September 8, 2014
Yesterday was a very long day for us. It was our only full day in Kyoto so we wanted to pack as much in as we could.
We started out the day in Arashiyama which is on the west side of the city. First we went to Tenryū-ji, a lovely temple nestled into the hills. It was built in 1339 but due to several different fires, the current buildings date back only to the latter half of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Tenryū-ji is a Rinzai Zen Buddhism temple and is quite important in that school. The temple has a beautiful garden behind the main hall and although there were still a lot of people we were able to break away and have the path to ourselves from time to time. Looking back, Tenryū-ji was my favorite temple that we visited in Kyoto. It was quiet and peaceful and we could walk around and take it all in.
The big attraction in Arashiyama is the bamboo grove. You’ve probably seen photos of it without even realizing where it was. The bamboo grove would certainly be more magical if you had the path to yourself, but alas, that’s probably a fairly difficult thing to do. Even still, the path through the grove is very relaxing and the grove is stunning.
We did a little shopping at some of the stores on our way back to the station and then hopped back on the train to go back into Kyoto.
Zach wanted to check out the Nishiki Market so we went there next. Nishiki has been a retail market since the end of the Edo Period (1868) and was a wholesale fish market before that (1600-1868). However, some even believe that stores were on the same site as early as the 14th century. Nishiki’s center walkway is extremely narrow and it was pretty difficult to leisurely walk through. There was definitely a little of everything!
After we finished walking through Nishiki, we grabbed some sushi and water from a Lawson (convenient store) and had to get moving to the other side of town. Before we left for Kyoto I had made a tea ceremony reservation and it was a little ways away from Nishiki. So we hopped on a subway and then had to walk a while. It was hot and then it was crowded and hot and it was just exhausting. But we made it!
Our tea ceremony was in a beautiful area of Southern Higashiyama, Ninen-zaka-Sannen-zaka. It’s a nice neighborhood of restored machiya (traditional wooden townhouses) and cobbled streets. The place I had chosen for our tea ceremony was Camellia and it was in a 100-year old geisha ryokan. Atsuko owns Camellia and she is truly delightful! First we watched her performance of the tea ceremony which makes one cup of tea and then she let us make our own cup! It was a great way to experience a tea ceremony without feeling awkward or uncertain. I highly recommend going there if you’re in Kyoto. Here is a video of Atsuko’s tea ceremony:
The tea ceremony is a beautiful and precise performance. Everything that is done has a particular placement or movement depending on the guest or the weather or even the type of material used. It’s about the aesthetics of making the tea and the outpouring of hospitality that comes when you offer a guest a cup of tea.
After our ceremony we walked around and poked in the shops on Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka. We saw some girls dressed up as maiko (apprentice geisha) walking around and many, many, girls in kimonos.
We went up to Kiyomizu-dera which was nearby. We probably shouldn’t have because we were tired and hot and hungry, but it was so close we thought we ought to visit. Kiyomizu-dera is a Hossō Buddhist temple that was built in 798. The current buildings are reconstructions from 1633. Unfortunately many of the buildings were under renovation so we could only see a little bit and that made the crowds even more unbearable. We decided to leave and do something else.
One of the things I wanted to do was go to the Kyoto Handicraft Center and possibly do some shopping. So we hopped on the subway and went up there. It was nice and quiet in Northern Higashiyama and we enjoyed looking through the store. We happened to stumble on a jazz bar I had read about too! Lucky for us! Yamatoya is a small jazz bar run by the owner and his wife. They were the sweetest people we met in Kyoto. We decided to order drinks and hang out a while. There is one full wall lined with records and two turn tables offer a seamless change of tunes. We came in to Billie Holiday and left to Miles Davis. We really loved it and I wish we could have gone back one more time before leaving Kyoto.
Our day was winding down and we were pretty exhausted. We decided to go back to our hostel and re-group before going out for dinner and drinks. We ended up eating quite close to our hostel at a Thai/Cambodian place and then we went across town to try out a craft beer bar, Bungalow. It happened to be their 2nd anniversary and they were celebrating with a tap takeover of IPAs. We each had a nice IPA from two different breweries in Japan, munched on some fries, and wrote postcards. We called it a night and crashed into bed hoping our bodies would recover for the next day.