October 7, 1961 – Kyoto

Miyako Hotel, Kyoto, Japan – Raining

      When we woke up today I knew it was going to be a full one of touring but I hoped we’d be able to do some shopping.  It was Saturday and I was excited to see what we might see and do today in Kyoto.

      After breakfast we met Kiki in the lobby to leave for our tour at 9:00am.  Edith and I were both delighted to have another chance to see more imposing shrines, temples and elaborately designed gardens.  I especially loved seeing gardens because they reminded me of the one I had at home that Stuart had always taken such pride in.  Kiki pointed out to us that the river Komo which ran through the city was where the movie Sayonara was filmed. I had always liked that move but found it so sad.

      I loved seeing the Kiyomizu Temple and enjoyed the commanding panoramic view of the city that we had from the platform in front of it.  As we walked around and saw some impressive Buddhas, Kiki gave us a little history about the temple.  He let us know that the original temple dated back to 798 but the current buildings were constructed in 1633 without any nails.  He also told us that the name “Kiyomizu” meant clear water or pure water and that the temple took its name from the waterfall found within the complex of temples.

      We saw the Shinto Heian Shrine that was designed as an imitation of the Kyoto Imperial Palace on a three-fourths scale.  The shrine grounds included a magnificently landscaped garden which Kiki mentioned had served for one of the settings found in the movie “80 Days Around the World” made in 1956 staring David Niven. 

      Then we also were honored to be taken to see the Sanjusangendo Buddhist temple or Hall of Thousand Buddha’s.  This shrine was impressive and I enjoyed seeing the thousand armed Kannon statues all lined up on both sides of the main statue.  Kiki said that there had been a tremendous fire that destroyed much of the original temple but that 124 statues of the 1000 had been rescued from that temple and were lined up with the others.  I could feel the history as I stood there looking at the statues and structures built so many years before.

      The Golden Pavilion was next on our itinerary to visit.  The bright yellow building was three stories and had had to be rebuilt several times after being burnt down.  Kiki told us the top two floors were covered in pure gold leaf that made it all the more breathtaking.  He noted to that the pavilion housed some of Buddha’s ashes.  Like other places we’d visited the pavilion was part of a stunning park with a large lake in front it that reflected its beauty.  The place was wonderful to see and it felt so serene there.

Golden Pavilion

      Later we went to the Imperial Palace to see its beautiful carvings and be part of their Buddha service.  After seeing the grounds, the structures and the ceremonies today I understood more about the Japanese culture than I had before.  Just when I thought I had seen enough I saw something that still amazed me.  While we were there a bridal party taking pictures allowed me to take pictures too.  There was even a flower girl that was exquisite in her little kimono.  I could see why they chose that location for the ceremony.  It was so very beautiful.

Kyoto Imperial Palace Grounds

Another View of Kyoto Imperial Palace

Garden Tells Story of Zen

Nijo Castle

Bride and Groom at Imperial Palace Grounds

Bridal Party on Palace Grounds

Bridal Party Flower Girl on Palace Grounds

      Our final stop for our tour today turned out to be the Ryozen Kannon, a World War II memorial that was built to honor the Japanese who had died during the war.  It included a tomb for the Unknown Soldier who was killed in during the war.  While we were there they had a service to honor the memory of those lost and only one of several held during the day.  The memorial building was at the side and rear of a Buddhist temple which was very ornate with its garlands of ornaments made of filigree gold leaf over brass hanging from the ceiling in profusion.  As we walked around we saw many huge gold pillars, red walls and lacquered cypress wood on the altar.  I’d been to memorials at home for American soldiers who had died during one of the World Wars and I had the same sense here as I did there of loss and sadness.  It was strange too because I knew that the men honored here had been fighting us not too many years before and it didn’t matter because I was still sad for their deaths.

      In driving around I noticed all the streets were exceptionally wide and the houses were built closely together.  When I asked Kiki about he told me that the houses were built close together because when there was a fire they needed the roads to be wide enough so the people could quickly flee to safety in the streets.  He added that they needed the wide roads to provide plenty of room for cars to travel.

Kyoto Restaurant for Lunch

      We returned to the hotel for lunch and then Edith and I decided to use our free afternoon shopping.  Kiki took several in our group to an area where we could shop and we were all delighted with the stores we found.  I had fun wandering the isles in a silk store and I found several pieces of silk to buy.  Kiki pointed out one shop called the Cloisonné House that I was excited shop in.  I bought several cloisonné buttons that I thought would make nice gifts for family and friends back home.  They weren’t really expensive and best thing of all they didn’t take up much room.

      After shopping and we returned to the hotel, Edith and I got ready to leave and I was very excited because I knew it was going to be special.  Kiki had purchased tickets for us to all go to the Kaburenjo Theatre located in the Pontocho district of Kyoto.  As he explained the theatre offered a rare chance for “ordinary people” to see performances by real geisha and I knew we could expect to have a wonderful experience that evening.

      While waiting to leave for the theater I decided to write some letters.  I had already finished writing a letter to Bob and written some to Ramona when I noticed Edith was standing behind me reading what I’d put down on paper so far.  Edith told me she noticed I was writing letters home and she asked me to give them to her to send back with hers to the Herald.  She said that she’d seen that I had included lots of details in my letters that she didn’t have in hers.  I reluctantly handed over my letters to Bob and Ramona and just hoped she wouldn’t claim they were hers to the newspaper.

      The last few times Edith had written letters back for the Fillmore Herald she had either copied letters I’d written to Bob and Ramona or picked my brain so much I felt like I might as well have written the letter to them myself.  One time I had even found her reading a letter I’d written to Ramona and left out.  I was beginning to feel like I was the one sending the majority of the information back to the Fillmore Herald but nevertheless it was important to get it back to them.  After handing over the letters, Edith and I left our room to meet Kiki in the lobby.      

      At the Kaburenjo Theatre we were first escorted to a room off the theatre where the show was to be performed.  After we were seated the Geisha performed the Tea Ceremony for our group and I found it fascinating watching them perform the ritual of making tea.  As part of the ritual they presented a plate to one person to take with them and when they selected me I felt very honored.  The plate was delicate and had such fine detail I knew I would treasure it for the rest of my life.   

      Once the Tea Ceremony was completed they took us into the theatre itself to see the show by the Geisha.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but when the curtain went up I was in complete awe the whole time.  There were Geisha musicians on both sides of the stage with nine playing drums on the left and ten others who played string instruments on the right.  The music was very delicate and brought to mind wonderful thoughts and dreams.  Then when the Geisha girls started to dance I watched in amazement as they went through the various movements of the dances.  I couldn’t help but notice the detail of their gorgeous, colorful costumes and how each one seemed unique in some way.

      Afterward we were full of questions for Kiki about the geisha so he gave us some more background about them.  He told us the geisha were only permitted to dance until they reach a certain age and when they have reached that time they are given the opportunity to become singers and musicians.  When they are young they receive their training it in geisha etiquette, ceremonies, and traditional dances as well as playing various instruments.  He also mentioned that the geisha have such elaborate hairdos they use special pillows to sleep with at night so they can keep their tresses in place and they need to visit the hair dresser every other day.  I could tell that it was considered a great honor to become a geisha but it seemed to me it was also a very restrictive life for them. 

      By the time we returned to the hotel and had finished dinner it was 10:30pm and I decided to get another massage since the last one had been so wonderful so I called the desk.  I’d made arrangements for a masseuse to come after I had a chance to take a 15 minute steam bath and to soak in a warm tub for 20 minutes.  A lady masseuse showed up this time and despite her demure presence she gave me the works.  I thought the man had been rough but this petite little lady really worked me over.  After rubbing me for awhile then she walked up and down my back and that turned out to be really painful.  I didn’t whine while she did it but I was very glad when she finally stopped rubbing me.

       I’d asked Edith if she wanted to get a massage too when I called down but decided not to get one this time.  She said that she didn’t think it would help her feel better.  In the end after the masseuse left I had wished I hadn’t got one again either.  It was amazing to me how different the two were.

      I found myself taking some aspirin to help me with my aches before crawling into bed.  I had trouble going to sleep because of the soreness.

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