Monday, June 27, 2011

Japan Day 8 & 9: Nishijin Textile

As a past fashion major, I was extremely lucky to find that we had 2 whole days devoted to learning about Japanese textiles. The first day was spent at Nishijin Textile Center where we watched a kimono fashion show, had a  demonstration of hand weaving and learned more about the art of making an obi. 

 The second day, we spent the whole morning at a fourth generation textile maker's house where we designed our own textile and made a little handkerchief. 

In between I squeezed in a little shopping session with Natsumi at Kyoto Station where we both bought fake hair pieces. Japanese girls love to style their hair each day differently and they best achieve that through wigs and hair accessories.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Japan Day 7: Nara

the famous Nara dears always greet their guests especially when they carry food
 I was long awaiting my visiting to beautiful Nara, the old capital of Japan (710-794 AD) yet we were extremely unlucky as our visit was ruined by heavy rain for almost the whole day. That's what you get for visiting Japan during the rainy season. For those of you considering a visit, the best time is April when the cherry blossoms are out!

We visited Todai-Ji Temple where the chief object of worship is the Vairocana Buddha ( "Buddha that shines throughout the world like sun"), a magnificent bronzed cast statue, plated in gold.

Shinto Shrines! Can you see the differences by now between Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples? I took me a while to observe the differences!
 We stopped for lunch at the famous Nara Hotel for a traditional Japanese lunch.

Nara Hotel

Horyungi was also part of our visit which is Japan's first world cultural heritage which  houses the world's oldest wooden structures, conveying images of Japan as it existed more than 1300 years ago during the Asuka Period.

I must actually confess that I'm definitely not in Day 7 and I have actually departed Kyoto. Yet as our visit consists of a lot of temples, shrines, castles and palaces which start to look the same after a while, I will spare you the details. Yet I still have 2 more posts from Kyoto before discussing with you Hiroshima where I'm currently at!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Japan Day 6: Toaji Market

Tuesday morning, despite the high temperatures that suddenly rose after days of rain, we headed over to the famous Toaji Market, which happens on the 21st of every month. Toaji is probably the biggest flea market that happens in Kyoto, yet despite what you would think, the prices are ridiculously high. It is famously known for the antique vendors yet the prices are not like back home. Something that would cost back home $1, here it would be about $20.

Nonetheless I was extremely lucky to find a second-hand kimono for $10 with an amazing pink obi for $20. As prices usually start about $100 for the cheapest kimono, this was an extremely good deal although the kimono is quite old and has a few not very visible little stains. A Gaijin  girl picking a kimono drew quite a flock of Japanese women visiting the market who made sure to give me their honest opinion on the best kimono for me.

We finished the day with the cheapest and yummiest sushi I have ever ate: $1 for a plate of 2 pieces.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Japan Day 5: Shopping Osaka

Hep5 Ferris Wheel
 On Sunday I had the pleasure of visiting Osaka City as both my buddies actually live in Osaka but commute every day to Ryukoku University in Kyoto. So I took them up on the offer of seeing their city or mostly do a lot of shopping as Osaka is truly just known for being a huge commercial metropolis.
We did do one of their attraction The Hep 5 Ferris Wheel where we could see a skyline view of the city. 

Natsumi and I were afraid of heights!

Then we continued shopping the Hep 5 shopping centre and Imp shopping centre where I found the hat I'm wearing in these pictures. Japanese fashion is soooo Kawaii (cute).

Japanese clothing sale associate
 I must say my buddy Natsumi who was my shopping partner for the day is amazing. We have similar style and we work perfectly together as we are both very slow and indecisive shoppers taking our time carefully choosing each piece we add to our wardrobes. 
Nonetheless I left Osaka with my hands full of shopping bags! 

One of my buddies, Natsumi

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Japan Day 4: Fushiminari Shrine

Friday started with our usual Japanese culture class with the focus this time on the perception of Japanese people of World War II. It was interesting to find out that  Japanese teachers were specifically instructed to diminish the teachings of Japan's negative involvement in the war and how a lot of Japanese feel they were the victim of the powerful USA.

We then headed for our usual udon lunch spot after which we had a seminar on Buddhism. The most important teaching that really stuck with me was the idea that being happy should not be dependent on something, such as : the love of a person, being young, one's beauty, one's hobby or one's material possessions. It's the idea that nothing will satisfy you indefinitely and that " things" do not bring you satisfaction. 
For one who half of this trip I've been obsessed with shopping and buying as much as I can, this lecture really calmed me down and made me more grounded if I could say.

 We finished the day with a visit of Fushiminari Shrine, a Shinto shrine which is where all these pictures are from.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Japan Day 3: Gion Corner

We started the day with a class on Japanese culture where we discussed the differences between family life in North America and Japan. We then headed over for some udon lunch with our buddies after which  we continued with a seminar on intercultural studies taught by an American professor with a focus on culture shock.

tea house in the Gion district

 The afternoon was spent in downtown Kyoto doing some shopping, but the main attraction of the day was a tea ceremony and Maiko dancing in the famous Gion Corner.

 Walking around the famous Gion district with the very exclusive tea houses and real Maikos ( performers) roaming the streets made me feel like I was part of the famous novel Memoirs of a Geisha. I couldn't believe that such a famous and old tradition that I believed was just a myth is still very much in practice in today's age.  When you look at a Maiko, there are so many layers to peel away from them. They wear a mask of haunting beauty as the outer layer, snow white skin that you are too afraid to touch, with blood red lips.

 It seems the ghosts of Japan's history are still wandering through the downtown streets of Kyoto.