Gion

January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The night was warm and quiet however I did wake with a bit of my shoulder stiff.  Perhaps I’ve had it too good on a regular bed and need to toughen up.  Millions of Japanese sleep like this and I’m sure I can too. More importantly, William’s  fever had gone and I don’t feel bad about dragging him to Kyoto anymore.

We started the day with thick white toast.  Hmmmm….something I would never dare to serve at home but what a luxury.  The toast was almost a square block it was so thick.   The Three Sisters Ryokan is very simple but very helpful and quite relaxed.   We decided to walk as much as we can and started towards Nanzen-ji Temple.  It was an easy walk and the structure is quite simple and grand.  I like how the Japanese tend to make their temples understated.  Chinese temples are beautiful but many of them are tired looking and overly painted with harsh colours.   Japanese temple generally are more subdued and muted.   We walked up the shrine and took a few photos which are not allowed but Reid who is braver than I am snapped a couple while we were at the top of Nanzen-ji.   After walking around to the gardens we decided to head towards the Yasaka Shrine just on the edge of the Gion area.  This area is part of older Kyoto and some of its streets are covered with stone and wonderfully kept building converted to restaurants and galleries.   There are a few paths that have become very commercial and touristy but just off the main paths are some very charming corners.  The Shrine itself was interesting with quite a lot of structures around it but I think I liked the walk better.  My kids loved trying to ring those huge bells in the centre of the Shrine.

We wanted to walk of toward the cemetery however couldn’t figure how to do so and stuck to our plan to head towards Kiyomizu Temple.   While walking towards Kiyomizu, we stopped by a ceramic shop and the kids had their first try of the potter’s wheel at Kansho Kiln Inc www.kashogama.com.  Claire was very gung-ho about it and William a bit reluctant after realizing he had to put his hands into wet clay.   They were helped by a potter visiting from Africa.  Though it was William claimed it was cold, the kids really enjoyed the 20 minute class and the idea of they making a vessel they can use.

Not far from there we saw the Japanese cream puffs and stopped for a snack.  Green tea cream puffs seem to be the thing here and of course we had to try one.  I’m not an expert in cream puffs and they are not the best but they are decent when one needs to coax two kids towards yet another temple.

At the foot of he Kiyomizu Temple we saw quite a few girls and some men dressed in modern kimonos.  We weren’t sure if they were Maiko – apprentice geisha but it was pleasant to see them wearing kimonos quite freely as if it was part of their everyday life.   Arriving at Kiyomizu you are greeted by a dragon where you cleanse your hands and enter into a structure which is over 1000 years old.   The temple is quite magnificent and its unbelievable that the temple is as old as it is.

After Kiyomizu, we walked back toward Gion Corner to the Yasaka Hall.  There we spotted two real geishas.  They were every bit what I thought a geisha would look like.  Part doll and part human.  They were dressed elegantly, with their hair perched up on their heads and held together with combs.  We asked if we could take photos and graciously their chaperon allowed Claire and William to do so.  As they walked away the back of their necks were exposed with the white make-up swooping from their kimonos.

We stopped for hot chocolate and green tea before the traditional show at Gion Corner www.ookinizaidan.com.  The hot chocolate looked amazing and the tea was made by hand with tea powder and whipped til it was frothy.  I have never had green tea like I did today and I’m not sure I like it so authentic.  I like drinking tea really hot which it wasn’t and it was bitter.  I had expected it to be lighter tasting.  Also being raised Chinese, I was taught to drink teas and soups piping hot.  Otherwise it was quiet a nice tea house but forgot to take a business card but it was just a few shops on the main street just outside of Yasaka Hall.

As for the traditional show, quite frankly it was a bit slow.   Claire seemed to enjoy it since she took part in the tea ceremony but poor William couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  It’s difficult for a little boy to sit for such a serious show.  There was a bit of comedy which I’m not sure he would understand if we didn’t explain to him what was going on but he seemed to enjoy that section of the show….otherwise it’s questionable for most males under 25 year.  Patience is what I kept saying…boring is what he kept repeating back to me.

Dinner was a typical donburi nearby and then we walked home.  The night was clear and Reid pointed out the big dipper.  The kids have never seen so many stars out.  A wee bit sad but they appreciated the beauty of the stars and wanted us to take a photo of it.  It’s a shame we couldn’t.   How do you take a photo of the stars?  We made it home at around 10pm…it was a long day and 10 km later the kids are tired…..

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