Kyoto, Japan : Northwest Kyoto // Nijo-jo Shogun Castle

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 15: 

Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 1 Timothy 4:4 (NLT) 


We are (surprisingly) only half-way into blogging about our Japan trip last November. So, back to the adventures...

Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys

Welcome to Nijo-jo, a magnificent shogun castle is Northwest Kyoto! I was swooning as we walked through these ancient buildings with worn wood and charming architecture. This was one of our favorite historic sites to visit, mainly because (1) it was a shogun castle so there were several displays of armor and descriptions of how warriors prepared for battle along the tour and (2) we were fascinated by the nightingale floors. 

Built in 1603, the palace was created to demonstrate shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu's prestige and to demonstrate the demise of the emperor's power. He built in concealed chambers where bodyguards could keep watch and spring out at any moment's notice. Ieyasu also had the interior fitted with nightingale floors to detect any intruders, as the floors would 'squeak' or 'sing' like a nightingale.

You better believe JD and I were trying out our best ninja moves in that palace. But the floors just kept squeaking.

Nijo-Jo // Jitney's Journeys

Some of you may recognize this photo (imagine it in black and white) as our Christmas card picture from this year. 

Kyoto, Japan // Jitney's Journeys

We ran into another group of kids that wanted to practice their English with us. 

Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys
Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys
Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys
Nijo-jo in Kyoto, Japan // via Jitney's Journeys

Throughout all of our Kyoto sightseeing adventures, we followed the walking tours described in the Lonely Planet Kyoto travel guide (with a few detours, of course). 

Kyoto, Japan : Northwest Kyoto // the Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion (or Kinkaku-ji) was extraordinary. Don’t be deceived by the photos… This site was PACKED! The pavilion is surrounded by a serene body of water so it’s fairly easy to get a fantastic photo. Plus, if you stand at the fence and put up your blinders, it’s almost as if you have the place to yourself. Almost. 

Golden Pavilion, Japan
Golden Pavilion, Japan
Maple Trees of Kyoto, Japan

Even the maples were breathtaking here. You're basically walking under a canopy of autumn, if there were such a thing. 

Kids of Japan

Remember reading about the students who would stop and ask us questions for their English class then give us a gift thanking us for our time? Most of the groups asked us at this site. I still can't get over their yellow hats. So stinkin' cute.

Don't forget to Like and vote for my designs on the Minted challenge here.

Kyoto, Japan : Southern Higashiyama Part 2 // Scripture Memory: Week 4

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 4: 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)


The lovely foliage and views in Southern Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

The lovely foliage and views in Southern Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

Welcome to the second part of S. Higashiyama. I'm not gonna lie, we actually have no idea what this temple is called. It's been around for hundreds of years, so surely someone can tell us what it is, right? 

How we ended up here: Remember how I said 'we followed the walking tours described in the Lonely Planet Kyoto travel guide (with a few detours, of course)'? Well, this was one of those detours. JD found a path at the top of the cemetery behind Chion-In that led to the woods (it sounds a lot creepier than it really was). So we follow this path with no clue of where it's leading us. Halfway up, I try to coerce JD to turn around but lo-and-behold, someone is walking down the mountain and persuades us to keep going up because there are some amazing views (beginning to sound like the blowhole detour in Hawaii, right?). We keep trekking up and see this amazing temple... with a chainlink fence surrounding it. It took us a solid thirty minutes before we could find the entrance. But we did. And it was well worth it. 

This is also where a lady told me I was pronouncing "Arigatou" and "Kyoto" incorrectly. [The link will pull up the video we made at this location. Please disregard the knappy hair and the horrific pronunciations (it was only the first day! I promise it got better with time.)]

#jitneysjourneys

#jitneysjourneys

Higashiyama  New construction at the front of the temple.

Higashiyama New construction at the front of the temple.

Higashiyama   The massive platform where you can look out onto the city of Kyoto.

Higashiyama The massive platform where you can look out onto the city of Kyoto.

What did you eat? This was typically one of the first questions people asked us when we returned. Answer: Noodles. Lots and lots of noodles. 

Kasagi-Ya  It took us a few laps up and down the street before we found this dessert place suggested by the Lonely Planet guide. Also, well worth it. We drank our fair share of hot tea and enjoyed a couple of interesting desserts . Please take notice of JD's giant hands holding the tiny, delicate tea pot. Once again,  we were giants . 

Kasagi-Ya It took us a few laps up and down the street before we found this dessert place suggested by the Lonely Planet guide. Also, well worth it. We drank our fair share of hot tea and enjoyed a couple of interesting desserts . Please take notice of JD's giant hands holding the tiny, delicate tea pot. Once again, we were giants

Omen Kodai-Ji  These were some of the best udon noodles we had on the entire trip; and trust me, we had  a lot  of udon noodles. They have a list of suggestions when making your noodles. If you go to Kyoto, you must eat here. 

Omen Kodai-Ji These were some of the best udon noodles we had on the entire trip; and trust me, we had a lot of udon noodles. They have a list of suggestions when making your noodles. If you go to Kyoto, you must eat here. 

Omen Kodai-Ji   The udon noodle setup, complete with vegetables, sesame seeds and kinpira. And, of course, warm washcloths to wash your hands. The Japanese are super clean. We loved it.

Omen Kodai-Ji The udon noodle setup, complete with vegetables, sesame seeds and kinpira. And, of course, warm washcloths to wash your hands. The Japanese are super clean. We loved it.

Issen Yoshoku  This happened. If you've talked to us about our trip in person, you've heard the story of the mannequin. Well, here she is! The story: We walk into this restaurant and notice a mannequin sitting at  every table . The waitress then takes us to an empty 10-person picnic style table (except for the mannequin) and motions for JD and me to sit on the  same side  as each other and to scoot in close to the mannequin. This was potentially one of the most awkward, yet enjoyable, meals we've ever had. We could not stop laughing. JD was a huge fan of their okonomiyaki, which is a mix between a thin pancake and a crepe filled with meat, seafood and veggies. Don't you want to dine with a mannequin now?

Issen Yoshoku This happened. If you've talked to us about our trip in person, you've heard the story of the mannequin. Well, here she is! The story: We walk into this restaurant and notice a mannequin sitting at every table. The waitress then takes us to an empty 10-person picnic style table (except for the mannequin) and motions for JD and me to sit on the same side as each other and to scoot in close to the mannequin. This was potentially one of the most awkward, yet enjoyable, meals we've ever had. We could not stop laughing. JD was a huge fan of their okonomiyaki, which is a mix between a thin pancake and a crepe filled with meat, seafood and veggies. Don't you want to dine with a mannequin now?

Kyoto, Japan : Southern Higashiyama Part 1 // Scripture Memory: Week 3

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 3: 

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:10-11 (NIV)


Southern Higashiyama was one of our favorite parts of Kyoto, coming in at a close second to Arashiyama. Throughout all of our Kyoto sightseeing adventures, we followed the walking tours described in the Lonely Planet Kyoto travel guide (with a few detours, of course). 

One of the many charming walkways through Kyoto.

One of the many charming walkways through Kyoto.

This was the first geisha we saw walking around town. Please check out her specialty socks that separate the big toe from the other toes and are made just for those shoes. Fun fact about Gion (another district of Kyoto beside S. Higashiyama): You can pay to become a  maiko  (apprentice geisha) which includes full make-up and a formal kimono.

This was the first geisha we saw walking around town. Please check out her specialty socks that separate the big toe from the other toes and are made just for those shoes. Fun fact about Gion (another district of Kyoto beside S. Higashiyama): You can pay to become a maiko (apprentice geisha) which includes full make-up and a formal kimono.

Kiyomizu-dera  entrance

Kiyomizu-dera entrance

Kiyomizu-dera  This Buddhist temple overlooks a Kyoto hillside, supported by 139 15m-high wooden pillars. 

Kiyomizu-dera This Buddhist temple overlooks a Kyoto hillside, supported by 139 15m-high wooden pillars. 

Otowa-no-taki Spring  People waited in line for a solid 30 minutes just to get a sip of this sacred water, believed to bestow health and long life. We weren't that patient. 

Otowa-no-taki Spring People waited in line for a solid 30 minutes just to get a sip of this sacred water, believed to bestow health and long life. We weren't that patient. 

Jishu-jinja  One of the two 'Love Stones'. Visitors attempt to ensure success in love by closing their eyes and walking between the two love stones, a mere 18 meter journey. Several groups of school children were running around so we did our best to touch a stone without losing each other in the mass of  yellow hats . 

Jishu-jinja One of the two 'Love Stones'. Visitors attempt to ensure success in love by closing their eyes and walking between the two love stones, a mere 18 meter journey. Several groups of school children were running around so we did our best to touch a stone without losing each other in the mass of yellow hats

Chion-In (aka The Big Bell)  Making its grand appearance in 1633, this is the largest bell in Japan. We didn't get a chance to see the monks ringing it but it was still fun to see! 

Chion-In (aka The Big Bell) Making its grand appearance in 1633, this is the largest bell in Japan. We didn't get a chance to see the monks ringing it but it was still fun to see! 

              Do these remind anyone else of Mushu from Mulan?

              Do these remind anyone else of Mushu from Mulan?

Kodai-Ji  This temple was founded in 1605.  The extensive grounds include gardens designed by the famed landscape architect Kobori Enshu, and tea houses designed by the renowned master of tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (Lonely Planet). 

Kodai-Ji This temple was founded in 1605. The extensive grounds include gardens designed by the famed landscape architect Kobori Enshu, and tea houses designed by the renowned master of tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (Lonely Planet). 

Kodai-Ji

Kodai-Ji

Kodai-Ji

Kodai-Ji

Kodai - Ji  This may have been the most magical-looking place in Japan that we visited. JD and I stood here for quite a while, soaking in the beauty of this place. 

Kodai - Ji This may have been the most magical-looking place in Japan that we visited. JD and I stood here for quite a while, soaking in the beauty of this place. 

Ok, so the lady who took the photo above (of us in front of the tiny temple) asked if she could take one of us in front of this stunning maple. We couldn't refuse. Not even this photo captures the sheer vibrancy of the maple season in Kyoto. The foliage was stunning. 

Ok, so the lady who took the photo above (of us in front of the tiny temple) asked if she could take one of us in front of this stunning maple. We couldn't refuse. Not even this photo captures the sheer vibrancy of the maple season in Kyoto. The foliage was stunning. 

Kyoto, Japan : We Were Giants // Scripture Memory: Week 2

If you're following along with the Scripture Memory / Dwell Richly printable, here's the verse for week 2: 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)


We spent our first week in Japan journeying through the temples and alleyways of the beautiful Kyoto. The maples were stunning and the weather was fantastic. Aside from cherry blossom season, autumn (early Nov) is the prime time to visit Japan because of the fall foliage and dry / mild weather. This also means that this is one of the busiest tourist seasons of the year... which also means we had a difficult time finding lodging (as we can only book our hotel room a couple of weeks in advance). Even though the entire town of Kyoto was 99% booked by the time we were able to make reservations, JD ended up finding a lovely Japanese townhouse on VRBO.com located in southern Higashiyama. 

Kyoto Tip: If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Kyoto, we definitely recommend the S. Higashiyama area, moreso than downtown Kyoto. We walked to most tourist places (while sneaking through charming alleyways) or rode the subway to the other areas of town. It is quiet and centrally-located.

The townhouse was an adventure in itself. Think Kung-fu Panda mixed with a little Mulan. Let me tell you, Japan is not built for tall people (see photo of JD the Giant, he's not even on his tippy-toes). The doorways were no taller than 6' in our living accommodations and most temples. The stairs were super steep and narrow (treacherous to walk down when you're wearing your house slippers). And JD may or may not have almost punched through the paper door when he was sleeping one night too. The whole trip: We both felt super large and clumsy. We were giants.

This townhouse had two tatami bedrooms (where you sleep on a thin mattress on the floor) and one bedroom with two twin western beds. And by western bed, I mean a frame with a boxspring. We grabbed four tatami mats, placed them over the boxsprings and actually slept quite comfortably! The shower and tub were a little odd. We may have also broken off the holder for the shower handle (Clumsy Giants, I tell ya!). Apparently, you're supposed to stand on the bathroom floor, shut the door and shower in the room as if the whole room was a shower. But we didn't know that sooo we took showers while standing in the 3' deep tub. The toilet seat was heated (major bonus!) but be careful not to sit too long because your bum will get roasted (according to the warning labels on the lid). They also had a fantastic kitchen but we hardly used it since we wanted to try the local cuisine (and had trouble finding a grocery store). We cleaned laundry using the washer-and-dryer-in-one machine, which we thought was genius until we finished our first load. We searched convenient stores for lint brushes then spent the next few hours brushing the lint off our clothes. In all seriousness though, the place, overall, was really cool (you can look through the slideshow below). 

Japan // Scripture Memory: Week 1

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

Today marks Week 1 of the scripture memory resource (download it here). Join us as we memorize verses this month focusing on the importance of knowing scripture and the effects that flow from it. Whether you use index cards, jot it in your journal, or write it on your mirror, share how you're learning the verses by posting photos on Instagram and Facebook with #dwellrichly and #scripturememory. I will re-post tagged photos on the blog Friday. If the Lord speaks to you in any way through this process, we'd love to hear about that too (and share on the blog if you'll let us). Most importantly, we pray this journey is exciting, challenging, and refreshing for you. Here we go! 

Japanese Kids

In other news, I realize that I haven't even posted about our trip to Japan!! Not even once! I really dropped the ball on that. We were there from early Nov. to mid-Dec. and it became, hands-down, one of our top favorite places. The people were incredibly kind and generous. The cities we visited in the country were absolutely stunning. The noodles were delicious (we didn't venture out a whole lot in the food realm). And the last week we were there, it was freezing. Literally, it snowed more than 2.5 FEET of snow in the last week. We've never seen anything like it. Did we play in the snow? Absolutely. We fell back into every large pile of snow we could find and even filmed the process. I'm sure several of the Japanese people, as kind as they were, thought to themselves, "Foolish Americans. They must be from the South." 

As for the photo above: First off, don't you LOVE those hats?? Too stinkin' cute. At almost every temple or garden we visited, groups of young students would approach us and ask if they could speak to us in English (the teacher would stand back a few feet). They would ask us questions about ourselves: "What is your name?", "Where are you from?" Then they would pull out a pamphlet they made to show us popular cities and attractions in Japan. Finally, they gave us a small gift (such as origami) and asked if they could take a photo with us as the teacher quickly approached with camera in hand. What a perfect way to practice English! Can't wait to share more of our Japanese adventures with y'all soon!

Have a lovely Monday.