Day 5: The Dog Samurais of Mibu, a Historical Castle, A Secret Garden and… Sashimi Burgers!?

Kyoto was the original capital of Japan (Notice how Kyoto -> Tokyo, see how they use the same letters?), and it has deep historical sites all throughout the city. Seeing as how I was in the ancient capital of Japan and Japanese history is famous for its bad-ass samurais, my first target of the day was the Historical Site of the Shinsengumi and its next-door Mibu-dera temple.

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Once again I met a new friend in Japan. Sadly i didn’t get a chance to ask for his name, but what I did know about this guy is that he had a lot of knowledge about the historical sites in Kyoto… probably because he lives in Kyoto! He helped me a great deal because the Shinsengumi historical site was pretty hard to find due to its small size. He also took me to a few other temples in Kyoto that would have been difficult to find without his assistance. Thanks oji-san that lives in Kyoto! ^_^

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This is the house of Yagi Gennojo, the original headquarters of the Shinsengumi. The two blue and white banners in the background represent the Shinsengumi. To make a long story short, the Shinsengumi were a fearsome unit of Samurai who were organized by the Shogunate to protect him in Kyoto. They gained huge fame after raiding a group of Shogun opposition members, but later they obtained the nickname “Wolves of Mibu” for their aggresive methods in “keeping the peace”. This house has plenty of stories to tell, particularly one about Serizawa Kamo, an overly aggressive and “problematic” member of the Shinsengumi, being killed through the betrayal of his own friend and rival Kondo Isami, the original commander of the Shinsengumi.

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This is the memorial and statue of Kondo Isami, the commander of the Shinsengumi.

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My japanese tourist guide/friend told me that this was Kondo Isami’s rival’s grave… so I can only assume this is Serizawa Kamo’s grave.

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It’s times like these when I really wish I memorized all 50,000+ characters of Kanji.. 😛

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This is the Mibu-Dera temple, where the Shinsengumi trained vigorously every morning.

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I feel stronger already just standing there!

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That’s a lot of Shizo statues…

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It was time for me and my oji-san friend to part ways, peace old pal!

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Gas is sure cheap as hell in Japan! Next time I’ll buy a cup of “F-1” gas and take it home as a souvenier. 😛

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One of the most famous castles in Japan, Nijojo castle!

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Have fun invading this castle with its fortress moat and tall stone walls!

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This is the main building within the castle grounds. They wouldn’t allow any picture taking whatsoever, but walking inside the halls of this place really gave me a chill up my spine with all the history behind it. This was, in essence, where the Emperor called all the lords throughout Japan for a meeting where he announced the end of the Tokugawa period and the transfer of power back to the Emperor’s hands. In other words, this is the location where 270 years of Shogunate leadership in Japan ended!

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This garden is pretty much how I want my future backyard to look like. 😉

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Keep in mind, we are still within Nijojo castle’s walls…

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This was very memorable. They have a tea ceremony area at the castle where women dressed in traditional Japanese maid-servant outfits serve you freshly ground green tea and sweets at a traditional tatami-mat floored building that overlooks this relaxing view.

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She looks very happy to serve me my tea and snack , lol.

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Umai.. ^_^

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Tea time is over!

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As always, running around Japan on foot can work up quite an appetite, so I decided to go to this nice looking place called Cafe Branch, and boy did I have no regrets in dining here!

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Ice cold green tea with a pleasant view of the street while waiting for my lunch.

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Kicked it off with a fresh salad and (literally) a cup of creamy shrimp soup.

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The main course! Rice Gratin with cheese, scallops, shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, and various other yummy ingredients. ^____^

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At this point I ended up wandering around, making my way towards Kyoto Imperial Palace and Park. I thought I could just waltz right into the Palace… I was wrong. 🙁

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There were lots of these turtles hanging around in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park.

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At the end of this insanely long road was the Kyoto Imperial Palace. I was thinking to myself, “damn I gotta do all this walking just to get into the Imperial Palace!”

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Ya! I made it, then I got dissapointed by the guard at the gate:

*As I’m trying to walk inside*
Guard: Oy, Itai Nanio shiru?! (hey, just what are you doing!?)
Me: Ano… koko ni ikutsumuri-desu..? (Um… I plan on going in here..?)
Guard: MURI-DESU (impossible.)
Me: Etto…. sore jya kippu o kaimasu! (er.. so i’ll buy a ticket!)
Guard: Jodan-janayo, kippu mo muri-desu! (stop joking around, a ticket is also impossible)
Me: FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUU@#$@#@#$@##$

In short, I did all that walking for nothing. I later found out that getting entry into the Kyoto palace can only be done through far-in-advance special reservation… 🙁

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*Cry*, can’t enter! 🙁

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I should have purified myself with this well’s water before approaching that guard!

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The mysterious good luck healing well!

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Next stop: The Kyoto Botanical Garden…get ready for some beautiful pictures. 🙂

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The Green House closed just minutes before I arrived. 🙁

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These flowers are called Hydrangeas (Ajisai No Kisetsu), while they are now popular in various parts of the world, it is said that these flowers originated from Japan. :]

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These Hydrangeas are called Hydrangea Macrophylla Forma Normalis

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Can’t have a Japanese garden without bamboo!

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Wait a minute I thought only in California they had In N’…. OH. 😛

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I was thinking about crossing this but then I had scary flashbacks about my old shoes getting destroyed by the rain the other day.. x_x

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The next pictures are of the Shimogamo-Jinja Shrine and the Tadusu-no-mori (woods). I just wanted to say that this was a MAJOR PAIN to get to, I swear I think I walked for 6 miles before finally finding it. X___X

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Great place to go jogging/running.

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Kyoto at night, round 2! This time I took a friend I made at the hostel named Andy with me. Andy was from England and was planning on moving to Australia for a job. The poor guy didn’t speak any Japanese and really needed someone to show him around Kyoto at night… Kay to the rescue!

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I started drooling when I saw this street takoyaki vender making these delicious fried and baked octopus balls…

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This is how real Takoyaki looks! The delicious freshly baked and fried octopus balls topped with various toppings including onion skins, sweet sauce, and some mayo! OMNOMNOMNOMNOM

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Epic deliciousness between two chopsticks.

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We ended up going to a Running Sushi place that had plenty of good sushi to eat. Here’s a first, hamburger patty sashimi!

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Ok so this has a funny story to it. Basically Andy and I couldn’t figure out what the hell this was. Then I thought it was shark, so I asked these two Japanese guys if this was shark. Unfortunetely, I didn’t know how to say “Shark” in japanese, so I put shark fins on top of my head and started singing the Jaws theme “DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN”. Then the two Japanese dudes in the table next to us busted out laughing their asses off, and said “yea yea it’s shark!” I’m pretty sure they were wrong though, and that this was actually probably just some sort of a pickled eggplant!

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Andy approves of this sushi.

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On an ending note for Day 5, Suntory is very good beer!

Click to continue to the next day!

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