First off, this may be a long blog--I have a LOT of pictures :) And I'm going to date a second one directly behind this blog, so be sure to look at them both! Plus, this is exciting blog, so stick with it!
Josh came up on Thursday and on Friday we went to Kyoto and Osaka, and then onto Himeji where there is a UNESCO World Heritage Site castle that is considered one of the best in Japan. We took the bullet train, using a JR JapanPass, which is really a good idea if you are ever going to Japan--it's only for foreigners and you have to buy it in your home country, but it's a pretty good deal for traveling.
First thing we decided to do was meander around Kyoto. This took us an exceptionally long time--although it was exciting to stumble upon a shrine in a residental area. I think these are fairly common in Japan.
On the front were swastikas. As most of you probably know, swastikas mean "to be good" and were usually used for luck. They are very common in the Buddhist religion. The symbol is about 3,000 years old. Here is some really interesting history on the symbol.
As we kept wandering we came to a river. It was really calm and pretty and there were ducks all over! I love ducks. Duck feet aren't really made for walking up slippery stones so they would fall back about one step for every step they made forward---slow going :) They all had pretty blue patches on their wings, which would probably tell me what kind of duck they were, if I knew anything about birds.
We also saw a crane. I think these are the same cranes we saw in the zoo, which means this crane was ENORMOUS.
Of to more wandering. This would have all been helped by having a map that was a even a little more precise then the map in the "So you want to go to Japan" type book I had with me. It really reminded me of that Simpson's episode where Homer is trying to navigate the Nile (I think it was the Nile) using the side of an animal crackers box.
At this point we came to another shrine. A big one. Like most of the shrines in Japan, it had calm, nice, cool places to sit, so Josh and I got a soda and sat there. It was also one of those times where you know that all the stuff around you has meaning--but you don't know what any of the meaning is. What do I mean? There were dried leaves all over. No idea why, but there was obviously a religious reason. I mean, other than being a very attractive backdrop to the picture.
So we kept walking. Walking, walking, walking, and finally stumbled upon another big temple. A temple that is the Chion-in temple (I think--if anyone knows better, please, please correct me!).
Josh and I started wandering around--the temple was almost entirely deserted. We took some pictures.
We were walking along this path (well, this picture is from the opposite direction, so use your imagination) when IT HAPPENED!
Josh dropped to his knee and asked me to marry him!!! With a beautiful (and distinctive) blue bag in hand--and in it? A Tiffany's ring :) Exactly my style-- not too flashy but beautiful diamonds and a platinum band. Of course, I said yes!!
The ring is even my size! I'm not sure how he managed that!
Here is the ring--
It's seven diamonds and beautiful.
Here is a picture of us in front of that fateful spot :) It was truly romantic! What a great location and time. Everyone keeps asking if I knew it was coming and I really didn't. Josh had considered asking me at Himeji or seeing if sensei would help him with the setup but he got stressed out carrying the ring around. The location was great :)
How exciting!! And it's a great thing Emily's coming in a week because I have so many ideas that I want to talk about! And, I'll see Rachel when I get home to talk her ear off too I'm sure :)
Obviously, we continued to explore the temple.
Josh and Buddha. It was mentioned to me at work that we pledged ourselves in front of their gods, so they will look out for us.
Me in a field of giant flowers, trusty guidebook in hand:
So that was obviously super exciting!!! It's hard to know what to follow a proposal up with so we went to another temple. This temple was the only temple we went to where we had to pay money to get in. I liked several things about this shrine. One, the koi filled pond. I love koi and have been horrified to hear that the Japanese eat them. They are for decoration, not for eating! And they have lots and lots of bones! Second thing I loved--this bell. It had a sign saying not to try to ring the bell with the giant stick. Come on, who would think they were allowed to do that?? But, obviously someone did, because not only do they have a sign, but it's in English.
Thirdly, Josh and I are both very fond of foxes and Inari's foxes, so we were excited to see a set of them (even though they are very common in temples). This one had a ball in his mouth,
And this one had a scroll--here is Josh, doing his best Inari impersonation
After that, we were pretty tired and sweaty (well, Josh was sweaty, as a lady, I was glowing, but glowing rather profusely), so we got back on the bullet train and headed for Osaka. I was pumped about going to Osaka!
I had managed to find my high school Japanese teacher and we were planning on meeting him when we got to Osaka. I was slightly worried that we would have a hard time finding each other--it has been nine years (terrifying thought!) but no worries--we both looked identical to the way we looked back then :) Sensei was one of my favorite teachers of all time and it was absolutely great to catch up with him--plus Josh got to ask all of his kanji questions to someone who actually knew some answers :)
I think that sensei was also excited to be involved in our big day--so that was awesome. I will admit, some heavy drinking occurred, and we all left the bar p***-drunk. In fact, I was bemoaning the fact that I forgot to get a picture when I looked through the camera--and there was a picture! So Jennifer, Erin, Mom, and Dad, you should all be happy that I got a picture! The other lady in the picture is involved in the movie industry here--she was super nice.
From Osaka we went Himeji, where we went to the Himeji castle. Unlike most places in Japan, the Himeji castle is really really well signed and easy to spot--lot's of signs with pictures of castles and arrows, which was really nice. It was so majestic! I've never been to a castle before so I was really excited.
It was very beautiful--and behind THREE moats! We almost had to stand in line to get this picture taken--the background makes it a popular place to stand :)
The architecture was absolutely stunning and I think a fair amount of the castle is still original. I really recommend reading the wikipedia page--it's truly interesting.