Japan (day 5) – Kyoto
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Today is our guided tour trip in Kyoto. Prior to our Japan trip, I booked 2 Kyoto tours online. The tours were made on japanican.com and organised by Sunrise Tours.
- Kyoto morning tour. ¥11,800 (USD97 or RM350) for 2 people
- Dinner with maiko. ¥23,000 (USD190 or RM700) for 2 people
For the morning tour, we left the ryokan around 8AM. We took a cab to the meeting point of the tour, at hotel New Hankyu at 8:25AM. The tour allows you to choose from a number of meeting points, I chose New Hankyu as it is the nearest to our Ryokan (and nearest to Kyoto Station).
For the Kyoto morning tour, the plan is to visit the following attractions:
- Nijo Castle
- Kinkaku-ji Temple
- Kyoto Imperial Palace
Our first stop was Nijo Castle. It was built by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603CE, as his official residence in Kyoto. The interior details are amazing, especially the paintings on the walls. Too bad visitors are not allowed to take photos inside. I was most impressed with the nightingale floors. The floors in the castle were designed to “squeak” the sound of the nightingale bird whenever somebody walks on it. This was intended as a security measure to detect intruders. The engineering behind it is so simple that it has survived almost 400+ years!
From Nijo Castle, the tour bus took us to Kinkaku-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Founded in 1397CE by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the temple is well know for its Muromachi period garden design. Muromachi is the period is Japan from 1337CE to 1573CE. The garden is also known for its borrowed landscape concept that integrates the external surrounding to be part of the view.
Our third visit was to Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Imperial Palace has occupied the current area from as early as 12th Century, but the current building and layout became the official residences of the emperor during Meiji period (1867CE until now).
We had lunch at a teppanyaki restaurant at Kyoto Station. After that, we went back to the ryokan to get some rest.
In the evening, we took the Kyoto subway to the maiko dinner meeting place. The meeting place was at Rihga Royal Hotel near Kyoto Station. There were 20 participants for tonight’s event. The tour guide prearranged 5 taxis for us to get to the dinner place. The dinner was held at Hanagokoro Restaurant in north Kyoto. The journey took us 30 minutes.
The evening started with the maiko being introduced to us. Her maiko name is Momo-san and she’s 18 years old. The guide then gave us a brief history and cultural explanation on geiko (kyoto dialect for “geisha”).
Momo-san performed a traditional dance for us. It was very interesting. After that was a photography session. We were allowed to take photos with her.
After the photo session, there was a Q&A session. Momo-san sat at the front and we could ask her any questions. Some of the guests asked general questions. One of the Europeans asked her why she chose to become a geiko and restrict her freedom (geiko’s have strict training and working schedules) rather than go to university? Momo-san answered that she loves beautiful kimono and performing traditional arts. The European guy was not satisfied with the answer but he didn’t press on. I gathered that he couldn’t understand why in the modern age anybody would choose to be a geiko. Perhaps as a European, he finds it difficult to relate how Asians feel towards their own culture?
After a few questions, the guide asked Momo-san to sit nearer to the guests so that everybody gets the chance to look at her closely and ask any other questions.
Towards the end, Momo-san performed another dance and bade farewell to us. We then adjourned to the main section of the restaurant for dinner. The food was really good. I highly recommend the “dinner with maiko” trip if you’re in Kyoto.