A couple of the places that we are visiting (Shugakuin and Katsura) require that you make an appointment before going (about a week before). They are very strict about who they let in to see these national treasures. We have to go in small groups of four and show our passports. Let's just say, a big production to see these places! Yesterday was one of those days that will stay with me forever. I wasn't in a very good mood when the day began...it was raining pretty hard, and the day was jam-packed with activities (ie. lots of walking!). My small group and I left for Shugakuin about an hour and 15 minutes before our tour began. Little did we know we would have to switch trains 3 times! By the time we got off of the train, we had 5 minutes to check in (they won't let you in if you are late). So there we are, running up the hill in the rain to the palace! I am sooooooooo happy that we made it on time though. Shugakuin Imperial Villa was probably the highlight of my trip so far. It is similar to Katsura, but about 10 times as large. The structure of the palace itself was unremarkable, but the grounds took my breath away. A gorgeous landscape nestled at the foot of the mountain. I think the fact that it was raining made this experience all the more magical. I found it interesting that there was agricultural production on the grounds. It was very inspirational for me because I am hoping to do my thesis next year on sustainable communities with organic agriculture implemented. It was a good case study to see how structures, ag land, and landscape work together. After the palace, we met up with the rest of our class to see Manshuin Temple and Shisendo Temple. Both had incredible zen garden for viewing.
These long days sight-seeing are exhausting. Not only are we on our feet all day, we get back to our apartments and have to stay up late working on our design projects, language homework, and write papers. But everytime I look back and reflect on my experiences thus far, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had this incredible opportunity to study architecture and live in Japan.