A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Historical Traditional Kyoto

Kyoto is an enchanted city with its beautifully manicured gardens and perfectly presented time-honoured Geiko. Not many traditions have withstood the test of time like that of the Geisha culture which has roots in the 18th Century.

On our first night in Kyoto, we went on a guided tour of the Gion district where we learned about this culture, be it rather quickly. Kyoto is the heart of the Geisha world and here, in Kyoto, Geisha are called Geiko. We learned about how the apprentice period when they are called Maiko, is brutal but necessary in order to preserve this tradition in its purest form.

I realized that many Japanese girls aspire to become a Geiko which, to many westerners, have a somewhat sexual and negative connotation. Here, they are the epitome of perfection and are treated like Hollywood stars, hence the attraction for young girls.

I also love the fact that most Japanese, or so it seems, have a very flexible and inclusive view of religion. They are surrounded by Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples with a touch of Catholicism to close the loop. Our guide herself came from a Buddhist father and a mother who’s family would trek to Shinto Shrines every day to ask the gods for prosperity while she, herself, went to a strict Catholic school. I believe it is the fact that they are surrounded by so many gods that this society is so accepting when it comes to others believing in another specific god.

We have visited several shrines and have asked for health, beauty and prosperity, all in the name of living like a local. And those treks to shrines are not to be taken lightly. For those who choose a daily shrine visit, there is absolutely no need for the gym. Most shrines are constructed on hills and you must climb several flights of steps to get to the main gate.

Also in the name of local traditions, we attended a tea ceremony in full kimono attire then went for a samurai experience where we dressed as ninjas and had lessons in katana fighting, ninja star & blowdart throwing. We all loved it. Their technique is flawless and they are amazing teachers. We all would have taken hours of training had it been possible.

And this is thanks to Marc, our friend with whose family we are traveling, for I don’t think we would have gone for such a thing as a samurai experience had it only been our family. But as Marc had done a lot of research prior to this trip, we know that this was the best and most accurate place to try such an experience.

On the other side of this coin, we have also been finding it a bit difficult to follow his full schedule, trying to keep up with the busy pace, not wanting to disappoint anyone. I seem, however, to be disappointing many as I am much more exhausted than normal and quick to get upset when I have to run at someone else’s request. This being said, I strongly believe I should be more patient (I did buy a ‘patience’ amulet hoping it will help 🙂 and accepting, especially when following a large group. We are the ones who chose to leave the planning in someone else’s hands and we now have to contend with it. I really hope our friendship will survive.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in a train bound for Tokyo. In Tokyo, my family will have its own apartment, one, however, with beds on the floor as well as a traditional kitchen with cushions on tatami mats.

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