Miho Museum and Wappado Restaurant

I’m not much of a map person, and for me one of the joys of traveling is not knowing what to expect or how to get there. So yesterday was a rather magical day from this perspective. After a short walk, a longer bus ride, four stops on the subway, and another 50 minute bus ride, we had our first venture ascending into the mountains of Japan. Following a bubbling brook, we climbed the mountain on a narrow road where erosion was evident with road construction around nearly every corner. Flowers were abundant with colors of pink I’ve never before seen, and reds, violets and blues. We finally reached our destination, The Miho Museum, where above the fog we arrived in Shangri-La. In Osaka, we had missed the Cherry blossoms by about 5 days but here in the mountains we followed a natural tunnel of Cherry Trees in full bloom. The petals were blowing and the trees were raining blossoms.photo 4photo 3photo 5photo 1 photo 2 Words really can’t describe the experience of the approach through the blossoms to renowned Architect I.M. Pei’s exquisite Miho Museum. The geometric-designed museum was built 80% below the ground, to bring the building into harmony with the environment and the surrounding view. I have visited many museums throughout the world and this experience offered a spiritual moment in life. The collection contains over 2,000 works from Japanese Tea Ceremonial art, Buddhist art and ceramics to art from Asian and Western cultures. Yet the true experience of the Miho is how I.M. Pei and the founders integrated and celebrated nature as the primary exhibit. With Cherry blossoms in full bloom as it was designed to display, we were blessed beyond words to be there. AND, this was merely our day time activity.photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5As evening approached, we loaded into two taxis for a long drive in the opposite direction. Once again we climbed hills and dales. We were convinced that our driver was trained in Tokyo, as he maneuvered his cell phone while making hairpin turns. It was a bit tricky finding Wappado Restaurant, www.wappado.jp – but well worth the drive and adventure.

With a light rain beginning and mist and dusk setting in, we got out of the cab on to a very narrow, rocky road surrounded by a patchwork quilt of farm land. Small plots of family farms dotted the landscape and went as far as the eye could see.photo 1  Wappado is one of the few farm-to-table restaurants in Kyoto, i.e. Japan, as Kyoto is the gastronomic capital of this country. The owners are husband and wife, he the chef, she the sous chef and mother of their 7 and 3 year old children. The restaurant is their charming farmhouse and we were the only diners that night. They are open Friday – Sunday only, as the rest of the time their garden and family obligations command their attention. Let it suffice to say that our eight-course, exquisitely prepared and presented meal was freshly picked from their garden. The subtle flavors were unimaginable as John and Mei tried to identify what we were tasting. The mother-in-law is a weaver, so after dinner many of us wanted to further support this young family by purchasing the beautifully crafted hand woven scarves, mats, etc.photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 5photo 3photo 4photo 1photo 2 photo 3 photo 4Ahhhhh, thank you Mei for this once in a lifetime farm to table experience in Kyoto! Mei



Day 5 in Japan – Imagine spending a birthday in Kyoto with dear friends, during Cherry Blossom season! Lucky me!

We began this beautiful birthday with 64 degree sunny weather at the National Treasure Sanjusangen-do. The principal images of this temple are the 1001 statues of the Buddhist deity Juichimen-senju-sengen Kanzeon… AKA “Kannon.” The 1001 Buddhas are made of Japanese cypress wood covered in gold, and are 700 years old. It took 70 artists 100 years to complete these Buddhas… Each of the Buddhas has 11 faces and 21 pairs of arms which totals 1000 arms, and as the story goes, with treasures in each hand saves 25 worlds. It is believed that Kannon Bodhisattva can transform himself into 33 different figures. Therefore, the 1001 images really equal 33,000. Can’t really say that I understand this all too well… but it was impressive to see.

In the center of these Buddha figures is a larger Buddha that was had carved by a famous 82 year old artist.

Next, we visited the Nijo Castle. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built in 1603, it was the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugaway Shogun. In 1867, when Yoshinobu, the fifteenth Tokugawa Shogun returned sovereignty to the Emperor, the castle became the property of the Imperial family. It was donated to the City of Kyoto and renamed Nijo Castle in 1939.

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Our final destination was the “Must See” Kinkaku or The Golden Pavilion. It is literally made of gold and sits stunningly on an island surrounded by Maple & Cherry Trees among other stunning landscape. It was overcast today, so didn’t see the gold temple and Cherry Blossoms reflected in the lake, but photos show that it is breathtaking in both spring and again in fall with the changing colors of the maple trees.

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My birthday celebration was spent with a Champagne dinner at the Ryokan, where dressed in Kimonos, we indulged in an 18 course traditional Japanese dinner.

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Certainly a birthday I will always treasure. Thank you, dear travel mates and friends!