So here at Kansai Gaidai, you can sign up for a”speaking partner programme”, as in, after you sign up, you’re essentially assigned a new Japanese friend to help you learn Japanese and them learn English. My speaking partner is a girl called Iroha, and she wanted to go to Kyoto with me and wear kimonos (apparently she’d never worn one before). So on the 7th September, we met up and headed into the old capital.
Iroha when we first met. We went for an Italian dinner at the restaurant inside uni.
For ¥2500 at a shop in Kyoto, we could rent kimonos for a day. Not having the first idea about kimonos, I picked out a simple brown one (I think I should have gone with blue…). So what then? Any idea how to put on a kimono? No? Me neither. Well, the ladies that work at the rental shop take you behind a screen, tell you to get down to your undercrackers, and then take care of the rest. Those kimonos are NOT comfortable. They’re thick and scratchy, with two layers, wrapped incredibly tightly with two belts squeezing your stomach. And it being the beginning of September, it was still very hot (on the plus side they’re pretty breezy). Anyway, I was now in a kimono, and told to wait. But no one told me what I was waiting for…
After a while longer, Iroha came out in a very pink kimono with a floral pattern to it, and generally looking much better than I did. Kimonos. Do. Not. Look. Good. On. Foreigners. Anyway, annoyingly we ended up waiting for half an hour for the bus (it would have only been a twenty minute walk, but between the traditional flip-flop type things and the tight kimonos, Iroha could barely walk). While we were waiting we saw other people coming out of the shop dressed up in their kimonos, all looking very nice. Strangely an American man who was walking by wanted to take our photo, so we let him. I suspect he only wanted a photo of Iroha, but was being polite. But we got him to take a photo of us on my camera as well:
And there we are! Apparently socks and sandals is a non-issue here.
Anyway, eventually the bus came so we headed up to Gion (pronounced gee-on). Gion started out as a place for travellers to stay, as it is right in front of a famous shrine. Eventually it became renowned for its geisha, and still is today. However, it is very unlikely you’d see a real geisha there, they tend to keep out of the streets, lest be swarmed by camera-happy tourists.
A Gion side street. A conscious effort was made to keep the old look of Gion. Most other streets in Japan look nothing like this.
We started off by going to the Yasaka Shrine (called Yasaka-jinja in Japanese, pronounced like ginger). It is a Shinto shrine (Japan’s native religion), that was built nearly 1500 years ago. As well as the the religious buildings, the shrine also backs onto Maruyama Park.
Iroha in front of the main gate of the Yasaka Shrine.
We had a look around at the temple and the park, though rather briefly. On the way back, we walked into what looked like a demonstration of a traditional Japanese wedding (the third Japanese wedding I’ve seen).
The wedding procession. The bride is in the black floral kimono, the groom obscured by the man holding the umbrella. The man at the front with the hat on is the priest, and the woman behind with the red trousers a priestess.
The koi pond at Maruyama-kouen (park).
After a quick look around the shrine, we headed back into Gion to find some food. Being a weekend afternoon in the Summer meant that many places were full up, but eventually we found a quiet cafe to sit down for a while. We ordered some orange sherbet and watched the people go by, especially the tourists, guessing where we thought they were from.
Orange sherbet and coke
Iroha at the cafe. I had to ask her not to do the peace signs, and she looked very confused.
After the cafe it was time to start heading back. Iroha had a driving lesson that day, and we were running out of time with the kimonos. So just as it started to rain, we hopped in a taxi and drove back to the rental shop.
And that was my adventure in Kyoto in a fancy man dress.
That’s all we’ve got time for folks.