Friday, April 3, 2009

Geisha paparazzi and cherry blossoms

So, it is a Friday night, and I am hanging at the Interneto Cafe-o wa with comic book nerds. Yes, this place features a bazillion comic books for people to read and sit in a booth while chain smoking (I miss Ohio anti-smoking!). I am learning how to read Japanese on a computer, but I cannot figure out how to use apostrophes, and I keep hitting a button that turns my writing into Japanese. But I digress...

Gina and I have experienced our first full day in Kyoto, and we are having an amazing time. I cannot believe everything we have seen today.

Our ryokan rocks! It is quaint, reasonably priced and in a perfect location. The innkeeper speaks little English, but we are communicating just fine with the bits and pieces of Japanese we have learned.
We slept great last night and got up early to go to Murukama Koen, a park famous for cherry blossom viewing. The buds are just opening, and it is a sight to see! At the park at 10 a.m., tons of people had already spread out tarps and were staking ground for parties this evening beneath the trees.

The park hosts Chion-an, a temple that was built in 1234. The massive gate at the main entrance is the largest in Japan. There is a beautiful pink pagoda there and an ornate Buddha shrine.

Next, we walked a couple miles to Kiyomizu-dera, built in 798!!! to drink the Otowa-no taki spring of "golden water for healthy, long life," and visit the Love Shrine and Tainai-meguri, the belly of Buddha. At the Love Shrine, you walk from one stone to another 18 meters away with your eyes closed. If you succeed, you ensure success in love. I am happy to report that we each successfully navigated around the throng of tourists to accomplish our goal.

At Tainai-meguri, we walked down into darkness and navigated our way to turn the Buddha stone for good luck by holding onto a giant bead for guidance. It was unnerving, but really fun. I kept bumping into the girl in front of me, so I practiced sumimasen (excuse me) quite a bit.

On the way to Kiyomizu-dera, we spotted our first maiko (geisha-in-training). They were sweet and took a picture with me. Later this evening, we hired a guide to take us through Gion, where most of the geisha live. We walked down alleys to see the okiya (geisha boarding houses) and catch glimpses of maiko and geiko (how the Japanese refer to geisha) as they scurried on their way to appointments at tea houses. We stopped back at the park to sample octopus puffs (you can barely taste the suckers) and sweets. Then we walked down Pontocho, a famous alley in Gion by the river and headed back toward our inn to grab some dinner.

We felt like we were waiting for our check for a while when, like a rock star (per Gina), I remembered that you signal to your server that you want your check by making an X with your index fingers. It worked! We finished our sake and came here.
Tomorrow is our sushi cooking class at the home of a Japanese woman and more sightseeing.

Kombanwa (good night)!


  1. Looks like you are having a good time. You tower over many of the locals I see. I'm glad you were able to see the Geisha up close - I'm sure that's a picture you will keep forever. All's fine in Ohio with the noisy pets and thunderstorms.

  2. I missed you oodles, dearest. Loved your inaugural comment on my blog!