Kyoto: manga, Nanzeji and one long drive

I forgot that we were checking out, which meant we had to be out by 11. That doesn’t seem early. It’s not. But when you got into bed at 6.30, that is not much sleep.

Jumping out of bed, I quickly sorted myself out and fling out the room. We decided to have a take it easy day. First, we staggered to the international manga museum, which is the only one in Japan so we were in for a treat. However, I was slightly disappointed. I suppose I didn’t know what to expect. Basically, majority of the museum consisted of shelves of manga book aimed for different reader with a cosy space to read them. This was fine but unexpected and difficult for me to read as I can’t read Japanese.

There was one exhibition room, which looked incredible. The whole room was covered in manga sheets with a clear protector over the top. This exhibition was about one guys work. It showed different drawings and sketches. I think what I was looking for in this museum was more about the history, different styles of manga, more sketches, influences and artist’s work.

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After we wandered to the river, where we had a lie down in the sun, listening to the sound of a waterfall and watching long necked birds sipping the water.

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Once we had had a short nap, we strolled passed the zoo and passed several temples to Nanzenji, which we decided not to go in.

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Nearby there was a bridge, which was picturesque.


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Trying to find the philosophy’s path, which was described as a beautiful walkway in my tourist guide, we failed.

Heading back to the hotel, along the way, we staggered in several shops and grabbed some food.

Early evening, we bundled into the car to get ready for a long drive a head of us. Luckily, I was on the 4am shift, which meant I could snuggle in the back with my sleeping bag to snooze. However, I didn’t get much shut eye so was tired by the time I was behind the wheel.

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.

Kyoto: flea market, golden pavilion, tea ceremony, imperial palace, castle

As we thought we would only have two days in Kyoto, we wanted to cram and experience as much as possible (in the end, we were here for three days). Today, we went on foot so there was miles of walking to be had and extremely sore feet at the end of the day.

In the morning, we explored Kitano Tenmangu, which host the biggest flea market once a month. It just so happens that we were in Kyoto on this day. The market was full of antiques, kimonos, furniture, ceramics, crafts, food, clothes, where the prices completely ranged depending on the seller. Markets are just one thing, I love doing. The busy, loud, bargaining atmosphere always puts a smile on my face as well as being able to sift through different thing, trying to find a bargain (unfortunately, I couldn’t really buy anything because of my adventures of the next year and not being able to store anything). Here, there were many local eyeing up product as well as tourist. The market was huge and covered roads and roads.

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The Kitano Tenmangu shrine has statues of seat cows and bulls. Everywhere you looked, people were rubbing different parts of them believing they would be healed in that area.

After we strolled to Kinkakuji, Japan’s famous ‘Temple of the Golden Pavillion’. This was a breath-taking and amazing sight. The whole temple was covered in gold leaf, overlooking a huge lake and garden, which we wandered around. If you go to Kyoto, you have to go there.

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While in the gardens, we passed an attractive thatched-roofed tea-ceremony house, which we decided to take a rest at. Inside, there were cushions around the room with a mat in the middle (of course you were not allowed to wear shoes). Once we had sat down, a lady wearing a kimono brought us over a bowl of cold green tea and dessert, where she bowed to us and blessed them. I tried the tea, which was strong and froffy, and personally I did not enjoy the taste. Most of it, I ended up downing the tea so I wasn’t seen as rude but couldn’t taste it for that long. The cake looked delicious so I though this would go better. However, it was sugary sort of icing with a red-bean paste inside. Again, it wasn’t to my tasting as it was way too sugary. This was an experience I’m glad I did but would not repeat it.

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After, we entered the Daitokuji, which had 22 temples scattered around (previously there were about 60 built but were burned down). The temples looked pretty identical to me but we did experience a Zen garden. I’m not sure what I expected but this one was extremely small. In the middle was a wooden building, with a Japanese rock garden encompassing it. Each little rock and plant was place in a particular spot for a reason and they all symbolised something different e.g. The cow rock (nit sure why it was called this) symbolises people trying to do good things but getting caught up or choosing the wrong paths. It was a pretty little garden. Even though you were not allowed to take photos, I did take a sneaky shot.

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Late afternoon, we walked to the Imperial Palace and then the Nijo-Jo castle. Unfortunately, they were both closed but managed to admire the surroundings. However, for the imperial Palace, you have to book a guided tour otherwise you can’t enter.

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Imperial palace

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Nijo-Jo castle

In the evening, we had some Udon noodles and an earlyish night.

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