Hakone The next morning we hopped on a gondola or ropeway to get back over the volcanic mountain we were staying on.
About halfway over we stopped and got off to see the steaming pots along the Owakudani Nature Trail. . . Owakudani means "great boiling valley."
Breakfast, for some reason, was impossible to find that morning so we were happy to have eggs which turned black after being hard-boiled in the sulphuric hot pots to commemorate our little hike. So black eggs, hot dogs and fuji apples for breakfast that morning. . . with this view of Mount Fuji.
After the ropeway, we took a cable car and then a train to the Hakone Open-air Museum. One of the most delightful settings I've ever seen for modern art. . . outdoors! My brother, Jon, declared this was the best art museum he's ever seen.
I have to agree. . . this is the least stuffy art museum I've ever seen. It was easier to enjoy without worrying about being quiet, or which rooms to see, or reading signs. . .
My favorite part was watching the kids. . . there were interactive pieces (including a large hard-boiled egg to jump on) and some really awesome play spaces for kids. All kids might start to like going to art museums if they were this much fun!
Kyoto Then we rode a Shinkhansen bullet train to Kyoto. . . I wish I'd taken a video of one of them speeding by the station. It's incredible how fast they go!
One of my favorite days was the day in Kyoto we rented bikes from our hotel (only $5 for 12 hours!) and rode around this bike-friendly city. We hit one palace, one castle, a shrine, a pavillion, some gardens, and did some shopping all in one day. It was a blast.
The Imperial Palace. . . still owned (and sometimes used) by the Emporer:
Nijo Castle: Created by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (early 1600's), and favous for its unusually ornate interiors and "nightingale floors" which were designed to make squeaking noises when walked on to warn the inhabitants of intruders.
This was a bike parking lot at a local college by two of the shrines we visited.
Ryoan-ji Temple: Famous for its zen rock garden where you're supposed to sit quietly and reflect on its meaning and the meaning of life and other deep things.
I don't know what Jon is meditating about, but all I could contemplate was, "What are they going to do about those three fallen leaves? What about all those on the trees that are bound to fall? What would happen if I ran out there and started yelling 'Ooga, Booga, Booga!'? Would a Buddhist preist come and tackle me? Are there alarms rigged under that raked gravel?" and other such deep thoughts.
Kinkaku-ji Temple: The Golden Pavillion. . . I probably don't need to explain how it got its name.
More shots in and around Kyoto:
I am fascinated by fire escapes. . . I LOVED these:
Old and new, together.
An avenue of torii gate at Fushimi Shrine. . . there were 300,000 of them!