Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Heroine Of Meiji Restoration Era And An Amiable For Saga People

In Kameyama Park in Arashiyama, Kyoto, we chanced upon a bronze statue under a shady tree. Hubby didn't give it a second glance but I decided to stop because I wondered about the statue of the old lady there.
From the plaque nearby (in Japanese, English and Korean), the statue is of Tsuzaki Muraoka-no-Tsubone (1786-1873), the daughter of Sakyo Tsuzaki and was a court lady-in-waiting and a member of the imperial loyalists towards the end of the shogunate area.

The Statue was designed in 1928 by Sakatani Ryonoshin, and the model for casting was crafted by Nakamuta Sanjiro. 

Tsubone was on friendly terms with the priest Gessho, Ugai Kichizaemon of Mito and others, functioning as a contact among loyalists and between loyalists and court nobles. She was particularly supportive in activity by Saigo Takamore, and others. For her involvement, she was arrested and exiled twice.

Later, coming back to Kyoto, she reconstructed the Jikishian Temple and lived on its grounds for the remainder of her life and educated local children.

Although Muraoka-no-Tsubone is regarded as a heroine of the Meiji restoration, in her later years she was also an amiable mother to the people of Saga.

No wonder I felt compelled to stop for the statue. Such a strong woman!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Moon Crossing Bridge In Kyoto

Our first day in Kyoto was spent in Arashiyama and after a quick brunch, we took a train to Hankyu Arashiyama station.
First, a leisurely walk and a stop at the famous Togetsukyo Bridge and then we walked along the river to get to another famed spot in Kyoto; the Bamboo Groves.

The Togetsukyo Bridge has a 1,000 years of history behind it.
The Togetsukyo Bridge  (the moon crossing bridge) is a landmark in Arashiyama. The bridge was named by the retired Emperor Kameyama of the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333). The story was that he went boating on the river under a full moon, and remarked that the moon looked like it was crossing the bridge. Or something like that...
The bridge was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and is believed to be built in 836, when the priest Dosho (a disciple of Kobo Dashi, founder of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism) was conducting construction repair work along the Oi River.

The current bridge which was rebuilt in 1934, appears wooden but has columns and beams all made of reinforced concrete.
I have to say, unless we know the history of the bridge, the bridge is just a bridge that happens to have lots of visitors walking across it. Sorry! That's me, the uncouth tourist talking!
And oh yes, plus a number of visitors either in normal wear or clad in traditional kimonos being pulled on a "jinriksha" (pulled rickshaw) across the bridge and soaking in the lovely scenery along the river.
Nearby the Bridge, there's a row of shop selling souvenirs and tea-houses and cafes too. We relaxed on the riverbank and enjoyed the scenery and had a simple picnic, bought at a konbini near the train station.
In 2005, the Arashiyama Preservation Society Hydro-Power station was built along the river. Water from the Katsura River is used to generate electricity for the foot lights illuminating the Bridge as the sun sets.

We missed the night view during our visit in Sep 2015 but maybe we''ll get to see it one day, in future. ^^
We strolled and saw pleasure boats glided by, piloted by skilled rowers. There were visitors on paddle boats and kayaks seen too, as we made our way along the river.
We soak in the green foliage (it was still summer when we were there) and enjoy the cooling breeze.
The persimmon trees that dotted the area were just fruiting.
It wasn't until we reached the Bamboo Groves that we came into groups of other tourists who were also visiting the area.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

First Cabin - A Luxury Kind Of Dorm

On our second day of our trip in September, we headed to Kyoto after spending a night in Osaka.

We planned to spend a day of sightseeing around Kyoto before making our way to Toyooka the next day. Toyooka is the town we spent two days in, as I joined the Tango Ultramarathon which is held in a nearby town.

Our hotel of choice this time, after spending a night in a capsule hotel in Osaka was First Cabin which is as the name mentioned, a cabin style accommodation.
There are two types of cabin offered - First class cabin and business class cabin.
I stayed in a First Class cabin while the boys stayed in a business class cabin which was of course a tad smaller and cheaper compared to the First Class cabin. ^^

Entry into our respective cabins are by the access cards provided to each guest.
My cabin, located at the end of the row.
Son in the Business Class cabin. He quite enjoyed the experience of having his own space now and love both the capsule hotel and First Cabin. 
A peek into my cabin.
Our cabins are equipped with a 32 inch LCD TV, wi-fi and amenities such as pyjamas and slippers for our stay.
It really felt rather luxurious, and for not a lot of Yen to boot! As the cabin is closed by a curtain and cannot be locked, safety boxes are placed in each cabin. 
Toilets and vanity area are located on the same floor as my cabin but I had to go down a floor below for the communal shower.
Separated for men and women, of course. Shower area can only be accessed by our access card, the same as access to our cabin floors. Good security!

A tad of a problem though... We are reminded to be considerate to fellow guests and to refrain from making noise. This was great and all guests observed this but I felt guilty munching and ruffling through my snack packs and wondered whether it was too noisy for my next door neighbour! Huhuhu

I really had a good rest here and woke up all refreshed the next day and all ready for our next adventure! 

Friday, 27 November 2015

Tsutenkaku - A Building Leading To Heaven

When I first saw the tower, I actually thought it was really nothing special. Tsutenkaku (or what some of us tourists call the Hitachi Tower) isn't that tall. Rather, it's location in Shinsekai (New World) that caught my interest and later I leaned about the interesting history of the tower itself.
While Shinsekai has the meaning of "new world", it is not "NEW" in today's current view. The area was developed during the pre-war era and was neglected for decades.
Patterned after the Eiffel Tower and with its surrounding; the Arc De Triopmhe, the original Tsutenkaku Tower was the highest structure in East Asia at the time it was built in 1912 at 64 metres.
The original structure suffered a fire in 1943 and was severely damaged and the tower's steel was used for war effort.

After the war, citizens and shop owners in the area of Shinsekai (New World) lobbied to rebuild the tower in order to regenerate the area. An NHK documentary showed how shop owners of Shinsekai bought shares of the tower, when the effort to rebuild the tower started and funds were needed for it.
The current Tsutenkaku tower stands at 103 metres, with an observation deck located at the height of 91 metres and where one can see "Biliken", the Japanese God of Things As They Should Be.
As Hitachi as its sponsor, visitors to the area can see Hitachi name displayed prominently on the tower.

The tower is famous for its neon lights, although it was shut down during the oil crisis of 1974-1976. The neon lights is now replaced with LED lights showing different color sets every two months.

Walking around the surrounding area of Tsutenkaku can feel a bit surreal. For me, at least.
There were shops that seems to have no business at all, with old, sunlight-worn merchandises on display. Shops selling used electronic items. Hubby and Son relished stopping at a shop selling old computer games, both consoles and cartridges.
There were the shops that target tourists, with plenty of items sold for souvenirs and of course feature Biliken. There were performance artistes holding a show at one corner, with old ladies selling snacks seated directly opposite them. A mime at the entrance too. Then, we get to see some quaint cafes selling coffee and sandwiches tuck amongst it all. And of course, long lines at shops selling kushi-katsu; deep-fried skewered food that seemed to be hugely popular with everyone.

We visited the area during the day which was really packed with people.
Then later at night, Hubby and I enjoyed a quiet and lovely view of the area and Tsutenkaku in peace. At 3.00am, to be exact. ^^

At that time, the tower indeed looks romantic and a sight to behold.

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