This morning, we wake up early to enjoy breakfast at Le Bac à Sable, a café opened by a French-Japanese couple. It feels good to have a good croissant and a good chocolate bar. Moreover here we don’t speak about “pain au chocolat” but about “chocolatine”, they are real ones. We highly recommend you!
This morning, we had a meeting with an old Vietnamese friend and his wife. But we still have an hour ahead of us so I am motivated to walk to the Museum of Traditional Crafts, of which I saw some flyers yesterday at Gion Corner
Museum of Traditional Crafts
The museum is on the left in the picture
There are performances by Geisha (called Geiko in Kyoto) or Maiko (the apprentice geishas) at 2, 2:30 and 3pm, I don’t know if it’s every Saturday all year round or only until March. Ask for more information! The show is free, but if you want a seat and a picture with the geishas, it costs 1000yen
The museum is located in the basement and admission is free. Usually I don’t like museums at all, I don’t read the explanations. But since I’m an absolute fan of crafts, I’ve read almost all the explanations (in English) of this museum
From 10am, there are real craftsmen working in the museum and you can see how they make dolls, fans etc.
As a large part of the exhibits are also for sale, it is forbidden to take pictures, to my great regret. The only thing you can take a picture of is this booth which sums up pretty well all the crafts exhibited in this museum
I must tell you that I am over the moon! They explain in detail the techniques of dyeing kimonos. Either the patterns are applied using a paste + paint. Either the patterns are drawn directly on the fabric. Or using giant stencils (made of holes punched on leather). Either the patterns are obtained with techniques of mentally ill dyeing !!! To protect the area that doesn’t need dyeing, craftsmen hide this area by tightening them with threads, which gives super nice patterns. But imagine that all this work is done repetitively, and by hand! On dozens of meters of fabric! I found a picture of illustration
Type “kimono dyeing techniques” and “stencil kimono” on Google Images to find other techniques that are more difficult and time-consuming to use
There are many other things to see, including the technique of making Japanese dolls (the tiny hands of 1cm are even made with wires), the making of fans … There are sometimes videos if ever a craftsman isn’t present to illustrate this art
I don’t think I have seen any explanation on how traditional Japanese candles are made (see picture below). I have seen on Netflix the making of these candles and frankly, I would never trade my job for this job, because it is a lot a lot of work for a little thing
If you love Japan, and you subscribe to Netflix, watch ABSOLUTELY the Japanese Style Originator series. It tells you how to order tempura, how to order and eat sushi, how to make this or that thing. It’s OUF! After watching this series, you will have a lot of esteem for the Japanese, their patience and perfectionism
Well, of course, after such a WOW visit, I robbed the store! 😀 to me the Japanese fans (remember, I went to see how umbrellas and fans are handcrafted in Chiang Mai – and the quality is far behind that of the Japanese. Japanese fans are made to last, in addition to being extremely aesthetic)
There’s a bookstore right next to the store, I don’t know if there’s a charge for access or not. I’m just a little disappointed not to have more info on paper arts. But anyway, I’m going to the Paper Museum in Tokyo soon
They organize workshops every Sunday afternoon, to personalize the handkerchiefs/bags… using stencils. Seen the examples shown above, which have nothing to do with the dyeing of kimonos, it doesn’t interest me too much
Kyoto Botanical Garden
We take the subway to go to the Botanical Garden where I have an appointment with my long time friend. He and his wife are Vietnamese and have been living in Japan for 12 years. So it’s natural that they propose me to meet them in a 100% local place
practical info: Entrance costs 200 yen, without access to the underground garden. If you want to go to the underground garden, you have to take the entrance at 400 yens, or pay 200 yens extra at the entrance of the garden.
I don’t actually see any tourists there. The places of hanami (observation and admiration of cherry blossoms) preferred by Japanese people are quite different from those of tourists. They like to have a place to picnic. While tourists rather look for instagram places
I complain that I only see cherry trees with white flowers, and they immediately bring me to see cherry trees with pink flowers. Ahhh there it is!
We also see future brides in photo shoots. They are dressed in a wedding kimono, 3-4 times heavier than my kimono rented yesterday
The tulips here are twice as big as the ones I see in France !
In the underground garden there are many flowers and fun things, like the largest flower in the world (there are two that are more than 1m wide). Lots of orchids
And a flower called “hot lips”, because it has the shape of very pulpy lips ahaha
Come on, some more cherry tree pictures
We leave the Botanical Garden and walk along the river. And there, I am treated to an impressive spectacle of cherry trees with pink flowers, just like in my imagination 😀
We then have lunch at Hananomai near Kyoto Station (which is unfortunately not indicated on Google Maps), a chain where you can taste Japanese specialties. Here too, there are only locals. It is a place particularly appreciated by locals who come to drink sake, chat and eat. One can sit on the normal chairs, or be on the tatami (but it hurts back and feet)
Here, the fish pieces are super thick (like 1cm). Everything is fresh, very good, even the fresh tea served for free is delicious
I take advantage of having two locals next to me to ask lots of questions about life in Japan, Japanese etc.. Here is the information that might be of interest to you
- for moving, you can call the Post Office to pick up your furniture and deliver it to your future apartment (whether in the same city or on the other side of the country). It will be cheaper than renting a truck and driving it
- japanese people start work quite late (9 to 10 am), so there isn’t much offer for breakfast because everyone goes to work and quickly follows up with lunch (which lasts 30mn on average). On the other hand, they can come back very late too (21h)
- There are Japanese books that are read from left to right, but most of them are read from right to left page. When Japanese is written vertically, you should read from right to left. But when it is written horizontally, you have to read from left to right
- To type Japanese on the phone, you type the phonetic version in hiragana alphabet, for example for kyoto you have to type the three letters corresponding to the phonetic ky-o-to, and then the phone will suggest the correct spelling of this word. This implies that you have to know how to write and read because there are many homophones. You can make a mistake and choose “I went to see a stone” instead of “I went to see a doctor”.
- japanese sounds are quite limited (25 if I’m not mistaken), so to form the different words, they need a lot of syllables => Japanese words are super long.
- There is no space between the two words. So you have to know the words to know where a word stops 😀
- I asked if omitting the gozaimasu behind “arigato” (thank you) makes me a rude outcast (I can’t remember that word), and they said it’s not a big deal, gozaimasu is a form of extreme politeness to add at the end, but its absence will not make me an outcast
- They also confirmed to me that konichiwa is also good for “good evening”; it’s good! Hallelujah! So I just have to remember ohayo gozaimasu (good morning) and konichiwa (good afternoon/evening).
- Japanese people are very happy that foreigners make the effort to learn would be only a few words in Japanese, so make the effort to learn the basic words when you are in Japan.
It is already time for us to leave our friends and go to the sanctuary of the thousand torii. This place is located between Kyoto and Osaka, that’s why we choose to visit it last, before going back home to Osaka
Fushimi Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is a complex of small shrines scattered throughout a mountain and main buildings at the foot of the mountain. This shrine encompasses the mountain also called Inari, 233 meters above sea level. The summit can be reached in about 2 hours of walking via one of the paths that extend for about 4 km
This shrine is best known for its thousands of vermilion torii (鳥居) forming a path on the hill on which the temple is built2. These torii (鳥居) are mostly donations made by individuals, families or companies to Inari
A torii or tori-i (鳥居?) is a traditional Japanese portal. It is commonly erected at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, to separate the sacred enclosure from the secular environment. It is also considered a symbol of Shintoism
Because of its function as a symbolic separation of the physical and spiritual worlds, each torii crossed when entering a shrine must be crossed back in the other direction in order to return to the material world. It isn’t uncommon to see Japanese people bypass a torii when they think they will not pass through it again later.
The first time I saw these portals was in the film “Memoirs of a geisha”, a controversial film from a very controversial novel I know I know. But hey, it allows people like me who know nothing about Japan to have a little preview of ancient Japan
Upon entering the temple (which is free), one can see numerous hanging mini-torii. They are torii bought by tourists (for 800yen) and there is a list of wishes in Japanese to write on the torii (wishes of health, happiness, success etc.) You can take one home if you wish. Once again, the Netflix series I was telling you about above has an episode dedicated to making (real) torii
The beginning of the visit is a bit difficult: too many people, we jostle for an ugly picture
And then we pass under smaller torii, tighter one to the other… and it’s almost unbearable
practical info: The advantage is that the entire route is wheelchair accessible, except for the first 10 meters leading to the entrance of the temple.
We are super disappointed… until we see that at the end of this series of small torii, there is a passage leading to the top of the mountain. We go up we go up… and there are more than thousand of them !!!! We left for 2 hours, without knowing it
The effort pays off, on the way, we see this type of landscape
The advantage is that most Chinese and Korean groups do not make the effort to go up. The 2 or 3 ugly selfies they made are enough for them. So, even if there are still people, it’s much more pleasant
When you go up, you don’t see the names of the donors on the torii
On the other hand, in the other direction, the names are clearly visible
The torii aren’t all the same color and the state of conservation is very variable because some are older than others. The sizes are a tad different. They cost donors between 1335€ and 9900€. If you are poor, opt for the mini-torii at the entrance of the temple at 800yens (6€). It will be ruthlessly thrown away at the end of the day, but hey … 😀 it’s the intention that counts
Along the way, we see many cemeteries and sacred places with small torii
We also see very beautiful flowers
From time to time, there is a place with sacred water, you must use the bamboo spatula to take water and clean your hands and mouth (you must not drink it, however). We see it at every temple entrance all over Japan
At the very top, we see an old cemetery, like all the others. But we are both very happy to have made all this way and we enjoyed the place to the maximum
What I don’t like too much is the numerous presence and the cries of the crows. Crows + Cemeteries, it’s a bit sinister
It isn’t very cool for us tourists because at one point, they force us to go down another way (this is the case of the small torii seen at the beginning). But the tradition wants that we cross again the same torii while going down, to be able to go down again in the material world
go one last picture of this magical place (note the presence of a cherry tree in bloom in the background)
We take 1h30 to return to Osaka, there is only one change (alleluia), so I could sleep a little. We are so exhausted that we dine in a chain type Matsuya next to us then dodo
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Museum of Traditional Crafts: free. on the other hand its great store may make you spend a lot: D small fan from 200yen, the most beautiful in 3000yen
- Kyoto Botanical Garden : 400yen (with visit of the glass garden), please bring some change because tickets can be bought by machine
- Fushimi Inari-taisha : free of charge
- City center => Kyoto Botanical Garden : 260yen
- Kyoto Botanical Garden => Fushimi Inari-taisha : 290yen
- Fushimi Inari-taisha => Osaka : 630yen
- Breakfast at Le Bac à Sable (I forgot how much it cost)
- Lunch: minimum 1000yen/person at Hananomi
- Today, we didn’t take a bus so we didn’t buy a day pass for the bus. The payment of the transportation (metro and train) was done with the prepaid ICOCA card.
- We almost took the wrong train, read our article to avoid the traps of google maps
- As we have appointments at the Botanical Garden, we visit in the order indicated, but I advise you to group your visits, because this garden is located at the very north of the city, and the torii at the very south of the city between Kyoto and Osaka.
- I advise you to visit the torii on your way to Kyoto, or on your way back to Osaka. Don’t visit them too late, there is no light at the top of the mountain and to be there with the cries of crows and cemeteries when it’s dark is sad!
- If you love crafts, the Museum of Traditional Crafts is for you! Preferably go there in the afternoon to see the geisha show. If you don’t like crafts, you will be bored to death (like JB) 😀
- The museum store offers to make tax-free invoices for any purchase over 5000yen, think about it and take your passport with you.
- Compared to Osaka, I find that the souvenir stores in Kyoto are much more numerous and qualitative, there is more choice and the products sold are really representative of the Japanese culture and craftsmanship, so don’t hesitate to stop by.
- To learn more about Japanese culture and crafts, watch the Japanese Style Originator series on Netflix without moderation