Day 5

Today was a very cultural day. We started off with a very early morning, having to be in the lobby of our Hiroshima hotel at 7am. We quickly ducked down to Lawsons convinient store for a quick and nutritious breakfast and briskly walked to the Shinkansen. We had our breakfast before getting on the bullet train and we all took our seats ready for the very short 1 and a half hour trip. Apparently the scenery was lovely but I missed out because I fell asleep… Oops! After getting off the train we then caught another 10 min Shinkansen to Kyoto where we reached our final destination. After arriving we soon got back into our busy schedule and took many buses to many temples and shrines. We visited Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and another temple. They were all absolutely stunning and we took many photos of the magnificent scenery. The bus ride to Kinkakuji was very interesting after talking with Lili, I said that I could probably fall asleep standing up on the bus. Turns out that I actually did. There are photos to prove it. Whilst a little embarrassing it was a great laugh. After walking thought the shrines and temples and catching buses all day long, we caught another bus into the Gion District to spend the evening there. Gion is such an interesting place with many alleys and majority of people dressed in kimonos or wearing traditional japanese clothing. It was very interesting to look through. After walking for a bit, Miss Hyde and Mr Pope surprised us with a secret tea ceremony!  We went into a little building and sat on traditional tatami mats and cushions at a long table. We all sat there whilst the lady gave us sweet beans to start off the ceremony. The treats were so nice! After having a quick chat with the lady, a beautiful Maiko came out in a beautiful kimono with her makeup all lovely and her hair tied up looking absolutely stunning. She was absolutely gorgeous. She arrived with all the tea utensils and stared making three cups of tea for the first three guests. She only made three because the other 10 were being made it the kitchen as it would have taken to long to make all of them, one by one, in front of us. She made the cups of tea with such precision and was so graceful in what she was doing. She looked amazing and calm about it all. Because I was sitting on the edge and the head of the table, I was the main guest so I had the first tea and had to do a little traditional ritual thanking the Maiko, the other guests and slurping the last bit of the tea to show my appreciation. The tea was in a beautiful bowl like cup with gorgeous paintings of cranes and flowers on the side. The tea was absolutely delicious. It was a bitter green tea but it was so lovely and refreshing. After drinking the tea we asked the Maiko some questions about her training and how she lived her life. Some interesting answers we got was that she actually stared training when she turned 13, leaving home full time to become a Maiko. She is now 18. Another interesting thing we found out is that she actually leaves her hair in all beautiful and lovely all week! She doesn’t touch it at all except when taking out the hair piece. She has a special pillow that helps it to stay all intact at night. After talking she did a traditional dance it was absolutely beautiful! The story was about a forbidden love. Her movements where so soft and smooth. After watching the dance we played a special traditional game with a bowl where you had to place a flat hand on top of the bowl or fist where the bowl used to be when the other person picked it up. It’s hard to explain but it’s quite a simple game. Everyone lost to the experienced Maiko except for Austin who later felt bad for beating her! After the game we all had a quick photo and said our goodbyes. It was a lovely ceremony. After the tea we went to a ninja style buffet which was really cool! After dinner we caught the bus home and went to our new hotel. Our hotel has Japanese styled rooms with futons and tatami matts. its quite exciting! It was a great day full of more great memories.

Renee

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