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Tea Ceremony and Maryuma Park

Gion Travel Blog

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Gion District

The bus route ended in the Gion District and fortunately Linda knew where we were. We were looking for a quick lunch before the tea ceremony, since it was now 2 and we missed lunch. We went into a cute little sandwich place, but they were full and the waitress told us to leave. They don’t like to have people wait inside restaurants. Maybe they don’t want to the current customers to feel rushed. I liked that we never felt rushed to leave so someone else could have our table. If you do decide to wait, you need to wait outside of the restaurant. We didn’t have time to wait, so we ended up at Starbucks. Not exactly my first choice, but we needed something quick and we all wanted to sit after an hour of standing on the bus.

I decided to use the restroom before we left and found my self quite relaxed on the toilet with the heated seat and little birds singing to cover up any noises I might make.

Geisha at tea ceremony
I decided to use the butt washer because they are novel. After a nice rinsing, I hit the stop button and nothing happened. I hit a few more buttons and nothing happened. The water kept spraying. I couldn’t exactly get up and walk away because the water would keep spraying all over the place. I was stuck! I hit some more buttons and then got lucky and found the main power switch. Whew! Now I could leave!

We walked down a little street full of tourists and locals alike. Some people were even dressed in their formal, traditional clothing. We got our tickets and entered the tea ceremony building. We were attending the Miyako Odori, a special program with a tea ceremony followed by traditional dance performances that only runs for the month of April.

women in traditional costume
We joined the long line to enter the tea ceremony and only had about a 15 minute wait to enter. And then chaos erupted!

Apparently 50 guests at a time are allowed to enter. The room is filled with low tables and stools. The front of the room has a stage where two Geisha serve the tea to the front table. Everyone was rushing to get a good seat. I was just trying to look for 4 seats together, but as soon as you sat at one table, someone else would join you. So we’d move and it would happen again. My Aunt was about to sit down on a stool when a little old lady hip checked her out of the way and stole her stool from under her! It was crazy! After about the fourth try, we finally got seats at two tables across an aisle from each other. Wow! We were seated and a server placed a placemat and small plate with a little, painted white rock in front of us.

performers before the show
Next came a large bowl with a little bit of green foam. I had no idea what was going on so I watched other people. Everyone was trying to take photos of the Geisha in front. Luckily we were in the second row, so we got some good photos. I looked at some Japanese people near me and saw bite marks in the rocks - oh, those must be food! I took a bite and they were pretty good! I think they were like moshi balls, only with a really, really thin rice shell and filled with bean paste. Yum! I tried the tea and almost gagged. It tasted like seaweed! I decided to swallow it in three large gulps. Turns out, that is how you are supposed to drink it! So the seated Geisha was grinding the tea to a fine powder to produce the foamy tea. The other one was serving people, one by one.
gardens at the tea ceremony
  It was a slow process but fun to watch. And just like that, the doors were opened and another group of pushy tourists came bursting in. We were allowed to keep our plates, so we packed them up and scooted out.

Since it was close to show time, we went to the auditorium. An usher seated us, but we got separated. I was in the lead and turned back to find the rest. When I turned back around, suddenly this little old lady cut across the aisle right in front of me. As I turned around, I totally hip checked her and she went flying into the lap of someone seated in the front row. Oh! I felt so bad! I tried to help her back up, but she was talking to those people, no doubt complaining about those pushy Americans! Or maybe she meant to talk to them? I didn’t know but was losing our usher so I hurried on.

close up of Geisha
Later, my aunt told me the story of the little old lady hip checking her. When my aunt told me that story, I told her mine and then we all felt a little better that I was just getting payback for her.

The dances were beautiful, with Geisha dancing and playing instruments. The men played the shamisan throughout. The theme was the four seasons and the dances reflected the seasons. The backdrops were beautiful. It was so relaxing that it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. I really didn’t want to be the one snoring. It really was beautiful, but I was just so tired. It wasn’t even until the final winter scene that I realized they were doing the seasons. Overall, this experience was expensive, but worth it.

After the performance, we walked through the Yasaka Shrine to Maruyama Park because I wanted to see the famous, old cherry tree.

the tea grinder
It looks a bit scraggly now, but is still impressive. We passed lots of food booths, including one with smoked fish on a stick - take that Minnesota State Fair!

We walked through the park to Kodai-ji Temple, the widow’s temple. We walked through a room covered in tatami mats (in our socks). It was nice and I liked the Zen rock garden here better. We even walked through a really cool bamboo forest. On the way out, we passed the Mani wheels. You earn merit by turning it once. If you have wishes regarding health, longevity, etc, you can walk clockwise around touching all the wheels with your right hand. I didn’t know this until after I walked around spinning all the wheels.

After the temple, we enjoyed the views of the city, as we were up on a hill.

the server
We also saw the 24 m tall concrete Kannon statue. We took a cab home and walked to the only restaurant we saw near the hotel. This was a little hole in the wall British Pub and it was awesome! It was lit by kerosene lamps and very dark inside. We had the place to ourselves. After a quick dinner, we took the subway out to Nijo Castle for some more night-time cherry blossom viewing. Only the grounds were accessible at night, with the paths lit by candles and lights shining on the trees. It was nice, but cherry blossom night photos don’t turn out very well. We walked the grounds and took the subway back home.

sarahsan says:
Glad that you picked this theatre. The performance is genuine. The theatre next to it has a very touristy show and not as professional.
Posted on: Jul 12, 2010
vances says:
Glad the performance turned out well...for a bit it sounded like you were attmepting to introduce ice hockey to Japan, lol!
Posted on: Jul 12, 2010
binky says:
Beautiful pictures of the Geisha! I wish I had seen one of the ceremonies.
Posted on: May 24, 2010
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Gion District
Gion District
Geisha at tea ceremony
Geisha at tea ceremony
women in traditional costume
women in traditional costume
performers before the show
performers before the show
gardens at the tea ceremony
gardens at the tea ceremony
close up of Geisha
close up of Geisha
the tea grinder
the tea grinder
the server
the server
the back of the neck is considered…
the back of the neck is considere…
tea service
tea service
people trying to take your tables …
people trying to take your tables…
auditorium
auditorium
Yasaka shrine
Yasaka shrine
praying
praying
girls in costume
girls in costume
fish on a stick!
fish on a stick!
the old cherry tree
the old cherry tree
the Japanese tourist pose
the Japanese tourist pose
walking on tatami mats
walking on tatami mats
the rock garden at the widows tem…
the rock garden at the widow's te…
the widows temple
the widow's temple
giant concrete Kannon
giant concrete Kannon
Kyoto framed by cherry blossoms
Kyoto framed by cherry blossoms
me and Linda being tourists
me and Linda being "tourists"
droppy cherry tree at night
droppy cherry tree at night
wood art
wood art
garden lit up at night
garden lit up at night
white blossoms at night
white blossoms at night
pink blossoms at night
pink blossoms at night
Nijo Castle wall at night
Nijo Castle wall at night
Gion
photo by: andytite