Rainy day in Kyoto

Woke up feeling a bunch better today. Turned off the ever-present aircon last night and my sinuses got a rest. That might have moved it down into my chest a bit, but hopefully not. I’m still coughing like mad. -_-

For the first time in the trip it was actually raining. Enough that we didn’t really see tramping to shrines and such as a doable adventure.

I found the Samurai and Ninja museum, Kyoto. I was worried it was going to be a bit twee, but we got a short demo by a skilled martial artist, a great overview of the history, and some shenanigans involving shuriken and blow darts.

We got to see an Iaido kata by a skilled practitioner. Terrifying speed and agility, along with a spectacular weapon makes for a great show.

samurai museum demo

Warning: lots of notes, bad history transcription. This isn’t a history lesson, it’s me reminding myself of things to learn later.

Samurai swords were always laid on right hand side when kneeling before someone as a guest. It means you can’t can’t attack, and you’re showing that you’re not the enemy here.

Samurai had multiple swords, but also different setups for the blades. They were treated like a person, like a partner in life. Simple handle for “rest”, decorative for going out into the world.

When europeans came to Japan, their Sabres didn’t compare well in tests because their maintenance was crap. Metal scabbards, not kept sharp etc. Samurai cared for their tools, because they were their life.

They talked about Bushido’s key values/virtues.

Samurai were a class, either born into it or adopted. They were taught from age five to serve, to carry a sword, to show loyalty. They were not only warriors but would do tea ceremonies, act as public servants, do paperwork, whatever was needed to serve their master.

Seppuku, Harikiri, key tenets of the samurai way of life. If you were dishonoured you were to die. Take a wakizashi, which you carried at all times for the purpose. Cut across your stomach from one side to the other and down from your sternum to your pelvis, pull your guts out and cut them loose. That won’t kill you but a trusted person will take off your head. You want a trusted one so they do a good job and kill you straight up - you don’t want to suffer.

Later versions you’d do the first cut and then lose your head, because people weren’t dying straight away all the time. Awkward.

Heian period, 794-1185. A time of piece. The emperor dumped the expensive large army and got the four best warrior clans.

Shoulder pads and helmet are large because horse riding didn’t allow for a shield.

The four clans battled for supremacy, because who wouldn’t? People are dumb. Minamoto won. He then had power over the emperor. A big army right down the road will do that. The emperor gave his power to them as the first Shogun.

Samurai could have:

  • a last name (links to your history)
  • a horse (for battle, and because they’re expensive and hard to keep)
  • two swords (katana and wakizashi)

Anyone who could afford a Katana could have one, the second small sword shows loyalty and willingness to die.

Talked about the civil war in the Sengoku period and Oda Nobunaga.

Oda Nobunaga would work with everyone, including the Christians with guns. His peers called him baldy because he was an asshole and killed him in the end.

Hideoji was brought into the Samurai because of skill, against tradition, short guy, took revenge for Oda’s murder.

He promised the leadership of Japan to his nephew when he was sick and dying. Then had a kid. Whoops. Killed the nephew to avoid problems. Five year old is now the leader of a country in the middle of civil war.

The Battle of Sekigahara; 40k people died in the battle in like seven hours? Tokugawa won, closed off the country. 250 year Edo period started.

As the time of peace continued, samurais couldn’t support themselves in their class, so they became monks, wore a basket in their head to show their faith, their identity wasn’t necessary if they were monks, dedicated to their faith.

samurai museum armour 3

America came, the Shogun was like nope, we’ve seen what happened to the Chinese during the Opium wars. The Europeans came and he was all hugs and light. The samurai saw giving in to allowing outside forces to arrive as weakness, rose up and revoked against the shogun, brought back the emperor.

samurai museum armour 2

The time of the warrior was over, guns and technology were taking their jobs.

samurai museum armour

They told us about the Kyushu rebellion and the battle of Shimoyama. The Tom Cruise movie was based on a French guy who taught them things. The battle lead to the death of 500 samurai, and the warrior class itself.

samurai museum arbalest

Ninjas was a job, samurai was a class. Lunar knife for climbing and stabbing. Rubber shuriken, lol

Shuriken weren’t used for killing, they were primarily used as traps and distractions. Running away? Throw it into the floor, make a trap. Throw it at a wall, distract people, etc.

samurai museum rubber shuriken

Mine wasn’t the worst this time!

samurai museum shuriken wall

I opted not to “dress up as a samurai”

samurai museum hat

“Enjoy Japan, eat good food, that’s what life is about”

Teramachi Kyogoku shopping arcade, one of the busiest streets in Kyoto. Named Town (machi) of temples (tera) as there were many here in the past.

Butaya Ton-ichi, tonkatsu restaurant for lunch. The food looked good as we went in, I’m not so sure about the R&B they were playing as ambient music. I finally found the perfect soundtrack for a nice little tonkatsu restaurant. Great food though.

Lashinbang Kyoto, I finally found somewhere that sells anime on physical media! Well worth visiting the north store if you want a good collection of new and old items.

lashinbang lady

And… all sorts of other things. Planet of the cats, you say? I don’t really like cats, but I could be swayed.

lashinbang planet of the cats

We were heading back to Nishiki markets, so we went down Shingyogoku instead.

shingyogoku

I don’t know why wizard-pikachu has panties on his head. That’s just how he parties, I guess?

shinkyogoku pikachu panty face

On the way out we saw a banner for an Otter café. This is the closest I got to wanting to go into an animal café… I’m sure the animals are loved, for various levels of love.

loutre otter sign

Nishiki Market, a 400-year old market with stalls offering food of all kinds, was a spectacular feast for the senses.

nishiki market meats

These guys worked efficiently and with incredible skill to provide fresh-cut fish for the shoppers.

nishiki market fishmongers

One of the few stalls to actually suggest taking photos, the chestnut sellers had a great stall.

nishiki market chestnuts

Want octopus six different ways? We’ll definitely help you find your favourite.

nishiki market octopus

Fresh and cooked fish of all sorts, if you look in the bottom of the photo they’re really quite fresh!

nishiki market fishy goodness

This stall had quite a few different kinds of miso.

nishiki market hand made miso

One of the few knife stalls in the part of the market we made it through, I barely had time to watch this guy before the swell of the crowd pushed us on. I really love seeing a skilled craftsperson work.

nishiki market knife grinder
nishiki market knife grinder

After a while I started taking note of the PA announcement… it was just one, over and over, in English, Korean and Chinese. Transcribed poorly:

Due to the holiday season many people are here for their shopping. If you aren’t here to shop, for your safety please go to Teramachi street.

No shit, if you aren’t here, to buy, please go to the clothes/shopping street!

nishiki market 1

Dear Toyota-san, please send the plug-in hybrid prius to Australia. Look at that beauty, it’s even got a solar panel for backup power to the systems!

toyota prius PHV

kyoto crosswalk

A wouldn’t tell me which Pokémon this is. Yes, I’m rude.

maybe a pokemon

We had some time to burn in the afternoon and it wasn’t too far a walk, so we headed towards Yasaka-Jinja, a large Shinto shrine complex in the Gion district. This time of year they’re preparing for the massive influx of visitors for the first visit of the new year, along with holidaymakers and tourists. There’s stalls being erected and people everywhere.

yasaka-jinja gate

I can imagine the Kyoto City Fire Department would love to never have to come and douse the flames of Yasaka-jinja, a complex that dates back to 656 AD.

yasaka no smoking

Speaking of tourists and stalls, as we’d barely made it through the gate, we were surrounded by the stalls as they were being built. We knew it was just to provide for the vistors, but some American tourists that were in front of us started loudly proclaiming (because really, how else would Americans talk?) that it was “just way too Disney” for them, repeatedly. After a few cycles of that over ten meters or so, they decide that it was “altogether too commercialised and Disney-like” and left. More fool them, around the next corner was a very interesting shrine complex that I’d recommend anyone explore.

I took this photo as a reminder to look up more about it when I got home (I swear this is ¼ of my photos). It turns out it’s the Hare of Inaba and Okuninushi. As with so many other legends, the tale of the Hare and the God are fantastic and fascinating to read.

yasaka shrine rabbit

Here’s a few photos I grabbed while we were walking around. One day I’ll come back when it’s not the end-of-year festival with a guide to learn more about the place. There’s loads of shrines and torii and all sorts of beautiful little places.

yasaka shrine 4

yasaka shrine 3

yasaka shrine magic wand

yasaka shrine 2

yasaka shirine 1

This was not one of the “beautiful little places”. I figured they were giving away free hugs, maybe? If someone can explain what it is, why they include it in such a beautiful location, and why it’s there with tens of other immaculate stalls at this time of year… I’ll literally find a prize and send it to you.

yasaka shrine free hugs

This lovely lady was standing on the path in Maruyama Park waiting for some other people to move out of her shot, so I felt it only fair to take one while I could get a good angle.

maruyama park beauty

Another lady in Maruyama park.

lady in maruyama park

Statues of Sakamoto and Nakaoka, two samurai in the the Bakumatsu period who worked to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate.

sakamoto and nakaoka

There were no monkeys, jerks or not. I love the “mug shot” style photo of the one pictured though.

asshole monkeys

The next couple of photos are of the Chion-in Sanmon shrine and the Shoren-in Monzeki. I’ll be honest, I don’t know where one starts and the next begins but they’re beautiful. Due to the time of year, access was limited to those looking to do spiritual things, so we stayed out.

chion-in sanmon

chion-in2

chion-in1

shoren-in monzeki

We saw this in the distance, it’s the Heian-Jingu Shrine Otorii gate. It’s four lanes wide and leads to the Heian Shrine (green roof in the background). It’s quite imposing, even from 600m away at the Shoren-in Shrine.

heian-jingu shrine otorii gate

Back to the hotel on the 100, absolut

Dinner in Kyo-Kiyomizu Shigemori.

They gave me a curry apron for my Nishi curry. It was a lovely meal, and I showed them by not wearing it and barely getting any on my shirt at all!

curry apron

I’ll admit it, I keep messing with the water temperature just because it’s fun.



#kyoto #japan #travel #holiday #samurai #history