Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Holy buildings and pure water

Next on the schedule was the Buddhist temple named Kiyomizu-dera. We took a bus from Kyoto station and the parents fell asleep in it, as it was rather hot inside the non-air-conditioned bus and they had just hiked up Kyoto station, so Gy and I let them sleep a bit. From the bus stop we made our way through some tiny shopping streets, with several stops, leading up to the temple. It was getting late so we were in a bit of a hurry so we didn’t do any real souvenir shopping. Kiyomizu-dera is a World Heritage site and is one of Kyoto’s oldest temples, and it’s made of just wood there is not one nail used in the whole temple… not sure how they did that.
Kiyomizu means pure water, and that refers to the waterfall within the complex of temple buildings, which runs off the nearby hills. Beneath the main temple is Otowa no taki, where three channels of water drop into a small pond. That water is the pure water and each channel is believed to have its own magic powers when you drink it, one gives you health, another gives you success in studies and the third gives longevity. But which stream confers what wasn’t clear, to me anyway. And you shouldn’t be greedy and drink from all three (two is the maximum) because that’s bad luck. We didn’t know about its magic properties, but we still joined the line of people to drink from the pure water. The water was retrieved with metal cups (sanitized with UV rays) on poles and drank immediately by most. But some people put an empty pet bottle in the cup to hold under the stream, so they could take the water home and maybe cure a sick family member or help out a cousin in his exam week at school?
After we were all hydrated again, we went for a walk through the streets of Kyoto heading for the Gion district to spot some geishas. I had to disappoint the men in our company with the fact that geishas are not prostitutes, but just very expensive performing artists. On the way there we saw more than enough Japanese stuff, like small streets and authentic houses, lots of lights, a huge white Buddha, pagodas, nice views of Kyoto from a mountain, a cow statue with a red bib and beautiful Yasaka jinja shrine but we never did see any geisha, unfortunately.
Of course they also have food in Kyoto and we sampled some of it. Before we headed up to Kiyomizudera we stopped in one of the stores in the small shopping street leading up to the temple. There they give you free green tea (which we passed on) and let you taste all their treats on sale, which we did. Gy was done after just tasting one of two and decided he didn’t like any of it and just watched us trying lots of different yatsuhashi (mochi envelope stuffed with some kind of sweet paste). And after our visit to the temple we returned to the store to buy some ice cream. I’ve promised myself to be more adventurous regarding ice cream and try as many weird Japanese flavors as I can. So far I’ve tried green tea, but that so common here that I don’t really count that as a weird Japanese flavor, I didn’t like it by the way. The only true weird flavor I’d had before today was sesame in Inuyama once, the ice cream was black and tasted really good. And today I can add salt flavored ice cream to my list. Sure, the idea of ice cream that tastes like salt initially grossed me out, but the sesame turned out great and I wasn’t able to convince any of the other Dutchies to buy it, so I decided to go for it… And it wasn’t bad, but the sesame was better. Gui was slightly adventurous too with his green tea ice cream but my mom and Gy were playing it really safe with vanilla.
Dinner wasn’t a great success. We were tired after another day of heat and walking around in Kyoto and all we really wanted was a restaurant with chairs, because none of us are comfortable sitting on the floor. So when Gy and I spotted chairs in some restaurant we all just went in without really looking at the menu. The food wasn’t awful but it wasn’t good either, rather tasteless actually. The fact that we stopped at McDonalds afterwards should say enough.

1 comment:

Louise said...

Pfff, ik voel de moeheid in mijn benen nog als ik eraan terug denk. Het eten was niet helemaal geweldig maar onze voetjes kwamen tot rust. En dat was heel wat waard!
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