02 January 2014

Kyoto day 13

Wednesday 27th November

My last full day in Kyoto!

I caught a bus and made my way to Shoren-in temple. It has some very old and large camphor trees at the gates. The screens inside the building were beautifully painted with bright colours and a bold style. There was a veranda overlooking a lovely garden with a pond, and as I climbed up beside the bamboo grove I looked down and saw a couple having their wedding photos taken there.

I continued to Chion-in temple. There is a major restoration going on of the main hall, but it was still very impressive. I walked around one of the worship halls and heard monks chanting. Then I saw two blossoming trees, I don't know if they were cherry or plum, but this was most unexpected and beautiful to see in the autumn! I had a look at the big bell, and around the gardens, then continued to Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine which I'd visited on my first day in Kyoto.

From there I went on to Yasui Konpiragu shrine. This had a fascinating stone covered with papers on which were people's wishes for beginning or ending a relationship. There was a hole in the middle of the stone to crawl through while making your wish. The stone looked a bit like a woolly mammoth!

Also at Yasui Konpiragu was the tiny Ema Museum (ema are the wooden plaques on which people write their wishes at shrines). I was welcomed to the museum by a tiny hunched old lady, who spoke only Japanese. She showed me the first room, explained a bit about the ema there (not that I understood much), told me it was ok to take photos (that bit I did understand), then let me explore the ground floor on my own. The oldest of the ema were on this floor, and many of them were very large.

After that she showed me the stairs, and indicated that I would have to take my shoes off once I got upstairs. The upstairs had tatami mat floors, and I found the ema there more interesting. Some of them were quite modern in design, with manga style illustrations, and I even saw one with a character from Battle of the Planets!

I knew there was still a bit of the museum to come, after reading the leaflet, but then the little old lady began ushering me out the door, so I didn't really know what was going on, until I realised she was locking up the museum and beckoning me to follow her to another building. This was the glass museum, and she switched on lights that lit up all the glass pieces, then switched on lights under the glass floor, where there were pieces by the artist Dale Chihuly right under my feet!

When I left the hotel later to go to Gion, I noticed the pavements were slightly damp, so I rushed back to dig in my packed suitcase for my umbrella - just as well I did! By the time I got to Gion it was raining fairly heavily. I didn't see as many geishas, but those I did were carrying their beautiful red umbrellas, so it was a nice change.

When I got to Shijo Street, the rain had become torrential! Luckily the pavements there are under cover, and by the time I'd walked the length of the shopping street the rain had eased off a bit. But I needed to dry my shoes with a hairdryer so I could finish packing my case!

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