Today we visited the Kyoto shrines of Kinkakuji and Ryoanji. Kinkakuji was built in the 13th century. In the 14th century, it became the home of one of the retired Ashikaga shoguns. When he died, he willed the temple to a Buddhist sect who made it a Zen temple.

The name Kinkakuji means “golden pavilion,” and if you look at the pictures, you’ll immediately see why. The house is topped dramatically by a Chinese phoenix covered in gold. Kinkaku is the only original building left in the compound, the rest of them having been burned down or suffered other ill fates.

At the end of the tour, there was a shrine with a gong you could pull after offering a small token. The gong was meant to wake up the gods with its ringing so they would hear your petition. There were several shops also at the exit, and many had free samples. The sweets samples were very good, especially the green tea candy. However, the non sweet samples were not to my liking, being overly bitter and vinegary tasting.

Ryoanji is another Buddhist temple we visited that day, interestingly enough across the street from St. Joseph’s Convent. There is a large garden complex built around the temple that is quite beautiful. The temple itself had a rock garden with 15 rocks built into it. The maximum number of rocks that you are supposed to be able to see at one time is 14; the 15th is supposed to appear in your mind’s eye. I only counted at most 13 rocks, so I’m pretty far behind. The main downside to Ryoanji was that it was swarming with gnats.

At both places, I was very intrigued by the Japanese maple trees that grew in the temples and took several close up pictures. The Japanese call them momiji, or baby’s hand, from their pronounced resemblance.

There were huge butterflies flitting about in both places that I had never seen before. One type was big and black with a large red dot on the wing. Another was black with an electric blue flame on its wing. Hopefully, I can catch a picture of one later.

My goal of eating my way across Japan is off to an excellent start. Across the street from Kinkakuji is a restaurant where we stopped for lunch. I ordered an interesting dish they call the Torisoboro set: rice topped with minced chicken and eggs and miso soup for only ¥680. It tasted great and reminded me a little of Korean food but not as spicy.

Shannon ordered noodles, apparently not knowing that it is polite to slurp your noodles. She had a little trouble adapting to this custom, so I helped her by making slurping noises as she ate to give her a little cultural camouflage. I think it helped a little.

Wednesday’s “Eat Across Japan” tour ended at Nigata-san’s restaurant. Nigata-san is a friend of Dr. Stapp and helped us move our gear from the train station to our hotel when we arrived. We had fried rice and curried rice. Both were very delicious, but of course, they were served slightly differently than in America. They had a small salad of cabbage and a small slice of meatloaf. Ahhh, meatloaf. On the side we had Chinese dumplings filled with chicken and vegetables and small sandwiches (which I did not eat because they had something on them that looked suspiciously like mayonnaise, curse my foul enemy that has tracked me here!) and tomatoes (his evil sidekick!). I’m sure they were delicious…or were they?

At Nigata-san’s restaurant we also met Dr. Stapp’s Kendo instructor, Kita-san, who is a member of the Kameoka police department. Apparently, all of the members of the police department study either kendo or judo. We were promised a demonstration later in our trip which I am looking forward to very much (unless I am the demostratee).

We were also told that in Kameoka, a city of 100,000, they only have 3 police cars for the entire city. Can someone find out how many police cars Fayetteville has? I’m sure he would get a kick out hearing how the Americans do things.

Tomorrow, Sanjusangendo, Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto Station and sweet, tasty Pocari Sweat.