Geishas, Gion and clubbing Kyoto style
Kyoto Travel Blog› entry 2 of 5 › view all entries
I arrived in Kyoto yesterday and I must admit the public transport system is quite different from the easily understood one in Nagoya. The problem with the Kyoto system is that there are a lot of competing systems and the metro, frequently the easiest way to get around a foreign city is not entirely useful. Anyway, I struggled to my home for the next four days in Kyoto; the Bakpak hostel in Kyoto. This is part of a chain of hostels in Japan with sister sites in Tokyo and Osaka. They offer very cheap accomodation (mine was about £9 ($18) for a dorm bed per night) and have no curfew so you can stay out as long as you want! I dumped my rucksack and headed out into Kyoto city.
The position of the hostel is excellent for reaching many of the sites of Kyoto, as it is located just to the west of the famous Gion district, an area populated by low old-fashioned tea-houses - presumably the haunt of many a geisha. These are the famous painted ladies of traditional Japan, sometimes erroneously seen by westerners as high-class prostitues but in fact they are nothing of the sort. Really the best way perhaps to describe them is like a sort of hostess and dinner companion. They would put on exquisite dance and musical displays and entertain their male guests with clever small talk and the afformentioned displays which required extreme skill. I wondered around the area for a while taking in the sights and sounds of this area before heading off towards the hills stumbling across many shrines along the way.
It is here that you begin to understand the complexities of the religion within Japan. Many Japanese are followers of both Buddhism and Shinto - the original religion of Nippon. The two are seen as complimentary, with Shintoism being the religion of earthly needs and Buddhism taking care of your soul when you die. The temples around Kyoto contain either one (or sometimes elements of both it seems) and it is the entrances that usually tell you whether the shrine is Shinto or Buddhist. These shrines are normally very well looked after by their monks and treated with extreme reverence by visiting Japanese and (usually) the foreign tourists. More on the temples in my later blogs though, Kyoto has many, many temples!
Yesterday evening I went out for drinks with other travellers I met in the hostel, two aussie guys, a british girl, a swiss girl and a turkish/austrian guy.
A great night was had dancing away in this place. Despite the fact that the place was owned by some australians, the appearance of foreigners does cause some interest in the local population. You may struggle to communicate however unless you know a lot of Japanese. The aussies had already perfected the word kawaihe which they told me meant cute. I have since found out however that if you aren't careful you may actually be saying scary! So don't be surprised if you get some strange looks! The DJ wasn't particularly great (a copy of iTunes on your laptop does not a DJ make) but if you've managed to neck a skinful at a 200 yen bar the night will be pleasant, even if you do end up feeling rather bad at stumbling into your dorm at gone 5 in the morning!