Monday 5 July 2010

Scenes of Kyoto

Kyoto, former capital of Japan, city of palaces, shrines and temples. Also city that is very warm and humid at the end of June.

Undaunted, your intrepid heroine visited several examples of Kyoto’s cultural heritage, although half way through she did have to buy some new shoes. (Men’s shoes. In Japan, it would appear, my average-sized European feet become clown-feet.)

I visited Nijo Castle, home of the ruling shoguns. This is the quintessence of every Japanese fantasy: made of wood with sliding wood panels dividing rooms, paper ‘windows’, exquisite painted wall panels and screens and a nightingale floor, constructed to squeak when anyone steps on it, thereby giving warning if someone is planning a sneak attack on the Shogun. (This, though ingenious, has a comic effect when dozens of tourists are wondering around. The ambient sound: ooh, aah, chirrup-chirrup-squeak. Almost everything is made of wood with the added delight that that Palace smells wonderful: fragrant, slightly perfumed.

No pictures allowed inside, but I took lots outside, in the gardens.

This shows the different buildings on the grounds and the mountains in the background:

I liked how decorative these signs were. Something about the kanji script just makes everything look graphically appealing though, for all I know, the signs are directions to the toilets.

This, on the other hand, was a good example of amusing, slightly perplexing, Japan-English:

(In case you can't see it, it says 'no scribbling here'.)

Another high point was the Kiyumizu Temple.

I visited in the company of approximately 12,000 Japanese schoolchildren. Here they are, taking the ritual waters:

This is the main temple,

and this is a side shrine with lots of little statues (Buddhas?) wrapped up in red.

In the evening, I wandered along the Pontocho, where there are some old houses, dozens of restaurants and bars, women in kimonos, Japanese lanterns and – it’s rumoured – one or two geisha, though I didn’t see any.

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