Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hiroko & Katharine in Kyoto

A Generous Gift

As a thank you for the sacrifices that Hiroko & I (Katharine) made to support Matt & Chad as they served The Village Church team during their visit to Japan, the team gave us some money to spend on a "getaway" for a much needed break! What a generous gift!! Hiroko & I are very busy mothers with numerous tasks in & out of our homes. We are spread thin as we serve our families, friends, & neighbors. It was actually difficult for us to find a weekend in which we could plan our getaway so we settled on a one day excursion by shinkansen (bullet train) to the beautiful city of Kyoto!! 

Why Kyoto? 

Kyoto was the former capital of Japan and is famous worldwide for its temples and shrines. It was the center of politics and culture for 1,100 years until the capital was relocated to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. There are 17 historic sites & several World Cultural Heritage Sites. It is one of the best preserved cities in Japan because it was spared from much of the destruction of World War II. Not only was Kyoto highly recommended to us but it's only 45 minutes from Nagoya by bullet train!! 

We left early in the morning, grabbed a Starbucks (a rare treat) and boarded our shinkansen without strollers or diaper bags. Praise The Lord!! We decided to visit several of the major tourist sites of Kyoto.

Kinkaku-ji -"Golden Pavillion"


Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Buddhism Temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf. It's an extremely impressive structure. The area is very serene & visitors remain oddly quiet while viewing the gardens surrounding the temple. 
Many people were throwing coins at these stone statues for good luck. 
As I stood in front of this temple full of idols, I prayed. But instead of praying for good luck & prosperity, I prayed to the Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and I begged Him to open the eyes, ears, & hearts of the Japanese people so that they might repent & believe in Jesus Christ!! Lord, save them! 

Nishiki Market 

I learned from japan-guide.com that, "Nishiki market has a history of several centuries, and many stores have been operated by the same families for generations. It all started as a fish wholesale district, with the first shop opening around 1310, and today there are more than one hundred shops and restaurants. It is known as 'Kyoto's Kitchen', and specializes in all things food related!"
Many shops have free samples... and I'm so thankful that Hiroko was with me because I never know what anything is!! Pickled lotus root?! Dried squid? Roasted, candy coated baby octopus? Fermented beans? Raw fish ovaries?! What am I tasting?! I felt as though Anthony Bourdain might appear at any moment!! 
This is kibidango! It is a favorite Japanese treat. It's a lightly sweetened mochi rice ball on a stick. These are the three traditional colors with the green one being matcha (green tea) flavored. It's a unique Japanese dessert that we have come to love. 

Lunch

It was so nice to just sit with Hiroko and talk about life, kids, ministry, expectations, dreams, etc with no distractions!! I couldn't remember the last time I had such a rich, deep, & uninterrupted conversation with a friend. That alone was worth the trip! 

Kyoto is a beautiful city. If you are ever in Japan I highly recommend that you take at least 4-5 days to soak it all up. We ran out of daylight pretty fast so we had to rush to our last destination. We made it just after sunset so it was difficult to capture in pictures but it was very enchanting. 

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

According to japan-guide.com, "Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto.
 
It is famous for its thousands of vermilion tori gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice." 
Hiroko & I are proud to say that we got to visit Fushimi Inari shrine as it was recently awarded 1st prize from Trip Advisor in the category "2014 Japanese Site Popular With Foreign Tourists"! We hope to return one day to explore the trails and climb to the top of Mount Inari. It was too dark and too cold for us to do much this time around but we will be back!

Kyoto Train Station 

On our way back to the train station to eat dinner we came across downtown Kyoto's beautiful light displays & that elaborate musical Christmas tree. There were at least a hundred people taking pictures in front of the tree. I felt completely overwhelmed... I can't believe it's already time for Christmas!! 

We chose to have dinner at the train station mall. We were exhausted after a long day of walking in the freezing cold. We only saw three historical sites but with the distance we covered we felt rather proud of ourselves. We chose a very traditional Japanese style meal to end our "getaway". Our sore feet were ready to go back home to our sweet husbands & sleeping children. We had a wonderful time and I can't wait to take Matt & our family to Kyoto one day! There are still so many places to visit and explore! This was just a sliver of what Kyoto has to offer! 

We want to say a huge THANK YOU to the Village Church team that made this trip possible for Hiroko & I. We feel so cared for & appreciated. Thank you for coming to serve & for supporting your missionaries well! 


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