My time so far in Japan has been an incredible experience. Japan is such a beautiful country and there is so much to explore that I’m afraid I won’t have time to see it all. I am however grateful that the program I’m participating in has introduced me to many aspects of Japanese culture that I wouldn’t be able to experience as a tourist. This has included classes in pottery making, fan folding, Haiku, tea ceremony, and visits to national treasures such as Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion.
Kinkakuji Temple is a site well known throughout Japan and the wider world. It’s a truly exquisite building that is worth visiting during every season. I was lucky enough to visit the temple twice, once on the first day of the program and a second time on my first weekend in Kyoto, when the city was showered with a rare snow fall.
Many restaurants in Japan display their menu out the front in actual size plastic replicas. Manufacturing plastic food seems to be an important industry in Japan. It certainly makes things easier for tourists, who can avoid attempting to decipher a Japanese menu.
Our pottery making class was held in the vicinity of Kyomizu-dera Temple, another Buddist temple well known in Kyoto. I’m yet to return to visit the building itself, but I did enjoy snapping some pretty pictures as we left the area by dusk. It was truly the best time of day to visit.
I visited Fushimi-Inari on my first weekend in Kyoto. It’s a famous Shinto shrine which is popular with both tourists and locals. It officially started snowing steadily all day on Saturday, but despite the cold weather, the site was still extremely crowded. We completed the two-hour walk the top of the shrine while passing through a thousand red tori gates, and enjoyed some striking views of the city from above.
On Sunday I woke up to a winter wonderland. The whole city was blanketed in white powdery snow. Unable the sleep in as I had originally planned, I instead set out to return to Kinkauji to see the temple covered in snow. Everybody else clearly had the same idea, and the queue to enter spilt out onto the street. There was hardly room to move out the front of the temple and I couldn’t feel my feet by the end, but it was worth it just to see the snow contrasting against the golden exterior. Seeing as Kyoto doesn’t normally receive this much snow, I feel very fortunate to have been here at the perfect time. I don’t remember ever seeing this much snow on exchange in Germany, so it was a special sight for me to see.