buddha.
Overview of the Eastern Golden Hall and Five-storey Pagoda.
Founded in AD 813 and reconstructed in 1789, the Nanendo (南円堂, Southern Octagonal Hall) is another beautiful piece of architecture.
List of donor’s names near the Nanendo (South Octagonal Hall)
The stair down to Sanjo Dori Street was lined with donor’s flags.
A path off the stair led us to a platform where a cluster of small Buddhist shrines stood under a few maple trees.
A beautiful statue stood out from the cluster of shrines.
Reconstructed in AD 1181, the Three-storey Pagoda (三重の塔) is one of the two oldest surviving buildings at the temple complex.
The Nanendo viewed from the Three-storey Pagoda.
Nakatanidou (中谷堂) at Sanjo Dori near Kofukuji is famous for its traditional fast mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounding known as mochitsuki.
Yomogi mochi at Nakatanidou (中谷堂) are made with a wild Japanese plant called mugwort. These rice cakes were really tasty.
After a long day of temple hoping, we stopped by the relaxing Mellow Cafe for a quick bite. The cafe is famous for its stone pizza oven. We ordered a pizza with top with cheese and Japanese pickles.
And washed the pizza down with a glass of local beer…
Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan