We arrived at Kyoto from Hiroshima at about 12.30, checked into our Hotel and made our way to The Taiko Drumming School where Barbara , Phil and Neralie had booked a drumming lesson. We made our way up to the office and were then taken up to the heavily sound proofed studio. The room was completed closed off, no outside light or air only an air conditioner to cool the drumming participants down. The lesson began with learning a little about the structure of the drum, made from one single piece of tree trunk hollowed out, covered with a “female” cow hide, tensioned. With that short explanation out of the way, drum sticks were selected and the lesson began. The rhythms began fairly basic and became more complex as the lesson progressed.
Kyoto has a population of about 1.5 million and was once the capital of Japan. It is situated in the central part of the island of Honshu. In the 16th Century it was the largest city in Japan. Towards the end of that century it became 3rd behind Tokyo and Osaka. By 1990 it had become Japan’s 7th. If current population trends continue it could soon fall to 9th after Fukuoka and Kawasaki. It was considered as a target for the Atomic Bomb late in the war, but was removed and replaced by Nagasaki. The city was also spared from a lot of the conventional bombing that many other Japanese cities endured. As a result, Kyoto is one of the few cities that still has a lot of pre-war buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya. In 1997, the city hosted the conference that resulted in the protocol on greenhouse emissions.
Some of the older architecture is making way for newer more modern buildings that are springing up around the city. One such building is the massive Kyoto Station Complex. This building is huge, any bigger and it would have it’s own Postcode! The building was completed in 1997 to celebrate the 1200th anniversary of Kyoto. It is a massive 470 metres long by about 60 metres high. It has at least 11 floors above ground and several below with lots of shopping arcades, restaurant and of course the subway stations. At the top of the 11th floor there is an outdoor garden area, more restaurants, seating and resting areas. All this is covered by a massive steel and glass roof that seems to go up another 2 or 3 floors.
After dinner at an Italian restaurant, Barbara and I decided to visit “The Man in the Moon”; Irish Pub, 10 beers on tap and English speaking staff were the selling points on the billboard outside. This quaint little pub is a much visited establishment by the locals and by many expats living and visiting in Kyoto.
The next day we made the train trip out of the city to visit The Iwatayama Monkey Park. This park is very often called Monkey Mountain. Over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys roam the mountain freely. They gather at feeding station at the top of the mountain to be fed by the staff three times a day. The monkeys are wild, but have become very accustomed to humans who may have food for them to eat. Visitors are also able to feed the monkeys peanuts, apple and chestnuts.
The humans are put in a cage and the monkeys climb the cage, putting their hands through the wires for food. There was one monkey that wasn’t too friendly at all, and of course this was the one I picked to get a close up picture of. After bearing her teeth and growling her displeasure at my presence she began making her way towards me. Luckily enough one of the staff was there to stop her from taking my arm off.
On our last night in Kyoto we attended a Japanese cooking class where we assisted in preparation of food, listened to explanations of ingredients and quantities, watched as Emi cooked the food, then ate four fantastic courses of typical Japanese food. First on the menu was a fig and okra salad. This was followed by grilled yellowtail fish, a pumpkin, prawn, crabmeat and tofu dish served with rice. Dessert was green tea flavoured glutenous rice balls with fresh persimmons and red bean paste. The meal was accompanied by various teas and plum wine.
After the cooking class we then revisited The Man in the Moon Irish Pub to shout Phil and Neralie a few drinks to say thanks for all the organisation and planning that they had put into the trip. They seemed to find their way around the cities and subways like locals. I of course had my “Northern Hemisphere Brain” on, where North becomes South and East, West etc.
We are now on the train bound for Tokyo and then home. We have left Phil and Neralie in Kyoto where Neralie is attending a conference next week. We have had a great time in Japan and have loved every part of it that we have seen. The Japanese people are very kind, polite, proud, courteous and gentle people who go out of their way to make sure you enjoy their wonderful cities, culture and country. All the cities and towns we have visited have been extremely clean. It is very unusual to see any rubbish anywhere, even the subway stations are impeccably clean and tidy. We have loved our first visit and would love to come back soon to see more of this wonderful country.
Lance and Barbara.