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Travels in Japan with children, part 7, Kyoto

This morning we took our first bus ride in Japan to Kinkakuji Temple. The driver continued to accept new passengers well beyond the comfort level of most of us and the bus was very crowded over the 1 hour ride. Despite that I enjoyed seeing the city above ground rather than in the subway or walking.
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We were a little unsure of whether to bother visiting the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavillion) because it is a famous tourist site and we don’t like crowds and prefer to see lower rated sites instead. The Kinkakuji Temple is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and was built by a shogun in 1397. The golden pavilion contains relics of the Buddha and it is a Zen Buddhist temple of the Rinzai Sect.
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As expected it was crowded but there was space enough for everyone. It’s just not the ideal atmosphere in which to experience a stroll garden. Our son is delightfully earnest about praying and clasps his hands, bows from the waist and prays often in temple complexes.
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On our way out of the temple complex we ran the gauntlet of souvenir shops but we were pleased that the vendors were quiet and did not try to grab our attention, unlike in Indonesia. Just as I was lamenting not having yet found yatsuhashi (hard cinnamon-flavored cookie made from glutinous rice flour) or nama yatsuhashi (floppy unbaked version typically flavored with cinnamon, green tea or sesame and often wrapped around sweet red bean paste) when we looked at a quiet vendor and realised that’s what she was selling. She let all 4 of us taste 4 different types and we happily bought both a bag of yatsuhashi and a box of chocolate filled nama yatsuhashi.
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After a quick picnic lunch my husband hurried off to do a cooking course while our children and I strolled through quiet neighborhoods, admiring urban gardens, playing in playgrounds, eating Kyoto treats, watching rice flour being milled, visiting shrines and temples, and looking at the abundant vending machines.

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Senbon Emma-do Temple had lovely music of temple bells playing and a friendly nun greeted us warmly. We enjoyed listening to the small birds in an aviary beside the temple too.

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At Shakuzoji Temple we discretely watched an older Japanese couple rubbing the brass sculptures then copied and it was obvious which parts are rubbed often because the verdigris had been removed. The couple watched us too and chuckled to see my children bowing and praying.
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Our next stop was Orinasu-kan which is a workshop and gallery for showing the unique dyeing and hand weaving techniques of Kyoto. It’s set in a traditional merchant house and the architecture is interesting, including a tranquil contemplation garden in an inner courtyard. The man running the tour and gift shop had limited English but was great fun with my children. He had a ‘fight’ with them using silk worm cocoons, served them special treats with green tea, and gave then tye died bandannas for free. We enjoyed learning the secrets of the amazing weaving techniques of the gorgeous silk obi and kimono fabrics. We also liked the exhibition of restored Noh costumes with their exquisite patterns.
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From there we hurried to the Nishijin Textile Centre which is a tourist attraction posing as a textile centre. However our reason for visiting was the kimono show which enraptured my children so much that we watched the show at 3:15, went upstairs to look at the shop then watched the 4:00 show as well. The kimonos were gorgeous and I noticed many differences in the way of folding the obi at the back, size and design of kimono sleeves, and colors and designs from traditional to modern of kimono, obi, blouse, rope, and the tie that sits just above the obi. I captured each of the kimonos in photos and put far too many here for you to see if you are interested!
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Tour bus loads of Japanese people squashed against us during the show and I was struck by how some middle aged Japanese women elbow us out of the way, even our 5 year old son. It surprises me that people who supposedly don’t touch each other are happy to literally stand in my personal space on my toes and lean into my ribs with their shoulders. I wonder if we gaijin don’t count?
Today for the first time this trip our children were photographed enthusiastically by Japanese middle aged tourists. Until then we had been pretty much under the radar and I was surprised that it took this long after the overwhelming popularity of our kids in Malaysia and Indonesia. Some teenage school girls on the train home enjoyed pulling faces at our kids too.
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One comment on “Travels in Japan with children, part 7, Kyoto

  1. Pingback: Book Reflections – Behind the Wall by Colin Thubron  | strivetoengage

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This entry was posted on April 18, 2014 by in Asia, family and tagged , , , , , , , .
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