Saturday, 18 October 2014

Kyoto Baby!

I have been absent for the last week or so simply because I have been so busy doing things. 300+ photos later and here I am, ready to catch up, firstly, on my trip to Kyoto this week. I was only there for two days but was with Noriko who, as well as having been many times and so knowing exactly where to go, had also rented a car. Thus equipped with her language skills, car and her encyclopedic knowledge of everywhere ever we went on a non-stop tour of wonder and amazement. My 161 photos from the trip can be found here but these are the highlights.
Shinkansen Nose 2
We took the Shinkansen - the super speedy train - from Tokyo so by 10am we were there and ready to go. The station is ultra modern which didn't seem so strange to me at first - that was until I saw the rest of the city.
Kyoto Station
An advert at the station showed a kimono clad japanese woman getting out of Back to the Future's Dolorean car in one of the back streets and that is how it is to be in Kyoto. It is like a stage set for a samurai film. But more of that later. We started off in the famous bamboo grove of Arashiyama.
Arashiyama Bamboo Road 2
The bamboo grows up to the sky on both sides of a narrow road and it is very quiet and cool. The road leads to one entrance of the Tenru-ji Temple, which has the most amazing gardens.
Tenru-ji Temple Gardens 4
Pretty much all of the sites we visited were UNESCO world heritage sites, and you can see why.
Tenru-ji Temple Gardens 9
Isn't that tree being supported by a pole out over the water amazing? And can you see all the huge Koi swimming around? It is breathtaking in real life.

Outside the temples there are amazing views and statues too. This is the Kamo river and some little statues I spotted alongside it.
Kamo River
Kyoto Statues

Our next stop was the Ryoanji Temple Stone Garden where you are not supposed to look for meaning in the stones, but let your mind wander over them and achieve a sense of peace.
Ryoanji Temple Stone Garden with Noriko
There was also a garden here too.
Ryoanji Temple Garden 7
Visiting at this time of year we were perhaps 2-3 weeks short of the autumn foliage and after the summer flowers, but even at this time of year the amazing intensity of the greens and the smell of the earth made every landscape a fully sensuous experience.

All of this was just the first few hours of our first day, after which we were ready to check in at the hotel, where I was almost as thrilled to discover we were staying at the Westin Miyako - where the Queen, Prince Charles and Diana stayed when they visited. The view from the bedroom was amazing!
View from hotel room 2 panorama

Noriko, as well as being a geographical genius and expert park'r (thus also being my exact opposite in skills sets), is a prime enabler. She knows my weakness for fabric and so she had several shops lined up for us to visit and these did not disappoint. The first was a Kimono Shop specialising in the most amazingly beautiful pure silk vintage kimonos. I didn't see any that were less than £100, and rightly so. However, luckily for me they had a whole room dedicated to offcuts and scraps.
Kimono Shop
Kimono Shop 2
I was amazingly restrained and only came away with three pieces - including this amazing children's print commemorating the Russian's putting a dog into space.
Kimono Silks 2
Plus one small scrap bag, although I was amazed by how big the pieces still were.
Kimono Silk Scraps
By now the light was fading (sunset was about 6pm) so we had a stroll through some of the backstreets as the light faded.
Pagoda at Dusk
Kyoto Alley at night
We also found a little shop crammed with cats!
Cat Shop

The next morning saw us at Nanzenji Temple, very close the hotel.
Nanzenji Temple
The main building was supported by these amazing pillars, worn smooth by 700 years of hands.
Nanzenji Temple Post
Nanzenji Temple Post 2
This beautiful urn is where you light incense and waft the smoke over you for good health and to keep evil away.
Nanzenji Temple Incense with Noriko
I did that bit while Noriko also said a little prayer. The grounds of the Temple included an aquaduct which you could go up on top of - none of your health and safety here.
Nanzenji Temple Arches
Nanzenji Temple Arches 5
Nanzenji Temple Aquaduct
The grounds were extensive, and there were little sub-gardens all over the place. Like this one.
Nanzenji Temple Garden Panorama
Jaw droppingly beautiful and you could walk right the way around it on beautifully kept paths.
Nanzenji Temple Garden 5
Another "sub-garden" was the immediate surroundings of a beautiful house. This one started with a rock garden...
Nanzenji Temple Rock Garden
Nanzenji Temple Rock Garden 5
...and continued with a series of gardens resembling the stages towards paradise. I am probably missing some of the detail in that statement, but that is what Noriko told me.
Nanzenji Temple Inner Garden 3
Can you see the two ladies tending them? They were essentially giving the moss a manicure.
Nanzenji Temple Inner Garden 4
You could walk through it all on the covered walkways.
Nanzenji Temple Inner Garden 5
Nanzenji Temple Inner Garden 7
And of course several of the rooms, most with beautifully painted screens, looked out onto beautiful vistas.
Nanzenji Temple Building 3 (2)
This one inclues a perpetual motion fountain which was beautiful to watch and listen to. And speaking of listening...
Nanzenji Temple Building
A genuine Nightingale Floor! I had read about these in historical texts as well as in Terry Pratchett and was so thrilled when I realised I was walking on one. I had expected the floor to make a high creaky sound but no, it actually is a proper chirrup like a bird. I was foolishly excited and scampering about like a toddler with a puddle.

I mentioned that Noriko was an enabler and she had googled for any textile hotspots before we went. One that came up was the Kawashima Textile Museum. I hadn't spotted it in any guide books but readily agreed. We arrived and realised it was a factory museum - something quite common in japan but not generally on a usual tourist route.
Kawashima Textile Museum
That's it on the left and sure enough, we were the only ones there. Not even an attendant - and anyone familiar with the overstaffing levels in Japan will be rightfully gobsmacked by that. Most of the large pieces could not be photographed, but these should give you an idea. All my photos from this visit can be found here. If you're a textile geek like me you'll be pretty amazed.
Sample Book at Kawashima Textile Museum
One example of design...
Tea Cup Drawn Design at Kawashima Textile Museum
...with a working drawing...
Tea Cup Design working sketch at Kawashima Textile Museum fabric...
Tea Cup Fabric at Kawashima Textile Museum patent certificate.
Patent Certificate for Tea Cup fabric at Kawashima Textile Museum
After a visit from the Emperor and Empress in the 1960s they commissioned a wall hanging which then took four years to complete!
Woven Wall Hanging for the Imperial Palace at the Kawashima Textile Museum
Here it is in one of the Imperial dining rooms.
Photo of wall hanging in place at the Imperial Palace
Amazing. Such an opportunity to get close to these items.
Detail of Woven Walll Hanging at the Kawashima Textile Museum

After lunch (delicious sushi, fresh from the tank where the poor critters were swimming about right up to their final moment) we went back to the area we'd walked at twilight and had more of a daytime look. I'll give you a montage since you must be wondering if this post will ever end.
Kyoto Medley
Those last two are another Kimono shop we stumbled across. This one was owned by the man in charge of distributing a particular type of Kyoto brocade, highly prized throughout the country, and he went all over the place with his samples. And he then needed to shift those samples once they were finished with. 30x50cm pure silk for Y200 (about £1.50) - er, yes? I kept saying to Noriko "Are they really only 200 yen?" as I picked up samples of amazingly beautiful silk. Just a small haul.
We then skipped to another part of Kyoto, this time where the Geisha Houses are. This is one.
Kyoto Geisha House
You can tell it is one because of the wooden plaques to the top right of the door - here there are 5. Each has the Geisha's name on it. There were a large number of posh flower shops in the area - all for gentlemen to send their gifts from. Another montage.
Kyoto Montage

Before we left we had time to raid the food halls near the station to make sure the Pooch was even happier to see me return than he would otherwise have been. It may only have been two days, but it was an amazing trip and enough to last me for quite a while!

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