Day 10 – Kyoto
We went to the Kyoto National Museum. There is an older Victorian building, which wasn’t open on the day we were there, It is shown in the background of the photo below, behind the Rodin sculpture and the fountain.
There was also a very nice, modern, low to the ground building with a very human scale entrance, that we did visit.
They didn’t allow any photography inside the museum, although I didn’t see the signs, and was able to take a few photos before the museum guard asked me to stop.
One of the coolest pieces were portraits of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son, Tokugawa Hidetada. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which virtually ruled Japan from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. If you remember James Clavell’s book Shogun, this was the guy. The portraits looked remarkably similar. I was able to get a surreptitious picture of just one of them.
As we walked out, Ann got hugged by the Museum’s mascot, a tiger (who appears on one of their most famous scrolls).
We very much enjoyed the Kyoto National Museum and would recommend a visit.
Then we walked to the Kawai Kanjiro Memorial House, which was fantastic. Kawai Kanjiro was a potter and a key leader of Japan’s folk art movement. He died in 1966, and his home and pottery studio was turned into a “house musuem” by his relatives. You enter, and instantly you’re aware that you’re in a special home, one that is peaceful and built by a man of calm beauty. Here are a few photos from his home and studio.
Next, we grabbed some coffee at Ichikawaya Coffee near there. Charming place, and they roast their own coffee on site.
Our next stop was the Kyoto Handicraft center, which is the best place in the city to buy unique, handmade gifts for friends and family. We spent almost an hour and a half there. It has two buildings of 3 floors each, and there is lots to see. Highly recommended.
We also visited the Kyoto ceramic cooperative, which was somewhat disappointing. They had some nice stuff, but prices were on the high side, and no one piece appealed to us enough to buy it.
After taking the subway back to the hotel, and a brief rest, we joined the Gion walking tour. Brochures for this tour are all over the city, particularly at the tourist information offices. It costs 1000 yen (about $10 U.S. dollars) and lasts about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Even though it was a very rainy evening, about 35 people joined us on the tour. The guide uses a microphone when he can, so you can hear him, but the level of information wasn’t nearly as good as the private guides we’ve used from ToursByLocals.com. That said, given the price, we did learn some things about Gion and the life of geishas that we didn’t know before. For example, the teahouses are regulated by the state. The geishas mostly start their training at 15 (unpaid), and the classes are shown on the bulletin board below. Even though a good geisha can bring in upwards of $500-600K per year, most of that goes to expenses (which are high: kimonos, special combs and fans, the teahouses, getting their hair done) and to the woman who runs the teahouse. The typical geisha might only take home about 10% of what she earns.
We ended the night at a local Ramen place for dinner and then back to our hotel.