Kyoto - Ancient Japan and Geisha's

April 23, 2010 - Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, United States

 Our first day in Kyoto was very exciting.  First we got to go on the Shinkensen bullet train which goes at about 250kms an hour.  Although the track was so smooth that it didn't feel any faster than a normal train. But the Shinkensen look pretty cool, like something out of the future with their pointed streamlined noses.  

Just over 2 hours later we arrived in Kyoto which is pretty impressive given a bus takes all night to do the same trip.  Our hostel was not far up the road and we didn't take long to find it which was a bonus.  We checked in and were given a map with a path highlighted so we could find our way to Gion, the Geisha district.  We walked up a little canal most of the way which was just beautiful with pink cherry blossoms drooping over the trickling stream, little sloping bridges, and very old wooden buildings the whole way up.  It was only about a 2km walk but we took ages due to the ammount of photo stops we did, every step seemed more photogenic than the next.  We eventually found our way to Gion by spotting the millions of tourists.  Gion is a very old area from the 17th century with it's original tea houses still standing and still in use.  The buildings are made from planks of dark cedar wood with the only windows being covered by strips of bamboo or tatami mats.  The doors are small and usually closed, but you can tell if the shop or teahouse is open for business as they hang out material in front of the doors.  We walked up and down this street looking in all the souvenier shops, and then found a big temple which we wandered through.  We had a couple of hours to kill before our  show so we went back out of Gion and onto the main streets and just wandered up and down the streets, into temples, gardens, backroads etc. 

We then went back to Gion to see the much anticipated Geisha dance show. We were so fortunate to have managed to prebook the tickets for this show before we left Australia. There is only about 100 Geisha and Maiko (apprentice Geisha) remaining in Kyoto, and 1000 in all of Japan.  Unless you are super wealthy and are invited by a regular teahouse patron (and generally foreigners are not invited) you will not ever be able to see the Geisha entertaining.  Once a year though, during the Cherry blossom festival in April, the Geisha of Gion put on a public performance show and this is what we got tickets for.   We paid for special seats which meant we also got to see the Geisha do a traditional tea ceremony.  We lined up and went into the arena to watch and unfortunately we were way at the back so couldn't see much.  The Geisha was up the front sitting in front of a table with all her tea making accessories where she stirred and boiled tea.  The Maiko would run back and forth bringing her things.  We were all given a cup of sweet green tea and a little desert thing.  Unfortunately it was all abit rushed and we were told to hurry up and drink the tea so the next lot of people could come through.  We snapped a few photos, threw the tea (delicious) down, hid the desert in our bag becuse neither of us liked it and went into the main hall to watch the show. 

The Geisha show was fantastic.  We had excellent seats, upstairs in the front row looking straight down onto the stage.  The start of the show was awesome.  Three stringed violin (can't remember their real names) were played and the lights came up.  Geisha/Maiko filed out on each side of the stage and slowly walked up to the front doing dance steps on the way.  The show was 8 sets, basically showing the four seasons of the year starting with Cherry blossom season and ending with Cherry blossom season.   The dancing and music was very slow and precise.  The singing was like a wailing sound, and the Geisha's would tap their feet and move their hands in very slow movements.  It was quite fascinating to watch.

Afterwards we walked up and down Gion again and stumbled into a backstreet which had some police cordoning off areas'.  A row of tourists were standing there poised with camera's and we soon realised why.  This is the street where the Geisha's would walk back down after the show to their next appointment.  We waited for nearly an hour and watched one after another Geisha shuffle down the road past us on their way.  Absolutley incredible experience, worth every penny of the trip over.  We eventually walked away and were by ourselves when two Geisha's walked down towards us.  Deb took a photo from a distance and then said "Aragato" ('thankyou") as they walked past. One of the Maiko did a very slight bow of her head in acknowledgement to this which was incredible as they would normally never acknowledge,speak or make eye contact.

More to come..next installment... 


2 Comments

Tania:
April 23, 2010
Debbie and Ed that just sounds so absolutely wonderful. Miss you 8-( Continue the updates and have a great time. xxx
Steve:
April 28, 2010
Hey guys sounds like you are having a blast as usual
st & lou
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