Kyoto – Round Two

This is actually my second time in Kyoto. Despite the fact that I’ve been here already, I decided to go again simply because I didn’t get to do everything I wanted the last time I was in Kyoto. There’s just so much to do here, especially if you’re into traditional Japanese culture.

First of all, I have to say I was quite annoyed. In my four months of being in Japan, not once have I ever gotten on the the wrong train, until today. Today, I got on the wrong train not once, but twice. I have an app that I use to help me determine what train I should take in order to get me where I want to go, and not once has it ever failed me, until today. The first time I got on the wrong train I blame the app. The train started out as a subway line, but after a certain stop, it switched lines, but I wanted to stay on the same line. I ended up having to backtrack to where the switch occurred and find a different train. The second time I got on the wrong train was my fault. I was on the correct line but going to wrong direction, haha. Thankfully though, despite my struggles with the trains, I was still able to do everything I had wanted to do today.

I started off at Daigoji. It was one of the temples I had missed when I was in Kyoto last time. There is an upper area and other museums, however, I decided to only go to the lower area. Museums were never a strong interest point for me, not to mention that there was a 50/50 chance that there wouldn’t be any English explanations. In particular, I wanted to take the same picture that I also saw online when I looked at the temple online. I think it would have looked absolutely spectacular in the fall when the leaves are changing, but even during the summer time it’s a really pretty view.

After Daigoji I decided to stop by Fushimi-Momoyama Castle. It’s not your typical castle, and it’s not open to the public. However, I think it’s one of the coolest looking castles I’ve seen. Personally, I think the pictures I was able to get were worth the trip. However, for those who aren’t in love with photography, it may not be worth the trouble. From the station it’s an uphill climb, and it’s even worse when its 90°F (32°C). Like I said though, I felt like it was worth the effort.

Once I made it back to the station from the castle, I made my way to Arashiyama. I walked through the famous bamboo forest before getting on the Sagano Scenic Railway. At first, I was a little annoyed, because all of the scenic views on the railway were on the left side of the car while I was sitting on the right side. I was going to be really mad if I could only see a rock wall for the entire trip. However, much to my delight, some scenic views came my way and my sour mood instantly improved.

Once the ride was over, I backtracked and made my way to central Kyoto to the Samurai Kembu Theater. There I got see the traditional samurai sword art of Kembu being performed, and then I even got to put on one of the uniforms and take lessons from some of the performers. The performance had two parts: traditional kembu and modern kembu. I wasn’t a big fan of the traditional kembu. It reminded me a lot of when I saw a Noh performance. Honestly, I think it’s the music that’s just off-putting to me. I can’t stand the sound of the flute with a woman shrilling over top of it. The modern kembu was much more entertaining. The music they used reminded me of the background music used in movies to make scenes more dramatic or sad. The performance itself told a story, and it was interesting to see how the actors used swords and fans to move the story along.

The lessons after the performance were more difficult than I thought they were going to be. The whole thing was particularly geared towards foreigners and they really played up the samurai aspect, but the lessons themselves were quite serious. They taught us the proper way to draw and sheath a sword. From there they taught us the different ways to swing it. I have to say, the sword is heavier than I thought it would be. I often had to hold it out while the instructor was explaining the next steps, and it definitely wore on my arms. Suffice to say, I’ll definitely be sore. However, despite the hard work, I actually really enjoyed the training. It reminded me of when I did martial arts. Of course a lot of the movements are different, but the discipline is the same. It definitely brought back memories.

Overall, today was an absolute blast. I’m glad I made the time to stop in Kyoto again. Honestly, I wish I could have stayed longer. There’s just so much to do and see in Kyoto. However, tomorrow I’m off to Himeji for another day of new adventures.

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