Monday, June 25, 2012

KYOTO - Kiyomizudera Temple & Beautiful Geishas

I have just updated some photos this morning...

I have not finished blogging my Osaka photos yet but I am fast forwarding to Kyoto. I counted myself as very fortunate that I managed to see so many Geishas in real persons! We stayed in a 4 Star posh Royal Kyoto Hotel &Spa in the heart of downtown which costs us only RM200 a night during their very special promotions. For best deals, we need to book many months ahead.

We took a train to the station nearest to Kiyomizudera Temple and it was a very tough walk for us to climb up a long steep slope that got steeper & steeper as we got closer to the destination. This big temple is located on the rolling hills which overlooks Kyoto. One fat & rich DJ friend joined us later by taking a taxi which dropped him & his family right at the steps of the temple. How nice! I lost kilos of weight by walking whereas he gained lots of weight by taking taxis everywhere!

The wooden shops along the way are very old and traditional with the pretty Japanese styled sliding doors with windows and doors in squares. I loved to admire and feel all their doors, imagining the samurais and ninjas were hiding behind.

Finally after passing hundreds of shops along the slope, I arrived at the entrance of the temple. More steps were waiting for me to climb up.. It was worth the trip to enjoy the scenic views and breathe the mountain's fresh air. It was very packed with school children and visitors that evening but we managed to take photos without the crowd! I noticed that in Kyoto, you will be able to see ladies in their traditional kimono outfits walking along the streets and few men in their traditional Yukatas. It was such a pretty sight.

Kiyomizudera Temple was founded in year 798 and the entire construction of the several temple buildings took place in the year 1633. This whole Buddhist temple was built without a single nail..!! It is so solid and very amazing! It has been listed as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and UNESCO World Heritage Site. You must visit there. Hear me?

This tall Pagoda was also built without any nails! The Japanese design and architecture was simply awesome by looking at their motifs, features and layout since the ancient times when machinery was not being invented yet.
The right photo shows the path going down the granite steps leading to their mountain stream where blessed water was available to visitors.

I lined up and got my share to drink the water of 'Eternal Youth' which made me look younger and handsomer! Ermm!... The right photo shows myself and my Planking-Queen. Some fortune tellers and psychics told me that I was a Japanese in past lives during the Tokugawa Shogunate era! Do I look like a Japanese? *wink * small eyes!

You can make wishes by scribbling on the small pieces of wood and hang up. Many people believe that their wishes came true. Below is the main building which has large wooden verandah for visitors to take photos and admire the green tree tops! In olden days many people committed suicide and jumped off from that verandah! Blergh!... So gory!

I was drinking more blessed water from the holy taps. Here I drank it from the dragon's mouth and rubbed its head many times! Huat arrrrrr!....

Nearby the scenic Japanese pond, I stumbled upon 3 Geishas who came in their most colourful Kimono outfits complete with their heavy dolled make-ups! They were making their way up the steps gracefully and stopped politely for so many shutter-bugs to snap photos. I was so happy to see them for the first time in my life!

In the evening, we took a long stroll down the streets and head to Gion area which is their famous red light district. It was a peaceful and tranquil area with hardly anyone on the streets. There are rows of closed door restaurants and drinking houses where I believed, all the customers were inside, away from public view. Ahaa..... I was fortunate to spot a Geisha walking briskly and accompanied by 2 chaperones who wore no make ups. They were heading towards a place that looked like a huge entertainment house! (Middle right photo)

A Geisha (Geiko or Geigi) are traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance. Many Geishas are very well trained artisans who could serve tea in the most perfect manner besides playing musical instruments and entertaining guests. 


That evening, it was chilly and cold with nice breeze of early Spring. We all ate in a cottage-like restaurant and ate wholeheartedly till I was too lazy to walk back to the hotel. I think it was over 20km of slow walk but I was pleased that I saw so many attractive Geishas!! Sometimes, visitors were not able to see any Geisha anywhere as they don't appear or loiter along the streets.
Later that night, I went to the Sento in the backlanes and soaked happily in their hot jacuzzis! I was instantly rejuvenated and alive again.

Hope you enjoyed the photos! HAPPY FRIDAY & HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Japanese Public Bath House

OSAKA - SENTO Experience

This post is about the eye opener I had in Japan, getting naked with soooo many men! Oh my goodness, I had never seen so many steamed sausages in boiled water tubs in my life. Muahahahaha!!!...

When I was a student in States, I lived and hung out with only Korean & Japanese students who also became room mates. I heard so much about their heavenly bathing rituals in Korea and Japan which is a daily routine like brushing our teeth. We need to join them in order to understand this bathing rituals which I must confess now that it was truly a very good experience. I overcame all the shyness right away as no one will look at your willy!

In Osaka, we bought the very special '2-Day Pass' which allowed anyone to take unlimited trips on the subway trains and visit any 36 different tourist places for FREE!!! It costs only 2,000 Yen (Less than RM80 / US$23) for the pass and it saved so much money knowing that each train ride will cost over RM10 and entrance tickets to sightseeing places will usually be over RM20-30 per entry. I could not visit all the places and merely covered like 8 places in 2 days! I picked one visit to their so called 'Hot Springs' which is illustrated below, using all borrowed photos!! 

PHOTOGRAPHY & TATTOO-BODIES ARE STRICTLY NOT ALLOWED INSIDE ANY HOT SPRINGS OR PUBLIC BATH HOUSES! (They don't allow tattoos as only the Yakuza gangsters will have these tattoos! Sorry, even if you have small cute tattoos on your neck, legs or arms, they will throw you out)

The Japanese culture is pretty unique and beautiful when one understands them well. They love bathing in the Spas and soak inside the warm mineral water pools at the many Hot Springs. They call it 'Sento' which is more like a luxury public bath Spa in the cities all over Japan whereas 'Onsen' is the traditional Hot Spring resorts located in country sides or near mountains where natural hot springs are available with rich minerals from the under ground. Now I understand why they have nice porcelain and spotless white skin with all the frequent mineral baths and healthier food. If the Japanese eat Goreng Pisangs and Nasi Lemak everyday, they may look oily like us!

One night after a very tiring day walking over 10km, I visited this Hot Springs Spa which was listed in the '2-day Pass'. It is a 'Sento' which is located on the roof top of this actual building.

Every Hot Springs Spa will have typical standard facilities and layout, like this vending machine where you just pay your entrance ticket which costs about RM35 to enter. Another vending machine will provide you shavers, combs, creams, gels or whatsoever toiletries you need for a small sum. I went in FREE as the '2-Day Pass' entitled  me a complimentary visit. The Japanese tourism authority is so generous to offer such packages to lure me. I will be visiting Japan again soon!

All the bathing and soaking areas have separate sections for Male (Blue) and Female (Red). You will be given a wrist-key to proceed to the locker area. You have to remove all your clothes and keep them inside the locker before entering the shower area.

You have to sit on the small stool with all the other naked men and towel scrub yourself with the bath foam, shampoo and conditioner provided at your cubicle. No one will look at you and it is not polite to stare at others too.

The luxurious Sento Spa which I went to, had similar cubicles like the above without partitions in between. All the hotels and Spas in Japan seem to use only 'Shiseido Brand' toiletries and the quality was really Super Excellent!

On the female section, everything will be the same in layout and my honey took a while to get used to the sights of Amazon bushes everywhere in the Watermelon farm. Ha ha ha!

After you have washed your whole body clean without any traces of soap, you proceed to parade stark nakedly wet to the hot and icy cold water pools of jacuzzi which is located in the interior section. They have digital temperature readings to show you, how hot each jacuzzi pool was. I loved the jacuzzi very much as the water jets were the STRONGEST I had ever enjoyed. It was really massaging any part of your body really hard and very strong. You can choose to 'massage' your feet soles, back, sides, tummy,  neck or even assholes!!! Wow! Shiok! The guys will move from hots pools to mineral pools and luke warm pools before submerging inside the Icy Cold Water pool for few seconds. They will go back to the hot and warm pools again, repeating the routine as per one's desire. My tired and aching body was instantly rejuvenated to Heavens! That was the best relaxation to remove stress and my skin looked brand new! I will definitely live to 100 years old in Japan.

This photo was the actual shot taken of the Spa I visited, where they created lovely landscaping in the open air. They have lovely green plants & waterfalls around the spas and jacuzzi pools with different small hot water tubs to soak in pairs and gaze the skies! They also have big wooden lanais where many men would lie and sleep like naked baby dolphins!! Many young fathers brought their young and infant sons along to bathe & have fun. I even spotted one huge sized Sumo wrestler who came and jumped into the pool! The water overflowed and I just giggled! What a sight!

Bathing and soaking in these 'Onsen' or 'Sento' pools are so popular with the Japanese folks for centuries and you can find thousands of such Sento havens throughout the country, usually located inside designated buildings or roof tops. I also saw many groups of friends and working colleagues who patronized that spa to relax and chat happily. If they open one in Malaysia, I will organize a Bloggers' Party there! Voila!

I visited the same spa twice and was surprised that more Japanese men in suit attires patronized that place near midnight hours. They smelled of alcohol and heavy nicotine with worn stressed facial looks that needed a good soak in the pools. The most shocking thing was the spa did provide quick massage services which were done by ladies who are clothed, inside the men's area! The naked men just walked bravely around her as if she does not exist! Not me, I hid my willy with the given small towel when I walked passed her! This haven will sure give the tired office workers a good bath and revitalization before they sleep! How nice!

 KYOTO - SENTO Experience

When I toured Kyoto, I decided to try their smaller traditional bath houses which does not have any frills or luxuries. The weather was cold and nice to dip inside the hot jacuzzis. It costs only RM4.00 to enter one which was located in some tiny dark lanes in downtown Kyoto. It was so old fashioned with wooden lockers that used wooden latches as locks!! Inside the lockers, you need to pull out a rattan-cane basket to put your belongings! Smaller sentos are usually operated by retired old couples or the owners themselves. They are friendlier and will politely guide you to the locker area.


Everything was small inside like the above photo with worn out floor tiles and furniture. I was told by a good friend who studied in Tokyo that he had to bathe there every night as his tiny studio apartment had no bathing shower facility at all except a squatting toilet. What a humble experience he had and today this friend owns a well known chain of watch shops in Malaysia.


I learned a lot about the Japanese culture and loved it.

All the above photos were borrowed for illustration purposes only and will be removed if the owner feels that his copyrights had been violated.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 1 - Osaka Castle

I also visited Osaka Castle on the first day. It looks beautiful and prominent to be located in the middle of Osaka City with lush greenery and water surroundings. It was a long slow walk of 20 mins from the train station to reach this amazing old castle. The weather was very cool in mid Spring, so our mood were all jovial and happily chirping like birds.

There is water all around the castle like any other typical castles or the Forbidden City in China, to keep enemies and predators at bay. There were big orange Koi fishes swimming around too.

I had to walk like miles to reach the main entrance! That was how huge the castle's compound is, with a land area measuring some 60,000sq.meters !!

 Yo! I reached the entrance at long last!

My honey was excited and started 'planking' again by the river! She could have rolled down into the river like a big Koi Fish! In case you do not know, 'Planking Photos' is a new trend these days with youngsters or weirdos who would lie flat like a fish or plank in the middle of the street, benches, graves in the cemeteries or just anywhere in such bizzare manner! Would you dare to snap such a photo to share?

The above photo was the former museum which has been relocated to another nearby building. The 2nd photo is the Osaka Castle, taken from faraway with zoom lenses.

The Osaka Castle was originally built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1583 - 1615) and it underwent several reconstructions over the period of centuries and the last major restoration was completed in 1995 - 1997. The whole building looks majestic today with all the grandeur finishings and gold ornaments making it look like my wedding cake. 

This castle site introduces the history of the Castle and shows the interior of the Main Tower, which has been renovated as a History Museum. We are not allowed to take photographs in many areas inside therefore you can only see my exterior shots. The displays inside did not impress me much as they do not have much ancient or antique artifacts to display. I think I have far more antiques collections at home which I have started blogging to share with my overseas friends. Someday when I am retired, I will sell all my heirlooms stuffs by the roadside along Jonker Street in Melaka... Come and buy from me, okay?  ha ha ha!

There was only 1 big and long canon sticking out prominently in the whole castle!

These 2 photos were taken from the top floors of the main tower which partially overlooks the Osaka City. Look at the abundant lush greens surrounding the castle's compound.

The above photo was taken from a high rise building opposite which shows the entire aerial view of the impressive vicinity at the Osaka Castle.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Osaka Day 1 - Shitennoji Temple

I am sorry it took me ages to upload my Japan trip's photos to share as we all shot over 2,000 photos in total! Japan is the best country I have ever visited in my life as their history, environment, people and amazing culture is indeed very rich and truly unique. I will hopefully be visiting again soon as we only spent less than RM2,500 each for entire 8 days trip to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara!! Seeing is Believing!

Yes, that was LESS THAN RM2,500 instead of forking out over RM8,000 to join our specialized "Apple-Orange" Tour Agency! My expenses included return air-ticket, all the hotels, train rides, 3 daily meals and multiple baths at Hot-Springs! We all shopped like crazy women broke loose from Hell and that is additional expenses. Their country's tourism has dipped badly due to the earthquake & Sendai's disaster which drove most hotel operators to offer rock bottom rates at 70-80% discounts which was less than RM200 per night for comfortable 3-4 STAR hotels, not kidding!

Ahem! That's the handsome ME looking excited after touching down at Osaka's Kansai International Airport which is the only floating airport in the world that was built on a huge man-made island! I was truly impressed at the sight of their flood-lit runway in the sea from the aeroplane's window. Upon landing, we all took a high speed train from Kansai airport which raced its way to downtown Osaka and we quickly headed to the famous Ramen noodles stall in Namba, Osaka. We had to pay our orders into the vending machine before the young chefs would serve you. It was a cold Spring night and the hot soupy Ramen was really delicious with generous pieces of sliced pork! I stood by the pavement and ate hungrily like all the Japanese guys did.

That night we all slept at a 3 Star hotel in the happening Shinsaibashi area. The room was cozy and small which is a typical standard size in Japan. Next morning, we walked around the clean and spotless streets, breathing the very cool & refreshing Spring air. All the manhole covers are lovely with individual designs and names of every district. Thousands of folks rode bicycles everywhere along the specially paved cycling lanes where pedestrians walked on too. They have neat rows of parking racks for bicycles all over the country (see photo above). We walked a lot daily to save taxi fares after getting off the trains. I estimated that we walked between 10km to 20km by foot every day until I looked trimmed & burnt off 3kgs! That first day, we headed to the ancient Shitennoji Temple.

This spacious temple has very old statues and paintings inside where photography was strictly forbidden! It was founded by Prince Shotoku in year 593 and the Shintenno-ji is believed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in entire Japan. It is said that the Four Heavenly Kings enshrined in Shintennoji which eventually led Prince Shotoku to a victory against the Monobe who opposed the idea of adopting Buddhism.

 This is the serene looking deity or saint's statue which the Japanese visitors would bow deeply with respect for minutes. Alas, I didn't carry note pad like our seasoned traveling blogger William who never failed to jot down all details and names to share! I should cart him along my future trips!

Look at my honey, jumping like a bird taking flight. She had many crazy photos showing her in 'planking' or jumping poses everywhere, raising the Japanese eyebrows!

The surrounding compound was spaciously clean and neat with their famous patterned lines of pebble stones.

I learnt that the Japanese regarded deep orange as their auspicious colors whereas the Chinese would prefer bright red colors instead.

There were many stalls outside the perimeter of Shitennoji Temple where the folks were selling art wares, paintings and offered services like massages, face paintings as well as snack & beverages.