Leaving off from my previous post, you find me in the middle of a stay in Kyoto. It is Christmas eve. A lengthy chitchat over okonomiyaki with Yoko, my Airbnb host, the night before (not the first Yoko and John friendship ever formed, you’ll notice) had given me plenty of ideas of how to spend the day. She had also promised that she would prepare a festive meal for me, Tom and Jasmine (fellow Airbnbers) later that evening so I had to make sure I was back on time.
Standing proud atop a hill in the Higashiyama district in the south-east of the city is the Kiyomizu-dera temple. This vast compound, with its imposing pagoda and even larger temple, is a major draw for tourists and its terraces and pathways are often carpeted with the non-indigenous species selfius turisticus, a specimen of which can be found below.
In order to reach the temple, one must first climb the steep street to the entrance. Here matcha tea stores vie with ice cream, takoyaki and a hundred other stores for the custom of the hordes of camera toting visitors, many of whom are tottering uncertainly in the wooden sandals and kimonos of rented geisha outfits. On reaching the temple, however, the field of vision once more expands.
After slaloming my way back down the hill, I ducked into small, characterful back alleys, the entrance to which was all but invisible. Here, off-duty geishas could be seen strolling, away from the lenses of the photographically inclined. I chose to respect their privacy so have no photo record, I’m afraid.
The encounter with geishas did, however, pique my interest (I had also read “Memoirs of a Geisha”) so I followed another Yokommendation and headed to Geisha corner for a show that included geisha dancing, court music, traditional theatre and tea ceremony. I was not unique in this decision…..
My favourite part of the experience was, by far, the theatre. A short comedy, it tells of a master who, concerned his servants would drink his sake during his trip to a neighbouring town, ties them up. With a healthy dose of farce, the servants work out how to feed each other ladles of sake despite their bonds and the master returns to find them considerably worse for wear. I didn’t understand a word of it, yet understood it perfectly and was lol-ing and rofl-ing the entire time.
I’m fairly sure now, on reflection, that this was not the same night as the Christmas Eve dinner, but I reserve the right of forgetfulness. And, if we’re honest, you don’t really care anyway.
I returned (with a very large bottle of sake tucked under one arm) to a veritable feast, a cornucopia of Japanese delights. Yoko had been busy, to great effect. We tucked into an array of sushi, pickles, fresh fruits and other goodies. Conversation and sake flowed in equal measure and smiles and laughter were plentiful. As we bid each other goodnight, we agreed that it was a Christmas eve we would not forget in a hurry.
Before we hit the hay, Tom and Jasmine promised to cook up an Aussie breakfast as a thank you for the Yokoliciousness of the night before. Sure enough, as I wandered into the living room, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I was greeted by the spread in the picture below. Avo, eggo, fruito, bacono (if your unfamiliar with the Australian language, it’s very similar to English but all nouns end in “-o”) – we ate like kings.
Although we did our own things for lunch, we agreed to meet up in the afternoon to go to a baseball batting cage (a very alternative Christmas day activity). If the “World Series” were not limited to the US teams, I suspect we would all have featured in a composite Kyoto team. Before leaving we spent some time trying to understand the function of the toys in the arcade-style claw machine…..
Thanks to Yoko, Tom and Jasmine for making my Christmas a fun one!