Family visit!

So the last few months after Christmas have been very quiet around here. Japanese festivals have taken a break and don’t start up again until around April. I really miss them! The first festival of the year is actually the Yatai Matsuri in Otawara, the drum festival I posted about last year. I cannot believe it’s almost been a year! I will never forget that festival as it was my first ever festival experience. Exhilarating and spectacular. I’m already planning on making a visit to Japan next year just to attend that festival again.

Besides work, I’ve really just been taking it easy and trying to enjoy every moment here. People have asked me what I will miss the most about living in Japan. I honestly cannot give one exact thing. It’s an accumulation of many things. The smell, the atmosphere, the connection between you and the people around you. I’m going to miss LIVING in Japan.

This week I was lucky enough to have my parents and brother come over to visit me. It finally happened! After almost a year of arranging. I met up with them in Ueno, and at first it was a bit surreal. I couldn’t believe they were finally in Japan, and I had so much I wanted to share with them!

I took them to places I had already visited. Which meant that I took on the role of the tour guide. Stressful, but it was very satisfying taking them to places I had been longing to take them. We visited Kyoto, which they loved! It was my third time visiting Kyoto, but I can’t get enough of the place! It’s a very enchanting city, and I was grateful to experience it for the third time with my family.

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Seeing Mount Fuji from the shinkansen

After arriving at Kyoto we took a local train around 20 minutes out of the city to Ogoto-onsen. It’s a tiny little town by Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan. I had booked to stay at a ryokan for one night, I was super excited! Ryokans are super expensive, but I thought it would be great for my family to experience living in a traditional Japanese inn.

The ryokan did not disappoint. The room was beautiful, with tatami flooring. There was green tea and fresh manju upon arrival in the room. We spent the evening relaxing at the onsen, and then we had dinner prepared for us straight after. We were given a private room, and the food was so beautifully presented. Definitely the highlight of the trip! The food was so fresh, and intricately prepared. The portions were small, and very light on the stomach, but it just right to make you feel comfortably full.

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Dinner banquet at the ryokan

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We woke up early in the morning to take another trip to the onsen before heading down for breakfast.

After checking out of the ryokan, we made our way back to Kyoto. The weather was freezing cold! It felt even colder than up in Tochigi, but I was told it’s because Kyoto is actually located in between a valley which makes it even colder during the winter.

I’ve posted about Kyoto a couple of times now. Here are some of the photos I managed to snap during my most recent trip there.

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I finally got the chance to visit Yogenin temple, the temple with the blood stained ceiling. A friend recommended this place to me, but the last couple of times I visited Kyoto I didn’t have enough time to make a trip there. The temple is around a 20 minute walk from Kyoto station. It was hidden near a residential area, and I was told that the temple is not really open to foreigners since they do not speak English. I still wanted to check it out though.

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We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple itself. The temple was very eery, and we were given a short tour inside which was done all in Japanese. The lady had an old cassette player, and played a cassette of a man giving an explanation of the paintings, and other significant things inside the temple. I didn’t understand any of what was being said. The temple was really cold, and hearing the old cassette player being played sent chills down my spine. I was in awe of all the blood stains on the ceiling. I read that these blood stains were from samurais who fought to protect Fushimi Castle in 1600. They used this blood stained floor from Fushimi Castle as the ceiling in Yogenin Temple to help bring peace to those who died in the battle.

After visiting the temple we took the shinkansen back to Tochigi. The following day my parents visited my school. It was an unforgettable moment. I couldn’t believe that my parents were finally at the school I had been teaching at for the past year. It was nice to see them interact with my students, playing games and a lot of rocks, scissors paper! The staff at the school were also very happy to see my parents, and both teachers and students were so warm and welcoming.

With my parents being in Tochigi, it was perfect timing as Toshogu Shrine in Nikko had just finished its renovations. We took the Nikko line to check it out!

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The newly renovated gate at Toshogu shrine

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There was a lot of walking involved, but I think my parents and brother thoroughly enjoyed their time in Japan!

That’s all for now!