Wandering the Streets
Unlike Tokyo, Kyoto was not a major target of WWII bombing raids, which preserved the city's pre-war look and feel. It is one of the greatest walking cities we've ever visited. Outside of getting lost in back alleys, we encountered a Zen bamboo grove before the morning bustle, a mountaintop troupe of Japanese macaque monkeys, a youth softball game at the Imperial Palace, a pleasant path along the central canal, and much more.
Arashiyama Monkey Park
This 30 minute hike has to be one of the best bangs for your buck in the world. We knew there would be a troupe of Japanese Macaques at the top, but the size of the group blew away our expectations. They're everywhere!
What is a Geisha?
Our first date night abroad brought us to the Pontocho Theatre for a traditional autumn Geisha dance performance, known as the Suimeikai. Setting the language barrier aside, the performance was very different from Western theatre. Performers' motions are very slow, deliberate, and packed with symbolism hidden to untrained eyes (like ours). Not even locals are able to fully decipher the meaning. Nonetheless, we used our imagination to create storylines to match the stage, then compared notes after the show.
One question that we had after the show was what is a Geisha really? We learned that geishas are female hostesses rigorously trained in traditional music, dance, and conversation for the primary purpose of entertaining men.
- Fewer and fewer women are choosing the lifestyle today.
- Training can begin as early as 15, and some will take on the lifestyle until retirement.
- Women can't be a Geisha and be married.
- Sexuality plays a very small role in the lifestyle, with a few exceptions: (1) Flirting is an acquired skill to enhance conversation and (2) the nape of the neck (a highly erotic zone in Japanese culture) is exposed for trainees as a sort of distraction while they improve conversational skills.