Thursday, March 7, 2013

Traditions in Japan...Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the most beautiful spots anywhere. Kiyomizudera Temple is a beautiful place where ancient meets modern.  The grounds are beautiful. The temple is beautiful.  The Buddhist religion is alive and well, and you can drink to health, wealth, and wisdom.  Or, according to the locals, long life, success in school, and a good love life.

Otowa Falls is the place to drink to your good future.  Here the water runs down in three separate streams, so you can choose what you wish to drink for good luck with.  It is considered in poor taste to drink from all three, so make your decisions wisely.

This is an amazing place.  It's not just a building.  There are many buildings, temples, garden structures, bridges.  It is a peaceful and tranquil place to spend the day.  If you've ever wanted to get away from it all, this is a great place to spend some quiet time and enjoy the beauty that the world has to offer.
Now, why did I mention this place?  Well, as usual, it's exotic, it's something that almost everyone can muster up the strength and energy to do, and it's cultural.  Culture is the best part of travel.  There was one other reason that I brought it up.

Kyoto, the location of the temple and grounds, is a cultural hot spot.  If you want to learn about ancient culture in Japan, here's your spot.  The gardens are amazingly well designed.  The trees are bonsai.  The waterways are beautiful.  The cherry blossoms are abundant.  The temples are plentiful.  There's not much here that you haven't seen in the movies.  This is where the traditions live on.
This is where modern meets tradition, and this is where you might just see a Geisha in the subway.  It's a way of life.  Here in Kyoto, the world of the Geisha is alive and well.  And if you want, you can go to a dinner club and see the Maiko perform.

Maiko are apprentices to become Geisha.  They spend years learning the art of pleasing people.  They learn to serve tea, dance, and perform for others.  This is the life of the Geisha.  Now, long since they have been noted as prostitutes.  That is not the case for the traditional Kyoto Geisha.  These girls are business women.  They perform for their customers.  They escort them to functions when asked.  They are subservient by trade, but do not confuse this with any kind of weakness.  These girls work for their clients, but their love lives are their own.  They do date and have relationships as would any other woman.  The only catch with her life is that when she gets married, she has to retire.  They are not prostitutes, but they are single women.  When they marry, they are retired.

Gion is the neighborhood where you can experience the Geisha culture.  There are restaurants where the Maiko perform for your entertainment.  They will even teach to you and play traditional drinking games with you.  There are places where they will dress you up like a Geisha and photograph you to impress your friends back home.  There are lots of different ways to experience the Geisha/ Maiko culture.

Kyoto is old world, with tea plantations, Geisha and Maiko, temples, castles, gardens, and canals.  The cherry blossoms in the spring add that little something that makes it like no place else on Earth.  Now, this is a popular tourist destination.  This isn't one of those out of the way places that no one knows about.  That said, make your plans in advance.  There are many tour companies that will help you out.  There are many places to stay.  There are many places to see.  There are many things to do.  This is one of the places that my mind kept coming back to so often that I finally had to write about it.  Enjoy!

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