For our first free day in Kyoto, we were ushered along ( and I say ushered as, our Japanese friend was taking no chances that we would abscond, or worse still get lost) to the 144th MIYAKO ODORI. This is an annual event, taking place during the month of April. It is forever popular and sells out months in advance, so you understand, why we were being chaperoned.
Miyako Odori, is almost the debutants coming out for the apprentice geisha ( the Maiko). Young girls are apprenticed to be Geishas, in Geisha houses, and their training lasts for many years. The house looks after the girls, feeds and clothes and trains them and in return they will have to work for the house to repay her debt. Contrary to popular belief geisha are not prostitutes, though they might have been in former times. Kyoto is famous for its Geisha. During the Miyako Odori, the girls/women perform several show a day, which will include also a tea ceremony. They are famous for their skills in traditional Japanese arts, dance and music. They are resplendent in their beautiful Kimonos, which are all custom made, their hair and makeup are lavish and beautiful. The Miyako Odori, consists of 8 scenes, including the four seasons. There is music on both sides of the stage and in the finale there are 60 dancers on the stage at once. Unfortunately, photography was banned so no photographs, here then.
After a morning, watching beautiful geisha and their apprentices, we took a couple of local trains ( along with half of Kyoto) to a suburb called Arashiyama. A pretty suburb enhanced by the cherry trees in full bloom , and the “Bridge to the Moon” which led the visitors over the river to the trees. On turning round and weaving past a couple of temples, we came upon the famous bamboo forest, and indeed a forest it is. Hansel and Gretel would certainly have to mark their tracks in this, as it is very dense indeed.
After this saunter in the country we headed off to THE STONE GARDEN, when people in Japan refer to Stone gardens, Rock Gardens, or Zen gardens, then this is the one.
This garden is to be found at the RYOANJI Temple. A zen garden is usually relatively small, surrounded by a wall, and is usually meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden, such as a porch or veranda. The garden here only measures 25 m from east to west. Very different from gorgeous gardens of European Palaces. No trees are to be seen and only 15 rocks and white gravel are used. The walls are made of clay boiled in oil and some of the oil has seeped into the landscaped. This garden was created in about 1500 AD by the Zen monk Tokuho Zenketsu. It is certainly a place for reflection. However for me the delight was in the other garden, the wild and tamed garden surrounding the temple, here the cherry trees were at their best.
The temple was registered as a World Heritage site in 1994.
At the station leading to this temple were many what appeared to be coloured perspex tubes. In fact they were examples of all the different types and colours of kimonos!.
I haven’t mentioned any food at all. Just wait, it will come. We went to the equivalent of a Pub, Japanese style of course !