It's been too long…
Just a little while ago a little event known as New Years took place and before that, Christmas. Year after year most of us spend this time with family giving gifts and what not. But this year I decided to mix things up a bit and spend my festive season in Japan, leaving Christmas behind me - or so I thought! Apparently, everyone here loves any excuse to have a festival and Christmas is huge with massive decorations up everywhere. It's much more extravagant than anything in Australia. Even Christmas dinner is the most amazing thing ever: everyone I've spoken to enjoys a lovely big box of KFC chicken on Christmas Eve. What could be better? Still, as I thought there's not a lot of focus on Christmas here. I wasn't really expecting to celebrate Christmas, which is a small price to pay for the 2-month holiday of a lifetime. But still Christmas morning came, and BAM! - a small box from Mum arrived and another from Dad. Both were filled with chocolate and the best of gifts because apparently they haven't given me enough already.
Christmas aside, it's time for New Years - I'm told it's rather important. This year my host family, the Egawas, decided that New Year would be spent at Hamamatsu, the home of unagi (eel) - which I might add is delicious. On the two hour trip to Hamamatsu, we stopped at Ryōtan-Ji Temple. Now I'm not exactly sure the purpose of the temple is. The word Zen was thrown around a bit, but I think that was lost in translation. Either way, it was beautiful: big, well-maintained gardens and huge, decorated buildings dating back hundreds upon hundreds of years. Moving on to Hamamatsu, we arrived at a big hotel, the tallest building in Hamamatsu. High raised ceilings, an all you can eat buffet and BEDS! Hamamatsu, like many Japanese towns and cities, is in no short supply of castles and shrines. It's home to a rather cute castle which I'm told was the home of the first Shogun (maybe).
Unagi pie! It tastes a bit like cornflakes, I'm not really the biggest fan. Still, we visited the Unagi pie factory which was kind of crazy. Maybe its because I've never seen the inside of a factory before but there were so many moving parts. Even the people operated like robots! It was possibly the strangest thing I saw.
But it's time to step away from Hamamatsu and all the popular tourist destinations. It turns out my favourite place in Japan is right here in Susono, I Kyo Ji. Maybe I got the name wrong. (Cannot find the correct name/spelling - Editor) It was beautiful, untouched by tourists and people. At first, all you see is a small building with an equally small bridge leading to the building. But its not until you get close that you see the bridge stands above a deep cavern with water rushing through it. It's the same again on the other side of the building. The building is on a huge floating pillar of rock, surrounded by these deep caverns with fast flowing water. Around the building, many small statues are littered about, covered in moss and almost unrecognisable as people. There are also rough, worn down steps to the river below. I don't know why, but this one little place was more beautiful than anything I've seen in Japan and no-one has even heard of it.
Stay tuned, I only have about 6 days left in Japan and there's much still to say. Part 4 will be here soon!
|Ryōtan-Ji Temple Gate|
|Ryōtan-Ji Temple Gardens|
|William outside Hamamatsu Castle|
|New Year's sunrise at Hamamatsu Hotel|
|Go Ryu no Taki (The Five Dragon Falls) with Kurara, the dog|
|I Kyo Ji|