May 20: Kyoto: Kiyomizu Temple, Maiko Entertainment

Today, we were on the bus by 0750 to visit Japan’s most famous temple, Kiyomizu-dera.  Is was quite a walk up Teapot Lane lined with little shops selling souvenirs and food. Once at the shrine and looking out from the veranda, one wonders how such a structure would be rigid in this land of tremors without using a single nail. The temple took its name from the stream which flows into a pool. Drinking this flowing water is felt to grant wishes for health and good fortune.

Before heading back to a our hotel for an afternoon of leisure, we observed a formal tea ceremony, were taught two origami lessons, and were shown the art of wrapping gifts with cloth – furoshiki. We were impressed. So impressed, in fact, that we bought several colorful pieces of cloth and a book of instructions in English.

The afternoon leisure was canceled, as we had shopping to do in the extensive mall just a few steps from our hotel. We found a place that sold hand-made purses, Japanese die, washi paper and post cards, and specialty cutlery made after the fashion of the emporer’s swords – very sharp, and boasting a year’s use before needing to be honed. All in all, a very good and busy day.

But the day wasn’t over. We were to be transferred by cab to a special dinner reflecting the true essence of Japanese culture: culinary delicacies enriched by entertainment by a Geisha in training – a Maiko. To accompany her, and perhaps as tutor, was a Geisha, or Gaiko playing a Shamisen  The seventeen year old Maiko had been in training for two years. She told us that she needed an hour to fix her hair every day, and a little longer than that to apply her white makeup when she was working. We learned that the Maikos had to learn various skills including the tea ceremony, serving, dancing, playing instruments. But the most difficult of all was learning the Kyoto dialect which was required of all Geishas. Young women might wish to become Geisha to meet businessmen with whom they might own a business or marry. Undertaking any other occupation would require that her sponsor by reimbursed for lessons and clothing expenses before being released from her obligations.


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