Monday, January 19
Before heading out of Kyoto, we went to To-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to explore the complex of halls and the five-story pagoda. The pagoda is the tallest in Japan at 187 feet. The current pagoda was built in 1644, with the original having been built in the 9th century. Fire destroyed four of the previous pagodas
Vibrations from earthquakes are absorbed by the construction of the pagoda: each level moves independently of each other, producing a snake-like motion.
To-ji is the headquarters for the Shingon (Esoteric) sect of Buddhism and in addition to the pagoda, we viewed incredible gilded Buddha statues housed in two large halls.
A large weeping cherry tree is planted near the entrance to the pagoda site, which was impressively supported by various cables and anchors. Because To-ji is a designated historical site and the ground cannot be excavated, this tree had to be planted in a mound of soil.
We bid farewell to Kyoto and traveled by (regular) train to Osaka. Having no official appointments upon our arrival, we took advantage of the time to traverse the area around our hotel and experience the Daimaru department store, which comprises 15 floors of our hotel building.
Japan is famous for its department stores and the lower levels are usually filled with delicious-looking foods and confections. This department store has almost anything you could want, from Pokemon to wedding kimonos to gardening tools.
In the city, we discovered a green wall on a commercial building and a beautiful display of Phalenopsis orchids at a florist, as well as several other lively streets.