Monday, February 27, 2012

Japan Part III: Ninjas* and Manga and Bears, Oh My!

Well, I was going to try to cram all of Kyoto into one post, but there are too many pictures so I'll have to do two. We started our stay in Kyoto by visiting a traditional Japanese ryokan, or guesthouse. We were given a cotton yukata to wear, and then served kaiseki, which is a formal meal that places a lot of emphasis on presentation in addition to taste. Our hostess was dressed in a kimono and obi, and told us what we were eating and showed us how. The meal was delicious! After dinner, we went back to our room, where the table had been removed and our futon beds had been placed on the floor. One thing about the Japanese: they seem to like their beds and pillows a lot firmer than Westerners. I liked the bed okay, but I could have done with a softer pillow.

Ethan in traditional dress, enjoying tea in the Ryokan

Then the ninjas came in, and it was a battle to the death
Garden at the ryokan
The next day, we went to Arashiyama, which is on the western side of Kyoto. We visited our first temple, Tenryu-ji, and took a walk through the famous bamboo forest.

Ethan enjoying one of the shrines at Tenryu-ji temple
The Japanese are well known for their beautiful gardens, specifically planned to mimic nature and encourage meditative thought. Even though we were there at the end of winter, the gardens we saw had enough evergreen plants and bushes with berries to make them visually appealing.

These little bear statues were everywhere

Koi, hoping for some crumbs

The bamboo forest was very peaceful. Although the path was only a few hundred yards long, it still felt like you were travelling to another time or place.

Looking up into the bamboo forest

Journeying through the bamboo forest.
We left Arashiyama and headed back to the main part of Kyoto, where we decided to visit the International Manga Museum. Manga is the Japanese form of comic art, which is very popular worldwide. Although they were in between temporary exhibits, there was a permanent exhibit on the history of manga, which started out as social/political commentary in the late 1800s. Some of the more interesting pieces were manga books from the 1940s, which were war propaganda and had covers depicting Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as monsters.

The manga museum also had thousands of manga books in their library which you were allowed to read. Most of them were in Japanese, but they did have a few English and other foreign translations as well. I was happy to find my favorite manga, Fushigi Yugi, but I did not stay to read the books. Due to copyright restrictions, photos were not allowed in most of the museum, but we were allowed to photograph the cafe, where visiting artists have autographed the walls. It was pretty neat and some of the drawings were quite detailed and beautiful.

Art in the cafe at the International Manga Museum

To be continued...

I have quite a few more Kyoto pictures, but thanks to my friend Erica, I found out my other links aren't working. Once I get the links worked out properly, I'll post again for everyone to check out my albums.

*No actual ninjas are demonstrated in this post.


Anonymous said...

Wow-- how does someone my age get along in Japan? If I sat on the floor like Ethan I would have real difficulty getting up. And all people my age would be the same. It is not just me - the old joints just aren't as supple.


L said...

Well, nowadays they have western style seats just like we do. But I don't know how they managed it in the old days. It was hard on us -- the little tables didn't exactly fit over our crossed legs and my joints got tired too.