Despite a cloudier, wetter spring than most, we managed to do a lot in April.

Cherry Blossoms

I’ll start at the end of March, when we visited Osaka Castle to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve uploaded highlights from that trip below. The weather cleared up a bit that night, and we saw some beautiful colors at dusk from the castle grounds.

Osaka Castle

Maruyama Park (円山公園)

On March 30th, we visited Maruyama Park in Kyoto. It’s a park known for cherry blossom viewing and has a famous cherry blossom tree. The famous tree had already shed most of its blossoms, but many of the other trees remained intact.

The Chion-In Temple Gate

After strolling through Maruyama, we walked down the main strip of Gion (祇園), where we passed Shijo Avenue, famed for its geisha. We also passed Kyoto’s kabuki theater (both seen below).

Bunraku Puppet Theater (文楽劇場)

For years I’ve wanted to see a live bunraku performance. Bunraku is a traditional puppet theater performance native to Osaka (大阪). The stories and subject matter mirror that seen in kabuki. on April 8th, I visited the theater in Osaka.

The theater lies in an area not far from Dōtonbori, one of the popular tourist destinations in Osaka (seen left).

You can’t take pictures or record video in the theater, so I’ve linked a YouTube video on the topic below.

The subway near the theater houses a shopping mall with numerous eating spots. We lucked out on a Chanpon noodle restaurant. Chanpon noodles come from Nagasaki in Kyushu, but these were the best we had tasted outside of Nagasaki.

The Temples

April 13th – Nanzen-Ji (南禅寺) Temple, Kyoto

On the 13th, we visited Kyoto and looked around Nanzen-Ji, a prominent historical center of Zen Buddhism. The temple lies next to a western style aqueduct along which visitors can walk.

Byōdō-in Temple (平等院) in Uji (宇治市)

On April 20th we visited another classical Heian (平安時代) Buddhist temple in a part of Kyoto called Uji. Byodo-In jointly represents Pure Land and Tendai-shu sects of Buddhism. Most Westerners associate Zen Buddhism with Japan, but Jōdo Buddhism (浄土宗), or Pure Land Buddhism, enjoys a wider following.

Near the entrance to the temple, a statue of Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genji (源氏物語) sits before the Uji River. On the temple grounds, beautiful wisteria (the hanging purple flowers below) adorns pergolas, lotus blossoms grow on the koi pond, and butterflies flit about the shrubs. I snapped a lucky shot of a butterfly, which I included.

The Parks (公園)

Los Angeles has a lot to offer its residents, but something I always found the parks lacking. I had to drive 30-40 minutes from Pasadena to reach a park of any real size or variety. Osaka has no shortage of parks, however.

Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park

On the 22nd, we visited one of the largest parks in Osaka–Tsurumi Ryokuchi, established for an international flower expo. Prominent features include flower gardens, a small lake, and windmills.

We ended the day with a visit to a UCC cafe, a franchise I used to frequent in Los Angeles before they closed some years back. They had some of my favorite pour-over coffee, so I wanted to find one here in Japan.

Yamada Ike Park (山田池公園)

Last Sunday, the 23rd, we walked to the local park, which turned out as delightful as Tsurumi Ryokuchi. The park is a 15–20-minute walk east from the apartment. We caught the flower gardens in full bloom.

Chinatown at Kobe (Nankinmachi, 南京町)

For the past several weeks, I’ve had a yen for Chinese food, so we visited the Chinatown in Kobe prefecture on Thursday. We found a dim sum restaurant on the main strip and had shark fin ramen with xiaolongbao. Afterwards, we walked to the Kobe port and explored the Mosaic shopping mall, which has many unique shops and restaurants. It reminded me of the shopping malls from my childhood, before the big brands homogenized the shopping experience.

Tomorrow brings the month of April to a close, but next week is Golden Week, so I will only teach two days, and then I’m off to Tokyo.

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