Monday, 2 November 2015

05.08.2015 ~ Kyoto

We had a needed lie-in until 08:30 and were out by 09:30. We took the subway from Shijo to Imadegawa station from where it looked like a few blocks walk to the Nishijin Textile Centre. This highlighted how much of a perpetual optimist I am; why I hadn't stopped believing the maps by this point I don't know... 25 minutes later and we still hadn't found it. We ducked into the Kyoto Archaeological Museum to ask for directions, which was definitely worth the quick stop as the temporary exhibit on the ground floor had some beautiful examples of kimono and ceramics.

The kind lady manning the exhibition told us the textile centre was back one street and down on the right (not even on the same street as on the map!). So we finally made it to Nishijin Textile Centre in time for the 11:45 Kimono Catwalk Show which was good as it showed different combinations of kimono, obi and accessories.

(Each model did the catwalk & then there was chance for a group shot at the end)

The upper floor of NTC is mostly shop with some looms on the back wall one of which was in use by a demonstrator when we were there. The prices in the shop were tourist prices and too much for the items. However on the way in we'd seen a shop next door that had woven silk items so we headed outside to look in there.

AMAZING! There were 5m rolls, swatches, and products, all for amazing prices. There were about thirty different 5m rolls in a box all for around ¥5000 each (that's £5.50/m!) I was sorely tempted but we had much more to do that day and I couldn't carry 2 big rolls around all day.

On the way out of NTC we'd asked how to get to the Manga Museum (our next stop) and she'd suggested getting the 101 bus from directly opposite NTC to Nijo castle and then a 10 minute walk. We were feeling pretty good so after an ice cream from the Lawsons on the corner we decided to walk there instead. WRONG! It was another 30 minute walk... Although this may have been the turning point of my optimism/belief in Japan Maps.

However we arrived at the International Manga Museum and paid ¥800/person entry fee after stowing our bags in the lockers provided. This was one of M's choices of places to go and he was very impressed with it. Just after the entrance is the foreign language section of Manga (about 15 languages I think). Quite impressive though obviously a fairly select variety of books. However as we walked around the museum we were staggered by the amount of Japanese language Manga that lined the walls and the amount of people that also lined the walls reading it. There was a kids room that was full of reading children, and every available seat & wallspace in the corridors, main rooms, everywhere was filled with teenagers, adults and some OAPs reading Manga. It was really good to see that in such a technological age (& country) that people still read with such conviction.

Unbeknownst to us before we went to Japan the anniversaries of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings were on the 6th & 9th August and therefore the temporary exhibits all revolved around 'Manga & War', both Japanese opinions and foreign opinions. It was very interesting and quite sad as one of the Manga I read was written by a child survivor who'd seen it all.
We spent about 2 hours here but you could easily spend the whole day reading; it seems to be a museum-cum-library to the locals.

Next we got the subway from Karasuma-oike to Higashiyama to go to the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre. Walking up the main street from the subway station we saw a huge torii gate and stopped in a shop to buy 4 obi swatches for ¥2000. 

Continuing on down this street we came to Heian Shrine (you can just see it at the end in the above picture). We stopped here for a shade break and to take photos:

After this we walked to where we thought the Handicrafts centre was but there was building work going on so some roads were closed. However a local traffic cop directed us to the right place which we wouldn't have found by ourselves as you have to go down a little side road, again the map suggested it was close to the temple on the main road... (Turns out that place was the Museum of Traditional Handicrafts, however I think we did better going to the centre)

The Handicrafts Centre was brilliant! It is free entry because it is actually a shop; ground floor of one building and 3 floors of building next door. In the first building are beautiful examples of lacquerware, multiple types of jewellery in varying materials and woodblock prints. The second building holds all sorts; on the top floor (scrolls, bags, ceramics, fans, dolls, temari balls etc) with the second floor containing swords and kimono/yukata. I bought 2 yukata for ¥3300 each and an age 3-4 haori jacket suit for ¥2500 (super kawaii!). The ground floor had a generic looking book/tourist shop and 2 men who stopped us at the exit to ask if they could record our voices to gather data on intonation and inflection as part of research for audio information devices (!).

 (staggered by this price- roughly £2200 for this beautiful mini screen)

We were due to meet Tomo at Shijo station at 18:00 so we hi-tailed it back to Higashiyama station and got the train to Shijo-Gion (we were on the other line and weren't able to get directly to our station). This meant we had a 20 minute walk down the busy high-end shopping street to our hotel. We had rapid showers and changed clothes and then we met Tomo who took us to a restaurant/bar where we asked him to order the food to experience proper Kyoto food. Tomo ordered 5-6 small dishes of his favourites and local specialities to share including fried potatoes, a type of beef stew, fish in a clear sauce and some others. For drinks I had a peach umeshu and then a lime umeshu (peach was definitely better). Tomo & M had sake and then beer - this was M's chance to question the amount of froth on Japanese beer! Tomo said it must be a cultural thing and that he wasn't too sure how else you could have it. So I poured a 'Japanese' beer and a 'UK' beer so he could see the difference; he agreed with M that UK beer is better as you get more beer (!). Tomo's English was excellent and we talked about many things including politics, tax, social structure; it was interesting for all of us to learn about the other's culture and government. We bought the meal as a thank you for rescuing us, and then we set off for another place for more drinks and food. Unsure if this is what normally happens for Japanese meals out or if Tomo was trying to show us more places. (*Important to not pour your own drink! Need to be aware of how much everyone else is drinking to be ready to top up their glass)

On the way Tomo started singing under his breath; he explained that he'd got disorientated and that there's a song about the streets of Kyoto so you can find/know where you are! Very clever! At the next place we had gyoza and more sake and umeshu, and talked some more.
We finally separated at 21:45, back to the hotel and bed!

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