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Japan trip report #8: Kyoto - Lethargic Man (anag.)

Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2018-08-27 22:09
Subject: Japan trip report #8: Kyoto
Security: Public
Tags:japan, trip reports
Today we're going to visit Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Known as the city of a thousand shrines, Kyoto was spared Allied bombing during the war. But before we get to any shrines, we pass through the city centre, where the Kyoto Tower is shaped like a Japanese candle.

[7.0.kyoto tower]

Here I've depicted it reflected in the central train station:

[7.0.kyoto tower reflection]

The Tenryuji temple, established in 1339 (though the buildings only date from after the eighth and last of the times it burned down in 1864), is an important Zen Buddhism site and is situated in beautiful grounds in Arashiyama:

[7.1.1.andrea tenryuji temple grounds]

The Sōgenchi garden (also in the temple grounds), retains the same form it had when designed in the fourteenth century:

[7.1.2.sogenchi gdn me]

[7.1.2.stream through gdn ]

This was one of the rare places where we could photograph a temple interior:

[7.1.3.tenryuji temple interior]

[7.1.3.tenryuji temple paintings]

Traditional Japanese architecture would frequently include decoration on the beam ends, frequently showing the emblem of the lord sponsoring the construction, for example (not here) a chrysanthemum for the imperial family (whence the name of the Chrysanthemum Throne):

[7.1.4.decorated beam ends2]

[7.1.4.decorated beam ends]

The temple bell was struck by a log attached to a pulley:

[7.1.5.temple bell]

And now for a complete change of context, we crossed the river and climbed up a hillside, from which we get a nice view out over Kyoto, which lies in a valley between mountains west and east...

[7.2.1.kyoto from arashiyama.me]

where we got to see a host of wild monkeys:

[7.2.2.monkeys2]

[7.2.2.monkeys]

[7.2.2.baby monkey]

There's apparently a scenic railway that goes up the valley from Arashiyama, but we didn't have time for it, so we spent our last hour there making our way up the valley via a slower means of transport:

[7.3.me rowing]

Our other tourism in Kyoto was done in guided tours. There was the geisha bus:

[7.4.0.geisha bus]

...and the ninja bus:

[7.4.0.ninja bus2]

[7.4.0.ninja bus]

Kinkaku-ji (the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) dates from the fourteenth century (except that it actually dates from 1955, after a novice monk burned the original down. I just learned about this from Wikipedia; I don't think the guide mentioned it). Appropriately enough, there is a statue of a phoenix on the roof. The building is covered in gold leaf.

[7.4.2.golden pavilion.us.rabbits]

This (as usual, click through for high-resolution version) is the carriage porch of Nijō castle, the emperor's residence for five hundred years until the imperial court upped and moved to Tokyo in 1869:

[7.4.nijo castle gate.detail]

The main castle building has "nightingale" floorboards that chirp like birds when you walk upon them, to prevent intruders from gaining access undetected (though this may not have been the original intention). When I first read about this, I thought they would just be squeaky floorboards, but it turns out these have a sound distinctly their own, produced by the movement of nails, rather than just the floorboards themselves.

[7.6.3]

We now visit another shrine (but don't ask me where!), with peaceful gardens:

[7.6.5.bridge.jane]

Personalised prayers can be found in many shrines, as here, tied to bushes:

[7.7.2.dedications tied to bush]

...or displayed on racks:

[7.7.3.votive prayers]

This was one of several weddings we saw taking place in various shrines, with the bride and groom wearing traditional costume:

[7.7.4.wedding]

One of the must-do things in Japan is to stay in a ryokan (inn), for the traditional Japanese experience (although in our case it turned out we had got a lot of that experience already from our hotel in Atami). Here we see our room, with tatami mats on the floor, a low table and legless chairs:

[7.9.2.ryokan interior]

A maid in traditional costume (including the traditional white socks with the big toe separated from the others, so they can be worn with thonged sandals) came in and served us a multi-course dinner with immaculately prepared food:

[7.9.3.ryokan meal1]

[7.9.3.ryokan meal2]

Not only did you have to take your shoes off when you came in and were provided with Hausschuhe (is there a proper English word for these?), but they also provided special Hausschuhe for use just in the bathroom:

[7.9.4.toilet slippers]

We were also provided with yukatas for wearing in the ryokan grounds, including its small but (naturally) perfectly formed garden:

[7.9.6.us in yukatas]

The ryokan provided booklets explaining its practices for non-Japanese guests, including how to tie the obi, the yukata's belt.

After we had eaten, our waitress not only cleared the table, but cleared it completely away and made up bedding in traditional Japanese style, on the floor:

[7.9.5.ryokan bed.rabbits]

We also got to try out the traditional Japanese public bath in a wooden tub.

A block away from the ryokan was Shimbashi Street, with traditional architecture, where during the evening you can see geishas flitting from house to house... or at least that must be the case on weekday nights. On the Saturday night we were there, it was almost completely dead. But we did get to see fireflies above the stream through the area, which went a long way to make up for that lack for me at least.

[7.9.7.shinbashi street3]

[7.9.7.shinbashi street]

[Japan blog posts] [personal profile] lethargic_man's Japan blog posts </p> —Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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