Japan day 9: Takayama to Kyoto

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May 14th 2019
Published: May 19th 2019
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We said goodbye to Takayama and took the train to Nagoya, the change point for our destination Kyoto. After a while it started to rain and suddenly the train ground to a halt. The loudspeaker announcement said that due to a thunderstorm the train would not proceed for a while. We sat for about half an hour wondering about our transfer and reserved seats on the shinkansen to Kyoto. We eventually arrived at Nagoya about 30 minutes after our scheduled bullet-train had left. There was a ticket office as we got off the train and we explained about the thunderstorm and showed our tickets. With no fuss the booking clerk issued new tickets with reserved seats for the next train which was about ten minutes later. We arrived in Kyoto just eleven minutes after the time we should have arrived.

Our hotel, the Granvia, was at Kyoto station. It is huge and so is the station. Eventually, with some help from the locals we found the correct exit and made our way to reception. As seems to be custom in Japan check-in is at 3pm. We did get a pleasant surprise at reception - we were told that our case had arrived from Tokyo! We checked in and left all our baggage, grabbed a bite to eat (which was almost as expensive as our room) and set out for our scheduled activity.

I remember in 1985 having seen many many pachinko machines in seedy looking shopfronts all over Tokyo but so far we had seen none. And now right across from our hotel was a big building in a prime location advertising pachinko. We later found out that the government has tightened up on gambling.

We made our way by taxi to WAK House, and were in for an amazing surprise. We had signed up for a Japanese experience but we hadn’t a clue what that was. We were told that our guide would meet us at 3 pm. So we arrived at 3 pm and entered. After an introduction by Ismael we were passed over to Myumi who led us upstairs and asked us each to choose colours for a kimono! She then proceeded to dress me up in a kimono. Jane Austen describes her ladies as being laced into their corsets and that is what it was like. There is an undershirt and an underskirt. And then a belt is tied around the waist. This is like a bone corset to keep the waistline tight and the bust pushed out. Then the obi is tied around the waist. Another tight layer. No wonder Japanese ladies eat so little. Myumi and I were in fits of laughter as I tried to breathe and move in a ladylike manner. Don was dressed by Myumi in ten minutes flat whilst it took about 30 minutes to dress me.

Don walked downstairs and I hobbled downstairs. We both had the special socks with separated big-toes which enable you to wear flip flops or clogs.

We were led into the garden where we met our guide Ayako, who is a Tea Master of 10 years and still learning. There were also four other people attending the tea ceremony (without kimonos) and they joined us in the garden. Ayako explained how much of the communication is done by way of actions and not words, in keeping with the intended peacefulness of the overall tea ceremony experience. So whilst the guests mingle outside the host or hostess is inside preparing. When the door is opened slightly that is the time to purify oneself using a stone cup with a long handle. One pours water over the fingers on the left hand and then on the right hand, and then the mouth and then one lets the remaining water from the cup trickle down the handle of the cup.

Then we entered our hostess’s room for tea. Ayako pointed out the setting of the room. There are flowers representing the season, the picture on the wall also represents the season, and both of them are changed regularly. Then we began the chaido ie the way (do) of the tea (chai). We were asked to eat the sweets that had been given to us and then tea was prepared and whisked and then served. The finely-ground Matcha green tea is somewhat bitter, so the sweets accompany it. We were shown how to receive the tea. Then it was our turn to make the tea. Mine wasn’t very frothy.

Then the other party left and Don and I had an origami lesson. This was fun as I am completely useless. Don wanted to make flapping cranes. Mine sort of flapped (with a lot of help) and Don's was fine. Then it was time to change back into western clothes and to breathe. It only took a few minutes to change.

We decided to walk back to the hotel. Don had found a vegan restaurant on the “Happy Cow” website. To get to it we walked through the market street. This was a long, long street going for many blocks, full of food stores, fishmongers, sweet shops and some clothes shops. This is where the locals go for their provisions on their way home from work. One thing I noticed was that whilst there were packs of dried meat for sale there were no butchers in the market.

Eventually we came to the vegan restaurant Ain Soph. We had a great meal and walked back to the hotel where we checked in.

Our room was very luxurious and we had a very intelligent loo. There was a dividing wall between the sink and the loo, about one meter tall. As you passed the wall the lid of the loo opened and it spoke to you. Then as you sat down water started flowing (to encourage you?). You had a choice of bidet, the water could be in the front, the back, regular or oscillating. Then when you stand up the loo flushed and a few minutes later the toilet lid closed! In the bedroom when all the lights were off a little light automatically came on to guide you to the bathroom when it sensed a person getting out of bed. A very intelligent room if ever there was.

We had a late night - 10 pm. We were exhausted but very happy.



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