Hello, everyone! Here’s installment #3 of my Kyoto adventures!
Compared to my other travel days, day three of my trip (Wednesday, the day after Christmas) was pretty quiet. My morning task was to switch guest houses, since (due to to my indecisive planning tendencies) I’d only booked the first one for two nights. I was kind of excited about my second guest house, because I’d heard it was an old townhouse, and I like old things that have character.
Well – it certainly was old. At first I was a little taken aback, but once I got used to it, I liked it! After all, character counts for something, right?
Here’s a little tour!
The guest house was comprised of several detached buildings, so the building I stayed in was actually around the corner and across the street from the building that the front desk was in.
The entrance area contained the kitchen area as well, all set on a rather unwelcoming cement floor.
To get to the bathroom, you had to pass through the entrance/kitchen area, then go OUTSIDE and across a little courtyard space (the bathroom door is on the left in the picture below). As it was December, you can imagine that these forays to use the “necessary” were a bit nippy. It’s a good thing Japan has heated toilet seats!
Off to the right of the entryway, there was a shared Japanese-style (tatami mat) living space, which one stepped up onto (sans shoes, of course!). Often I had this room to myself, and I really enjoyed it, because there was a kotatsu, or heated table. In cold Japanese houses, it’s wonderful to be able to sit at the table, snuggle one’s legs under the surrounding blanket, and bask in the toasty heat!
This was the bunk-bed style bedroom!
My bed was in one of the little cubbies, which I actually enjoyed. It’s very much like the capsule-hotel idea that is so prevalent here. It felt quite cozy in my cubby, though the mattress was frighteningly thin:
It was a little inconvenient to share a room, although it was a women’s-only room and most of the time there were only a couple of other guests. One of the most annoying things was that the keys we were given all had little bells on them, so whenever someone unlocked the door to our dorm room, no matter what time of day or night, those trying to repose in their cubbies were disturbed by a rather jarring jingle. Perhaps it was a safety feature so no one could sneak into the room unannounced; either that or it was a ghastly oversight on the part of the guest house owners.
On Wednesday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to another part of town, where I planned to participate in a tea ceremony. Of course, being Kyoto, there were all sorts of traditional activities for tourists to participate in, if one was willing to pay the money. Since most of them were way overpriced, I did a little digging around to discover some cheaper options, and found out that a local “international community house” was holding a tea ceremony whereby students of a tea ceremony class would be demonstrating the ceremony for free! I happily signed up to join.
It turns out that the Kyoto International Community House was located very near to some other famous attractions, such as art museums and the Kyoto Zoo. My bus stopped along the street below, right near this ginormous torii gate which marks the entrance to the Heian-jingu Shrine!
I had some time before the ceremony started, so I began walking along the street in the direction of the International Community House. The street was bordered by a canal, across which I could look and see some of the animals in the Kyoto Zoo. It made me a bit sad, since it looked like they didn’t have much space in their pens. I’d heard it wasn’t a very good zoo, so I had no desire to go.
Instead, I walked to Nanzenji Temple, which had some very large buildings.
Near the temple was an aqueduct, which was rather interesting:
The top of the aqueduct:
I also decided to go in search of something called the “philosopher’s path,” which was supposed to be a nice little walking trail. I had to walk about 20 minutes just to get there, and by the end was kind of regretting my decision, especially since I couldn’t see anything that special about the trail. I followed the path for a few minutes, then turned and went right back the way I had come. After three days of constant walking, my legs were starting to feel it, and I didn’t want to subject myself to more walking than I needed to.
Around 3 pm, I made my way back to the community house for the tea ceremony. It turned out to be a bit underwhelming. First of all, the international students who were performing the ceremony weren’t all that good at it. And they weren’t even dressed up in kimono! The whole idea of doing the very precise and deliberate tea ceremony is to portray gracefulness and elegance, so in my opinion having a tea ceremony without wearing kimono is kind of pointless. But who am I to judge?
One of the upsides of the event was that a Japanese lady explained to us in English some of the ceremony’s customs, so we were able to participate using the appropriate manners (or at least try!). The tea ceremony is highly ritualistic, and being a guest involves bowing at the right times, saying the correct phrases, holding your tea cup just so, turning it a specific number of times, wiping the rim off when you’re done, turning it back, and so on. I must say, I think I’m acquiring a bit of a taste for the “real” green tea, which, although thick and rather bitter, has a nice frothy texture due to being beaten with a tea whisk.
All in all, it was a good experience, and really, since I didn’t pay a thing other than my bus fare, how could I complain? It had been a good day, and one of my “budget” days so that I could spend more money on other days, such as the following day’s journey to the big city of…
But that’s a story for next week! 🙂