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Let’s face it.  Much of travel can be a gamble.  Days that start out promising can quickly get a sour taste.  Finding a famous tourist attraction does not guarantee anything  more than it’s sure to be crowded. Online recommendations and even World Heritage Sites may or may not ring your own bells.

And so it goes.  I’ve learned to accept the fact that not every place visited will hit a home run.

Today we said goodbye to our house guest and decided to take a short train ride to a neighboring town that was, for a ten year period, the capital of Japan before it was moved to Kyoto. The town was recommended in a popular Kyoto periodical.

As can often be the case, there were no specific directions given in the article we read to finding the recommended historic temples and shrines.  There was no information kiosk with cute little maps. There was just a need to pick an exit from the train station, kind of an eenie- meenie- miney -mo decision.  There were no taxis available at the station either.

The day became increasingly warmer as we decided we could probably walk to the first shrine. There was nothing of even mild interest in the generic town as we walked towards the tall torii gate at the side of the mountain. I started thinking this was probably going to be one of “those” days, but I kept my mouth so as not to tarnish my husband’s thoughts.  Signs grew more negative when we reached the famous red azalea walkway lined with 200 yr old azalea trees, now all finished flowering, blossoms shriveled and brown.  OOps, bad timing.

If the azzaleas had been in bloom!

If the azaleas had been in bloom!

It wasn’t until we’d climbed several flights of stairs  that the scene became compelling.  A shrine is a shrine is a shrine but although they share similar characteristics each one is as unique as a snowflake.  Things suddenly looked more promising.

A beautiful washbasin


Rub the friendly ox where you feel pain and then touch your same body part.  Expect healing.



thousands of cranes

The honden, or main sanctuary .  All in all, we enjoyed our visit and we were glad we’d seen this shrine, although it would have been no great loss if we hadn’t!    This charming little girl was so pleased I asked to take her picture.  Her photo summed up my feelings too.


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.