It’s the little back streets in Kyoto that surprises await unexpectedly. The four Alaskan travellers with their backpacks getting ready to move on. The elegantly dressed girls wearing their splendid kimonos shuffling along, and sometimes with a handsome partner. It’s the maple trees that spread across the shrine precincts, the smokers, cats, the pot plants mingled with the hanging lanterns. Someone singing. A policeman guiding the cars and more.
I love the colours of the kimonos – vibrant, patterned, floral and pastel. To rent a full robe with accessories costs 2,500 yen per day. Tax is added to the price. Hair styles include furisode, hakama, homing, kimono. The obi sashes are elaborate and can be a contrasting colour. I believe the difference between a kimono and yukata is in the fabric. Mostly silk versus cotton.
The shops are scattered everywhere in Gion where we are staying for 5 nights. The main shopping streets are busy yet there’s a peace. With our trusty map and never ending curiosity we walk to many places passing Shrines, temples and craft stores. What is particularly nice is escaping the crowds and sneaking away to the quiet gardens. Tall cedars line the steep and winding steps, gates await, and a Buddha carving so huge that Bill cannot stop talking about it. Kyoto is the mountain home of many ancient temples and old legends. And orange is a stand out colour to mark your bearings plus some gold.
I won’t mention all the names of the shrines or explain the Shinto ways and Buddhist philosophy except to say that hundreds of Japanese worship daily, bowing their heads and clapping. Kyoto has the tall tower, Nijo castle, the Golden Pavilion, The Imperial Castle, Museums of traditional arts and crafts, Manga museums, Raku Museum, Shibori Museum ( where I took a the dyeing class workshop) and the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art where I was stunned with the screen prints and installations of artist Yahoo Kusama. Another hidden surprise. Today she is 89 years of age living in Tokyo, the one on the right!!
Inside this gallery, our shoes are taken off, put into a paid locker and collected at the end. No photographs to be taken inside the 5 rooms, except for the ones I could. The brilliant colour of the paint, pastel and fabrics of Mt Fuji scenes, flowers and pumpkins was a site to behold. I kept pinching myself for being there. I will remember Kyoto for this pleasurable experience.
When you think of Kyoto, there’s meditation, Beef shabbu shabbu, authentic sushi, rice bowls, bars, beer and sake. I’m a bit side tracked with the ceramics, teapots and textiles, so Bill enjoys some people watching and comes out with the funniest stories. It’s difficult to purchase fruit ( way too expensive), trash must be carried out with you so don’t expect to find bins on the streets.
When it’s all said and done, strolling is the answer. Through the shopping arcades, the narrow pathways, the modern and traditional blends of architecture, wandering and absorbing the culture and ways. Chatting to the school students and taking their photographs added a sparkle to the day. Even though we missed out on seeing The Swords of Kyoto ( at the National Museum – a one hour wait), we did encounter the Sagano bamboo Grove and Arashiyama walking tour with sweet Kimiyo.
No bungee jumping off the Kyoto tower
Watch your head because the Japanese people are small in height.
A great snack to eat is a chocolate and biscuit for 99 yen at the supermarket.
Write on gift packet who the gift is for back home.
Try a calligraphy class or tea tasting ( 8 varieties of tea – matcha, gyokura, sencha, and bancha)