Sorry for missing the last two posts, but I was very busy: I had my first visitor from Austria! Of course she came with a whole suitcase of Austrian goodies just for me which are now filling my fridge and freezer – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

In return, we went out together on two days, it was her third time in Kyoto already, but even after living here for 5 years, we could still find things neither of us had done before. On Sunday afternoon, after a late lunch at a running sushi, we went to an exhibition, and in the evening, we visited the lightup at Kodai-ji and Entoku-in temples, both founded by Nene, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and both considered national treasures for their gardens. The weather was a bit chilly after dark, so there were not many people, but from that one visit I prefer Entoku-in: more space to sit and contemplate.

Kodaiji in the nightEntokuin by night. On Monday I left my friend to explore the city, we just met up quickly for dinner when we had Okonomiyaki and made plans for Tuesday. We spent most of Tuesday walking a stretch along Lake Biwa: In the morning, we took a train to Omi Takashima, and from there walked to Shirahige Shrine, which has a nice torii located in the lake. It’s not as impressive as the one at Miyajima, but it’s still a nice place to visit. However, the enthusiasm is a bit dampened by the Nishi-Omi Highway that runs between the lake with the torii and the main shrine buildings and is a bit dangerous to cross.

Shirahige ShrineWe wanted to walk further south, but since the only way at this point is by walking along the highway, we went back to Omi Takashima and took a train two stations south to Omi Maiko. From there, there seems to be one beach resort after the other (with pine trees on the beach, very Japanese), so there are many little roads nearby the lake. Of course, it is way too cold for swimming still, so the beaches and restaurants and little pensions were all but deserted. However, in summer, it is clearly a hot spot teeming with families and youth.

48 Buddhist Statues near Omi Takashima Although we only walked a path the length of two train stations, this part of the trip took us almost two hours. Together with the two hours we walked to and from the shrine, this was the longest hiking trip I have done in a long time. When I finally came home, I was completely exhausted… I did enjoy the day though, and it may be worthwhile to take another trip along the lake on the bicycle one day.

My friend has since left me to my own devices again, and is now taking a serious hiking trip from Osaka all the way to Ise Shrine. I had a great time, it’s always nice to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and who knows, next time my friend comes to visit, I’m just as big a fan of hiking as my friend. 😉