Friday, February 08, 2008

John Milito: Geisha Hunter

We spent January 3rd through the 5th in Kyoto, and then Angelica caught her flight from Tokyo on the 6th. I'll try to cover everything. Here goes.

The first place I'll mention is Nijo Castle. I feel like the name is a bit misleading, as it doesn't resemble a castle as one would usually imagine it. It is more of a fancy palace with moats and a wall surrounding it. In a small stroke of bad luck, the fancy Ninomaru palace was closed for something involving the new year that I didn't quite grasp. As I said, the whole castle complex is mainly comprised of moat, wall, and palace, and I could see the first two from the outside. I was a bit perturbed as I felt like I was misled into buying a ticket that didn't have much worth. But anyway, besides all the gaudy gold artwork, the main attraction for me in the palace are the "nightingale floors". The floorboards inside are specially rigged so that the slightest movement of the floor makes a chirping sound. This was designed to make it impossible for some sneaky ninja to try to creep in and kill the shogun without being discovered.

The tail end of a children's taiko performance in front of Ninomaru. A small consolation prize to make up for the closed palace, I imagine.

I haven't a clue what these things were by the water. They seemed to be bales of straw somehow stacked to look like a coral. For what purpose I couldn't say.

At some point during our travels we happened upon a shrine with a bit of oddness to it. Everything was covered in pigs. Pig statues were plentiful, and at one side of the grounds a long glass case was filled with all kinds of piggy knickknacks. Quite strange.

Here you can wash your hands in the water pouring from this boar's mouth. So fresh, so clean.

It got even better. Here, inside the shrine walls, are two pigs in a cage. There was a time table posted, and the was a pile of various toys: included a soccer ball and goal, leading me to believe that these pigs would be performing in some way. Doesn't seem very religious to me, but whatever.

Here's an interesting shot. Note the piggies framing the action. This is the year of the rat according to all that Chinese astrology stuff. It just so happens that I was born in the year of the rat! Woohoo. In Japanese I would say that I am toshiotoko(literally year-man). Angelica and I spotted a huge rat in Tokyo, and I took this as a very auspicious sign. Booyah.

How many ways can you possibly eat mashed up soy beans? More than you care to discover, friend.

While riding the bus on our way to see yet another shrine, we spotted some festival-looking activity and promptly jumped off to check it out. Sure glad we did.

I discovered a new form of deliciousness. So a candy apple is just an apple on a stick dipped in red candy, right? Well, I found a peeled mandarin orange on a stick dipped into ORANGE candy. I know. It seems so obvious now that its here, but the best inventions always do.

Here we've walked past the party and are entering Solemntown.

Then it happened. A bit of added commotion drew my attention. A small crowd of Japanese with huge cameras were following around a line of four geisha, all hurrying towards somewhere out of our sight. I lived in Kyoto for a combined 6ish months, and I saw geisha maybe two times, so it was extremely lucky that Angelica could see them.

This seems like an excellent time to talk a bit about Geisha. First of all, they aren't prostitutes. I'll go ahead and get that common misconception out of the way. Second, I've been trying to educate myself about this but I'm still a bit confused. I think that the ladies in this picture are Maiko, which is an apprentice Geisha. My understanding is that they dress up more strikingly that a full Geisha, in part because their stunning beauty is meant to compensate for their lack of mastered skills. Those skills include the use of various classical Japanese instruments as well as poetry, tea ceremony, and traditional song.

The Maiko in their natural habitat.

The last big thing we did on our trip was visit Kinkaku-ji. Kinkaku-ji is probably the most popular spot in Kyoto. It is a small temple set out into a lake. Oh yeah, and its just about completely covered in gold.

Near Kinkaku-ji, donation turned game of skill. I really wanted to get a yen to land in that cup.

Another nice looking spot near the Kinkaku.

We spent a spot of time near Kyoto Station on our last night.

Interior of Kyoto Station

One of the weirdest sculptures I've met, located in Kyoto station.

We spent some time playing around in a nearby gift shop dedicated to Astro Boy merchandise.

Do you have your ticket to the robotic gun show?

Angelica and a host of bewildering characters.

Here are some other unrelated yet noteworthy little things.

Oh, but I have a big friend who could stomp a robotic child any day.

Angelica at the Imperial Gardens. Everything imperial was closed up behind a high wall. Needless to say, it was a short trip.

We tried some butaman from a street vendor. It's steamed dough with a meat mixture inside, pork in this instance.

After riding so many super packed trains, Angelica was excited when we got on this completely empty one.

Angelica did her best to load her luggage with the heaviest things she could find, and it was my job to drag it through all the trains stations. The bag was so heavy that the handle broke off.

Angelica's time in Japan ended on a pretty good note. Back in Tokyo with a few hours to kill before her flight, we went back to kaminarimon in Asakusa. If you recall,(here's the post if you don't) this was one of the first places we visited while in Tokyo the inital time. Then, though, it was dark and deserted. Now it was a bustling marketplace. Its hard to imagine that the two places are the same.

As people crowded and pushed to get a picture under the famous big lantern, I was happy that we got ours when no one was around.

Possibly more little souvenirs than I have ever seen in one place.


  1. Great pics, especially of the Geisha. I saw documentary on Geisha here in Los Angeles back in '06. It was really interesting and a real Geisha from Kyoto was at the Los Angeles showing. The documentary is now playing in Tokyo until the 15th.

    If you can, you might try and see it. Check out my current blog post for information on the documentary and the location and times.

  2. Anonymous12:22 AM

    what can I say.. This trip was awesome!! thank you for recreating all of the moments in japan. I feel like I want to go to visit again.