Day 7: Across the nightingale floor – you don’t know where to aim

The day begins with breakfast in the Sekisui staff dining room…it’s what you wuld expect.

“Some people”  … let me not spell out who…

are not impressed with the idea of fish and rice for breakfast and head to the vending machine…yees?

About 30 people have paid for an all day guided tour of Kyoto…probably overpriced…but from the moment we meet “Naomi”  our tour guide, I realise it’s worth every penny.
She greets everyone personally and finds out who they are where they are from,  and her English is pretty good…she has an infectious giggle like a teenage Harajuku girl, even though she has three adult sons.
“Do you like Kyoto, so beautiful and clean…no tall buildings allowed…you came by Shinkansen yes,  very fast always on time.
Last year I was in Spain and Amsterdam and Paris,  the streets there are not so clean!”

The spaniards burst into laughter…  Joseba says  “She is not very good politician,  yees?”

Naomi’s sarcasm and wit are absoluitely endearing…she had with her some tiny stuffed animals, bears and such with which she re-enacted great moments in Japanese history

“Imagine this small white bear is Tokugawa Ieyasu…he is Shogun…and maybe this other bear,  is the emperor…”  I half expected the emperor to go flying through the windscreen when the bus turned.

In the morning we visit the Golden Pavillion

(very famous, so don’t need to tell you all about it)  and the Ro-anji temple  (this is the one with the Zen garden with 15 stones arranged so that you can NEVER see all of them at once from any vantage point.)

“Please sit and contemplate the garden…it is for meditation”  Well with all the tourists it’s a bit hard to get into a Zen like state.

naomi:  “Please use this toilet,  it is western style,. very clean easy to use…this other one here is asian style…very difficult, you don’t know where to aim….that’s why we say to women do not drink too much”

We go to Arashiyama,  the playground for the rich…and yet another luncheon banquet…

this one includes Nabe  (stone pots with a flame underneath so you can cook at the table).  The view from the dining room of the Katsura river is astounding!!!

After lunch we go to a place where they teach you how to make Japanese desserts  (the ones made ritually for special occasions)…first we must all wash our hands…

we start by making Maple leaves out of some Marzipan like stuff…

and then the teacher says  use your imagination to make anything you like.

It’s a Munch…was going to be an mPOF…but too hard

We then arrange our creations into a very special gift box…everyone is so excited to take such exquisite delights back to their loved ones..

My hands are all sticky and its very hard to take photos and create at the same time….

“make sure you eat them all within one day…they will not be very good tomorrow”…everyone says aawwwhh…no way can we get through all these sweets in one day.  i suspect most get thrown away as we pack the next morning.  Beauty is an ephemeral thing.

We have about 30 mins to look around,  I discover a chirimen craft museum  …and it specialises in owls for some reason…someone I know is going to be very pleased…they are so cute.  Impressing the clerk with your Japanese gives you special permission to take photos and get a small gift.

Hmmm, have to keep that in mind!!

The next stop is Nijo castle,

the home of the famous Nightingale floor….yes even over the hustle and bustle of the tourists you can hear the squeak-squeak of the special nails in the floorboards….everything inside is gradually being replaced with replicas (not the floor of course)  and the originals are being stored and distributed to museums for safe keeping.

It’s in the gift shop here, that Joseba finally finds a “souvenir-thimble”,  his mother has a collection in the thousands from all over the world.  though my shot-glass collection may not be so lucky…have been enjoying myself too much with the culture to actually bother with souvenirs.

The final stop is a handicraft tourist trap…

Naomi: “This building is 8 storeys has many beautiful things to buy, and staff can speak English to you.  There is another similar buiklding next door,  they do not speak English  it is for Japanese people only…maybe quality is a bit higher and prices a bit lower.”

The spaniards crack up again…is she supposed to tell us that.

Though on the 4th floor there is an old man carving woodblocks…I suspect for a suitable fee, he could custom design a woodblock print for you….

We head off to the Train station where those heading back reserve their seats,  we say a final goodbye to the Spaniards and Patricia from Manchester.

I have dinner with a few remaining Germans,

we wander around the brand new shopping centre and find a pet shop where we make goo-goo eyes at the tiny-tiny puppy dogs on display.

A taxi ride back to the Sekisui building,  and the germans are leaving before breakfast so I use my Japanese to help them tell the gatekeeper about the early taxi… the gatekeeper starts work at 5 am  so he doesn’t think a 6am departure is early in a any case.

So, I am also about to catch a taxi in about half an hour to go to my next hotel.

let’s see what’s in store for me there!

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