Thursday, September 22, 2011
I just got back from three rather intensive days in the grand old city of Kyoto.
In fact I skipped out on a rather legendary contemporary music festival (Labyrinth) to douse myself in some old school culture down in the former capital. Why? Well, even after a decade living in Tokyo I'd never actually been to Kyoto (crazy and inexcusable, I know).
I'd always wanted to spend more than a week down there to really experience it, but a group of my favourite students decided to take matters into their own hands - and treated me to three of the best days' traveling that I've had in years.
There was, of course, Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, above left), also known as Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺 Deer Garden Temple). You've probably seen the postcards of this baby, or you may even have read Yukio Mishima's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion ...or you might've just glimpsed the photo in the desktop picture art of Apple's OS X computer operating system (shh!).
Anyway, it's a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto established back in the 14th century.
The current Golden Pavilion, however, was built far more recently (1955) since the original was burned down by a mad arsonist monk in 1950 - the subject of Mishima's novel.
That doesn't stop the place being so damned stunning, however.
Aside from 13 other temples and shrines, plus assorted rock gardens and Nijo Castle, we also took time out to investigate Gion (祇園) on Saturday, around dusk.
Gion is of course the home of maiko, geisha, ochaya (tea houses), kaiseki (multi-course dinner restaurants) and okiya (geisha/maiko lodging houses). Plus a swarm of tourists like me soaking up the atmosphere and trying to spy a maiko (an apprentice geisha, the flashier ones).
I took more than 250 photos on the trip, and sorry to share just two of 'em - but, then again, I don't want to bore you senseless with my own happy snaps. Make sure you get over to Kyoto to take your own. The city is brilliant.