A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Category Archives: Around the World

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.

On August 6th, 1945, the atomic bomb “Little Boy” exploded roughly 180 meters (590 feet) straight up above this quiet spot on a side-street of modern day Hiroshima, Japan. Atlas Obscura 

Upon our arrival in Hiroshima, we were fortunate enough to have booked a walking tour with an amazing guide, Keiko, from which we learned quite a bit about the history of Hiroshima. Keiko’s own father, who lived 40 kilometres from the city was visiting Hiroshima that fateful morning and was at the train station when “Little Boy” hit the city. Fortunately, as he was wearing a white t-shirt, his burns were limited to his limbs and face. But from that point on, he never talked about his experience, not even to his daughter who became a guide and recounts this tragic story almost every single day. Some want to bury these memories while others need to voice them so we never forget.

Hiroshima has a beautiful way, however, to vow for peace and prosperity. This is done through paper cranes that are made, bought and sent to Hiroshima by the millions every year. The story goes that this little girl who was a toddler at the time of the explosion developed leukemia. She was told if she made 1,000 paper cranes, her wishes would come true. She was indeed able to complete the cranes before her death, and the paper cranes became the symbol of peace for the city and country as a whole.

Walking through the city and learning about nuclear power was as beautiful as it was horrifying. It seems the world needs to be shown devastation for it to work toward peace and harmony. And even then, history keeps repeating itself and we keep electing leaders for whom world peace is second to wealth and profitability.

As for our accommodations, well, our Canadian backs (or knees!!) are simply not made for mats on the floor to sleep, eat and play. As much as I wanted the true Japanese experience, getting to the floor and up put a real strain on my body and my poor feet took the brunt of it. I feel like an injured duck walking through the streets of the city while beautiful kimono-clad women walk gracefully by.