Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rain, rain: go away!

Yesterday was sunny and warm. Today, not so much. Hopefully we will see the sun again tomorrow.

This morning, we left our ryokan early to visit Fushimi-inari-taisha, bright orange shrine gates (torii) from the 8th century that are dedicated to the gods of rice and sake. A pathway wanders a couple miles up on a thickly wooded moutain, and it’s quite a sight to see.

For our sushi class, we were picked up in a taxi. The drivers are much more formal than in the States. They wear an official uniform including white gloves and a cap, and the backseat is covered in a doily-like fabric. You can’t open the doors yourself since they are operated automatically by the driver. Pretty cool.

We had a lot of fun cooking with our host and her daughter. The program is run by WAK Japan, which is an organization that helps housewives and other women to build a business by teaching Japanese customs like ikebana (flower arranging), kimono-dressing, cooking, etc. It’s an amazing program, and we were happy to support it.

We prepared spinach and sesame, sushi (eel, cucumber and crab), rice (see the pic of Gina fanning it and me mixing it to ensure it’s the perfect sticky consistency), tempura (fried veggies, including lotus...our host said you can see the future through its holes) and miso soup.

We’re getting used to feeling like celebrities since so many people stop to stare at us, so we didn’t blink an eye when our hosts asked to take photos with us. Fun!

Jetlag started to set in a bit today, so we napped at our ryokan and then visited Shiori-in, a machiya (old town house) with a beautiful garden that I read about in a book at the library before our trip. The machiya is a dwelling and a workplace since kimonos are hand dyed, embroidered and sewn on-site. It’s also open to the public as a museum to view the garden, beautiful Japanese screens and kimonos. The fabric was gorgeous! I floated room to room completely enraptured by all of the gorgeous colors and patterns.

After dinner, we browsed through some arcade shops and bought woodblock prints and Japanese pastries made from sweet bean paste. It sounds weird, but trust me, they are AWESOME! One of the shops had a baker in the front window making the cakes. Mmmm!

Tomorrow, we’re going to try to get tickets to Miyako Odori, the annual maiko/geiko performance during cherry blossom season. Fingers crossed! Since it’s our last full day in the city, we also hope to see Nijo Castle.


  1. Where did you take the sushi class? I would love to do that! I'll be in Kyoto in a few weeks.

  2. We made arrangements via WAK Japan, a wonderful organization that offers women a way to earn money by teaching classes about their heritage. Here's a link to book the sushi class we took:

    Enjoy Kyoto! It was such a wonderful trip, and I'd love to go back.