From Kiyomizu dera we decided to head for another temple in the area in a roundabout sort of way. We just started walking through Gion, and at one point flakes of snow blew in from across the city, which didn’t make it any more picturesque and in fact just made it colder. We finally sought refuge in a small two-story teahouse for a break, where I had traditional matcha and sweets and fake-maiko watched!
Quick snack to rest our feet and warm up a bit!
Fake Maiko, woo!
Small shrine with lots of maiko taking pictures!
Basically, for a decent price (depending on time and photographs of course), many places in Kyoto will dress you up as maiko (maiko are basically apprentice geisha), complete with white face makeup and elaborate kimono, and either let you loose in the area by yourself, or with a photographer/guide to follow you around and take pictures. I know a few JETs who did it, and think I may one of these days when I have more time, just for the novelty of it. Westerners look really weird in the white makeup so I don’t expect the pictures to actually be any GOOD, but it would still be fun!
Kenji mentioned, and I agree, that soon it will become the Kyoto experience to see more and more of these “maiko” than the real ones. Those are much more rare, and only out in the late afternoon/early evening and later times as they go from appointment to appointment. I didn’t have any expectation of seeing one, and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell a real from a fake in many cases anyway. There were definitely some old ladies dressing up who in no way were the real thing, but take a young Japanese girl doing it for fun or a real maiko and I couldn’t tell you which was which. I’m more interested in the kimono anyway!
Anyway, I still snapped a few pictures when I saw one, just for the pretty pictures they make!
From there, we boarded another bus and headed to Sanjyuusangendo, a famous temple housing 1001 Kannon’s and 27 (I think…) guardian spirits carved by a famous guy out of wood a long time ago (all right, I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to the history, can you tell?) Pictures weren’t allowed to be taken, so I don’t have anything but brochures showing the inside, but we took a few on the outside before going in! I also bought a blank book which the shrines stamp and sign in calligraphy style to document the shrines I went to. I’m disappointed I didn’t know about it at Kiyomizu dera, since I’m missing that seal, but from the second temple I got the calligraphy at every shrine since then. I can always go back and get it as well!
The building housing all the figures
The long back of the building, where archery competitions take place every year
From there we decided Kinkakuji would be our next stop for the day. Kenji was really hoping it would snow for it, but it ended up being clear and cold. However we made it to Kinkakuji right at sunset, right on time for the light to hit the building just-so. I took a TON of pictures of it, most of which are the same thing, so I’m only posting a few:
After that, night came pretty quickly. We went for dinner at a family restaurant mainly because we were tired of walking and super cold and not picky, and then came back to Kyoto station. Some quick pics of outside the station at night:
One really interesting thing we noticed after hearing some guys talking about it on the bus ride home (well, okay, Kenji overheard them and translated for me) is that a lot of the red signs such as McDonalds are in different colors in Kyoto. Apparently Kyoto has laws about gaudy signs, and from what we could tell the color red in a huge sign was a definite “no-no”. So the McD’s and other stores used brown instead, or a less obvious red:
Maybe hard to tell, but it is definitely brown!
From then, we decided to just stay in and watch TV and talk a bit instead of going back out, so nothing really interesting happened afterward. Despite the late start, Saturday was a lot of walking and we were both tired, so we went to bed pretty early. And again, didn’t wake up super early on Sunday either, though we did wake up earlier than Saturday since we had to check out. They let us leave our bags at the hotel so we didn’t have to lug them everywhere.
I really wanted to hit a few key places Sunday, but with a late start made later by eating at the station, plus a rather longer bus ride than I figured out to Arashiyama, we only hit that area. So I have to come back to visit the other shrines I didn’t get a chance to see!
Arashiyama was said to be ignored in Western guidebooks but popular with the Japanese tourists, and this seemed to be true from what I saw. We visited Tenryuji temple and the famous garden attached to it as the last temple we’d really get a chance to see, and took a number of pictures. If you recall some of the views from Kiyomizu dera above, the area getting snow Saturday was the one we were now in, but again the day was cold but mostly clear.
From the temple we walked across a big bridge to the Monkey Park up on the mountain. For a small fee and a rather tiring hike, you can take pictures of and even feed the monkeys in the park, who for the most part tolerated the humans if you didn’t try to touch them or get too close. They were pretty cute!
We trekked back down the mountain and found a place to eat. I have to say that overall the food in Kyoto wasn’t very impressive, though it is probably because we weren’t picking the right places. I wish it had been better though…
Anyway, after eating it was nearing time to go back and grab our luggage and get to the station for a little omiyage shopping for people at home before catching the Shinkansen. We didn’t have time for any more temples, but that’s okay. We hit a number of them, took some great pictures, and had a really nice weekend in general. It feels weird to be back at school for the both of us after a week of not being there!
Hopefully this weekend will be another snowboarding trip, this time to a Gunma location.