Posted by: cyradisnyc | November 29, 2008

One Day Off No More!

With this entry, I’m going to catch you all up on both yesterday and today! Let’s start off with yesterday.

I started the day off by going on an arranged tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Given the amount of history that has taken place on that site, it is a little disappointing to see that the majority of the buildings are from the 19th century (or later!). The buildings are still impressive in their own right, though. The tour took about an hour. The lesson of the Imperial Palace seems to be that if you build roofs entirely out of wood (the nails are made of bamboo), then you had better be prepared to rebuild it frequently.

After leaving the Palace, I wandered through the Kyoto Goyen. It was a grey, drizzly day, and there is a lot of grey in the park to begin with. I had moments of what I can only describe as absolute tranquility in a historical teahouse off the lake. The video is uploading to Flickr, check it out once it is done.

I much preferred Nijo-jo Castle to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. It retains much of its original structure, and its original gate. The interior is such that you feel like you are in a Kurosawa movie. (Mifune will run by any second!) My favorite remaining period detail was probably the nightingale floors. They’re actually quite loud, especially when there are loads of tourists tramping on them. The other thing I really liked about the castle is that all the fusuma were in situ. We have some at the Met, and we occasionally install them in our little period room, but it is different to see it in the castle. I highly suggest seeing Nijo-jo Castle if you go to Kyoto.

I ended the evening in an Irish pub. There are the workings of a post floating around in my brain about this experience, but it is late and I am tired. I will flesh it out later. They even had a traditional band. It was quite nice.

Today I went to Northwestern Kyoto. As this is a longer haul–an hour on the bus–I only went to two places. Both were sort of underwhelming compared to the other places I had been before. The first, Kinkaku-ji , is one of those places that is symnbolic of Kyoto. It is known for being plated in gold. Seriously. It’s a gold-plated building. The building is beautiful, and the gardens are nice. However, this had a very overtly touristy feel to it that the other temples, which were also swarming with tourists, did not have.

After that, I walked down to Ryoan-ji which is best known for its large zen rock garden. This temple is still in use, so a lot of it is blocked off. I thought the grounds were almost more  impressive than the rock garden. Or it could have been that the garden is not actually that big, so the hoardes of people crowded around it just seemed out of place.

I had dinner in a social bar on a side street packed with restaurants. I spent the time talking with two women my own age from Nagoya, who came down to visit Kyoto over the weekend. They gave me advice on tomorrow (Nara), and I shocked them with tales of NYC real estate and tried to convince them that it is not as dangerous as everyone thinks. It was a good evening.

Tomorrow I head out to Nara. It’s my last day in this area of Japan before I head south to Fukuoka, and the work part of the trip begins. Upcoming posts to look forward to: a look at the Japanese toilet and the Irish pub musings. Good night!

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