Oct. 25th, 2014

gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)


Good morning from the futon! We're off to catch the train to Nara this morning.

Yesterday, I got to try the wares of a "panya" or bakery for breakfast. I had an interesting, delightful thing that was a combination of flaky pastry, red beans and powdered sugar. A "clam chowder bun" was sort of a danish with bits of clam, tomato and cheese on top. (I have yet to have had a bad meal in this country!)

We visited Nijo, the Shogun's palace. No interior photos, but the interior features doors and walls covered with paintings by artists of the Kano school: gold backgrounds with scenes of trees, birds, animals, covering sliding doors which can enlarge or enclose a space. http://www.hibiki-an.com/contents.php/cnID/62

Many are undergoing restoration, but it's an impressive place even with some covered up or missing. The corridors feature "nightingale floors":which are built to deliberately squeak as one walks on them, thus giving warning of intruders. With a herd of tourists going through, they're constantly cheeping. http://www.deconcrete.org/2012/11/26/floors-of-fear/ shows how they're constructed.

The extensive gardens made a nice stroll. I imagine it's spectacular in the spring when many of the trees are in bloom.

From Nijo-jo, we hiked to the shrine of Abe no Seimei. The easiest analogy I can make for you is that he's a Japanese "Merlin." In reality, he was one of the court diviners, the people who put together almanacs of the lunar calendar and so forth, but there are many stories of Seimei's ability to know things, lay evil spirits, reverse spells and that sort of thing. The little shrine includes a side shrine to Seimei's mother, reputed to be a fox spirit (more on these when we go to Fushimi Inari).

Nishijin is the part of the city where the textile industry is based. Though much smaller nowadays, it's still where beautifully woven silks and brocades can be found. The Nishijin Textile Center features kimono fashion shows, demonstrations of weaving, and a shop that ranges from cheap tourist wares to high-end reproductions of historical textiles. I bought a couple meters' worth of brocade that I'll make into something I can wear. At $40/meter, I was hyperventilating a bit, but so worth it.

We had lunch at one of those conveyor-belt sushi places. You can pick dishes off the line as you see things you like, then return the plate through a slot in the table. A computer keeps tally of how many plates and you're charged 100Y per plate. That's about $1 for two pieces of sushi - and it was pretty good sushi too,

Andy needed down time, so we split up - he, Ellen and Cori headed back to the house, while Josh took me on the subway out near Nishi Honganji to the Costume Museum.

On the way, we happened to pass this little shrine and I glanced through the gate. "Kemari!" I cried, so we went in. It turns out that Shiramine Jingu, where two emperors are enshrined, It's also devoted to Seidaimyojin, a deity associated with sport, particularly this ancient cross between soccer and hacky-sack. We happened to walk past during a practice and the players appeared to be working on kicking the balls to their partners. The object of the game is to try to keep the ball in the air.

The website for the Costume Museum place has been extremely useful over the years as it features mannequins in historical dress from the various eras of Japanese history, with detailed schematic drawings identifying garments and styles.

In actuality, it's in this odd little side street in the district between the two big temples. and the proprietor also runs a business that manufactures and sells vestments and furnishings to temples. It looks like a nondescript little office building. You go up an elevator which opens onto their model of the Rokujo Palace, illustrating scenes from The Tale of Genji with beautifully costumed dolls. They've also added a smaller one with a scene from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, with the dolls in Nara period dress. If you're expecting a full display of all the costumes from the website, you won't find it, though I'm sure all those costumes are stored onsite somewhere. However, there is a room where you can examine some typical male and female Heian garments and even try them on.

The lady attending the museum let Josh and me paw through the dress-up items and take detail photos of seam treatments, attachment points and other construction details to our hearts' content. A group of Japanese ladies came in to get pictures in one of the robes while posing with the male mannequin. I showed them pictures of the group photo from my Laurel ceremony with Josh and me in Heian clothing - it's the one where my sleeves are mortifyingly Not Right too - but they all thought it was pretty cool.

I definitely need to fix that - and now I have a better idea how they managed the false layering so I actually CAN. I was like a kid in a toy shop!

We walked back down to meet up with everyone at Kyoto Station for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I needed comfort food - we've been averaging about 10 miles a day on foot if smartphone pedometers are to be believed. I had a crab omelette with snow peas and green onions and it really hit the spot. We also split a number of dishes, including a sweet and sour pork that was more vinegary and less sweet than the sort of thing we get back home. Yummy stuff.


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