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One way we can recall what it’s like to be a child again, is to travel with children. It’s good if they’re thoughtful and curious.  It’s an added bonus if they have a good “eye” and catch sight of things you might overlook.  A willingness to try new things including unusual looking foreign food is a bonus.  A sense of adventure comes with the territory.

A little back story. Remarkably similar to their grandmother’s penchant for sweet things, both children became initially fascinated with Japan because each time I came back from Japan, I brought back Japanese KitKats for them. The delightful flavors are unseen in the USA.  (See original post.)  The Japanese love of sweet things seems to surpass that of any other country I’ve visited.  Kids pick up on this candy heaven quickly.  It goes without saying they can become easily distracted by what adults think of as junk, but that’s part of being a kid too.

In just a few days, they’ve wandered with us by the small shops, the food stalls and the trinket shops that lead up to the Kiyomizaderu Temple.  I find myself suddenly playing the role of tour leader, expounding on Kyoto history, which they’re not that interested in and do not yet feel they have to feign interest.  I’ve learned to direct my lectures to their parents, who at least appear interested!  It’s a fine line from informing to information overload.


along the way to the Kyomizaderu Temple.

At the temple gates.

Yesterday, I introduced them to the myriad wonders of the monthly Japanese flea market at the beautiful Kitano Temangu Shrine.   They took to shopping like a duck takes to water.  I actually think they might have had more fun than I did, which is making quite a statement.


worshippers at Kitano Temangu Shrine

We spotted the last of the plum blossoms, looked at lots of stuff, saw hundreds of people lined up to say a prayer at the center of the shrine, and ate Japanese fast food.  Here’s a few photos of things that caught the eye of the 9-year-old.

Dealer at flea market

The last of the season’s plum blossoms

They’ve learned several important words in Japanese, most importantly, how to say good morning, etc. but also the importance of thank you and excuse me for bothering you (sumi masen).  When finished with sightseeing, they’re more than happy to retreat to their own world on their ipads.  It’s tough competition, but I like to think we’re providing them with an appreciation of a fascinating culture that could possibly have lasting impact.

One granddaughter was heard to say, I don’t want to see anymore shrines, although she’d only seen two and had barely scratched the surface as far as I was concerned.  So yesterday, we set them free in downtown Kyoto for a day of shopping.  They loved Teramachi arcade,the 100Y store, and easily talked their Dad into taking them to a cat forest and an owl forest (commercial ones), and last but not least then explored the Pokemon section on the toy floor of Takashimaya.


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Linda Mason says:

    The Japanese culture has is own childlike charm too. Their graphics are fantastical, the bakeries up there with the French but more fanciful, everything on a perfect scale for us short people! Lovely diary to read!

  • Lisa stamm says:

    Just heaven to live vicariously. So much fun to hear this. Lisa

  • Judi Wallner says:

    This is something that they’re bound to remember for a lifetime….and you will too.

  • vasanti says:

    Cat forest? Tell us more via here or email.

    • devapnek says:

      I knew that would get your attention. They’re rooms that simulate a forest that you pay to enter to pet and look at the animals. You pay for 30 minute visits!

  • Gail Rieke says:

    How did the Flea a Market Dealer know he was wearing that color just for me?

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