Oct. 29th, 2014

gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
An epic nap last night and lots of tea seems to have set me right for yesterday's adventures.
We were up early and on a rush-hour bus to Ryoanji. This Zen temple is famous for its "dry landscape" garden, so much so that it can get mobbed pretty quickly. We arrived early enough to snatch a few quiet moments on the veranda of the abbot's residence overlooking the sea of raked sand and stone islands before the clomping of sneakers announced the arrival of some Japanese high school students. The girls saw me sitting quietly with my camera and one approached offering a pink point-and-shoot. I took their picture as they all posed making the "V" peace sign, then I had to sign everyone's notebooks. (I tried getting one of them with mine, but it was so strongly backlit it wasn't worth keeping.)
At this point we moved on to explore the equally lovely landscape gardens. On our way to retrieve our shoes, another group of kids passed us. Josh asked them what school they went to, conversation with one of the girls ensued, and the next thing we knew we were posing with more kids and signing more autographs.
We caught another bus for Rokuonji, better known as Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. This garish monstrosity was built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (the current building is a reconstruction as the original was burned down by a suicidal monk in the 1950s). Still, the gardens are lovely, particularly with the trees turning.
Another bus, another shogunal mansion: this time, the Ginkakuji - while not clad in silver, it is so named, probably so it pairs poetically with the other. Ashikaga Yoshimasa used it as a retreat where he dabbled in the arts while there was unrest in the streets of the city below. High on a hillside, the gardens, complete with a more ostentatious dry landscape, offer a commanding view of the city below.
We found lunch in a little place on the street below the Ginkakuji, then followed the "philosopher's path," a lovely shady walk along a canal, named for Kyoto University's Nishida Kitaro, who supposedly thought great thoughts there. Cherry blossom season must be a zoo, but it was very pleasant, with little shops and cafes tucked in between residences. We found a little place canalside selling vintage kimono. They had some great plaid ones, which were unlined and looked eminently suited to re-tailoring. Josh picked out two, I found one and we got a heavy discount. I think it came to under $10 each.
We also stumbled upon a small Shinto shrine just off the canal and up the hill. A little wild and overgrown, it featured all sorts of animal guardians, particularly mice. We finally came out at the bottom of the hill near the southern gate of Nanzen-ji.
It being Cori's birthday, we went out to a place where exquisitely cut pieces of raw beef in all its forms are brought to your table and you grill it yourself. Insanely good, probably because it was all well marbled, and well, fat tastes good. We walked back through town instead of taking a bus back, so that probably helped. Got some decent night shots in the huge arcade at Sanjo-dori (Third Avenue) and Teramachi-dori too!
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)

It will not surprise you that the Japanese have a god of rice, nor that Inari is also the patron of business. What may surprise you is that foxes are considered Inari's messenger.

We hopped a train to the outskirts of the city to Fushimi Inari, the chief shrine in the country to Inari. A repeated theme for a lot of these sites are streets that wind uphill towards the shrine (or temple), usually lined with souvenir shops or street vendors selling various refreshments. So it is at Fushimi, though at the early hour we started, most were not quite open or set up.

The shrine is renowned for its thousands of red torii gates, each donated by a sponsor (often a business). Tunnels of torii lead up the mountainside along winding trails to higher shrines. Andy, Cori and Josh opted to hike all the way up, while Ellen and I did a lower loop back to the first shrine. She and I headed back to Kyoto while the hikers did their thing.

Instead we took a shibori class! The Kyoto Shibori Museum offers a couple of make-and-take workshops and we learned out to create resist patterns by clamping wooden shapes against folded up silk. It's a fun technique, we got great results under Yoshiko-san's tutelage and I think I will be picking up a couple more C-clamps at the hardware store to experiment with in the future.
The proprietor also showed us their upstairs exhibits, which included a demonstration DVD, samples of in-progress pieces using various resist techniques, a roomful of stunning kimono, and recreations of famous artworks in shibori.

We met up with Andy, Cori and Josh at Kyoto Station, walked a few blocks to a curry joint for lunch. Japanese curry is a variant on the Indian kind, only generally pretty mild, served with rice and pretty much anything you care to add to it. Having had curry or curry-katsu two days in a row, I decided to have a salad instead.

We then walked across town to Kiyomizudera Temple. I think maybe it should be renamed Kiyomizoo, because it was one. The uphill approach was jammed with foot traffic and tour buses, and the place was bonkers. Kids on kimono dates, school groups, foreign tourists, the lot. To add to the pandemonium, half the place was under scaffolding and significant chunks of surrounding hillside look like stabilization efforts were in progress. Josh insists it's usually more serene than this.

I did, however, purchase a hand carved boxwood comb in a pretty case at a shop that specializes in them, as well as a miniature gourd from the hyotan man - his are supposed to bring good luck.  And we had a nice rest for hot drinks beneath the temple before heading back towards Higashiyama.

Yasaka Jinja shrine was lit up as we cut through on our way to Sanjo-dori. After a short break at the house, we found a great little yakitori joint just of Sanjo-dori. Hitoshi-san was a wonderful host and every bit of skewered meat that came down the bar was delicious.

I'm sitting here sipping a bit of umeshu on the rocks (plum wine) and will turn in shortly.


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