Thursday July 8th
The good night’s sleep really gave me a more positive and enthusiastic attitude for today. We all got up quite early and went down to the main room to eat breakfast, which was quite an experience. Each of us had our own individual low table and cushion to sit on and a tray of that morning’s breakfast in front of us.
There are basically three types of sitting position. I tried to use ‘seiza’ at first, which is kneeling and sitting on your legs. This gets to be very uncomfortable after a while, so I had to keep swapping to the men’s casual sitting position of cross-legged. The women’s sitting position is also pretty uncomfortable! I tried sitting like this for a short time, and the whole of my side was stretched out in pain. Perhaps I wasn’t doing it correctly…
Miss Kushida managed to provide us with air conditioned buses to and from the temples and shrines we visited, which saved us a lot of energy not having to walk in the sun! First up, we went to the rock garden – Ryoanji Temple.
It was really peaceful here, much like what you’d expect when you think of Zen Buddhism or something similar. We were required to take our shoes off when walking around the main building along the polished floors.
One of the stranger things was that there didn’t seem to be any normal grass; instead, there was this odd pattern of moss covering the ground outside.
In fact, the gardens around the main building were just as interesting with the way some of the trees grew. We also saw some older women swaying around sweeping the leaves up on a patch of moss.
If there’s one thing that struck me immediately in Japan, it’s how organised and professional everything is. Virtually all of the employees (even in smaller restaurants) have smart uniforms and carry out their jobs with meticulous precision and politeness. The trains were very welcoming as well. They were a lot cleaner on the whole and the attendants were always very helpful. It’s a refreshing change to the grunts you sometimes get travelling on British trains, the graffiti-covered windows and beaten up seats.
Our second visit was the Golden Pavilion – Rokuon-ji Temple. It has a very traditional look (being surrounded by water and trees) that is contrasted by the gold colouring of the Temple itself and the Chinese phoenix on the top.
The water around it is called Kyooko-chi (mirror pond), and for obvious reason, as you can see from Heather’s pictures ^_^.
Third was Kiyomizu Temple, meaning ‘pure water temple’. It was very hot walking up to it, at which point we whipped our umbrellas out for shade. It was surprising how many people used umbrellas for shade, but I’ve rarely seen that in England. It makes sense really… There were a lot of mythological and cultural features we saw, although one particular incident involved walking around a ‘maze’ in pitch black. Those who could find their way out (without using a light) are said to be of pure mind. But you did follow a rope in your left hand the whole time… One other thing I would have liked to do was closed for refurbishment at the time, so I’ll have to re-visit it again. (Actually, I’d probably like to do a lot of these Temples again, because the heat was so distracting…). Finally, we also saw (and most of us drank from) the Otowa-no-taki (Sound of Feathers Waterfall), which is believed to have healing properties (hence the name of the Temple).
Enough culture for now though. Far stranger was the weirdness of Japanese television that the boys (myself, Dave, Simon and Chris) watched later on that day while relaxing back at the ryokan… Some kids program (a bit similar to Sesame Street) had come on in the morning before we went out, and this is where the Clam Song was born! It’s extremely difficult to give you any sort of idea about the hilarity of it without you actually watching it – but I think Dave took a video of it. Basically it consisted of one guy and his guitar, three or four small Japanese kids at the beach and a clam-collecting bucket.
“Hey kids. Let’s sing the ‘Digging for Clams Song!’”
“CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS! I got one! I got one! Digging for clams!”
Which was made even funnier by the fact that the Japanese have a hard time pronouncing the letter ‘l’ (as it’s spoken as ‘r’ in Japanese), so it sounded something like ‘CRAMS, CRAMS, CRAMS’ in tiny, kawaii-ish kids voices ^_^;;.
We all went out to Kyoto Tower again in the evening to look around the shops.
Most people bought lots of manga from the bookshop, and we also got to try some strange Japanese chocolate they the kind lady behind one of the kiosks was offering. It doesn’t half make you feel guilty after nodding and saying ‘oiishi’ lots of times and then walking off :\. Saying that, I would have liked to have bought some now, because I couldn’t find any later on in the trip, but it would have melted had I bought it then…
The girls also decided to steal the boy’s T.V. remote later in the evening, after poking their heads so elegantly around our sliding door at 1.00am in the morning. Everyone but me was asleep. It was quite funny the next morning watching the 3 of them hunt for it. Maybe I would have told them, but hey, they never asked me… :P