The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 20 November 2006

Kyoto - Day 2: temples, geishas and food market

It's about time I wrote about the second day of our Kyoto trip. That Monday was also my birthday, and it was a nice day :) Naturally, we had to explore the area in typical Rob-Jean style, so we rented a couple of bicycles for the day.

The scenic route by the river:


We rode about 50minutes to our first destination on Monday morning to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion temple. It is so named because the pavillion is covered in pure gold leaf (except for the ground level). It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto and it was absolutely packed with tourists.

The Golden Pavillion:

There are two things besides anko, mochi and anything-and-everything-soybeans related that Japanese people go crazy about: hanami season during spring when the fleeting sakura flowers are in blossom, and the coloured leaves season during autumn. Being early November, the leaves of the trees were only beginning to change colours, and there were only a couple of trees at Kinkakuji that had already transformed completely to red. I kid you not when I say that there were crowds clustered around these trees trying to take photos of the red leaves, and it is truly an amusing sight to behold. That said, I could not resist the urge to take photos of these red leaves myself.

Palace grounds

Next up on our itinerary is the Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto. On our way there, we passed by the Imperial Palace grounds. It was so quiet which was such a nice change from the tourist crowd at Kinkakuji and the noisy city streets.

Nishiki Market

Truly, as any regular reader of my journal would know, I have a love affair with food markets. I just had to visit Nishiki market. In this arcade, you can find all the culinary delicacies of Kyoto. We even found matsutake (a type of mushrooms) for 10,000 yen (about AU$110)!

Geisha dance

Watching a geisha dance is a privilege usually reserved only for high paying clients. However, there are performances performed on stage for the paying public four or five times a year, and our Kyoto trip coincided with one of these dances. It was a bit of a drama trying to secure tickets since we could only buy tickets in person, and it was a sure bet that tickets would have sold out by the time we arrived in Kyoto. I'm glad my brother gave me the contact details of some friends in Kyoto before we came to Japan - who would have thought that I'd need their help when I first contacted them a couple of months ago?

I enjoyed the performance, although I'm not quite sure if Rob was awake enough to agree with me :P Maikos ('apprentice' geisha?) opened the hour-long performance, then a series of geisha dances followed. There was even a humorous act which involved a couple of the geishas taking on a male role and an ugly maid role.

All the performers in final act:


After the geisha dance, we had a couple of hours to spare before dinner time. We decided to visit Nanzenji. Honestly, by this time I was pretty tired from riding the bicycle everywhere, and the thought of having to look at another temple was not that appealing. The grounds were huge, and we had trouble trying to figure out where the entrance to pay the entrance fee is. So we just wandered around and I took photos.

Huge threshold of the Sanmon (Mountain Gate) at the entrance to Nanzenji:

Rob on the stairs leading to the Sanmon:

There were huge archways which I guessed to be an aqueduct, and sure enough, there was a stream of rushing water on top of this structure:

Then it was time to go to our dinner appointment in the Gion district.

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