Japan is very close to Korea, you can take a ferry or hop on a three hour plane ride to get there. When I first signed on with Chungdahm I promised myself that I would make it over to Japan to expand my horizons even further. I was able to keep this promise over winter vacation!
The golden shrine, Kinkaku-ji, in Kyoto
Kyoto is a really beautiful city. It is full of shrines and temples and quiet paths along rivers. We started our city tour with one of Kyoto's better known shrines, the "Temple of the Golden Pavilion," Kinkaku-ji. Although the shrine was full of people milling about and trying to get the best shot of themselves by the water, it was still peaceful. The reflection of the temple in the water is gorgeous and worth seeing, even if you are being pushed around by other tourists a little.
At a lot of the temples trinkets and charms and prayers written on paper are sold. There were also some gift shops on the grounds with various japanese snacks, like mochi (which was one of my favorite things about Japan). Along with these consumer items were fortune telling boxes! Luckily we found some with English fortunes, so I was eager to part with some yen coins to learn my future. It was a good one, although I don't want to spoil it by writing more here.
Along with the temple part of the shrine, there were many zen gardens to relax by. I love rock gardens, and these were meticulously pruned. So beautiful!
Bowing by a shrine
Most shrines had oranges and things for the new year. I tried a Korean buddhist style bow that I learned from my templestay for good fortune.
Another beautiful temple
A river path
Just walking around Kyoto was relaxing, the whole city is gorgeous, filled with trees and flowers, even in winter.
Along with the beautiful scenery, Kyoto had some amazing food. We stopped by a place that specialized in tofy and enjoyed a three course meal. There was broiled tofu, tofu in a soup pot, infused tofu, and many other treats to try.
Street sweet potato fries!
Kyoto also offered some amazing street food. There were octopus balls, tasty fried noodles, mochi, and plenty of things on skewers. I couldn't resist the sweet potato fries!
Along with great food came great drinks. I have never been a big fan of sake, but I decided to give it another shot in Japan. I'm glad I did, we had sake samplers at a hostel bar and I fell in love with a plum and ginger infused sake shot. There were some samples of sake I didn't care for, but the ginger plum made it totally worth it!
Jump shot in front of the Heian shrine!
We ended our night at the Heian Shrine, an imperialist temple with a huge red gate. The shrine is dedicated to former emperors. It definitely makes it mark, as the gates dwarf the buildings. There is also amazing street food and swarms of people around the shrine. All in all, I experienced a lot in Kyoto, and I would like to go back one day! It was a great winter vacation.
After graduating from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, Ariel Rosen looked back on the semester she spent traveling around Europe and decided she must explore Asia. Her teaching job with ChungDahm April in Busan allows her to experience South Korea firsthand and with the enthusiasm of all the children she teaches. She is overjoyed to share a class with them and finds herself learning more from them and the bright beach city around her everyday.
Read Ariel’s blog here: http://arieldrosen.wordpress.com/