Friday, September 19, 2008

Kyoto Day 3: Kiyomizu-dera, Maiko Henshin

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Today we had breakfast again at God Mountain Cafe, which has a very good name. (Even if they do serve ice cream with their pancakes.) It was Alice's first day off, and we had an appointment to do maiko henshin. We were really early getting to the Kiyomizu-michi area, so we decided to walk up to Kiyomizu-Dera.

One of Kyoto's most famous temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu-dera is dedicated to juuichi-men, the 11-headed Kannon. (Hase-dera, one of my favorite places in Kamakura is also dedicated to juuichi-men.) Unfortunately it started to rain quite heavily when we arrived, but the temple remained beautiful with many impressive views of the city despite the precipitation.

Other places of interest at Kiyomizu-dera are the Otowa-no-taki waterfall, which is believed to have healing powers and the Koysau-no-tou three-story pagoda, which we did not enter, but saw from Kiyomizu-dera. We also saw the Jishu-jinja, which is a small shrine with two rocks 18 m apart from one another. The legend is that if you can walk from one stone to the other successfully with your eyes closed, your wish for love will come true. We watched three visitors try and only one of them was successful. Not an easy task, even when it isn't raining.

On the path that rounds past Koysau-no-tou on the way to the Otowa-no-taki waterfall, there's a small Inari shrine. It's like a preview for Fushimi Inari Taisha, plus the benefit of knowing that I spent my birthday at both a Kannon temple and an Inari shrine.

Walking back to Shiki Sakuraten, we entered the building a little early, but it was dry and quiet inside. A screen in the lobby played I Robot with Japanese subtitles. Sakuraten was unable to print the photos today, but they promised to mail the prints to my home.

Maiko Henshin at Shiki Sakuraten was not like Kimono Henshin at Studio Mon Katsura. That's not to say that the maiko henshin isn't an interesting thing to do, and something that I would encourage those curious about it to try. We were treated well—the staff are courteous and pleasant, but they are extremely efficient as the economical plan depends on volume of customers served. No multiple shots are taken so the best photo can be chosen. Then you're left in a small room with the instructions that you may take photos with your own camera for ten minutes. This resulted in Alice and I taking a few photos then going "er, now what?"

When I did kimono henshin, we were the only people in the studio. The kimono were luxurious, beautiful, and each one had specific obi that paired with it best. At Shiki Sakuraten, the kimono are very pretty, but there are about three different sash colors. Also, they aren't real obi—it's two pieces for ease and speed.

So having done maiko henshin, I would not do it again. Not necessarily because of the experience, but because I don't find the white make-up and wigs to be that flattering. There's a sense of mass-production and anonymity in the white face and black wig. Surrendering to a stereotype instead of appropriating it and finding a way to make it individually beautiful. Of course, this is just a Western perspective.

Lunch was delicious ommuraisu (omelet rice.) I always get an odd look when I try to explain ommuraisu to people who've never had it. So it's rice, yeah? But it's got an egg omelet over it and then various ketchup sauce, gravy or curry. This ommuraisu had bits of ham and mushrooms mixed in with the rice, too.

After a stop at the apartment to wash the white make-up out of my hair, we headed off to Kyoto Station for some shopping then met Alice's boyfriend back on Shijou Street. Dinner was at Mumokuteki cafe, which would have been a scene if it was in LA—no meat, no egg, no milk, no sugar... (Shrimp, btw, doesn't count as a meat.) It was good, just not really what I wanted—although to be fair, Alice asked what I wanted to eat and I said I'd be ok with whatever.

So, you're probably wondering why there's no mention of cake. Cake, after all, is a much-loved Japanese dessert. The truth is, I sort of forgot why Alice was asking me where I wanted to go for dinner. I had factored in two days for jet lag before my birthday, but I ended up needing three to recover. Oops. Oh well, tomorrow is Osaka!

A view of Koyasu-no-tou pagoda from Kiyomizu-dera. The goddess who ensures babies are delivered safely has a statue inside.

A view of Otowa-no-taki waterfall from Kiyomizu-dera. You can see people waiting in line to drink the water.

Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera. The tall white object is Kyoto Tower, which is only a few blocks from the JR Station.

A small Inari shrine near Kiyomizu-dera.

Maiko Henshin at Shiki Sakuraten.

$20 shoes from Porta Shopping Mall at Kyoto station.


JohnEvans said...

Wow, you look completely transformed! Interesting. But yes, I think you look better 'natural'. ;)

All the Kyoto stuff is reminding me of the Negima storyline where they visit Kyoto. They saw the temple with water you can drink, the two rocks of true love...I imagine those might be almost stereotypical tourist attractions, but it was fun to learn about them in some small way. :)

I do know about ommuraisu because of a scene from one of my favorite movies, "Tampopo". It's a very, shall we say, quirky movie...but there's one scene where a hobo chef and a small boy sneak into a restaurant kitchen at night to make a rice omelet, displaying impressive culinary skill. It's a fun scene.

And happy birthday again!

Rachel said...

Love the shoes!

Jim said...

Shoes! What better way to celebrate?

Chandra Rooney said...

Shoes were not good for visiting Fushimi. You should see the blisters. I am resigned to flip-flops now. (Unless it rains. That'd be cold.)