the gang goes to kyoto

Every person has a hierarchy of relationships. Like most people, I have acquaintances, friends, close friends, and blood relatives. I’m also lucky to have a seester (not biologically-related, but someone I will grow old with) and friends who have become family. They satisfy the self-actualizing segment of the hierarchy of needs because their thoughts stimulate new understanding and inspiration within me; we work together to solve problems using our individual strengths, and our collective honest opinion helps us each to face uncomfortable truths. We all agree that we feel free to be our best, most honest selves when we’re together because we resonate with complete acceptance of each other. Surrounding myself in this love and mutual admiration is what family means to me.

I met this tribe through a college student group and since we each graduated and made our way in the real world, we have reunited just about every year in different places: Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, New York, and now JAPAN.

Somehow we came up with the name CHOLA back in school; it’s just the first letter of each of our names in an acronym (Chris, Harmeet, Oscar, Lindsay, Alice), and it stuck as a loving reminder of this chosen family.

Since it was the boys’ first time in Kyoto I took them to the famous hot spots I had already visited during my trip back in November. I introduced them to a traditional kaiseki meal, shojin ryori vegetarian cuisine that Kyoto is known for, and took them to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Iwatayama Monkey Park, Fushimi Inari Taisha and Kiyomizu-dera temples, as well as the Gion and Pontocho districts. I always leave Kyoto wanting more so I think I will try to return sometime later this spring when the weather is a bit warmer.

% arabica coffee_MG_5754.jpgIMG_3715.jpgakahime kimono rentalIMG_5492.JPG_MG_5859.jpg_MG_5872.jpg


_MG_61580217C2BB-336D-41DD-992F-ED0E2E62D5C3.jpgsee the sky through my eyesIMG_4070IMG_4162


_MG_5850_MG_5843_MG_5942_MG_5911_MG_5993.jpgIS ANYONE ELSE SEEING THIS? naughty monkey!
_MG_5971I fed him anyway…I’m such an enabler._MG_6140album cover



_MG_6175.jpg_MG_5796Many of these photos were taken on iPhone 7, can you believe it? You can hardly tell the difference between them and the ones off my DSLR. The apple camera function is getting real clean my friends. Hit ’em with the depth effect!

Location: Arashiyama // Fushimi Inari Taisha // Gion // Kyoto, Kansai Region, Japan

killin me softly, kyoto

Ready yourself for the onslaught of photos I’m about to drop on your visual channel. I can’t help it, Kyoto in the fall is truly enchanting. It turns out everything everyone says about it, is true. Kyoto is the less crazed, more hushed, more visibly tourist-laden counterpart to Tokyo (and perhaps the latter because there is a more solidified list of ‘must sees’). My advice is to go early (8 am is sufficient) to the immersive attractions like Fushimi Inari Taisha (the many-rowed vermilion tori gates) and Arashiyama (bamboo forest), while leaving the more viewing-based sites like temples, the Gion district, and such to whenever you have time. Brilliant autumn colors uplift the scenery everywhere; fire-red momiji, or Japanese maple trees, and sunshine yellow of falling gingko leaves. We are guardians of a beautiful earth, my friends. Let us cherish and appreciate it often.

Happily, I’ll be returning to the kansai region in the spring when my dear college family comes to visit. I hope to see the philosopher’s path, kyoto imperial palace, perhaps tour a whisky distillery, and also taste the street delicacies of Osaka next time.

IMG_4445.JPGI stand tall like a bamboo tree
ever upward, reaching

The wind blows and yet I stand
That which troubles me, grounds me

My faith in the universe like a sapling
I dance and sway

Forever unbroken
My spirit shall never waver
I may fall but never falter.
Spirit Tree by  Alice 

An upright thing of green sprouts out of the ground,
A bladed thing of green springs out of the ground,
Piercing the iced-over winter,
And when its green leaves shine on the morning’s empty road,
Tears fall,
I let tears fall,
Even now, from over the shoulders burdened by remorse.
The hazy roots of bamboo spreads out,
And the bladed thing of green sprouts out of the ground.
Bamboo by Sakutaro Hagiwara

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Looking up, falling down

IMG_4319 (1).JPGIMG_4298.jpgKinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion


img_4349img_4351remember that time we snuck in a 30 minute window at dinnertime without reservations at famous Kyoto omurice joint, Kichi Kichi? (thank you for smiling upon us, food gods)

My mama used to make me omurice when I was a kid, which essentially consisted of ketchup-flavored fried rice wrapped in an omelette–a total child’s palette pleaser as you can imagine. But this stuff was more grown up with onions, peas, and topped with a demi-glace sauce. I will never think of omurice the same way.

Autumn Illumination at Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist Templeimg_3809img_3821img_3815IMG_3765.JPGmaikos (apprentice geishas) in the wild
img_4015Fushimi Inari-taisha


img_4182The names engraved on each of the 10,000 vermilion torii gates represent patrons who have sponsored their creation with monetary donations. I randomly spotted a gate with my surname, . The literal meaning is ‘woods’, thus the character looks like two trees. My pronunciation is ‘Lin’, whereas the Japanese iteration of the same character is ‘Hayashi’. I loved seeing the morning light filter in from the surrounding forest in this peaceful place.
img_4183IMG_4180.jpgkitsune (foxes) are thought to be messengers for the Shinto god of rice, Inari, and their likenesses are strewn about the altars and gates of this shrine…IMG_4083.jpg

Minami-za, the primary kabuki theatre in Kyoto, near the famed Gion districtIMG_3830.JPGIMG_3859.JPGIMG_3872.JPGimg_3876grind your own kinako (roasted soybean powder) to sprinkle atop dango (mochi dumplings) at Nishiki market, where you can sample sake, tsukemono (picked vegetables), and sweets

IMG_3887.JPGIMG_3940.JPGOi River (大堰川 Ōi-gawa)

img_3950img_3952IMG_3974.jpghead in the clouds // feet off the groundIMG_4124.JPGwhen in doubt, dance it outIMG_3996.JPGimg_4248img_4234img_4032Nijo castle // view from the roof deck of Kyoto station
mata Kyoto, off to play with the deer in Nara

xo your friend alice

Location: Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Prefecture, Kansai Region, Japan