In search of Geishas and Kimonos
31.03.2010 - 03.03.2010
We arrived Wednesday morning for 3 nights. Not knowing what to do with Sebastian, and having dismissed the idea of leaving him hanging on the wall in the last hotel like a piece of artwork, I strapped him to my backpack and carried him with us on the train to Kyoto. I originally covered his modesty with a Union Jack thong but in the end we decided such a blatant (crotch-mounted) display of patriotism in people's faces on the tube, might be just a bit too offensive for such a coy and well-behaved nation, so Sebastian had to go commando. A lot of looks, pointing and a trail of laughter followed us all the way - bring a little happiness, that's what I say. At Kyoto station a middle aged woman had a rather close encounter with him as more people forced they way into the lift and she was behind me - Sebastian practically had her up against the wall. I apologised in Japanese but luckily she and her friend found it hilarious.
Not looking forward to finding our accomodation after reading discouraging reviews online, we were relieved to find it was absolutely fine and better than we had expected. '3pm' (as we've nicknamed the Japanese male owner due to his harsh insistence we arrived on the dot of 3pm), was friendlier in person and the bed linen was clean with no dubious hairs (unlike someone wrote in their review). It is another Ryokan (like Mike's) but bigger and more commercial. We're on mats on the floor again with a communal bathroom but it's all good except the lumpy (traditional) pillows that feel like they're filled with pistacio shells. Mmm comfy.
(Thursday) we went to Gion (famous historic Geisha district) but unfortunately the sightings of beautiful pink cherry blossom, numerous shrines and historic alleys was rather spoilt by grey drizzle and continual walking in the rain. No sightings of authentic Geishas which apparently is unlikely anyway as they go out mostly at night and are far fewer in number nowadays. If you are interested I'd recommend the Memoirs of a Geisha book which explains the lifestyle in fascinating detail. We could have paid to go to a Maiko dance performance but we are budgeting tightly as Japan is so expensive and that would have blown the whole day's budget on seeing women in kimonos wave fans about for one hour (sorry to sound so ignorant!). I really feel I should go as it is literally THE thing to experience in Kyoto and a shame not to jump at the opportunity... We are thinking about it...
Sophie and I started taking our anti-malarial tablets today (for South America) so we are awaiting any 'psychiatric side effects' with interest.
(Friday) I bravely went sight-seeing on my own as Naomi and Sophie couldn't be bothered traipsing round more temples, but I wanted to have a look at a couple near our hostel (that were free entry - a definite clincher for me). I also achieved finding (and successfully using) a cash machine, a post office to post back the key to Mike's hostel that I'd accidentally brought with me from Nagasaki (damn it!), and browsed a kimono shop to get an idea of prices . I then navigated my way to the shopping district to meet Naomi and Sophie in a sushi bar for lunch - so all in all a productive day. About 5 hours of walking later I was knackered so chilled out watching Japanese TV and using Internet til bed.
(Saturday) we had to move hostels as this was the difficult day to find accommodation so it was on again with the backpacks and Sebastian but luckily within walking distance to the next place. Some tourists even took photos of Sebastian on my back - without asking - what a cheek! This pointing and staring is getting tedious so I have a feeling Sebastian and I may part company in the near future. Another Ryokan - so sleeping on mats on the floor again but yay! - I have escaped the pistachio-filled pillow and have a normal (although very thin) one. Lots more walking today so my granny's hip is starting to play up - went to the 'must-see' gardens of the Imperial Palace (actually getting inside it is limited and must be pre-arranged so we had a look at the wall instead). I gave up on seeing the World Heritage designated Castle due to hip and foot pain (and it was cold) meaning I couldn't face any more walking. Indian for lunch (yes! no fish!) and a wander round Gion in the evening. Geisha sighting! (But prob not a real one - more a gimmick for promoting a product.)
Departing for Tokyo today (Sunday) - our last stop - and typically it's the best weather since we've been here - sunny! Sebastian has indeed been left behind (no room to store him in the Capsule Inn we are staying in next anyway), sunbathing on our balcony for the next occupants to enjoy. I wonder where his travels will take him next...