Today, we visited a bunch of temples and historic places in Kyoto.
We started by visiting the Shogun castle in Kyoto. The castle is called Nijo castle. The castle was created by a great Shogun named Tokugawa, who conquered and united all of the Japanese clans in around 1600. The castle took 33 years to build, which is as long as Angkor Wat took, even though Nijo Castle is much smaller that Angkor Wat is. When the castle was completed, the Shogun who ordered it be built was already dead, so nobody used that castle, except for many tourists. We walked in the castle and immediately were soaking wet from rain. We sprinted to the main building, and walked inside the building. It was an old Japanese style building with paper and wood walls, and murals on the inside walls. We had to take our shoes off, like how you would in a Japanese house. We learned that the floor is called Nightingale, which are boards that creak a lot, so the guards and the Shogun would know when a servant or an assassin was coming. We also learned that before there were Shoguns, there were Emperors, but they were overthrown by the Samurai and then there were Shoguns. Although, after a few Shoguns had been in power, there was a civil war and the side of the Emperors won, so now again there is an Emperor in Japan. While we walked through the building, we looked into models of what it would look like in the time that the castle was made. After seeing all the rooms in the building, we walked back out the way we entered and walked around the side of the building and saw this pond that was beautiful. There were stone bridges and waterfalls and flowers of every color. After looking at the pond, we went up to a small lookout point and we could see all of the castle.
We walked back to the entrance and all piled back into the car. We drove to our next destination: Kinkuji. You probably have no idea what that means, but in English it means Golden Pagoda. When we got there, we all got out of the car and rushed to see it. There was a huge lake surrounding the pagoda, which made it twice as beautiful. We walked onto the small, but overcrowded viewing area to see it. The pagoda shown brightly in the sun, and reflected onto the lake. We snapped a ton of pictures, and then walked around the pagoda to see it from other angles. We saw this small booth that had a picture of the temple in snow, and it looked super beautiful. We walked by a little bowl, where everyone was trying to get a coin in it. We tried it, but sadly none of us made it in. We walked by a few more temples, and then left to go to the next destination.
The next destination was the Ryoanji Rock Garden. When we got there, it was raining really hard. We instantly put our umbrellas up and ran to the temple with the rocks. Before we went there, dad and I rushed onto a small island with a good view of a huge lake with tons of lotus flowers in it. We sprinted back, so we wouldn’t get soaked. Although, we already were soaking wet. We walked up the steps, took our shoes off and walked to the small rock garden. There are 15 rocks, but only in one spot, you can see all 15. We also learned that at the rock garden, people would meditate for hours, and if they were drifting off to sleep, the monk that leads the meditation would whack you with a stick, and then you have to say thank you to the monk. We walked around the small building and then headed back to the car. On our way back, dad saw a small animal that looked like a Raccoon-Dog scamper along the path. We all left the Rock Garden and drove to our Calligraphy class.
When we got to our Calligraphy class, we walked into our teacher’s house and walked up the steps into a small room with some brushes, paper and ink. We all sat down, and started by pressing a small stone piece onto our ink pallet and made our ink. Then, we tried some brush strokes, like lines, and dots. We then tried working on some characters, like truth and peace. After working on those, we got fancy paper and tried a symbol on it. After that, we headed back to the car and drove home.
After relaxing at the house, we went to a restaurant where a Geisha was performing for us. A Geisha is a Japanese performer that wear the fancy dresses and does dancing. We all sat down and ordered drinks. Then, right before the drinks came, the Geisha came in a did a short dance for us. She was really good, because she always stayed on the beat, and she never messed up. Then, after the dance she did, she sat down and made a duckling out of our napkins. She also told us about how long the Geishas train, and where they train. We also learned that there are becoming fewer Geishas than before because many of them drop out of the schools for Geishas. There are now less than 300 real Geishas left. We had a great and fun dinner with the Geisha.
We had an awesome and adventurous day exploring Kyoto.