After yesterday’s atrocious breakfast fiasco which was so terrible I couldn’t even write about it, we decided to skip it this morning and grab something at the train station. This cafe served a choice of 2 western style brekkies both as terrible as each other, but not quite as terrible as yesterday (I’ll have you know, there was no Japanese options either – just two set dishes – eggs, scrambled or fried; 3 inch thick toast; brown bacon and today they added some sort of salsa and when I say scrambled egg – I mean a teaspoon’s worth.
Anyway – the good thing about this cafe is the ‘smoking room’. They have a closed off room for the smokers – a great idea. The better idea would be to ban it altogether, but I’ll go with this if they’re not going to go with that!
So this was our last train ride on this Japanese journey and Jenny finally accepted the window seat. She’s always been an aisle girl, you see, but for the 15 minutes we were on the train from Osaka to Kyoto – she threw caution to the wind.
This is Kyoto’s version of road work barriers.
We arrived fairly early, so couldn’t check in to the hotel. We dumped our bags and went a walkin’.
This is a good idea for map readers, isn’t it?
We’ve been quite surprised by the French influence in the building in Japan. I mean, they building here can’t be all that new, and yet Japan was a closed country for so long, and yet here it is – French inspired.
This was just a cool little interior furniture shop we came across. Kyoto is definitely the more cosmopolitan of the big smokes in Japan.
We spotted this alleyway with some flags out the front, so we knew it was an eatery of sorts – the big menu out the front also helped us to come to that conclusion.
So down the end of the alley – and more flags – good sign.
Then inside, we were seated and given this bowl of sesame seeds in a sort of mortar bowl with a wooden pestle and told to “smash in circles”
So we did as we were told….
We kept our eye on everyone else to see what the hell they were doing.
Then we were to add our choice of sauce… this was delicious!
lunch, which was katsu pork, as always, came with miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables and cabbage – we were stuffed.
Then it was time to walk it off. We were headed in the direction of a big park with many shrines for a date with a Meikosan (an apprentice Geikosan / Geisha) for a tea ceremony, but that wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so we thought we would take in some sakura whilst we waited.
The river was a hub of activity – we’re not sure if they were protesting, or artists or just having Hanami?
Again, we took the back streets when we could – you always see the best things in the back streets!
There is a little stream/creek/waterway that runs through a section of Kyoto which is only ankle deep and these kiddies were playing in there quite happily trying to catch – something?
Check out this laid back motor bike!!!
Sakura – they were close…
And there was plenty of tourist buses and taxis so we couldn’t be too far away.
We reached the park and started our trek up the hill….
There were shrines-a-plenty….. but no sakura.
At most of the shrines there are these water coolers. Here’s what you do…. you scoop up some water in the big spoon and pour it into your hand, then you drink the water our of your hand, then swill it around and spit out into the trough around the edge.
Opps, there’s a tiny cherry blossom.
And another little baby one there…..
And…. petty of young gals dressed up in kimono. Most of the people dressed up, according to our Meiko host today, are not Japanese, and certainly not Meikosan (apprentice) or Geikosan (fully trained – like after 5 years of training)
There was even an Aussie girl there posing for some pics. She had people from all over want to take a picture with her and talking to her in Japanese. She looked over at us sitting on the step and said laughing, “I’m clearly not Japanese!”
So there was the odd blossom, and there were still people hanging on so they could have their Hanami in the park.
These ladies will no doubt be looking through the hundreds of photos they’ve just taken of each other. This seems to be the modern reason to dress up in kimono and hit the parks – to pose and take photos of each other – with absolutely no self consciousness – at all!
We were about an hour out from our appointment with our Meiko and tea ceremony, so we started heading towards where we thought it was going to be. We had some VERY vague directions written in Japanese which I translated with the help of Google Translate – I’m not sure the peeps there at Google have a full handle on this yet.
Anyway….. we didn’t know where the hell we were going. We stopped a taxi driver and asked him to read the directions hoping that they were really very clear and something just got lost in translation. He sent us straight ahead and then crossroads, two, go (pointing, gesturing left). We gave him a big arigato and thought – thank goodness for him because that’s nowhere near where we thought it was……. and we walk and walk and walk – still confused (although I’m not sure how we could be after those directions)
I stopped and asked a chef who was outside his restaurant pinning up today’s menu. He enlisted the help of another lady from the restaurant and a lady who was passing by. They all had a good look at the original directions and then looked at the map I was using – and laughed. The lady went inside and got a massive map – all in Japanese. The passer by had to go, but luckily another chef came outside to see what everyone was doing and he put his two yen in as well.
They finally worked it out and then started to give us directions – back the way we had come and very close to where we thought it was….. but not exactly. We thanked them all profusely and went back on our way saying to each other “we’re going to have to ask someone else when we get closer”
We’d walked about 100 metres and the chef trotted up behind us…. “I’ll show you”, he said.
He tried to chat to us in Japanese and I tried to use my many apps to respond, but we all just shrugged our shoulders in the end and he strode forward and lead the way.
4-5 blocks of winding streets he lead us. We got to the 5th block and I started to wonder if this was going to be some sort of scam, but then I thought, how fortuitous that we just happened past his restaurant whilst he was putting out his menu, and I should happen to ask directions to a place that I thought was in this direction in the first place for him to now think – this could be a good opportunity for me to rob some people! It made no sense.
Then – he suddenly stopped and as we watched 5 English people go inside, he said “This is it”. I could have kissed him. There was absolutely no way – even if we had the proper address and a GPS location tracker that we would have found this place on our own!
We tried to bundle in with the English peeps, but the efficacious lady said “Yes?”
I answered, “Konichiwa, we have an appointment at 3.30.” in the hope that she might say ‘of course come in and wait in our very comfortable seating area because it looks like you’ve been walking for hours’. But as it was only 2.15, instead she said, “Well, please come back at 3.30.” and flung the curtain across the doorway.
I took a photo of the doorway not only for the blog, but just in case we couldn’t find it again!
It was right around the corner from a function centre where Jakuya and Junko were getting married – I was snapping landmarks all over the place.
So we went back to the park to wait it out and do a bit of people watching.
I wonder how the chap who always seems to be at the end of our driveway fiddling with the NBN wires (more often than not, cutting or knocking a wire out of the socket leaving us with no internet or phone and having to go through the rigmarole of calling faults) would go with this lot?
3.30 on the dot and she let us in. This is something that Jenny had wanted to do since the idea of coming to Japan was thought of. We were lead upstairs by the lady from the front door (not a Meiko or a Geiko, but the owner of the establishment)
We sat on these lovely little floral chairs.
Whilst Timi – a Maikosan – apprentice Geiko (Geiko is what they all Geisha in Kyoto) prepared our matcha tea.
Then the tea was cleared away and she performed a dance. This was a little bit awkward as it was just us and her – but you had to remember that she had been training for 5 years to do exactly this.
She didn’t look like she enjoyed the experience at all, but I think the emotionless face is part of the training.
You can become a Meikosan at the ago of 15 and you train for 5 years. After that you can decide if you want to become a Geikosan and then you go through stages – each lasting 5 years to work your way up the ranks. A Meikosan, being an apprentice has more rules and is more strict. They have to use their own hair for the styles – they have it done once a week at a salon and then sleep on a wooden neck block with a small pillow so their hair doesn’t flatten. Once they are a Geikosan, they have a wig made. There is a kimono and hairstyle for each month of the year and they must follow the styles. They also go to private classes for two hours a day and watch other Meilkosan’s private lessons to learn from them as well. They can only wear lipstick on their bottom lip whilst being an apprentice, and must not engage with boyfriends – and when they get married, they must retire. They learn about 20 different dances and learn how to entertain guests by pouring them drinks (sake & tea) and having conversations. They don’t learn about the wide world, but they do learn about current events so they can be part of the conversation.
Timi’s dance was lovely and very graceful, but as she about to graduate, I hate to think that was all she had learned in 5 years.
She spoke a little bit of English, but even when the host asked her a question or acted as a translator, Timi was very timid and softly spoken. I searched her eyes to see if she was silently screaming out for help in some way, but she showed me no sign of being held captive, so we took our photos and we went on our way.
The make up on the back of the next is designed to elongate the next making her look more feminine.
So we sat around somewhat awkwardly asking questions to our host whilst Timi sat staring blankly in front of her, then we brought it all to a close with a “well, that was great….” and started grabbing our things.
They came outside with us and encouraged us to have photos with Timi outside in her wooden shoes, to complete the look. These photos will never see the light of day as they were terrible – our lovely host was not the best photographer and then as we walked up to the main street, they stood there outside the door waving, just like the staff at the hotel in Kawaguchiko. We checked a couple of times over our shoulder and they were still there waving…… until we turned the corner.
What an intriguing experience but now I’m more confused than ever why you would become a Meikosan/Geikosan? it’s not for the money, because they don’t earn a wage – they are just given a weekly allowance. Also, Timi and our host went to Perth earlier in the year for a Japanese festival – it was 40 degrees while they were there and the fully trained Geilkosans went to the beach, but because Timi couldn’t get her hair wet, or wear bathers or go out into the sun, she had to sit in her full kimono (at least i was the summer cotton one!) because when they have their hair done like that, they must wear the full kimono – even for relaxing.
A strange life choice – but I guess it’s a choice.