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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Japan trip - day four - Kyoto

Once again, slept past my alarms and finally woke up at 10:30am. Ate the sandwich and drank the chocolate milk that I'd bought two days ago, while catching up on my Internet stuff.

Rushed out of room at 12pm so that I could get the 12:42pm train to Kyoto from Shin-Osaka (I had realised that this station was a better bet than Osaka because there are more trains to Kyoto from here). Got my ticket and asked for the platform, ticket seller said, "Check board." I did and couldn't find my train platform! Anyway, went down to a platform that had trains going to Kyoto. Showed a passenger my ticket and asked if this was the one I was supposed to be at. He shook his head.

A train arrived at that moment, bound for Kyoto. It was the Special Rapid Express. Since there were spare seats (this was a non-reserved seating train meant for regular commutes between cities), I got in and took the half hour ride.

At Kyoto station, I used another exit and found myself in the Kyoto mall, The Cube. I had seen it from the outside yesterday, but thought nothing of it till now. It's just another up-class mall anyway. Found my way to the subway station. Called Peter McIntosh regarding the geisha walking tour, but a Japanese message came on, ending with a beep. Assumed to be voicemail, so I just left a message.

Then took subway train to Imadegawa station and then a 10-minute walk to Nishijin Textile Centre. Arrived at 2pm, just in time for a kimono fashion show. Lots of mainland Chinese tourists already surrounding the small stage with cameras ready. Whipped out my brand spankin' new iPod nano and video-recorded it. (I knew there was a reason I bought the iPod nano!) Show lasted about 15 minutes.
Nishijin Textile Center at KyotoPurplish kimono on show at Nishijin Textile CenterBlue-green kimono on show at Nishijin Textile CenterWhite kimono on show at Nishijin Textile CenterRed kimono on show at Nishijin Textile Center

Browsed around the store and bought a few gifts, while also viewing the live kimono making demonstrations. Also browsed the selection of teas and desserts. Left at 3pm to walk back to the train station.
Kimono workshop at Nishijin Textile CenterKimono craftsman painting a design at Nishijin Textile CenterKimono craftsman weaving the threads at Nishijin Textile Center

Along the way, stopped by Shiramine-jingu Shrine. Built by a late emperor, it is now a temple for the ball sports deity. While there, saw some Japanese writing their wishes and praying at the altar.
Shiramine-jingu Shrine at KyotoSports balls with prayer notes at Shiramine-jingu ShrineDevotees at Shiramine-jingu Shrine

Took the train from Imadegawa station. Stomach growled a bit, hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. But thought it better to first find the Minamiza Kabuki Theater for the geisha tour. So walked from Kawarachi to Shijo-dori, took almost 20 minutes. After finding the theater, went in search of an eating place. But it was already close to 4pm and tour starts at 4:30pm. So stopped by 7-Eleven, planning to get a sausage bun and chocolate milk. Found instead some sushi. Also thought a bottled drink might be easier to carry, so bought milk tea. Finished the sushi at a small resting point nearby.

While searching for food, saw a "Love Beach" sign, and outside was a board with pictures of a hotel room. Hmm, was this one of those love hotels? A man in a suit saw me looking and said something about "no reservation". While I was curious, I didn't have time to explore further. I would walk past there later in the evening, saw the same man, but this time he didn't approach me. Oh well.

Went back to Minamiza Kabuki Theater to wait for Peter MacIntosh's geisha walking tour. Saw a burly Caucasian in black whom I had seen at 7-Eleven and speaking fluent Japanese, knew it had to be him. Confirmed his identity and made small talk. While waiting, an old Japanese man spoke to me and asked if Peter MacIntosh was my friend. When Peter replied in Japanese, the old man knew better and laughed about it.
Minamiza Kabuki Theater at Kyoto

Rest of group soon showed up and we began our tour. First went to Minagawa district. Stopped by Peter's bar where he gave quick introduction to geisha, explaining the two different types (maiko and geiko), what they do, what they wear, and stressing that they are not prostitutes. Gave us some postcards bearing pictures that he had taken.
Peter MacIntosh introducing some geisha-related items

Rest of walking tour took us along the narrow alleys, explaining along the way some sights, such as:
  • identifying the geishas who lived in a particular house, based on the names listed outside
  • bamboo structures at the foot of some houses to prevent dogs from getting a good position to pee
  • symbols on the red lanterns to identify the districts, e.g. three linked rings for Minagawa, chain of eight circles for Gjon
He also showed us the training schools in each district. The one at Gjon was built for 800 students, but only had 120 now. Upon graduating, a geisha works for 5-6 years -- with no pay! All of her pay goes to the house that she belongs to. On the other hand, she gets to wear the most expensive clothes and have all of her expenses paid for. Which is why Peter thinks girls as young as 15-16 years old would want to become geishas (with their parents' permission).
Down a road in the Minagawa districtGeisha house in Minagawa districtGeisha training school in Minagawa districtMaiko in Minagawa districtDown an alley in the Minagawa districtTemple just outside the Gjon districtDown a road in the Gjon districtGeiko in the Gjon districtTea house at the Gjon districtGeisha class schedule at the Gjon districtHeron in the creek at the Gjon districtHaiku at the Gjon districtLamp post with geishas' stickers at the Gjon district

The tour lasted till 6pm. By then, the sun had set already. I took the opportunity to retrace our steps, seeing what we had seen but at night. As expected, it was still too early to see geishas shuffling between houses for the night's entertainment. Peter mentioned that 8:30-9pm was the best time. But I'd had a long day and didn't feel like being on my feet longer.
Sanjo-dori at nightDown a road at night in the Gjon districtGeisha training school in the Gjon districtMap of the temple just outside the Gjon districtMenu for geisha services at Minagawa districtPhotos of geishas inside a bar at Minagawa district

On the way back to the subway station, stopped by a bakery to pick up a bun and donut for tomorrow's breakfast. Then took subway back to Kyoto station. After three days of eating rice and craving for something warm, I looked around for a cheap noodle restaurant, but couldn't find any at Kyoto mall. So got a ticket for the shinkansen (bullet train) back to Osaka and had dinner at the station there. Then headed back to hotel.
Noodles in soup with sesame oil and chilli flakes



arashi kensho said...

so beautifull ...!!!

Anonymous said...

What is the name of the bar that Peter owns?

Yuhui said...

I don't recall the bar's name.

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