Kimonos and Culture in Kyoto
Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
124Trip End Feb 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
A quick train ride from Nara got us right into the heart of the city. We were staying in a hostel that had just opened two days prior to us getting there. The moment we went in we were struck by the amount of plants and bouquets that were surrounding the reception area. The girl who greeted us said they were mostly from other hotels and hostels in the area. Another glimpse of a different and fascinating part of Japanese culture.
The hostel itself was perfect. Built in a 'ryokan' style it had a gorgeous common room with sliding paper doors, a huge flat screen TV, giant cushions to lounge on and a fully equipped kitchen. We spent many hours in this common room chatting to other travellers, doing research for our trip and for the first time since we left, watching TV!. The Internet speed was so fast here that I could even watch X factor and Apprentice programs at the click of a button. Sad I know but it brought me hours of joy. (I'm still gutted that Cher didn't win).
Although we hadn't seen the best bit yet. We went into these world heritage gardens to chill out after a whole day walking around the town. Wow we were absolutely gobsmacked. This garden was designed by the gods. Yet again, it was like we'd stumbled into a postcard. After taking thousands of pictures we remembered to just sit down and take it all in. The gorgeous, carp filled pond, the trees with the turning leaves, the little pathways, everything about these gardens was breathtaking.
One thing, or rather person I was really hoping to see was a Geisha. You can tell them apart from other kimono wearing women by their arch like hairstyles and painted white faces. The modern day Geishas are an interesting part of Japanese culture. Their main art is the tea ceremony, which in true Japanese fashion takes years to perfect. Five years of study in fact! Clearly this is not your typical Tetley tea bag affair. They will also have at least one more talent up their kimono sleeve. Be it singing, or playing an instrument. Rich men pay thousands of Yen to be entertained by a Geisha, and yes it does stop at the tea pouring and singing. Geisha numbers have dwindled significantly since the 1920's. Whereas then there were over 80000 geishas in Japan today you will only find about a thousand. Maybe Japan's modern woman finds the tradition outdated?
We did catch a glimpse of a couple on the streets but we could only admire from afar and not take photos. We were in luck though. As always, without any forward planning we'd managed to be in Kyoto during the only fortnight where Geishas set up and perform in a play. Hooray! As we discovered this on the last day of the play we quickly ran to the office booth to buy tickets for that afternoon. The ticket also included a short tea ceremony by a geisha and her young apprentice which was great to see. The play though was even more fascinating, I was enthralled by the gorgeous costumes, the intricate hair-does and the white faces. It didn't matter that we couldn't understand a single word of the play, the spectacle of colours was enough. It was a very special afternoon.
There are temples everywhere in Kyoto, it's a bit like curry houses back in Brum. Although slightly more opulent. We only saw a few of them as to be honest we were a bit cultured up! One we ended up in had Monks doing a ceremony and chanting. We sat and listened for a while almost in a trance like state.
The great thing about Japan is the architecture and Kyoto train station is like something out of Star Wars. We loved it and it was nice to see a giant Christmas tree up. Talking of Star Wars, on one of our days in Kyoto we managed to stay in 3 different types of accommodation in 1 day! We woke up in our hostel, had an afternoon kip in a capsule hotel and then spent the night in a love hotel! I should explain really shouldn't I! Okay.
I have always wanted to sleep in a capsule hotel since I was a kid and luckily there was one on the same street as our hostel. So we went in and booked 3 hours in the afternoon, what a great excuse for a siesta! It was the cleanest and most futuristic place I had ever been in. All white tiles and white furniture. The floors are separated into gender so we said our goodbyes and went on our way. I first went to the changing floor / shower room got changed into my funky sleep-wear and headed to the capsule bed. It was soooo quiet inside the room and there was hardly any lighting. (I have done a video clip which i will put on Facebook when we have the chance.) Needless to say I slept really well for 3 hours. They have had Capsule hotels in Japan for 30 years and they are a brilliant idea if you miss your train home or you just want to chill for a few hours.
So that concludes Kyoto. A really cool city with hints of ancient Japan on every corner. We are now going back to Tokyo as Karen has two days work back there. Yes, that is right, work!
Karen & Paul xxx