Tonight we went to dinner with a couple of Maiko and a Geiko. For those that do not know a Maiko is a trainee Geiko and a Geiko is what we call a Geisha…but more of that later.
Believe it or not, after yesterday’s marathon sleep, today we were on the road by 8am! Leaving the hotel we wandered down the road then caught the almost too crowded bus 101 out to Kinkakuji-cho or, as most people call it, the Golden Pavilion. It is also a World Heritage Site of which there are many in Kyoto.
What an amazing place and so crowded first thing in the morning. Even so, there was still a lot of room to view the amazing structure from so many different angles.
And here’s the first of a number of videos today:
Having walked right around the grounds we stopped for a green tea and little strange cake thing…
…before heading out to find the number 59 bus to visit our second World heritage Site of the day, the Ryoanji Temple. Except when we found the bus stop for the 59 bus, the line was about three hours long. We walked back up the hill and grabbed a taxi and we were at the temple before the first people in the bus queue were even on the bus.
Before going any further I should mention the rather odd system on the buses here in Kyoto. You enter by the back door and try and find a space to inhabit. You then leave by the front door, showing or stamping your ticket on the way out. This, of course, means squeezing passed everyone on the bus. Given the widest part of the bus is in the middle, the back door would be the obvious choice. Still…when in Japan…
Remember yesterday when I said we visited the fifth best zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto? well, Ryoanji is the best…apparently. Though looking at the garden, I don’t think it’s as good.
I did take lots of photos with my proper camera (and they will be on Flickr eventually) but I wasn’t as impressed with the zen garden so I’m not including a photo. I will include this rather wonderful panno I took of the main room of the temple though:
What really made Ryoanji special was lunch.
As we walked around we found a rather intriguing sign which read: ‘Sorry, this entrance reserved for Yudofuya guests.’ We figured this was some sort of private event for the Yudofuya family and thought we should avoid it. Then we just followed a family of mum, dad and daughter through the garden and into the shoe removal room of a restaurant.
The restaurant is called Yudofuya and serves a lot of tofu in stuff. It is a very traditional Japanese establishment to the extent that you have to sit on the floor and eat from small lacquer ware bowls. It was amazing. We both thoroughly enjoyed it though we were a bit concerned that the waitress thought we were a bit mad because we ordered one meal for the two of us.
It was also a bit odd being the only Westerners in the place…at least until another couple turned up looking and acting just as confused as us. Nothing like shared confusion to put one at ease over lunch.
But there wasn’t any time to hang around. After having a delicious matcha tea ice cream cone (truly refreshing and delightfully green) we headed out to the taxi rank to get taken to the world famous and extraordinary bamboo grove.
Okay, it might be world famous for its bamboo but I reckon it should be world famous for the amount of people it can squeeze in. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such big crowds (and I’ve been to Beijing). And they come in waves, great big waves of humanity. Some dressed in real clothes, some in fake-Maiko kiminos. Most walking but some in rickshaws pulled by some of the biggest thighed people in the world. (They reminded me of the eponymous Rickshaw Man in Lao She’s novel. Not the thighs, the rickshaw pullers.)
While the crowds were singularly awful and continuous, the bamboo grove is beautiful and relatively short and the rickshaws keep it interesting. As do the strange men in the green uniforms whose job it is to stop traffic (both vehicular and human) in order for the rickshaws to burst through without breaking stride.
We were going to catch a bus back but they were pretty full so we went searching for a taxi. This took a long time and involved a fair bit of walking. Still, eventually we made it with only a brief appearance of Ms Cranky Pants. We were back at the hotel and resting up by a reasonable hour.
And then, to cap off the most amazing day we had an equally (if not more) amazing night.
Ages ago we booked into a Maiko Experience night. It was supposed to be for our anniversary but there wasn’t one on Thursday nights so we had to settle for Friday. No problems and I managed to book it. Essentially it was for Mirinda but I was definitely up for it as well. I thought it would be a bit like a Japanese version of Fana Folklore.
But first we had to get there.
We thought we’d left ourselves plenty of time but we hadn’t allowed for the unknowables ie the Friday night holiday week traffic in Kyoto. We caught a bus then jumped off when walking would obviously be quicker. We walked for a bit and then grabbed a cab when we realised walking was too slow.
As it turned out we made it in time though we were rushed into our seats having had our shoes yanked off and our drink orders taken. And then we met Gabby and Eli our dinner companions for the night.
And, seriously, I don’t think we could have had better dinner companions. They were both a total cack. Gabby is in love with Japan and loves the whole Maiko/Geiko thing and tonight was the best thing that had ever happened to her. Ever. It was also really good speaking English for a bit apart from with each other.
The meal was in bits, punctuated by the Geiko strumming a guitar and singing a song while the Maiko danced her dance. But rather than try and explain, here’s a little bit of the second song and dance number. Sorry but because of the angle and Mirinda’s head, the Geiko is behind a candle.
After a couple of songs, the Maiko girls then indulge in a couple of drinking games and, of course, the audience has to join in. In the first game the two players have to grab a bottle holder off the table or tap the table with their fist. They can’t tap the table with their open hand because that’s what they have to do if the bottle holder is on the table. There are other rules but I forgot them in a haze of beer. Anyway, Gabby volunteered from our table and, would you believe it, she won! She is in the orange dress in the video below.
The second drinking game was a bit like rock, paper, scissors except it was samurai, tiger, old woman. When it came time for us to elect a representative from our table, Eli was the obvious candidate. Sadly he was defeated by some crazy Japanese guy who had obviously been an old woman before. Eli had to chug a very small glass of beer for his troubles.
We, of course, being the dignified couple we are, merely watched, clapped and hooted with every silly thing they did. And then we posed with the Maikos/Geiko before heading out into the night.
I think we said goodnight to Gabby and Eli about 24 times but we all kept walking in the same direction and talking about things we had in common (Gabby is scared of lifts while Eli is a self-confessed history nerd) and so we ended up standing in a temple area being a bit loud. We moved on and finally parted ways at the top of our street, about three miles from the hotel. The strode off into the night and we went and caught a bus.
It was a FANTASTIC night. One of the best EVER.