Arigato Japan

Having spent nine days in Japan I feel I have barely scratched the surface. 

I had never had much interest in going to Japan but have to say that it has been a fantastic trip. I’ve learned a lot and been inspired. I’ve been impressed by the culture, the history, the beauty, the etiquette, the technology and the hygiene. 
Everything has been thought about, from the heated square of mirror in the bathroom so you can see yourself through the steam to the flight departure screens on the train to the airport. Beauty in food, in design and in aesthetics. I appreciated it all. 
Having been in Japan for the Autumn colour, the next thing to do is come back in the spring and see the cherry blossom.  I think my chances of having a second trip on the company are slim though!
Arigato Japan! 

Geisha Stalking

Despite the kimono renters in Kyoto, there are the real thing, the Geisha. 

By a stroke of luck, we ended up seeing about ten of them as it appeared they’d been out on a group shopping trip. What were the chances?

As there are only about a thousand Geisha in existence, this was a bit of a miracle. 

Given that they weren’t posing for photos, I can only assume they were the real thing. 

Last day in Kyoto

I was tired but this time I got the day right and so after an hour long conference call at 6:30am, I had breakfast, packed my bags (oops, too much stuff) and set off to the To-ji temple. 
It was the monthly flea market and so how could I resist? Plus I had a bus pass for a day so felt obliged to try out the Kyoto bus system. 
arrived to discover an enormous market underway. Clothes, food, ceramics, bits and pieces. Something for everyone!

Praying for a bargain. 

I’m pleased to say I resisted the large wooden boxes and didn’t find anything big. I did find something incredibly small and fragile and so will be amazed if it survives the next twenty four hours. Photo to come if it does. 
From there I hopped back on the bus and set off to the Golden Temple, the most popular temple in Kyoto. 

It was heaving with tourists and quite a challenge to take a photo without someone in it. 

I was in zero tourist tolerance and so legged it as soon as I could get past the shufflers. 

And so then, time to head back to Tokyo  by fabulous Shinkansen for my last night. 

Shrines and temples, temples and shrines

It was a day of it. I had got the wrong day for a 6am conference call (damn time difference) and so was breakfasted and out of the door by 8am. 

I decided to look for an historic area where the streets were preserved (or perhaps rebuilt) in traditional style. 
I walked up to a big temple and suddenly tour buses full of school kids emptied out  and the place was packed. 

It was a stunning day and while less than tranquil I had to laugh and then I found the quiet historic streets away from the masses. 

I was on the temple trail and had visited five or six by midday. All stunning and then I found one with a garden and wandered through the tranquility, contrasting between the chaos and crowds of shoppers. 
I literally hopped across the river to meet my boss for lunch…

And after a really good sushi lunch we backtracked through the historic streets and found another temple and gardens just as the last glimpse of sunlight touched the Autumnal leaves making them glow. 

The day ended with a seven course Japanese menu at the Ritz Carlton where my boss was staying… apparently in the Presidential suite while I roughed it in the Hyatt Regency Youth Hostel. I am of course joking!!

The food was delicious and despite an inappropriate assumption being made that I was a mistress (extra guest, extra charge), it was a fantastic final dinner together as tomorrow I’m heading back to Tokyo for my last night. 
Kyoto temples and shrines. More to come…

Kyoto, Kimono and Gion

Arriving in Kyoto in the afternoon having enjoyed a speedy trip on the Shinkansen or Bullet train, I checked in, dropped my luggage and hoofed it to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre. 

Kyoto is the home to traditional Japanese arts so wood block prints, ceramics and more awaited. I’m in my element. 

Will I end up buying something completely impractical? Well, I’ve discovered there’s a monthly flea market on Saturday. How lucky is that?
In Kyoto there are many temples and shrines and I hope to see a few but first, a little shopping. 

I set off to Gion Corner, a busy shopping street (Memoirs of a Geisha) where many women in kimono congregated. 
I saw women in kimono by a shrine. 
I saw kimono in shop windows

And kimono for rent!

Disillusioned! I won’t be renting a kimono as it follows my theory that white women don’t look good in cultural dress, saris being a case in point. 
I did see a real geisha (or geiiko as they’re called in Kyoto) but couldn’t take a photo. Perhaps tomorrow if I go geisha stalking. She was impressive and put the kimono renters to shame!
Gion was incredible and I only wish I had more time and more money. Everything was beautiful from the packaging to the
design. I suspect I’ll be going back before I leave. 

Greetings from Kyoto!

Hotel Niwa

I I reluctantly checked out of my lovely boutique Tokyo hotel and set off to Kyoto. 

It was my idea of the perfect hotel, small, immaculate and incredibly well designed. I would definitely recommend the Hotel Niwa. And I would happily stay there again if I’m ever back. 
Checking out it seemed an Australian Lesbian convention had just arrived so perhaps my timing was good. I have nothing against lesbians but there were lots of sperm donor babies in strollers too so time to move on! 

And so it was off to the station to get the bullet train to Kyoto…

Tokyo subway adventures

On a day when I was travelling solo, I took to the metro. The Tokyo Metro.

Firstly, there was the map…
Secondly, there was the language
Hold on a second, look at the map. It’s insanity!
I have to say (a little smugly) that I was impressed with my efforts. I only went the wrong way once, managed to buy tickets from the machine and even managed to change lines to get back to my hotel.
After several days of taxis, it was a much better way to travel, cheaper and I had a much better sense of the city. Of course, the trains are immaculate and air conditioned (hello baking Bakerloo line) but still no chivalry as the Japanese men kept their seats.
Tomorrow I’m off to Kyoto like a speeding bullet. Bullet train that is and then I will act out “Memoirs of a Geisha” which was written by an American man so probably not entirely accurate!
Publicly transported.