Thursday, February 5

The Day After Oshogatsu: Nijo-jo and Gifu

Tree Cozies
All wrapped up for winter.

The day I was to leave, we decided to make it Raku-Raku, nice and relaxed after two days of running around in the cold all day. After a leisurely morning and breakfast, we walked over to Nijo Castle, which is just a block from Yasuko's apartment.




As it was still New Year's Time, the castle itself was closed, but the grounds were open for New Year strolling and admiring. While I'd been to Nijo-jo before, I'd only been inside the castle, so this was the first time I'd had a chance to walk around the grounds.




Steps Down
What struck me about the perimeters was that Nijo-jo is actually lower than other parts. Usually castles are on a hill overlooking the town. The grounds in this corner of the garden reminded me an angular amphitheater or a reverse Aztec pyramid.





All Kinds
Japan is all kinds of folks, and all kinds of Japanese folks can appreciate its heritage for the New Year.


Yuzu?




But the main event was the First Matcha of the Year. We bought our tickets for 700 yen and went in to the special tea room set up for that day.


Joseph is excited to go drink the first matcha of the year!


Welcoming us to the matcha room.



My matcha ticket.
Set out before me, so the servers would know I hadn't been served yet.


Matcha Sippers...
and a Ghost of Sippers Past


Outside the gates to Nijojo, with a giant waving flag and a giant kadomatsu, lit up at night.

On the way home from Kyoto, I stopped (or rerouted) to Gifu, to spend the night with my dear friend, Aya-sensei. I was beat, but we braved the frigid temperatures to enjoy an Illumination display at Nagara Koen.

Me and JoJo are two happy-go-lucky dawgs.
Notice that the foreign breed lives inside, while the Japanese dog is outside. At least he got a scarf.


Lovely Queen
It's like this sign was made just for him.

I had a lovely time with Aya-sensei and her family, eating temaki sushi, more ozoni (happiness) and gingerbread houses, holding kitties, chatting and catching up.

But I was also glad to finally get home to my own bed and my own 4+ walls.

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