Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan, has mesmerized me. According to Akari, if a Japanese wants to pursue business or politics, s/he goes to Tokyo; if a Japanese wants to pursue arts, culture or academia, s/he goes to Kyoto.
To quote a maiko Fukunae-san who values customer service, make-up is a form of art: face painting. Before I departed for Kyoto, I hope that I can see some geisha and admire these beautiful walking art. I am grateful that I have caught a glimpse of Geisha at Arashiyama Bamboo Groove and on the way to Kiyomizudera Temple.
My trip to Kyoto has also allowed me to learn about myself. I realize that I love gardens, from botanical gardens, English gardens, Chinese gardens to Japanese gardens. While I appreciate the past and future experience of visiting beaches and deserts, I prefer gardens that encapsulate the dynamics of four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The same place can offer different (visual, auditory, olfactory) sensations, (happy, reflective, contented) feelings, and inspirations, depending on the seasons.
Hiking natural wilderness like hills and mountains in Scandinavia, is enjoyable provided that I know that I am safe, for example there are other people, a guide or a first aider around. However, for activities that can be pursued in solitude, I prefer gardens.
“Enjoying a garden should be undertaken in the correct spirit. Maintain the wonderful curiosity of a child, and temper each visit with a genuine desire to learn something new – either about the garden or about yourself.” ~ Andrew R. Deane.
Oriental gardens such as Chinese gardens and Japanese gardens are unique for their oriental details. I love resilient bamboo that will bend but not break when wind (perhaps a symbol of challenges) blows, reflective and calm water in a pond / little stream, connecting wooden / stone bridges (think of 小桥流水人家), stable rocks and stones, colourful fresh flowers and autumn leaves, elegant pavilion / (mini) pagoda with supportive pillars and gracious oriental roofs.
The beauty of gardens also allowed me to reflect on life. As I observed at Kyoto Palace, gardeners work meticulously and consistently with love and tenacity, to ensure the gardens are beautiful. Similarly, for people and things, beauty require efforts.
Ladies who put efforts to learn and apply the art of dressing and make-up, are more beautiful than ever, not only because they are naturally beautiful (just that some people fail to notice it), but also because of their efforts. Even if they appear ordinary to many people, they can be very attractive with efforts. In Kyoto, especially in the shopping areas, I saw many ladies with efforts to beautify themselves. They dress nicely, have their hair styled / dyed / curled, apply foundations and blush-on on their faces, etc.
Similarly, for the pursuits of excellence, such as delivering services or pieces of art / scientific work, we need consistent and meticulous efforts. For example, when we put efforts to write more following reading excellent pieces of work, our writings will be increasingly beautiful.
Since I did not bring many JPY with me, I did my best to save even the bus fare by walking. In return, I have many #happywalk discovering something interesting as I walked at least several kilometers in a day. I visited many temples and some shrines, but my most favorite site was Shugakuin Imperial Villa, it is an autumn dream came true.
Due to work commitment, I did not have a chance to enjoy Japanese Tea Ceremony, but a week after my Japan trip, I enjoyed a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Middle East. It is interested to learn that matcha, powdered green tea blended with hot water, was introduced to Japan in the 12th century by Zen monks returning from study in China. Nowadays, we do not find so much matcha in China, it appears to have been extinct in China and we can only find matcha in Japan, like how we can only find kangaroos in Australia and New Guinea.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony is known as Chado in Japanese. The ideals of Chado are expressed in these four words: harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquility (jaku).
Harmony should exist in human relations, between humans and nature, in the selection of the tea utensils (bamboo whisk to blend the tea, a seasonal flower in the tearoom alcove) and the manner in which they are used, and all other aspects of Chado.
Respect is paid to all things and comes from sincere feelings of gratitude for their being. A local young lady remarked “so polite” on how the Japanese lady served us a bowl of matcha.
Purity suggests both worldly and spiritual cleanliness.
Tranquility is a state of spiritual peace.
Since we need to eat to continue living, why don’t we live to eat well and appreciate our food? In Kyoto, I was inspired to cook future rice with azuki beans (thanks to Akari) and chestnuts (thanks to autumn). It is a wonderful to eat according to the seasonal harvests. Previously, I have cooked our rice with any of these: carrots, sweet potatoes, beetroot, pumpkins, etc.
Whenever I visit a new place, I always love to visit places of praying (temples, churches, mosques), learning (libraries, universities) and trading (including traditional markets e.g. Nishiki, supermarkets or department stores e.g. Daimaru). I enjoyed the life-like water paintings by Itō Jakuchū (伊藤 若冲, 17160302–18001027) at Nishiki Market.
- When we have an opportunity to return to Kyoto, I hope to eat at more family-run restaurant as recommended by honey panda. Because of work, I only ate twice: the first dinner was after I finished visiting Ginkaku-ji Temple and the last (memorable) dinner was with a medically-trained PhD student of Kyoto University.
- drink gyokuro tea as I only smelled the fragrance of gyokuro at Ippodo Tea shop.
Picasa album entitled 201510_japan