Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another Outing to Kyoto [ Japan V ]

      One day we go to a marvelous restaurant somewhere in Kyoto Prefecture, then wander around an area where there are bridges and cherry blossoms and a temple with extensive and lovely gardens. 
     (It's strange to try to write an account of such a day.  I'm used to knowing where I am.  I'm used to having figured out how to get there.  I can probably still name a bunch of routes and villages I visited in China 25 years ago, because I spent a long time deciphering Chinese characters on a map or figuring out how to go.  In Japan, Midori leads the other three of us around as if we were three young children.  Midori knows exactly where we are going and how.  I notice station names and village names and the like, but they evaporate from the surface of my mind like dew on a desert rooftop.  (I think we were in the Arashiyama area.))

We walk from the train station to a restaurant you might easily pass, across the street from a river where egrets and other birds are hanging out in search of fish. 

You would not notice the restaurant.  And it is both a very special place and (I'm told) difficult to make a reservation at unless you know someone.  Certainly neither the location nor the exterior of the building is designed to invite walk-in traffic!  However, it has appeared on TV and is famous in Japan.

Inside, it's small and pleasant.  Cloth dividers hang from the ceiling to increase the intimacy by blocking most of your view of neighboring tables. 

I'm no gourmet, and rarely photograph food, but here we eat at least a dozen courses, each small, visually inviting, and delicious.  So I readily fall in with Dael's suggestion that I photograph each one.  A few of those shots appear below. 

Green Tea Ice Cream

It's a memorable lunch, accompanied by sake (courtesy of Yuka-chan, the jazz singer and jewelry-maker)..

Enjoying the sakura

Afterward we walk back across the river and take a
Ignoring the sakura
quick train ride.   Then we walk across a couple of bridges to wander among cherry blossoms, in what seems a place where lots of Japanese people come to walk across bridges and gawk at cherry blossoms as we are doing.  (There are quite a few rickshaws visible.  These days, those are in use only in places Japanese tourists visit.   Like the old horse-drawn hansom cabs folks ride through New York's Central Park or rent for weddings in D.C.)

Wonders here include sakura, an interesting bamboo forest, and an important temple that turns out to have an extensive and delightful garden.  
Visiting the bamboo forest by rickshaw

At one point, while wandering alone, I run into a pair of geishas with painted faces.  They must be "real" geishas, not girls dressed up that way
for holiday fun, because a bunch of schoolgirls and adults mob them and take turns having their
photographs taken with the two.
The geisha participate patiently.  Sometimes they don't; but our 12-year-old niece, visiting Donaldo and Midori from rural New Hampshire, was such a sensation that a couple of geisha requested photos of themselves with her.

I think of people dressed in Colonial garb in Williamsburg.  I remember visiting there as a small kid.  My mother, taking us into some sort of "Sir Walter Raleigh Gift Shop", kept urging my grandmother to join us.  My grandmother -- in her sixties and soon to die -- sat comfortably in the convertible and replied sweetly, "Well, if you meet Sir Walter Raleigh in there, let me know." 

But I'm a sucker for the kimonos and rickshaws and what-not.

I'm told some athletes take the job to get in some damned good conditioning work while getting paid for it.

Photographically, they lend themselves to pix that seem to come from some much earlier era in Japan's history.  (Maybe I should have pretended these were some old prints discovered in the wonderful used-bookstore near Tombo's show.)

I like this sort of stuff too.  Just shots of the surface of some pond we pass on the way to the temple.

The temple turns out to be Tenryu-ji, which is both a "World Cultural Heritage Site" and an important temple.  It's a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple that was founded in 1339, but another temple, Danin-ji, had occupied the same grounds since the 9th Century.  It was the first Zen temple in Japan.  The Emperor built a villa on the property in the 13th Century, and his grandson was raised and educated here and became emperor in his turn -- and when the grandson died, the villa was converted to the Zen temple it still is. (Because of a series of fires, however, most of the current buildings date back only to the late 19th Century.)

These fellows were swimming around out back.  We
happened to catch feeding time, and the employee
who feeds 'em told us one in particular would eat
directly out of his hand, then demonstrated.  Here, they kind of look like monsters.

We also saw this fellow in a much smaller pond up in the garden.
This garden was much more what folks in the U.S. think of as a garden: beautifully lush and green, with trees and flowers and bushes and brooks and little waterfalls. 

In fact, it was delightful, although a somewhat overcast day.  

It's also one of the oldest landscape gardens in Japan, and reportedly remains much as Muso Soseki designed it during the 14th Century.

Too soon, this gent makes his rounds clapping two pieces of wood together loudly, a polite hint that we need to get on out of here.

But not before we pause to photograph another monk praying.

Nor can I quite ignore these folks. 

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