Wednesday, September 23, 2009
So we just had a five day break from work called Silver Week. A good time to get out and explore. So a few of us went to Kyoto. My good friend Eric made his way there from Kyushu and we met up for a good few days of sightseeing. It was really great, though in the moment it can be hard to appreciate what you are seeing due to the restrictions. See, I'm not really one for tourism, and Eric isn't either, so we found enclaves and such wherever we could, but for the most part we were stuck in 'cattle-tourism'. This kind of stuff really frustrates me because its hard to get a good experience and a calm one when its just a bunch of tourists around, and since it was silver week the city was packed with foreigners and Japanese tourists. Needless to say this isn't my preferred method of sightseeing, but its definitely a great opportunity and you see things however you can. The temples and shrines are the main attractions, but there are some other things you can find as well. The temples were very beautiful and we were lucky enough to catch some of a Jodo ceremony at Chouin-in. We saw the big tourist attractions such as Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavillion) and Gion (The Geisha district). Unfortunately, catching sight of a Geisha is not so easy, and we didn't catch a glimpse of a single maiko or geisha. Aside from seeing the famed structures where everyone goes we managed to have fun seeing a side of the town that not too many people seemed interested in. Pontocho is the other Geisha district and known to be a little less 'snobish' than Gion. This area was really enchanting, though incredibly exclusive and impossible within which to find a place to eat. I read of a favorite coffee/tea house of one of the most beloved Japanese authors, Tanizaki Junichiro. Naturally I searched it out. It was really one of the highlights for me to sit down and have a drink in the favorite haunt of a famous literary figure and see where he did some of his writing. There was also a fantastic monkey park that I got to see where I enjoyed feeding the macaca fuscata, while one of the youngsters took an interest in grooming my leg (hence the above photo). Overall Kyoto was littered with things and places to see, and impossible to get a real feel of in a short 4 day period. Nevertheless, it was a grand old time.