JAPAN I ❤ YOU

I am sad to leave Japan, I am normally very ready to get moving; it's a very rare thing that I want to stay somewhere indefinitely. I have fulfilled a dream but I could never have imagined the wonderful intricate and subtle entities I would encounter; and the incredible people I have met and friendships I have formed. I have found what I was searching for and I take this with me forever, but there is so much here to explore, and I've only shared a portion of what I did.

Japan, just like Arnie: I. Will. Be. Back... 

⁀⊙﹏☉⁀    (̃⊙.o      ⊙.◎)  ❤   (̃⊙.o      ⊙.◎)    ⁀⊙﹏☉⁀

奈良 NARA 

Japan's first permanent capital, Nara (奈良) is a most rewarding destination. It is the location of no less than eight Unesco World Heritage Sites, beautiful galleries, and a thriving traditional art scene... and generation old calligraphy and Hanko stamp craftsmen (and women) ;)

Running down left is the unwrapping of my Hanko stamp. Made from extremely rare & antique Parinseki stone which is prized for the shots of red colour through it. This red detailing is called Kei-ketsu meaning 'chicken blood'.

萌名 木作夢

Moena Moxham = Crush (as in the manga infatuation), Name, Tree, Make, Dream

Sasakawa Bunrindo- One of the oldest Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy) shops in Japan.

The piece de resistance of brushes

Compressed painting ink

The craftsman who created my stamp used a traditional and very special way of arranging the symbols. Note how the lines cut into the positive red at the top of the signature and 'dribble' out of the bottom of the rectangle. The presentation, experience of creating and final delivery were exceptional- I feel so immensely honoured.

The very special different types of stamp compositions- mine is in the style of the far right

Kei-ketsu - 'Chicken blood' and the type of stone I chose: Parinseki

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The centrepiece of the Nara temples is the Daibutsu (Great Buddha), which rating wise, rivals Mt Fuji and Kyoto's Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) as Japan's single most impressive sight. In my opinion it is AMAZING (not 100% sure I agree with 'most impressive' though- there are sooo many things- it really depends what category!).

Golden Pavillion- Kyoto

I loved the Golden Pavillion, but the tourist behaviour spoiled the experience. Nara on the other hand has a very very special feeling. The Great Buddha is housed in Tōdai-ji, a soaring temple that presides over Nara-kōen, a park filled with other fascinating sights that lends itself to relaxed strolling amid greenery and tame deer. Yep- you heard right, Bambi and her buddies are just hangin out around town.. honestly, it's the coolest thing.

Todai-ji

☸  ☸  ☸

Nara is also compact: it's quite possible to pack the highlights into one full day. Many people visit Nara as a side trip from Kyoto, by comfortable express trains in about half an hour, but with an overnight stay (see Ugaya below- such a special guesthouse) you might spend one or two days around the city centre and others seeing the sights out and about from Nara city (I did Asuka and Osaka easily but chilled for 6 nights comfortably).

Chagayu or tea rice porridge with sweet potato (kumera to us Kiwi) and sake pickles

SERIOUSLY good home roasted coffee! Coming from a Wellingtonian, thats a BIG compliment!

I was 11 when I became interested in Buddhism. I would go to Wellington Library and sit for hours reading about the philosophy and studying the artworks and symbology. My childhood next-door neighbours were an Indian family. From when I was tiny I was fascinated with the rituals, smells, food and Hindu deities of my next-door neighbours. On Sundays I would visit my friend and her grandmother would take us into the kitchen and let us sit there and watch as she made Indian delicacies. I would take these to primary school in my lunch alongside super spicy samosa- hence how I was nicknamed 'Hot Lips Hoolihan'- this became even funnier when I got a little older as I thought 'Hawkeye' from M*A*S*H was the beez kneez... ahh blesh!

I came across these stunning carvings of the different hand gestures at the wonderful Nara National Museum which has sculptures and artefacts from years 600. Mind blowing- especially fascinating for me as I have a thing for hands and gestures. The Galleries and Museums in Nara are sensational. For me they are the opitimy of historical arts, crafts and decorative application. The Kokuho-kan Museum has arguable the best examples of Japanese sculpture in the world, and the Todaiji Museum actually blew me away. I permanently looked like a goldfish.

YAKUSHI-JI Temple

Yakushi-ji is GEORGEOUS! It has to be one of my favourite temples as it is super colourful and has exquisite sculptures and artwork on display. It is also very very old- I wish I could show you pics, but well within reason, photos were not allowed (the above details are off the internet). It is a 25 min bus ride away from Nara and is well worth the trip. The grounds are splendid too.

This mural was in the restaurant!

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ASUKA

Asuka is a small region in Nara Prefecture (about 25 kilometers south of Nara City) which had a pivotal role in Japanese history. Lending its name to the Asuka Period (538-710), the Asuka region was the site of Japan's first capitals, from where the early Japanese national character emerged. A few monuments of that period remain, but the area is now mostly fields and rural villages. It is a day trip by train out of Nara and a well worth side trip- get your headphones and a wee snooze on!

The remnants of the Asuka Period, that remain in Asuka today, are mostly limited to stone monuments and archaeological excavations. Burial tombs such as the Ishibutai Tomb or the Takamatsuzuka Tomb are preserved in their original state. They are colossal, eerie and remarkable- we humans are amazing beings.

Artefacts and recreations are on display at museums like the Asuka Museum or the Complex of Manyo Culture (this is VERY GOOD and had an entire display on the beauty of poetry and a theatre puppet performance. I loved the life size sculpture displays of ancient Japan and incredible scale model architectural models with HOLOGRAPHIC videos onto them!!! Woooo. The glass flowers were inlaid in the passageway ceiling- >=< ) . Scattered among the region's villages and fields are also some of Japan's oldest temples and fantastic rock formations and exceptionally ancient relics- like masssssive turtle years (oh and a huge rock that looks like a turtle too hehe).

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OSAKA

I have a thing for jellyfish... and a low tolerance for zoo's and extreme heat, being a snow bunny and all.... so Osaka, honey, you fitted the bill that day. 

Osaka Aquarium

Osaka Aquarium

But get THIS- you can PAT THE STING RAY AND TIGER SHARKS. YEP... I hear you squeal- I was on it like white on rice baby.

P.s- those jellyfish I kept wondering about when I went swimming- yes, HIGHLY poisonous and with a very bad sting- god knows how I slipped around that one- and thank goodness my instincts were right when they thought the brighter the colour- the more venomous. Someone was helping me dodge raindrops. For the record: they are in the waters around Naoshima ;)

My little (Totoro) cotton socks got blessed on the mooch back to Osaka station with a window display by Tokyo artist Tomoko Konoike, representing the natural flora and fauna of japan on Japanese materials and leather. Hellz bellz mega-babein.

If you want to be challenged, engaged, inspired, plunged in, learn how to tune out, find your spirit, immerse yourself in nature, relax, crank up, become wise, remember to play and be silly... then Japan is the place for you. If you come with an open mind and want to discard your preconceptions, you will be rewarded in every way you can imagine. 

JAPAN I ❤ YOU

⁀⊙﹏☉⁀    (̃⊙.o      ⊙.◎)  ❤   (̃⊙.o      ⊙.◎)    ⁀⊙﹏☉⁀