Castles and Christmas Parties

Originally published on 23rd December 2015 on Blogger

Today started out with the plan to go sight seeing, while Chelsea did her homework. Lancy had tennis all day (she had to get up at 5am) and so we got ready to head out. Today is a public holiday, it’s the Emperor’s birthday. Chelsea changed her plans, and so Mya decided she didn’t want to go out with us, but preferred to stay with Chelsea. Sim took the girls into Kyoto on the bicycles and Finn and I headed out to catch a bus.

We headed to Nijo-Jo (Nijo Castle). Wow…..one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage listed properties. Started in 1601, as a place for Tokugawa Ieyasu to stay in Kyoto, at the start of the Edo period. Tokugawa was the first Shogun of the last Shogunate of Japan. This castle is stunning. Very different from the other castle we visited last time, Himeji Castle. The interior was painted beautifully, with the most amazing patterns on the ceilings. All off the sliding screen doors had brass handles, which were decorated with the Tokugawa kamon (family crest) and the floor boards were designed to “sing like a bird” to ensure no ninja sneak attacks! The garden was sublime, and have no fear, horticultural architect-y friends (Robbie) , I have a stash of plant porn you will be sure to enjoy, including moats (my new favourite landscape feature).

Finn and I got back on the bus, planning to head to a shrine, but the bus got stuck in traffic, so we decided to walk back through Gion. Gion is the most famous geisha area in Japan, although geisha from Kyoto are called geiko. This area has many old wooden buildings, ochiya (tea houses) and shops selling handcrafts, that have been doing so for 400 years…. It’s very beautiful, and we are going to head back there to have a better look, with Mya.

As it was getting dark, at quarter to five, we headed home. It was Christmas Party night. Maki and Sim had organised a Christmas family dinner. Guesthouse Soi offers a family dinner once a month, which guest can attend, if they want, for a nominal fee. The Christmas dinner was free and the feast was delicious. Sushi, prawn salad, canapés, chicken, salad and sake. After eating too much food, Maki introduced me to the man who is the head of the town. Umamachi is, I guess, like a suburb of Kyoto, so this man is kind of like the Mayor, and his wife. With much help translating, we had a conversation. He didn’t believe me when I said that we had four seasons in Melbourne. Most Japanese know mostly of Cairns and think that Australia is always hot. When I said it had been 40 degrees the other day, and that we sometimes get snow, he laughed and said maybe someone cuts up newspapers and sprinkles them around. It was very cute.

Maki then introduced me to a student from Kyoto University, who is studying geography, specialising in tourism. He interviewed me about where I like to stay when I travel, and then he, Maki and I played cards and drank sake. It was a really fun night. So happy to be here.

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