Kyoto: bamboo groves, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Gion, Japanese theatre, nightlife

This has got to be one of the best days so far in Japan.

After enjoying a sushi brekkie, we decided to go round Kyoto by public transport visiting several tourist attraction. Luckily, when we got to the subway, it was easy to understand and navigate. Win!

Our first stop was the bamboo grove in Arashiyama. As we were walking there, we went pass a dirty river, up a Main Street full of souvenir shop and the cutest train station (it has a statue, colourful pillars, a garden and a foot spa).

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The bamboo grove was absolutely incredible. Words cannot describe them. It is basically a path with thousands of tall bamboo trees that reach to the sky. It is definitely one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.

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We then trekked it on the subway to the other side of the city to see the Fushimi Inari Taisha. Again, this was an awesome experience. It had long, meandering tunnels of bright orange torii arches. You would see nothing like these in England.

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After we travelled on a subway to the main Kyoto station to find out some information about the Japanese theatre, we got an all day bus ticket (£3.25 – what a bargain) to the bottom of the hill to the oldest temple in Kyoto, Kiyomiza, which nestle lovingly against steep Mt Higashiyama. It looked incredible apart from all the scaffolding around it. The steps that lead down to Otowa-no-taki, there is a waterfall where visitors sip water from the spring believe that it brings health benefits. There was a huge queue to do this.

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On the path up to the temple, there were plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants full of tourists and several statues.

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A stroll from here took us to Gion district, which is known as Kyoto’s main historical centre of traditional theatre, arts, antiques and the place to seek out geishas (unfortunately we didn’t find one on the streets).

As we were trying to find Yasaka Hall, the heavens decided to open so we got absolutely soaked. What seemed like forever, wandering through narrow streets, we found Gion Corner, which provides a selection of bite-sized samples of Japanese culture for tourists:

Chado (tea ceremony) – they used two people from the audience to perform this, where the lady was wearing a traditional kimono, blessed and washed the the equipment in particular way.

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Koto (Japanese harp) – two ladies played a thirteen- string instrument, playing court music. This was very peaceful.

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Kano (flower arrangement) – while the koto was being played a lady cut and arranged flowers in a special design.

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Gagaku (court music) – on half the stage, 6 men were sitting on the floor playing a variety of instruments: gong, drum, woodwind, while another person dressed in a bright red costume with a scary looking mask danced on the other side. He was repeating his moves, pointing, swinging his arms and chuffing. It was interesting to watch but I person did not enjoy the music: it was screechy and high pitch.

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Kyogen (ancient comic play) – this was a comedy sketch with three men, where one man wanted to protect his sake so he tied up the other two men. However, they managed to drink it and started singing and dancing. Even though they were speaking in Japanese, the acting showed what was happening and it was very funny in parts. It was great to watch and I could definitely watch this for hours.

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Kyomai (Kyoto style dance) – here two geisha with serious faces came onto stage and danced to the Japanese harp, mainly gentle movement repeated, some in sync with each other, some on different layers, some in cannon.

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Bunraku (puppet play) – this was a love story, which only used one life sized puppet, which was controlled by three people. Skilfully, they carefully glided her around the stage. I love watching this but was hard to understand even though there was no real spoken words.

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Anyone going to Japan, I would recommend to see traditional Japanese theatre, it was brilliant.

In the evening, after having some food, we went back to the hotel to enjoy a beverage and a game of uno. We then walked back to the Gion district to find a bar but found that most of them had expensive sitting fees. However, we did go in one up on the sixth floor, where a young guy basically took us, served us and translated everything for us, for the majority of the night.

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