Kyoto Gion: Feed the tourists what they want to see

Gion Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #75: Most tourists are not frugal. They make excuses for spending money like, “It’s okay, I’m on vacation.” Tourist attraction companies know this all too well. They set their prices so it’s low enough that someone wouldn’t think that it’s too ridiculously expensive, but high enough for the tourist to shake their head in shame feeling like they’ve somehow been shafted for the price. I must admit that it’s a great business and it will always profit.
Traveling from Ojika to Kyoto was a 10 hour struggle. The transfers and schedule timing made my head spin. Luckily for us, these travel arrangements were all under the capable (soft, silky-smooth, and disease-free) hands of Yuka.
I commend her for a job well done (as opposed to medium-rare). She was our map, compass, and commentary throughout the entire trip, and I am very grateful for her assistance.
We arrived at Kyoto late in the afternoon – finally, a place I recognize and can actually talk about. I was itching to start conversations earlier in the trip about Japanese history or my old experiences there, but everywhere I went was completely new to me. Every moment seared its first impression in my mind and left me extremely happy to be alive and on my own – all the more happy to take more pictures and share the stories with my friends and family (and, evidently, the entire Internet).
Gion – I really wanted to see geisha in the old style streets walking politely with their layers of makeup and cute little wooden slippers.
I was almost tempted to hire one so I could take pictures with them and have them pour tea and dance for me or something. Luckily, we saw a few in the streets holding the arms of businessmen who had somehow heard my thoughts and taken my ideas. It probably took them twice as long to get to where they wanted to go because people would keep on stopping and talking to them about the geisha. I guess this is why a 12x zoom comes in handy from an SLR. That’s straight creepster status – great job taking those crystal clear pictures like a stalker or a private detective spying on unfaithful husbands. By the way, these girls walk very briskly with their platform wooden clogging shoes. The kimono restricts a lot of their thigh angle movement so they need to shuffle like Marvin the Martian from Bugs Bunny ages ago (Gosh, I miss RoadRunner and that crazy Coyote – Saturday morning memories).

Everyone from the tour except Yuka attended an hour performance focused on old Japanese traditions and culture. I hadn’t seen so many gai-jin in one place for a long time. Everyone had a camera and they all looked so weird (what’s wrong with their eyes?). I had been around so many Japanese people, that I felt awkward fully understanding what they said and seeing them do all the obnoxious things with the camera that I do subconsciously. To me, the start of the performance was observing the audience. They looked so pasty.
The performance was split into five sections. The first one was a traditional tea ceremony where an old lady makes really concentrated green tea the old fashion way. It would have been funny to see her take out a supermarket tea-bag and add hot water very gracefully (ooo, ahh… *snaps pictures).
Instead, she carefully followed all the steps like a skilled barista, as the girls on stage played gorgeous music with their fingertips. The music also accompanied a flower arranging ceremony, as well (they weren’t that good – I would have made a masterpiece with those two flowers). Other performances included a comedy spoken in a deep old-Japanese style voice about servants drinking all of their master’s sake while tied up. Another was a 3-ft puppet controlled by three guys. It sung and danced to an opera about a prince looking for love, or something like that.
It didn’t really matter what they did in this performance. To me, the very fact that they get all these tour buses paying $30 per person for an hour show means that they’re just showing the people what they want to see.
It was quite good, but I think that crowd would have been impressed with anything. Dress up like a samurai and stomp around in circles – great. I think I had unnecessarily high expectations. Maybe I was expecting some fireworks or a resurrected dragon.
After the show, we had dinner at a conveyor belt sushi place. As you can see from the picture below, I left with my hand on my stomach and a smile on my face – completely satisfied with a lovely night. 26 plates was a record for me. I miss that sushi (especially at $1.25 per plate for all plates).
~See Lemons Injected with Japanese Culture

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photo by: andytite