Shugaku-in Rikyo Imperial Villas & Gion Hatanaka

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Mar 17, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Friday, March 1, 2013

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My guide from Kyoto Free Guides came by my hotel early today.  We took a train and then a taxi to get to Shugaku-in Rikyo Imperial Villas in time for our reservation.

You don't get to go into any of the villas at Shugaku-in Rikyo Imperial Villas.  You just get to tour the gardens.  The gardens cover a lot of ground and are impressive but after the other gardens I've visited it seemed a little redundant.  I probably should have used the time to tour something a little more convenient.

Next we went to Ginkaku-ji aka the Silver Pavilion.  When my guide suggested it I didn't realize I had seen it before but I remembered it as soon as we entered.  You don't get to go into any of the buildings but the gardens are very nice and it's worth seeing.

My guide had to leave around noon.  I went back to the hotel for a little while.  I decided on a plan but when I stepped out the door of the hotel I found it had started raining. I went back inside and came up with a new plan.  I decided to go to the covered shopping arcades.  

The first time I was in Kyoto I took a picture of some very nice fans in a shop in or near the covered shopping arcades.  I wandered around all of the covered areas.  I found the knife shop where I bought a knife ten years ago but I couldn't find the fan shop.  I ran out of time and had to head for dinner.

I had a dinner reservation at an ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) called Gion Hatanaka for their Kyoto Cuisine & Maiko Evening.  The dinner is held in a room that seats 16.  There's a row of seats on either side of the room facing toward the middle.  There was a folding screen set up between the two rows at one end of the room.  The tables had already been set and the first course put on the table when I arrived. My side of the room was all tourists. The other side was a group of Japanese women who were staying at the ryokan.

Shortly into the meal a maiko (apprentice geisha) and a geiko (the word used for a geisha in Kyoto) entered the room.  The maiko sat in front of the screen and the geiko sat to her left with a shamisen (stringed instrument).  The maiko sang while the geiko played. After a couple songs they went around the room and you could ask them questions with the help of one of the servers acting as a translator. At some point the maiko played a couple drinking games.  One was sort of like Rock, Paper, Scissors but the other required skill.  A ceramic cup holder was placed on the table.  With each beat of the music the two players alternated taking turns.  On each turn you had to either pat the cup holder with the palm of your hand, pick up the cup holder, put the cup holder back down or touch your knuckles to the table if the other player was holding the cup holder.  If you touched the cup holder with your knuckles, patted the table or held onto the cup holder for three turns in a row you had to take a drink.  The maiko was very good at it.  Later you got to take pictures with them.  It was a bit touristy, I didn't really care for the food and at 18,000 yen (around $190) it seemed rather expensive but I don't know of any other way to get to meet a maiko or geiko.
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