I woke up in my ryokan today which is apparently the most popular ryokan for foreigners in Kyoto. It’s bad to say, but I don’t like how many Americans are here. The group that’s here is very similar to a giant group of Case engineers. Not too much fun and way into anime. That’s my complaining for the day.
After breakfast, I met the guide for the day. She spoke English quite well, but once she found out that I had studied Japanese for two years, she insisted that we only speak Japanese. Which is good for me, but very difficult too. She took me to Kinkakuji which was the residence of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397. When he died, his son transformed the villa into a Zen Buddhist temple according to his father’s wishes. However, in 1950, Kinkakuji was burnt down by a mentally ill monk suffering from schizophrenia. He then attempted suicide on the hill behind it but survived. When it was discovered that he was mentally ill, he was released from custody.
The pavillion is not the only thing there to see. The gardens surrounding it are beautiful and some of the most impressive that I’ve seen in Japan. The next stop was Nijojo Castle which was a little way from Kinkakuji so my guide and I took a stroll through the city. On the way there she took me to a popular tourist destination called Arashiyama. It’s popular because of its small bamboo forest along with its top of the line restaurants. My guide chose a restaurant for lunch that she said would have the best example of yudofu, a local specialty. Yudofu literally means boiled tofu and I didn’t think much of it until I saw how this restaurant served it. They brought out a copper bowl on top of a burner. The tofu was inside with some water. The waitress lit the burner and eventually the water started to boil. When the tofu got hot enough, it started to jiggle and hop all around the bowl. It was quite amusing and interesting. I was glad I had it. After lunch we took a walk through the bamboo forest. I had never been in so much bamboo so it was a new experience for me.
My guide really liked bamboo and explained to me that it is a symbol of purity in Japanese culture as it grows straight and tall. It never fluctuates from its path as it grows.
Finally we reached Nijojo which was the residence of the Shogun in Kyoto, particularly the Tokugawa Shogunate. Nijojo had a number of rooms for formal ceremonies in which the Shogun hosted receptions to honor him amongst other daimyo. The most interesting thing in the castle, I thought, was that it had what was called a Nightingale floor. This floor constantly creaked no matter how delicately you tried to walk. This was so that intruders were easily detectable. It was not so convenient for touring puposes as it was extremely loud with all the tourists inside. All of the rooms within the castle had some of the most exquisite tatami mats as well as intricately painted shoji doors with mythical scenes and scenery from around Japan. I was not allowed to take pictures inside, however.
After I exited the castle, I said goodbye to my guide and walked the long walk back to Sakura Ryokan. Tomorrow, I meet with my Japanese teacher from Case, Kishi-sensei as she will make the trip from Osaka to come see me and then we will explore Kyoto. I’m excited to see if she thinks my Japanese has improved which since I could barely speak in class, I think it has gotten at least a little better. See you soon!