For my last day of work, Thursday, March 31, TYK organized for me a day trip in Kyoto! Visiting several temples to go enjoy the cherry blossoms, eating in a high Japanese cuisine restaurant and watching a dance performance by Geishas are on the program! Followed by a meal to celebrate my departure with the leaders of TYK in Tajimi the evening! Excited I join Kaku-san whom accompanying me during this busy day!
We take several trains to Kyoto, including the Shinkansen. T’s my first time! (As you’ll see from reading this article, I will try many firsts times during the day). The long nose of the train is not to his advantage. This might be for aerodynamic issues but it is really not very pretty. The interior looks like an airplane but with more space: rounded windows, reclining seats with tablet, rows of numbered seats, neon lights. Added to this is a flow of information that scrolls at both ends of the wagon. It informs of course, on stops, but also the weather, the news, the state of Japanese corporations and companies… Around 9:30am, we arrived in Kyoto. Just landed, we meet Mr. Matsumura, our taxi driver for the day. First time in a Japanese taxi! It’s comfortable. Mr. Matsumura seems to be happy to meet me. He said he has studied French during one year during his studies. Demonstration of the few words he knows and let’s go!
Our first destination was supposed to be the Daigo-ji temple in 20 minutes by car from the center of Kyoto. But Mr. Matsumura indicates that the schedule is too tight and it is better to visit the gardens of the Imperial Palace. It is closer and is “The number 1 spot in Kyoto to see the cherry blossom” according to our driver. The gardens are 51 hectares and host the Kyoto-Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace) which served as the official residence for the Emperor until the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868. Sure the place is beautiful. We skirt the palace (visitable only with reservation) and arrive in a corner of the garden with many beautiful cherry blossoms. Several species coexist for color variations from pure white to almost hot pink. Weeping cherry (with falling branches) are impressive. A lot of people came to marvel at this fragile beauty.
We finish our tour of the park and we must already go. Lunch at 11:30 in a high gastronomy Japanese restaurant or Kaiseki. This is a cuisine where the harmony of taste, texture, appearance and color is desired. Generally a dozen dishes make up a meal. Kaku-san and I find ourselves in a “room” with view of the small Zen garden, around a large round table where a lady in a kimono brings the different dishes one after the other. Only fish on the menu and a lot of things I have never eaten, for interesting flavors but a bit strange! We start with a green tofu, followed by sashimi (red tuna, salmon and other), a kind of vegetable soup and shrimp ball, sushi including a sea snail and a small octopus. I hesitate on the snail and octopus but it’s now or never. Octopus goes smoothly, the snail less. The texture is strange. We continue with tempura (fried dough) with vegetables and shrimp, then a kind of eel omelette, rice and miso soup, ending with a dessert that contrasts with the rest as it is very European: cake gelatinized with strawberries, white grapefruit and cream. A delight.
A bit limited on the schedule, we leave at full speed to reach the Kamishichiken-kaburen-jo theater. It is the highlight of the day: the Kitano Odori. Event not to de miss in Kyoto in late spring, the Kitano Odori is a traditional dance and theater performed by the Geishas of Kyoto. Geek (confirmed geisha) and Maiko (apprentice) perform, three times a day for two weeks, dances accompanied by traditional instruments like the shamisen (long-necked lute of Chinese origin) or the koto(long zither). We arrived 2 minutes before the start! I barely have time to enjoy the room with pretty red lanterns, that the show begins. The first part is very similar to Kabuki I saw in Tokyo last November. A little too theatrical for me. The second part is only the dance. For about thirty minutes, forty geishas perform several traditional dance numbers in sumptuous costumes. (As the pictures were not allowed, I found for you a video on youtube). Magnificent sight!
>After the show Kaku-san and I join Mr. Matsumura which takes us to see the Kitano Tenman-gu temple right next to the theater. We do the Omikuji (divination), but I fall on not very good predictions. After those drawn with Kato-san a few days earlier, it starts to become worrisome! I hang my paper properly to try to counter the bad luck.
Mr. Matsumura then brings us to the station where I buy omiyage (gifts / souvenirs) for people of TYK. Specialty from Kyoto : Namayatsu hashi : end thin rice cake with red bean paste and with various tastes (chocolate, green tea, cherry blossoms …) and skewers tangos of different tastes and colors.
The return to Tajimi is quiet, Kaku-san and I sleep, tired by the day. We part at the train station, Kaku-san can not attend to the party. I warmly thank her and embarks in a small bus where the directors of the R&D center: Koike-san and Takayama-san, others of TYK and Mrs Okamoto (the landlady of the dormitory) are. We arrive at a restaurant where a large dining room was reserved just for us. A long row of small individual tables are aligned next to each other. Forty guests are provided! Traditional meal on the menu. That may be a bit much, all this for me. Mr. Ushigome (President) arrives and everyone sits down. I sit next to him. Kanji-san is here too! The evening takes place in a very friendly atmosphere. I exchange a lot with the different guests and Mr. Ushigome. Aided by sake, tongues are loosened and the usual restraint of the Japaneses gradually disappears. We finish the evening (small group of ten people: mostly people from the R&D center) at Karaoke! Another first for me! This is an opportunity to appreciate (or not) the musical performances everyone. I sing “La vie en Rose” by Edith Piaf. The atmosphere is friendly and full of jokes. I really appreciate these last moments with people of TYK, with a little feeling of regret for not having known them like that earlier. Then Kanji-san brings me back to the dorm where I fall asleep, full of memories and with a new vision of the people of TYK.