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A wander through the long covered laneway that is Nishiki Market was a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds.

lrg_dsc03976Wood-ear mushroom and cod cake sticks, roe-filled grilled squid, chestnut mochi and custard filled hedgehog pastries were our chosen treats.

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The following photographs feature fresh wasabi, Yuzu Bettara (pickled Japanese radish with Yuzu and chilli dressing),  sea urchins, super-sized oysters, quail egg-filled tiny octopus and the cleanest of apples.

 

Arishiyama is also the home of the UNESCO World Heritage temple, Tenryu-ji. This place was the site of the first Japanese Zen temple (in the 9th century) and in its current form continues as a temple of the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.

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The 14th century designed Zen garden is, like the temple, set among the backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The designer was Muso Soseki and his approach of incorporating the external environs of the garden is called shakkei, which means borrowed landscape.

 

Muso Soseki (1275-1351) was hugely influential in establishing Zen Buddhism in Japan. As well as being a Zen Master and garden designer, he was a poet, teacher and calligrapher.

This poem (translated by American poet, W S Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu) appears in This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, curated by the wonderful Naomi Shihab Nye.

 

 

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This is a segment of a Japanese print by Keisai Masayoshi. The print was made in 1787 and depicts The Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji (金閣寺) in Kyoto.

Here it is today, captured by the opening and closing of a camera shutter.

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The top two floors are covered in gold leaf. The temple has had several iterations since it was first constructed in the late 14th century as a villa for the Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. There have been several destructive fires over time. Today’s building was completed in 1955, replacing the one burned down by a Buddhist monk in 1950.

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At the Fushimi Inari Shrine you can walk up to Mount Inari through the Senbon Torii or ‘thousands of gates’. The sun emerged from behind the clouds this morning making photographs more easy to take, notwithstanding the many many people who were there.

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Inari is one of the most important kami or spirit gods in the Shinto religion. The name means ‘carrying rice’ or ‘rice load’. She seems to take either a male or a female form and oversees a large portfolio that includes general prosperity, rice (which includes sake), tea, fertility and foxes. Foxes or kitsune are the messengers of Inari.

Foxes certainly feature here. Many fox statues are depicted holding symbolic objects such as sheafs of rice or keys. They are adorned with red votive or offering bibs called yodarekake which translates literally as dribble hang.

The small wooden tablets that are available at many temples in Japan are in the shape of fox heads here. You draw a face on the front and write your wish on the back before hanging it. Some also leave offerings of aburaage. According to folklore, real foxes are quite fond of this deep-fried tofu.

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We discovered a delightful breakfast cafe just around the corner from our hotel in suburban Osaka this morning. The regular clientele were all elderly citizens, one of whom rushed to clear a table space for us as we entered. We had a breakfast set which included a small potato salad, raisin toast, a hard-boiled egg and tea/coffee for which we parted with the princely sum of 700 yen (A$8.60).

Back to the train network and on to Kyoto. We are staying in Gion, a famous geisha district. In Kyoto, the local word for geisha is geiko or “women of art”.

Our first port of call was the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art and an exhibit of the work of Yayoi Kusama.

Then, a leisurely stroll around the district to see Yasaka-jinja Shrine and Yasaka Pagoda.

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A photograph of this stunning opera cake with matcha mandala drew us in to the Salon de Kanbayashi for tea and coffee.

There were lots of beautiful kimono on show this afternoon. No doubt there will be more to see in the days ahead.