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Published: August 26th 2006
I am in Japan!!! A long way from Adelaide, Australia, but here I am in Shizuoka for a year teaching at an English Kindergarten while seeing and experiencing as much of this crazy, mixed up, amazing country as I can!
And this truly will be a stretch of the memoirs, as I have a major back blog (ha ha get it!!) of journals to write and since this trip to Kyoto I have been to Disneyland, Tokyo, Hokkaido, and back to Kyoto again!
For all those that are not living as aliens in Japan, gaijin is the special name we foreigners are given, and it literally means alien- our identification card here is called our alien registration!!! Does it make any one else think of Third Rock from the Sun- great show!!! Anyway, back to Kyoto, where of course the book and film Memoirs of a Geisha are set (although the movie was not actually filmed there- the sets were recreated in good old Hollywood). Saturday
So, the weekend after we climbed Fuji and the morning after Peter Pipers karaoke debut we Shinked it (thats some local slang for riding the Shinkansen) to Kyoto. We arrived in
Kyoto around lunch time and after finding first Peter's hostel then our motel (which turned out to be right across the road from the station and pretty hard to miss) we turned our attention to being tourists. During this time there had been an unfortunate development in my knee area, namely that they were still killing me from conquering Everest the weekend before, I dont think I could have walked around looking at stuff in Kyoto but thankfully we had planned to hire bikes anyway, and this turned out to be a relatively pain free way of travel (except for the amount of skin I could of lost when i skidded on the kerb and stacked it, but i managed to keep my feet and all was well).
We rode around a big castle which shall remain nameless because I dont know its name and then headed for Gion through lots of pretty backstreets and some nice shrines and temples. Once we reached the main street of Gion we secured the bikes and went on foot, it was festival weekend and the crowds were too big to ride anymore anyway. Away from the hustle bustle and totally by accident
we stumbled on a quiet and very beautiful area of Gion, complete with secret looking houses, lanterns and a stream, surely the area where the 300-400 geisha left in Kyoto frequented- we decided to return at night time for some serious geisha hunting.
Back on the bikes and the rain came down, and we spotted one geisha while riding, this one got away coz its a bit hard to hold onto a camera, steer a bike down hill and look where you are going all at once- although I am in Japan, I should be getting better at multi-tasking on a bike!!!
We returned to Gion that evening, to find all the roads closed off and people everywhere- it was one of my favourite Japanese things- a festival!! This one was the Gion Matsuri- which goes for three days over the long weekend in July, culminating in the parade on Monday which celebrates the end of the rainy season and the start of Summer. (We didnt see much evidence of the rainy season being over that weekend tho).
We wandered, soaking up the atmosphere and gawking at people in their yukata (cotton summer kimono- yes even men) before
On your bike!!
Near the nameless castle thing
heading back to the hostel before our midnight curfew.
Today was the day Mum and Dad arrived in Kyoto, so we woke, got in a bit of shopping and then headed to the Shinkansen exit to meet them. Sounds easy. Ok, so I didnt realise there was more than one exit for the Shinkansen and the one that we had come out of the day before was not the main one. After waiting for what seemed like ever and the parents didnt appear we found the correct exit and four worried looking Aussies standing looking for their supposed to be there early waiting for them tour guide and daughter to come and find them. Alls well that ends well.
We headed for Arashiyama, home of the river rapid boat trip, the monkey forest, bamboo forest, cormorant fishing and romantic train. Of the above list of things that we wanted to see we accomplished getting on the Sagano romantic train and chugging over the river, through the mountains and ending up out in the country (it felt like) with the rice paddies all around. The boat trip was cancelled due to bad weather, we ran out of
Theres no shortage in Kyoto
time for the monkeys, didnt find the bamboo and the cormorants were at night, and by the time wed been to the river and walked back through the most rain I have ever seen going back to the river and waiting for the cormorants wasnt a high priority on everyones list.
Gion and more geisha hunting was however, and after drying off this is where we headed. The festival was still in full swing and this time we took full advantage of the best thing about festivals- the food!! Everything on a stick and yaki soba- it was great fun wandering with Mum and Dad and John and Pam and tasting just about everything- seeing new things and seeing things that arent new to us anymore be new for our visitors!!!
The weary travellers went back to the motel and Peter, Marissa and I went to the large temple, also all done up for the festival and spotted some more geisha- its hard to tell the authentic ones from the pretend or apprentice, but Id like to think one or two of the ones we saw were fair dinkum. Monday
The day of the procession and
On your bike!!
Through the backstreets of Kyoto
yep still rainy. I just love the irony of the festival for the end of the rainy season, when all over Japan was experiencing record rainfalls!! Anyway, we tolerated the rain as long as we could and saw a bit of the parade, then headed indoors to the handicrafts centre, 6 floors of souvenir shopping, and a yummy buffet lunch!! Great. The last tick in the box was having Peters favourite ramen for tea before Marissa and I had to get back on the Shink and back to kindergarten.
Kyoto- we'll be back!!
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