Japan Vacation- Part 2: Kyoto
Here it is! Episode 2 of my vlog Book Shops in Japan, aka video travels and the picture book hunt in Japan. (You can watch the first episode of Athens Books in Osaka here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w86Y9VTgQMs&t=5s
Visiting Kyoto was like stepping through time, from the hustle bustle of modern department stores and hotels on the main street of Naramono-cho where we stayed, to the tiny streets and shops where the geisha strolled. One of my favorite parts about traveling to Tokyo was visiting Arashiyama, a small riverside town outside of Kyoto, where my husband and I went to visit the famous Bamboo Forest and relax under the swaying trees. The snacks were delicious and every little shop had the cutest knick knacks to take home. Here we stumbled upon London Books, a charming second-hand book store where I found several picture book gems:
I found SO many great deals at London Books, it was tough to pick a few since we were only traveling with a small carry-on (I ended up shipping most of my books back home anyway). I patiently waited almost three months for my books to arrive, and then I asked my friend Atsuko to help translate them. She has the most adorable one-year old daughter, and an amazing Japanese picture book library for her. I spent a fun afternoon discovering amazing Japanese picture books and discovering the cultural differences between American and Japanese picture books. It’s fascinating, and I’ll share my findings in a later post. Thanks Atsuko, for generously translating the weird picture book, and sharing your books with me!
These are just a few of the picture books I found:
1. はじめてのおつかい (Her First Shopping)
by: Yoriko Tsutsui, illustrated by: Akiko Hayashi
The adorable little girl on the cover immediately caught my eye, and kind of reminded me of myself when I was a little girl, which is something I never saw in picture books when I was little. The story is also an interesting one to see portrayed in a book for children, with the young girl going on a shopping trip by herself! I would be very surprised to see a story like this printed today in the United States, but this was published in 1977 Japan.
2. たなばたプールびらき (ピーマン村の絵本たち)
by: Hirotaka Nakagawa, Yasunari Murakami
I loved the simple, colorful illustration style of these happy swimmers. I especially liked the pages depicting all the goodies swinging on the trees, something I saw everywhere I went while in Japan. Nakagawa and Murakami have worked on several other adorably fun picture books for kids together.
by: Masamoto Nasu, illustrated by: Yoshifumi Hasegawa
My friend Atsuko translated this one, and it was the strangest tale of a doctor deceived by a magical fox. I really like the watercolor techniques used in this picture book, and the rich use of the dark color palette, with rich reds melting into the grays and blacks.
Highlights from Kyoto:
I was awe-struck by all the temples and shrines we saw in Kyoto. We were blessed with sunny days during our stay here, and along with visiting Arashiyama and the bamboo forest, we also took a day to walk around the amazing temples of Kiyomizudera. The spacious temple grounds has a main hall that stands several stories tall, giving visitors the most gorgeous view of the Otowa waterfall and city of Kyoto down below. The surrounding town of the Higashiyama Disctrict was really fun to explore, and we had the most delicious sushi and steak lunch.
Cute cafes and delicious treats!
Kyoto has an abundance of cute shops and cafes to enjoy a sweet treat. I especially enjoyed Snoopy Chaya (with everything Snoopy!), and Qu’il Fait Bon, a creekside cafe with delicious matcha tiramisu and mango tart. Yum! The outside patio had the most picturesque view of the canal, and I could’ve stayed there for hours. And let's not forget the famous cat cafe! (I peeked in from the outside- we all know I'm more of a dog person.)
Fushimi Inari Temple at Night
With so much to see, we even took advantage of sight-seeing at night, which is a wondrous experience in itself! We were surprised by the fantastic light show on the main stairway at Kyoto Station, and took in the sights from above before heading out to Fushimi Inari. We wandered through the famous red bridges at night, with only a handful of other locals enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s a bit eerie exploring the empty park in the dark, and you have to keep an eye out for wild boars, but it’s definitely a sight to see without all the tourists there. I would highly recommend it as a different experience at this famous tourist location.
Nara: Todaiji Temple, Golden Buddha and the scary deer
In Nara, we visited Nara Park including the Todaiji Temple and the famous deer. The temple housed the most massive Buddha statue I've ever seen. Being in it's presence was truly magnificent, and the photos truly don't do it justice. As for the deer, as much as I really wanted to feed them, once I got there, it was more of an anxiety ridden experience for me. The deer, very much accustomed to being fed by locals and tourists alike, are very pushy, and zero in on you as soon as you have their crackers in hand. I wasn't ready for one pushy deer, let alone a growing crowd, so I broke my crackers into little pieces, threw them on the ground, and walked as quickly as I could in the opposite direction. (My one close photo was pre-cracker and I was still nervous about getting as close as I did.)
I truly loved my visit to Kyoto, with its traditional ways, beautiful architecture and expansive, lush parks. I can't wait to return one day. Big thanks to my awesome husband/creative partner/vlog editor for all his hard work on this series. Renaldo, without you, these videos wouldn’t be nearly as awesome, and I would sound 10x more awkward on camera. I can’t wait to share Crayon House in Tokyo with all of you in the next couple of months!
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