SYNOPSIS:  A few words about toilets, indeed a topic that needs to be discussed when it comes to Japan.  A toilet-culture of the highest complexity with some useful and some frivolous features.


Picture this:  I approach a toilet at the end of a sizable bathroom and as I am about 3 feet away the lid opens.  I was so startled, I turned around to see if there was anyone else in the room who might have pushed a button.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY



SYNOPSIS:  About one of the three high festivals in Kyoto and the nights before and in between.


There are three key festivals in Kyoto, and I had planned my stay in Kyoto to experience one of them, the Gion Matsuri.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  About the Nishiki Food Market, the Tea Ceremony at En, and the Gion Corner Potpourri performance of Japanese Culture.


Culture presents itself not just in permanent structures such as temples and shrines, but also in small tangible ways, etiquette of behavior, dress, food, music, theater, etc.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  About a temple, a rundown shrine and a missed one, a famous bridge and tea.


Uji is a small town between Nara and Kyoto that nobody would pay much attention to where it not for four things all at once: some of the best tea is coming from the Uji region, ten chapters of the famous Tale of Genji are taking place in Uji, and a whopping two of the 17 UNESCO monuments that are usually rolled together as the “Kyoto world heritage sites” are actually from Uji, which attests to its historical importance as the link between Nara and Kyoto.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY



SYNOPSIS:  Walking in the emperor’s footsteps.  About the Imperial Palace,  Katsura Imperial Villa, and Nijo Castle.   About permits and bureaucracy.


Walking in past emperors’ steps can be an awesome experience.  I am thinking of Versailles, for example, where the sheer size of the palace, the glittering opulence, the never-ending rooms, staircases, alcoves and hallways permeate the ego of the emperor to this very day.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY



SYNOPSIS:  About Kamigamo, Shimogamo, Heian Jingu, and Fushimi Inari Taisha.   


Temple saturation level has been reached, even for me.  So, what shall we do today?  I have a great idea:  let’s do shrines!  I realize that the concept of a “great idea” varies from person to person and that you think I am kidding, but I am not.  Shrines it is today.  I promise, at least one of them will be awesome even if it is one that did not make it onto the world heritage list.  It’s everyone’s favorite.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  About a flea market, about sand, bees, an out of place art gallery, a Buddha who turns his head, an unexpected aqueduct; all in the context of a few temples such as the Ginkakuji, in the Okazaki area. 


There wasn’t a flea in this market and I regretted having gone through all the effort and time to get here in this excruciating heat.  I even took a taxi for part of it!  Of course, 33° Celsius does not come even close to the 50° I had to endure in Mali last year.… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  About the most famous of all temples, the Kinkakuji, and a few others, and about Japanese Manga.


Ninja Museum was a note I had scribbled on my map.  All I remembered was that it was about popular culture.  And all I can think of when I think of popular culture in Japan is the Ninjas.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  About temples that play hard to get, about a bamboo grove.   About a failed date.


I had a date tonight!  After a full day of temple visits I had gone home to prepare.  I washed my hair, put on nice clothes and if I ever would use lipstick, this would have been the day I would have put it on.  Since I could not have a date with a person, I had decided on a date with the theater.  I would have a night out in Kyoto!… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  About technology and about the lack thereof.  About temples (in the post script) and one hall that boggles the mind and that should not be missed.


I did not think I would witness a low-tech scene like this in high-tech Japan.  So far I had been impressed by airport control systems that would scan my innocent milk-tea bottle and allow me to take it rather than force me to throw it out — why don’t we have something like this?… VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY