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Japan, March–April 2007
Flew overnight from London to Osaka, then by coach to Kyoto, where we stayed at the Aranvert Hotel (not recommended: this hotel was the one unsatisfactory feature of the trip).
A grey afternoon at Heathrow.
Thursday 29 March
Visits to the Buddhist Kiyomizu temple, the Shintō Heian shrine, and a private garden Hakusasonso.
Entrance to the Kiyomizu temple.
The veranda of the great wooden hall at Kiyomizu (not much cherry blossom to be seen here yet).
The torii (entrance gate) to the Heian shrine.
The entrance to Heian.
Paper trees at Heian (people buy printed fortune slips, then tie them to the tree if they don't like what they read, so as to leave the bad fortune behind them).
Cherry blossom at Heian (we were a few days too early to see it at its best here).
Bridge over the lake at Heian.
A heron by an island in the lake (I thought it was a statue until I saw it move).
The private garden Hakusasonso, designed by a painter who was strongly influenced by Chinese art.
Friday 30 March
A day trip to Osaka, including visits to the castle, the aquarium and the Shin Umeda Building (a high-rise commercial centre with a fine view of the city).
Gilded fish on the castle roof, with a view of modern Osaka beyond.
Colossal boulder forming part of the castle ramparts. The foreground figure is a Buddhist monk begging for alms.
The castle ramparts and moat.
Late afternoon view of Yodo-gawa river, seen from the top of the Shin Umeda Building, after a ride up the elevator that straddles the twin towers of the building.
The basement of the Shin Umeda Building, where there was a nice reconstruction of an alley from old Osaka.