Saturday, November 15, 2014

Osaka, Japan 05'10'2014

Long hiatus.

For months I haven't posted anything in this blog. At first I lost the time, but then I lost the energy. I still took pictures when I went on trips but then I grew tired of posting them.

Around a few months back while I was editing my pictures, I found that they weren't as good as I wanted them to be so I lost the will to share them.

Then so many stuff happened especially at work. I also went on vacation. I lost many things and I lost my spirit. I lost myself.

But then I realised a few days back that I lost my passion because I forgot why I started this in the first place. I started this blog to share my experiences with the people I love. I started this blog because I wanted to really experience and remember the places I go to.

Somewhere along the way I became a photographer for the people I was with on trips when what I really wanted to do was to photograph the places around me.

This made me realise that I always lose myself when I am around people because I concern myself on what they want too much (good pictures of themselves) over what I really wanted (good pictures of my surroundings).

Instead of happily walking and experiencing places, I started to compromise, rush my pictures and shorten my trips because the people I was with are either too tired, too hungry, or too bored. That was not me. That was not what I wanted to do. I never cared if I got lost, If I was too tired, or too whatever as long as I was out and about experiencing the place that I was in first hand. It made my pictures bad (IMO), It made me lose my passion in taking photos of things.

I applied this realisation to the other aspects of my life and thought that I really did concern myself with other people too much, the people who didn't matter, and in that process I really have lost myself - I lost the things that made me happy.

"Life is too short to try to please other people. Remember that the only people who matter in your life are only those who you matter to - in their life. They are not other people, they are your people."

Well I am still in the process of recovering from the many sad things that has happened to me in the past months but at least I am recovering. I am trying to live a life now where I focus on me and the things and people that make me happy and trying not to lose that focus despite other (dark) forces that try to distract me.

I will surround myself with things I love and with people that love me.

I'm gonna try to catch up to my photos in the next few days. This post was supposed to be from last May but I am posting it now. It is a three part series on Japan.


It was going to be one of my best trips yet. I was planning to go to so many places and eat many things. My budget was my credit card. But alas, things often change and I had to make last minute changes to my plans.

I was originally planing to go explore Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji. But when I learned that Himeji Castle, the largest castle in Japan, is under renovation and scaffolds are covering its facade, I had to change my plans. I ended up googling places to go around Osaka and decided on Kyoto and Nara. Whereas Himeji and Kobe are to the west, Kyoto and Nara are to the east.

We arrived in the hotel at night and we immediately went out to Osaka Station to ask for directions for out plans the next day and have dinner before we sleep.

Fried fish.
Raw fish
Dinner was nice. Japanese rice really has a very great flavor and texture to it that just keeps you wanting more. I think When I eat in Japan, the rice is really what I crave for.

The next day we woke up early to go to Kyoto.

After Kyoto we still had so much time, we decided to do that day what we planned to do for the next day. We went to Nara.

After Nara we came back finally to Osaka, Insanely tired and sleepy we went straight on to the hotel with plans still for the next day.

The next day, Osaka Castle. It wasn't really part of our plan to go anywhere on that day, but Osaka Castle was near, historic, and disappointed me because of one huge detail that I missed reading about.

Kyobashi going to Osakajokoen
The japanese on rush hour?
There were a lot of people on the train at the time we went to Osaka Castle. I was surprised to see people weren't rushing to sit on the chairs inside the train, many people were opting to just stand up.

It was a gloomy cloudy day so I wasn't really expecting to see people in Osaka Castle that much... which was good.

A girl taking a picture of the Osakajokoen sign.
Beautiful green as far as the eye can see.
A moat surrounding Osaka Castle
The moat acts like a perfect mirror.
My favorite picture.
From Osakajokoen station, there was still a lot of walking to do before reaching the actual Osaka Castle. Thankfully we were greeted with fresh cool air, very very few people, and a lot of greenery.

When we reached the moat that surrounded the castle, there was no wind. Which prompted me to take many mirror effect pictures with ok results.

Osaka Castle from across the bridge.
Osaka Castle through a wall
Up close.
Even closer.
Upon reaching the bridge on the moat, we got a clear view of Osaka castle. It was a very nice looking building. Walking towards it there were very few people, maybe one or two walking towards the castle, but then we realized that we were facing the back end of the castle and not the front. When we did get to the front of the castle we were surprised...

School girls & boys.
School girls.
There was a field trip of school girls and boys, probably still in primary school, who were touring the castle and castle grounds. Needless to say there were no "few people" anymore.

We entered the castle and there was one supremely disappointing thing I learned that I did not know about Osaka Castle...

A girl clad in samurai armor.
Samurai Armor.
For one, pictures weren't allowed inside and it was very difficult to hide a few clicks or two with my camera so I could only take the two pictures above.

Second, it is NOT the original Osaka Castle, apparently the original was destroyed in a previous war and this one is just a copy complete with an elevator to reach the top! An elevator! I was really disappointed given that my original plan was to go to Himeji Castle. at least the view at the top was nice...

View from the top.
You can still see the school children running around the castle grounds even from the top floor.

After reaching the top of the castle we went straight home.

Our whole trip from Osaka to Kyoto to Nara and then Osaka again was... tiring but an amazing, near once in a lifetime experience. It opened my eyes to the beauty the world can hold and the genius of man in shaping it. I would go back to Osaka again of course hopefully, Himeji Castle will be open by that time.

Until my next trip, Sayonara!

Kyoto, Japan 05'10'2014

The first tour of the day... Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto in mount Inari. This place is famous for having a lot of beautiful Torii (gate) and it was featured in the anime "Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha" a must watch before you visit Fushimi Inari!

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From the hotel we went to Osaka Station and then from there we went to Kyoto. Good thing the trip was a long so we got to take a nap.

When we got to Kyoto Station we still needed to transfer and take the next stop to get directly to the front gate of Fushimi Inari Taisha...

Main gate of Fushimi Inari. So many people!
Towards the main Building of Fushimi Inari.
There were a lot of people in the train from Kyoto Station to Fushimi Inari and there were even more people in the temple itself. A mix of tourists and students really made the place too crowded for my taste. Plus it was so hot! My photos came out overexposed and I had to save them!

The place was indeed very beautiful though. the red/orange Torii were a great contrast to the sky and the surrounding trees...

Facade of the main building.
Paper lantern decoration.
An old guy praying to the gods.
Everything was very bright. It was high noon when we arrived and I didn't bring my sunglasses so I had to squint a lot. Still, in the pursuit of a great tour we pressed on to climb the winding stairs of the temple.

Kitsune again.
Initially on your first flight of stairs you will be greeted by two statues of Kitsune (fox) on each side because apparently the god of the temple (Inari Okami) is a god of foxes.

Map of Fushimi Inari Taisha.
A few more steps and we saw a map of the area posted beside the main path. At first I thought oh the entire place seemed small and easy to go through. Oh how wrong I was...

Multiple Torii leading the path.
A small shrine by the side of the Torii
Multiple shrines with it's caretaker.
Heading up deeper in to Fushimi Inari you will see the things it is most famous for, the multiple Torii that line its pathways.

Each Torii had some names written on them and those are apparently names of people/companies. The people/companies have to pay a sum to Fushimi Inari to have their personal Torii put in the temple. This is for good luck and once the place is filled with Torii you have to wait until one gets destroyed, apparently.

Worn down Torii leading to a rest area.
More climbing!
To wash yourself.
Climbing up up and up. I don't think I have ever climbed up so many flights of stairs! It was seemed to us an endless flight of stairs, endless Torii, that I think somewhere along the way we got so tired that we weren't really "in the moment" anymore. We took a rest so many times and we were really looking forward to reaching the top when suddenly...

From up to down.
The stairs suddenly went from up to down. I was like: "WTH!! Where is the top? the summit? the great view?

I looked at the map and asked myself how could we have completely missed the top of the mountain?

I looked again and again until I realised that we must've been at the top "a few shrines ago" and we didn't realise because there was no sign. But then, I looked even more at the map on the signboard on the entrance I saw that the pathway wraps around mount Inari so I guess there really wasn't a summit? Disappointed?

A shrine.
I'm guessing this is a shrine or a grave?
heading down we saw a completely huge detour. It was a complex of multiple shrines/graves - we weren't really sure which so we were very reluctant to explore it as it might've been a graveyard.

Regardless I went in and explored anyway and took some pictures (shown above).

Going a bit further down I saw a path with only a single Torii. I got curious and decided for us to go down there instead of the one we previously took. Because I like going to "roads less travelled" or "off the beaten path".

A single Torii leading the way to another path.
Entering the path after the one Torii, there were only trees, lots and lots of trees and there weren't any people so I was getting pretty nervous that we might be lost but then I remembered I had google maps so we can not possibly get lost as long as I had GPS!

After walking so much we finally reached the end and we were very surprised. We realised why there weren't so many people...

Residential area.
The exit was a residential area. A residential area! There were no people along the streets because I guess there were at work/school. The path we took was for locals and not for tourists!

When the streets finally registered on my phone I saw that we walked a whole train station away from the one we previously went in! That was a lot of walking.

We headed back to the station and there were still so much time! so we decided to head on to the nearest tourist attraction... Nara Park in Nara...

Nara, Japan 05'10'2014

I had always known about Nara Park. Given that Fushimi Inari was just a few stations (OK maybe not a few) away from Nara Station and to Nara Park, this was the easiest place to get to before heading back to Osaka.

We were tired from climbing Fushimi Inari, very very tired, good thing there were very few people in the train and the ride was long, we got to take a nap, and rest before hours of walking again.

Sign going to Nara Park.
Upon getting out of the train, there were already signs on how to get to Nara Park and how long it will take to get there, convenient!

Some girls offering prayers to Lord Buddha?
Five Story Pagoda
Five Story Pagoda up close.
The first part of Nara Park we got see was the Kofuku-ji temple complex. We weren't really expecting to see anything in Nara Park aside from... well the usual park stuff like gardens and trees. But then we realised that Nara Park is composed of many stuff like temples, museums, shops, etc. We were exited to explore some more!

We were in awe of the buildings especially the Five Story Pagoda pictured above. It is so much larger than what my picture suggests. I wish I could capture its beauty but I believe I did not do it justice.

After walking a bit further we finally saw what Nara Park was famous for...

Portrait of a deer.
Deer resting in front of the Nara National Museum.
A very funny warning sign about deer behavior.
Feeding the deer.
Deer Portrait.
Free roaming deer. The one thing Nara Park is truly known for. The deer are considered sacred because of it's affiliation with a God in Shinto.

They are very cute and are not shy of humans. They WILL approach you if they think you have food and they will even hound you like dogs if they are hungry enough. Still, they are sacred.

My friend was actually carrying a plastic bag filled with trash from our lunch because we couldn't throw it away, there is NO trash bin in the entire park! Anyway, a deer smelled the plastic bag and proceeded to actually snatch the said bag from her hand. My friend was screaming and screaming in fear! But still, I thought it was cute.

Walking a bit further we rested in a field and then I saw something beyond the trees on the hills...

A field in Nara Park with Mount Wakakusa in the back.
I had my glasses on so I could see very clearly. And when we were resting on the field I saw some people on the top of the hill beyond the trees.

I was very curious about what they were doing there and I thought that there must be a nice view up there. So my friend and I walked a bit closer and learned that it was indeed a part of the park and you can climb it. It was called Mount Wakakusa.

Look at that pee.
A Part of Mount Wakakusa from the foot of the mountain.
We walked towards the foot of the mountain. There was a cafe and deers taking a rest in front and I could clearly see people taking pictures and walking and stuff.

I walked towards the gate, bought the ticket, (yes you pay to climb) and was given a map of the mountain. There are three summits and that of the picture above isn't even the first.

Mount Wakakusa first summit.
Mount Wakakusa Third Summit.
It was a very painful climb up so my friend just waited down the summit and I climbed alone. I was already very tired from climbing Fushimi Inari and now I decided to climb Mount Wakakusa. Yeah I am pretty dedicated when it comes to exploring places.

Climbing up along the series of stairs towards the first summit I was already panting heavily and my nose was running for an unknown reason. When I reached the first summit I saw there was still so much to climb! Plus there weren't any stairs anymore!

I took a rest and then climbed to the second summit. the path was a bit narrow and steep and I was so tired that there were moments when I lost balance and risked falling down!

When I reached the second summit, I took a picture of the first summit below me and the third summit still above me (pictured above). Then I decided to climb up further towards the third summit...

Last few steps toward the third summit.
Me lying down on the third summit.
Nearing the third summit, the path presented me with stairs yet again. I was somewhat relieved to see the stairs because it would mean that it'd be easier to balance myself while climbing up.

When I reached the third summit I was literally just so tired that I did not give a damn about anything else and just lied down on the first patch of grass that I saw.

My legs were killing me, my feet were in pain. I was breathing heavily and all I could do was lie down and rest and close my eyes and remove my glasses.

After resting there were still so much to explore...

A sign post leading to somewhere...
This is what the signpost lead to.
A sign marking Mount Wakakusa's third summit.
I looked around me and I saw a sign and a path that lead to somewhere. I followed it and at the end there was a huge rock with writings on it. Out of my sheer tiredness - I forgot to take a picture of the rock. I only have a picture of the path leading to it.

I only roamed around for a little more trying to get my energy back and then decided to go on back down...

Path leading down from the third summit.
Another photo of the path down.
From the second summit, deer also heading back down after grazing through the grass.
From the first summit. View of Nara City.
Climbing down is always easier than climbing up. I relished looking at the views of Nara City and the fresh air that kept gently blowing off my face. I thought to myself: I climbed two "mountains" today and I got to see great views, it was a great workout, it was a great day.

The deer who went down with me from the summit.
Last photo of a cute deer. 
When I got back down the deer were already there eating through the grass. I was feeling tired but great. It was getting darker and darker fast we hurried on to Nara Station...

Heading back to Osaka.
Train back to Osaka.
Kyoto and Nara in one day was totally unexpected, let alone climbing two summits! It was, I think the second most tired I have ever been. (nothing can beat my Copenhagen tour back in 2013)

When we got to Osaka we headed back to the hotel. We still had a few more hours to tour the next day and we really took advantage of it...

This post is dedicated to the Japanese girl who ran after me on high heels because I left my phone on a bench in Nara Park. She returned my phone after running down two sets of stairs plus three city blocks. Thank you.