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  • Writer's pictureMaia Marin


Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Blog by Maia Marin

Kyoto, Ibaraki, Nara | March 23, 2023 - March 25, 2023


Tenryūji 天龍寺, our first stop throughout the trip, was a perfect introduction to the

landscapes of Japan. I had never been so excited to look at plants and walk on some rocks. We all stopped to take pictures of ourselves, others, the vegetation, and every little ornamental detail we could find; it was all fascinating. Let me tell you that it was a rainy day, and most of the group did not have umbrellas. Personally, my experience not only on this site but for the rest of that day wouldn't have been the same without the rain. The pitter-patter on the roof tiles and the freshness of the blossoming vegetation only enhanced the overall experience.

Ryōanji 龍安寺, by far one of the most anticipated locations by myself, is considered Japan's most famous rock garden, and within reason. We removed our shoes to walk around the space's interior, surrounded by plants, water, and the infamous dry garden. Visitors sit on the

side of the temple overlooking the dry garden, sketching, taking pictures, or simply taking it in. The refreshing and moist air made this a meditative space for me to just sit and observe the intentional lines in the rocky landscape.

Kinkakuji 金閣寺, the Golden Pavilion, was densely populated by diverse people. I heard variations of English and Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and many other languages being brought together here. At this point in the trip, the intense downpour had stopped, allowing for a clear reflection of the Golden Pavilion to appear in the water preceding it.

The Kiyomizu-dera region in Kyoto was my first experience in Japan, where I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in existence. Even after visiting metropolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Guadalajara this singular area of Kyoto was bombarded by crowds of people I had never faced before in my life. Here, we visited the Yasaka Shrine and walked along the mountainside it was located on to take in views of Kyoto between the Sakura trees.


Early morning in Kyoto, we awoke and prepared for the day. After boarding our charter bus for the day, we were welcomed by Dr. Makoto Nakamura, a former professor of Landscape Architecture at Kyoto University. At the ripe age of 92 years, Nakamura guided us to his newly completed garden for the Daimon-ji Buddhist temple in the mountains of Ibaraki. This section of the trip was heartwarming and representative of the polite nature of the Japanese people. A retired Buddhist priest of the Daimon-ji temple shared the simple beauty and interiors of the temple and then welcomed our group into his home for some assortments of Manju and Matcha tea. Kindness and willingness to share such spiritual beliefs made the mountaintops much less intimidating.


Nara Park, simply put, was a paradise for deer. Visitors of all ages and races became elated at the sight of the deer so closely inhabiting the same space. Cracker stands were at every corner, with the old women managing them being pestered by the snack frenzied deer. I watched as strangers and classmates received aggressive bows and nudges from the deer, but they all yelled with enthusiasm. It was heartwarming to see such joy being shared between ourselves and the deer.

Todai-ji Temple was absolutely stunning. The sheer scale of the structure itself was massive and picturesque. After waiting in line for a few minutes with little to no expectations, I remember walking in and feeling a massive wave of emotions come over me. I could hear the awe in my classmates voices as we all whispered "oh my god". I clearly remember looking over and seeing sparkles in some eyes including my own. I sincerely hope to return and relive that experience in the future.

Kofuku-ji Temple was a short walk from Nara park, so many deer were blessing the sacred space with their presence. It was here that we entered a building containing historically significant objects which couldn't be captured through images. Frankly, I'm glad we couldn't otherwise I probably wouldn't have fully analyzed these objects and their ornate details. I actually purchased a small bell charm to attach to my phone, because of it's subtle sound which I thoroughly enjoy.

All Images were captured and edited by the poster


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