S: Japan 2012
FC: MINOOKA TAP | JAPAN 2012
1: TOKYO, JAPAN | ARRIVED 15 JUN 2012
2: IMPERIAL PALACE
3: We visited Tokyo's Imperial Palace on our first rainy day in Japan. The grounds were beautiful with many bonsai-trimmed trees. We were only able to see the palace behind the Nijubashi bridge which is considered one of the most photographed scenes in Japan.
4: Nate embraced all of the Japanese rituals including the "cleansing" before visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Left hand, right hand, left hand to mouth then rinse the handle.
6: One of our first experiences was at the Meiji Shinto Shrine. Nate did the cleansing ritual and then created a prayer for the Deities. His wish is to be successful in his musical endeavors. We were there on a Saturday so we were able to witness several traditional Shinto weddings. They were truly beautiful and full of tradition. There was a twisted rope between two trees that represented the connection of two people. | MEIJI SHRINE
8: THE SUMO EXPERIENCE! We stayed in the Sumo District of Tokyo and got up close and personal with some of the locals...Sumo Wrestlers! We were able to peek in on a Sumo practice session and later that evening we went to a restaurant to eat a Sumo Pot. Nate and 3 of his friends split a pot of veggies, chicken and tofu that one Sumo Wrestler usually eats on his own. Our hotel was across the street from the Sumo Stadium and the top photo is of a mural outside the auditorium.
9: SUMO POT Nate, Hannah, Shane and Meghan
10: HARAJUKU | DISCOVERING CREPES & BIKKLE | Yummy mini donuts made FRESH and topped with bananas and chocolate.
11: The kids had a GREAT time exploring the Harajuku district home of the Cosplay kids, funky shopping, crepes and Bikkle - a dreamsicle drink that will NEVER be forgotten.
13: We cruised down the Sumida River to Asakusa to visit the 7th Century Askakusa Kannon Temple. Nate decided to pull a fortune stick to discover his fortune at the temple. He was pretty thrilled with the outcome: No.89 THE BEST FORTUNE Your gem has no flaw and will glisten when you polish. Good character by nature becomes even better. You will become better known, wealthy and you may have a stroke of good luck.
14: THE ASAKUSA KANNON TEMPLE We braved the crowds and the rain at the temple to see the pagoda, temple and gardens.
16: NIKKO, JAPAN | ARRIVED 17 JUN 2012
17: From beautiful Lake Chuzenji to the Kegon waterfall, Nikko was naturally breathtaking! We spent the day driving up the mountain making a total of 48 turns!
18: Nikko National Park | Fish on a Stick
20: TOSHOGU SHRINE | We visited the Shinto Toshogu Shrine in Nikko and were captivated by the intricate carvings including fish, monkeys, elephants and even peacocks. Although the elaborate shrine is Shinto, it has many Buddhist characteristics including a pagoda and colorful surroundings in reds and golds. One of the buildings was not completed because of an old superstition that the end of the world would come if they completed construction.
21: The Three Wise Monkeys Hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil - the three wise monkeys originated from a Buddhist philosophy in China or Japan. We saw carvings depicting the monkeys at the Toshogu Shrine.
22: The Tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu
23: We climbed 500 stairs...on a VERY hot day to see the tomb of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Ieyasu. "Life is like unto a long journey with a heavy burden. Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not." -- Tokugawa Ieyasu
24: HAKONE JAPAN
25: Legend says if you eat a "Black Egg" you'll gain 7 more years of life. | Eggs are cooked in volcanic ground water and turn black!
26: SYDNEY TOWER | We visited the shrine of Hachiman-gu and walked through the grounds to discover the fox statues. The shrine was originally built in 1063 and had a 1000 year old Gingko tree that fell in a snowstorm in 2010.
28: The Great Buddha of Kamakura We visited this great Buddha which is a nearly 47-foot bronze statue of Amida Buddha is the second largest Buddha statue in Japan.The kids even had the chance to go inside the Buddha too.
31: In Hakone, we stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan hotel. This type of hotel was popular during the Edo period (1603-1868) among Japanese travelers. The inns typically have tatami mats, communal baths and guests wear a yukata robe. Our hotel even had traditional rice-filled pillows and a tea service in our rooms.
32: KYOTO JAPAN
33: Lighting candles at the Buddhist Temple in Kyoto.
34: In Kyoto, we visiting Kinkaku-ji also known around the world as The Golden Pavilion. The pavilion was reconstructed in 1950 after a monk set the original temple on fire. This beautiful shrine is part of a large garden and features a golden phoenix on the top. The day we were there, other school kids were visiting the temple as well many of them Japanese. These girls stopped to take a photo with Nathan, Tyler and Meghan.
36: The grounds of the "Golden Pavilion" in Kyoto
39: Next, we headed to Nara to see Japan's largest wooden buddha. The grounds of this temple are overrun with deer which are considered sacred in Japan. The kids fed the deer and even made a few Bambi friends. | NARA, JAPAN
41: The Todaiji Temple is one of the most significant buddhist temples in Japan. It was built in 763 and was the main temple overseeing others in Japan and is the largest building made of wood in the world. Today, it is still the centerpiece of Nara and in addition to the buddha, one of the attractions is a hole in a pillar that is supposed to be the same size as the buddha's nostril. If you can fit through the hole, you will have good luck for a year - Nate made it through, no problem!
42: The 3000 lanterns are symbolic of the 3000 Kasuga shrines spread throughout Japan. These stone lanterns are a symbol of illumination, a guiding light. For those that follow Shinto religiously, they believe the lanterns will help them be saved from the darkness.
43: Abbey Road?
44: HIMEJI | On our way to Hiroshima, we visited the historic Himeji Castle on a rainy day. It was originally built in 1346 and is one of the best preserved castles in Japan. In fact, it was under preservation while we were there. Himeji Castle was never actually used in a battle and has remained in its present shape for over three hundred years. The grounds were huge and we were able to see some of the construction firsthand. | HIROSHIMA
47: We didn't know what to expect of Hiroshima but today it is truly a symbol of peace. Nate and the other students rang the Peace Bell and were able to see firsthand the effects of nuclear warfare. They toured the museum which houses relics from day the atomic bomb fell on this city. It is amazing that the Atom Bomb Dome still stands.
48: Visiting Hiroshima was a highlight of the trip. The history and dedication to peace here was overwhelming. Nate's group met a group of young students gathering signatures to promote peace while at Peace Park. They also visited the Atomic Bomb Dome - the skeletal remains of the domed building in Hiroshima City which still stands today to commemorate the dropping of the atomic bomb.
49: Sadaku Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. While she survived the bombing, she later developed leukemia (aka Atom Bomb Disease). During her stay at the hospital a friend told her that if she made 1,000 paper origami cranes she would be granted a wish. Sadaku used any paper she could find including medicine wrappers. She died after completing 644 cranes - today children from around the world continue to send paper cran to the memorial. | Above is a statue of Sadaku holding a paper crane and the photo on the right shows some of the actual cranes she made out of medicine wrappers.
50: OKONOMIYAKI Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki meaning "grilled" or "cooked". | I tried it!
52: BONDI BEACH is one of Australia's most famous beaches and among the world's most well-known beaches. The beach is roughly a kilometer long and is located on the east coast of Australia and is a suburb of the city of Sydney. | Miyajima Park and the Floating Tori Gates | Miyajima Island is the popular name of Itsuku-shima Island, just southwest of Hiroshima. It is considered one of the most scenic sites in all of Japan in which the mountains, sea, and red shrine buildings blend together in harmony. It is most famous for the "floating" Tori Gates.
53: There are no maternity wards or cemeteries on the island because no one is permitted to be born or die on the holy island. The island also has an abundance of maple trees and a local treat is the maple cookie.
54: Kintai-Kyo Bridge and Iwakuni Castle We walked with a guide over the Kintai-Kyo bridge which was originally designed and constructed in 1670 but rebuilt in 1950 after being destroyed by a typhoon. Then we headed up the hill in a cable car to the Iwakuni castle. If you look closely in the photo of the bridge, you can see the castle perched on top of the hill.
57: FLOWERS & SUSHI After crossing the bridge, taking the tram and visiting the Iwakuni castle, we headed back down to the grounds and roamed the beautiful gardens filled with Iris in bloom. While the kids all ordered up ice cream in crazy flavors like garlic (yuk!), the moms helped themselves to a local sushi called Iwakuni-zushi that is made in layers like lasagna! It was delicious!!
58: Not sure what Nate is most excited about - a Japanese baseball game or eating a Dom Dom burger!?!?
59: I can't believe it!! I am finally going to a place I have dreamed of ever since I was a child...a place where kangaroos roam, where I will get to hold the cutest sleepy bears in the world and a place where the ocean is full of amazing world renowned reefs and sea life. Australia Here I Come!
60: SYDNEY TOWER | The Tenmangu Shrine honors Michizane Sugawara who is famous for his great learning during his lifetime and is worshipped as the patron of learning. The kids were told to rub the head of the bull and their head to increase their potential for knowledge.
61: This was everyone's favorite tour guide. She was so excited to see American kids in Japan. She was almost brought to tears telling us how they've been waiting for American tourists to return after the Typhoon.
62: Komyozenji Zen Temple
63: Prayer and Meditation The stone and moss Japanese garden was the perfect place to learn proper prayer and meditation from our guides. This temple is known as the temple of light. \
64: Reaching speeds up to 180 mph, we transferred to Osaka on the bullet train. It was a nice change from the bus!! | OSAKA
65: OSAKA 6-23-12 | In Osaka, we went to a traditional Japanese puppet theatre called Bunraka, we walked the streets and also visited Osaka Castle which was once the largest castle in Japan. The castle was built in the 1580's and still houses some of the armor used during that time.
67: OSAKA | 24 JUNE 2012