Kyoto - The Calm Before December 16, 2014 · 5 min. read
When we arrived in Kyoto, we had a few hours before check-in. We decided then to go to a nearby shogun palace.
This palace was used to be where Japanese samurai lived and reported to. Inside were beautiful golden paintings on the walls, hand drawn centuries before. Photography of them are prohibited so not to damage the artwork, but I took many pictures of the grounds and the courtyard.
In one such room, we witnessed wax statues of a famous samurai meeting. The topic of this meeting was the dissolution of the samurai dynasty during the 1880s. At this time, Western ships were common around Asia, and trade was no longer a rare occurrence but a way of life. And with trade came new weaponry, and no longer where the centuries old armor and swords of the samurai efficient in battle. To prevent from falling any further behind in technology, and for the sake of their country, the samurai decided then to give up their old ways and adopt a new, modern approach. To end it, the samurai sold this palace to the government where it was converted into an office, thus ending the samurai forever.
The temple was a bit disorienting, as it was also built as a fortress (with deliberately creaking floors so to hear intruders) and a couple members of the group were misplaced. As a result, we had to cancel our afternoon tour of the golden pavilion temple.
With this sudden free extra time on our hands, we broke into smaller groups and one group went shopping, while the other went for an authentic tea ceremony. Although I didn't buy much, it was still interesting to walk past the wooden stores in old town Kyoto.
An hour later we switched and my group got to try the tea ceremony. However, being a white, Western male, my abilities to follow the directions were cumbersome and I made several mistakes (such as how to whisk the tea, how to turn the cup before and after drinking it, how to wipe it when done, etc.). Although the ceremony was very unique and peaceful, it wasn't very exciting and I would have much rather spent that time exploring Kyoto some more.
We then wandered the streets of Kyoto into an area with many red lantern. Our guide told us this was the area where we might see a geisha. My knowledge of geisha is very limited but I believe they are a form of upper class escort, but much more sophisticated. We wandered the streets and saw some buildings where there were geisha-in-training, and lodges where they lived. But sadly, we saw no geisha.
We took the train back to the hotel and washed up, although it was to no avail because the humidity stuck to you the moment you walked outside. We went out for supper, and I caved and had a hamburger. This is the first hamburger I had had since arriving in Japan almost a week ago, and it was delicious. I went out for supper with a group of people and we spent several hours at the restaurant until our tour guide came and got us. We needed her help explaining to the server that we wanted to split the bill, and her sudden appearance makes me wonder if somebody didn't text her and ask her for help.
Kyoto is the only stop on our tour where we can do laundry, but while sorting it after supper I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I plan to do it tomorrow night because tomorrow is our first, and very well needed, "free day". And I'm running low on clothes, with more than a week ahead of me.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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