A Taste of Japan: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

A visit to Kyoto isn’t complete without a trip through the stunning bamboo grove of Arashiyama.  There is nothing more humbling than acres of majestic trees towering above your head, cutting thousands of completely vertical lines 115 feet into the sky.

Bamboo has been revered for its durability for centuries, and it grows incredibly fast, making it a popular renewable resource; the wood is used in thousands of applications.  It is particularly important to the Japanese, who view it as a symbol of prosperity and see its simplicity as representing purity.  Bamboo is unique in its elegance, which is why stalks frequent many zen-hopeful desks, but they are seldom seen in such magnificence.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: Old Meets New

Japan is full of some of the most amazing culture and fascinating history.  With a civilization many centuries old, Japan has had a lot of time to evolve.  However, they staunchly retain the rich past that defines their architecture, shrines, attitudes, and traditions.  They respect each other and have an incredible work ethic.  They impress the world every year with their technology, yet they loyally maintain structures that have been in existence for over 1300 years.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: Nighttime Shrines

I only have a few more of these highlights before I get into the real meat of our trip.  This week has understandably been busy catching up from our vacation and preparing for another over Thanksgiving.  I know you’re anxious for the full daily accounts, but I’m afraid I’ll have to tease you for just a short while longer…

When you visit Japan, unless you try explicitly not to, you’re bound to wind up at a few shrines.  Fortunately, that’s ok, as every one is unique in their own way.  If you really want to mix it up, try visiting them after dark.  Check to make sure they’re accessible after hours, but if they are, this can provide a great opportunity to beat a lot of the crowds at some of the more popular destinations. Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: Street Food

Some of the best meals we had in Japan came from small street vendors.  We’re no strangers to personal proprietors specializing in a single dish (or few) from a small booth on a street corner; Portland’s food cart culture is renowned.  While we feared these establishments would be less adept at English, they actually proved easier when it came to ordering.  With only a few items offered – most physically present behind a glass pane – it was a simple matter of pointing and holding up two fingers.  And very like the much-loved, tiny food vendors at home, their business only survives if they’re really good (as patrons frequently have plenty of alternate options).

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading

A Taste of Japan: The Philosopher’s Walk

If you find yourself in Kyoto, set aside a morning for the Philosopher’s Walk.  Best un- (or lowly-) populated, early morning will afford you a quiet path upon which to calmly take in the song of the water and contemplate life’s mysteries.  The entire path is a little over a mile and is lined with shops, street vendors, restaurants, and temples.  Decorated with hundreds of sakura trees, this area is popular during cherry blossom season and is a great spot for fall color.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading