Friday, May 09, 2008

Kyoto 2008 Rewind: Let the Hanami Begin!

March 29th: My First Day Back in Kyoto

Sleepiness is no excuse to stay in bed when there is sakura to be seen!

As I've said a million times before, Kyoto is my happy place. I could go there any time, in any season, for absolutely no reason, with nothing to do, and I would be happy just being there. But Kyoto in the spring is a different beast altogether.

Experiencing Kyoto in the spring is hard to put into words. It's as if the city itself is a geiko, veiling herself with snow white sakura and soft, subtle shades of pink cherry blossoms, accented with brilliant crimson camelias, adorning herself in all the riches of spring for her biggest engagement of the year.

Cherry blossoms line the Kamogawa River, leading the way into the heart of Kyoto.

A bike ride beneath the cherry blossoms gracing the banks of the Kamogawa River and Kawaramachi-Dori.

One of the reasons I love Kyoto is because of it's walkability. Most of the time I spend there, I spend walking. I usually don't have much of a plan. I just go wherever the day leads me. Since we had just arrived in Kyoto the night before, we couldn't wait to get out and see how far along the blossoms had bloomed, and revisit all our favorite spots.

Taking a rest to listen to the sounds of the Kamogawa beneath a lovely shidare-zakura (weeping cherry).

A couple debates which way to go outside the newly renovated gate to Yasaka Shrine, also known as Gion-san.

Two young women in colorful kimono on the steps leading to the gate. The girl on the left is unmarried, which is why she continues to wear the long sleeved furisode kimono. The short sleeves of the young lady on the right signify that she is indeed off the market.

Married women chat inside the temple grounds. Behind them, hundreds of poor fortunes were tied to ropes in a hope that the visitors might be able to leave there bad luck behind.

An unlucky fortune tied amongst the cherries inside the shrine.

Special lanterns hung in Gion announcing the up-coming Miyako Odori, the annual spring dance of the Gion Kobu Geisha district.

A popular hanami spot in Maruyama Koen (Park).

Two ladies try to get a shot infront of a beautiful weeping cherry.

My brother and I on Tatsumi Bashi (Bridge) over the Shirakawa stream in Gion.

When my brother tried to get a picture of me on the bridge, a small group of Japanese tourists gathered around to snap a few, too. These guys even asked if they could get a picture with me, first with their cameras and then with their cell phones. "Bijin da ne!" (You're a beauty, aren't you!) Um, not exactly boys, but arigatou! Did I mention I love Kyoto?

Many people dress in Kimono for cherry blossom viewing, especially in Kyoto. Ketai are the camera of choice!

If you're going to wear kimono, you may as well go all the way! Many tourists dress up as maiko or geisha to sightsee and have souvenier pictures taken. Most of the "geisha" people see during day are actually just tourists playing dress up!

A young girl tries to get the perfect sakura shot with the help of her mother and older sister. I read somewhere that during a lifetime, the average Japanese person takes approximately 7,312 pictures of cherry blossoms.

It's also true that the size of a Japanese person's camera seems to increase proportionatly according to their age. Here a bunch of ojiisans (old men) snap away at the sakura.

Kimono-clad hanami along the Shirakawa.

The monument in rememberance of Yoshii Isamu, the poet and fellow Gion-ophile whose poem is engraved on the rock: No matter what they say, I love Gion. Even in my sleep, the sound of water flows beneath my pillow.

More coming soon!


alyson said...

**Squeals** New pictures! LOVE LOVE LOVE! Kyoto in spring is my happy place too!

Inge De Leeuw said...

Once again there are no words to express how amazing these photos are. You have such a good eye for composition & colour and an amazing sense of timing - I'm turning green with envy as we speak :-)!

bibsmr said...

beautiful set of pictures Melissa! :D i think that every season is special in Kyoto...

you look great on the pictures.

can't wait to read and see more of your kyoto trip. ;)


Jesus Christ Supercop said...

When they dress up a tourist as a maiko, do they intentionally make "mistakes" so that a keen observer can tell that it's not a real maiko?

In the picture you posted, the "maiko" has the dangling hair accessory (kanzashi, is it?) and fully painted lips, but this is a contradiction since only junior maiko wear the accessory, and their upper lip is not painted. Her collar seems to have an equal mixture of red and white, whereas a junior maiko would have a predominantly red collar.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

Hang on, I think I just witnessed an optical illusion. The "hair accessory" is actually part of the background, isn't it?

Well, I guess my question stands anyway. It's something I've been wondering for a while.

Abbey said...

Hooray! A great new post! Seriously, I'm counting it among my favorites. Miss you already!

Sera said...

What a onwderful time, I am so jealous Melissa!

You are ADORABLE in the Yoshii Isamu photo. ^__^