I hopped on a bus a bit too late yesterday morning and went to the Arashiyama area in the North West of the city. This area was really…..erm…cute. Loads of old style buildings in narrow lanes, and bamboo forests resting in the foothills of the mountains. I went to see the Adashino Nembutsuji Temple wich has over 3000 weathered stone faces from previous headstones (or something like that).
(Picture : Bamboo forest)
In the afternoon I met up with a couchsurfer and went to a tea ceremony. Yuko was even more enthusiastic (and knowledgable) about Japanese culture than I am for going for a beer so came along wearing a traditional kimono. Although it was an informal one (just as well for me!) Yuko was pretty good at explaining it to me, despite not being used to any kind of formalities or traditions usually!
We then went for a big walk around some craft and gallery areas of the city, however by the time we got there, and it being Monday, most of them were closed. We headed down some tiny backalleys around the Gion area (more geishas and geishas in training), and around the Kiyomizu Temple which had all the lanterns lit up in the evening. I’ve seen several geishas every time I’ve been there, but as usual I thought it would be an intrusion to photograph them. Now that I’ve seen every other punter be snap happy I never have my camera out in time. Being with Yuko I had the training timetable pointed out to me – there it was out in the open, but I would have walked straight past if I wasn’t with a local.
If you ever go to Kyoto you have to do sneak up the side streets. You can see a lot wandering around, but to see the best parts, and the best handicrafts you really have to explore as it would be so easy to miss even many of the touristy areas.
When you wander up the backalleys you see the fronts of many hostess and geisha entertainment establishments, and get confused at what is a normal restaurant or not. There are some really cool looking places around but many of the cooler ones I guess would also mean a pretty cool price, if you could even get in as a geijin (foreigner). The area is pretty lively anyway, as on the other side of the river it’s pretty much the centre for the nightlife.
We met another couchsurfer who is temporarily based in Kyoto and went for some yakatori. I got introduced to sochu, which is the japanese equivalent of vodka – some made with sweet potato, some with rice and some with…..some other stuff.
Another fab evening in Kyoto. It’s always great to meet a local person. Thanks Yuko!