21 september Kyoto (JAPAN)

[Stefy]: "Our Guesthouse, booked on line, is situated at the outskirts of Kyoto. It's hot and we struggle a bit to reach it with our heavy backpacks. The room is dirty and very smelly, there is no one around. We discuss with the elderly and annoyed owner and cancel our reservation.


We decide to contact one of our contacts of Couchsurfing in Kyoto: Eri, who happily welcomes us with pleasure in her small apartment on the opposite outskirts!

 

 

Eri soon asks us if we want to spend the evening with her and other worldwide couchsurfers at a temple in the city center where a Buddhist ceremony was going on!
What a question! We spend a nice evening though in the end we were exhausted!"

 

22 september Kyoto (JAPAN)

[Stefy]: "Wake up at 7:30, breakfast with rice soup and dried fish prepared by Eri!
We go to the Fushimi Inari Taisha, originally a beautiful sanctuary dedicated to the gods of rice and Sache and subsequently to prosperity in the trades.
We walk along a path that winds for 4 km, crossing hundreds of red Torii and stoned foxes with  a wrench in the mouth (metaphorically used to open stores of rice).

From there we reach the Chienin Temple,we climb many stairs of ancient stone up to a majestic Buddha... it is so strange to walk that floor that creaks emitting a sound much like the song of a "nightingale": it is the inside of the pagoda of the pray.
Suddenly a dozen of monks enters, they sit on the ground in the position of the lotus flower and begin their suggestive chant. Awesome!

We spend the whole afternoon in the Gion area to flush out and taste the extravagant food in Nishiki Food Market and then finish dinner at Musashi restaurant where we can enjoy the best sushi ever!

At Gion Corner we watch a play divided into several acts that showed the different aspects of the local culture: the solemn ceremony of the tea, the "Gagaku" (sweet show of harps), then an old comedy Kyogen (hilarious courtesan story) up to Kyomai (a dance with two Maiko) and Bunraku puppets."

23. september Kyoto (JAPAN)

This morning Kyoto delights us again showing its immense treasures! I am sure that even if we pass an entire week here we would discover new and interesting things.

In the morning we reach, by tram, Arashiyama to see another spectacle of Mother Nature: the "bamboo forest".


You feel so small among the tall and strong reeds, you almost feel like a small flea on the back of a giant porcupine.

 

We move north to the Ryean-Ji temple to relax in the picturesque Zen garden near the beautiful lake populated by mandarin ducks.
Needless to say, time seems to have stopped, in places like this, and young girls in kimono almost do not clash, indeed, seem to be the natural and indispensable element here.

Finally we get to Kinkakuji Temple and we are enchanted by its golden splendor.
A building of the XVI century that was set on fire by a monk obsessed by her beauty in 1950. It was soon restored to give it back its charm.
It was exciting to see this ancient Zen temple mirrored in a so transparent pond that you could see the many giant carps that roam it (sacred animal in Japan)!

 

24 september Matsumoto (JAPAN)

[Stefy]: "We cross much of the Japanese island by the train to Matsumoto. Masahisa, our coushsurfing contact here, takes us soon to visit the Castle. It was built in 1955 and its black and white colors have given him the name "castle of the crow."
Surrounded by a moat full of carps and elegant white swans: it is the oldest wooden castle in the country. Beautiful collection of antique weapons and armors of the legendary samurai.
Who knows how it must have been this place hundreds of years ago that still breathes air magic."

25 september Nagano (JAPAN)

[Stefy]: "We depart with Masahisa to the famous Jigokudani National Park, for the so-called “snow monkeys". We climb on a mountain path and we begin to encounter the first macaques... some are grooming, others take care of their kids... we pass a bridge that overlooks a pool of hot water where they immerse themselves and relax!
It has been  an unique feeling to see live what we usually watch in documentaries!
Needless to say, our cameras took pictures in a row, the same ones that are already imprinted in our hearts!

Not far away there is Kaminaridaki waterfall, it is not very famous because no bus gets there, it is only reachable by car, and the funny thing is that we can see it just from the inside.

Time to relax in a traditional onsen! Onsen are pools of very hot thermal water, men and women are separated and you have to enter completely naked.
After washing with soap and water I immerse myself... what a wonderful experience! Soon here comes a thin old woman and slowly dips... then another and another... ladies of all ages... I’m immersed in hot water with all these nude Japanese around, all of a sudden, it seemed to me like the most natural thing in the world.
The real magic was yet to come... soon after we move outside in the forest. Naked in the forest in a hot pool... the sounds of nature... the steam all around... the sense of absolute freedom...

 
 

At Nagano we stop at Zenco-Ji Temple. Here it’s kept the triad of Amida Buddha which is not exposed to the public and it is said that no one has ever watched it for 1000 years.
Next to one of the altars, we go down to the Okaidan, a gallery in the dark that symbolizes the death and then the rebirth, in fact: after covering a corridor without seeing anything, with the right hand attached to the wall, you suddenly touch an object that is the key to salvation.
After turning it, you continue for a few meters and you start to see the light. here is the rebirth.

At the exit there was a statue of Binzuru, a follower of Buddha; in some places it was very consumed because if  you touch it on the diseased parts you get a hope of recovery."
 
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