Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Where Have All The Crowds Gone?

As the weather was looking a bit iffy, we decided we`d better not climb any mountains today so instead we explored the Higashiyama area. We`d been to the world-famous Kiyomizudera temple before (see night-time light-up post previously, from last year`s trip), but hadn`t seen much of the surrounding streets, which are filled with nick-nack shops old and new.

The morning`s weather turned out to be quite glorious and we had a lovely stroll round. But look at the picture above...this is one of the touristyest of touristy places in Kyoto (which is one of Japan`s touristyest cities to start with), but look, it`s empty. While many of the shopkeepers were working even harder to hawk their wares, others looked very dejected indeed. They`ve already had 6 weeks of high-season emptiness and who knows when people are going to start visiting Japan again? Even the Japanese seem to be staying home. We felt the best attitude was to be thankful that we could enjoy such a beautiful day without the crowds.
We did a bit of temple-hopping (the free ones) and put in a good few miles` worth of hiking; the hills of Higashiyama are very steep in places!
An orange tree in fruit beside the beautiful Yasaka Pagoda...
And around the other side, cherry blossoms!
Since we weren`t getting herded along in a tide of tourists, we had the chance to notice some off-the-beaten-track places, like this bridge leading up to a temple. Again though, see how deserted everywhere is...
For those brave and guileless enough to walk down a narrow passageway, a secret garden awaited. This lantern in particular caught my attention.
And what could be better for Daughter than a shop dedicated to Totoro!!!
Oh, that`s what could be better - another Totoro shop!!!
This man spoke very good English. He explained how he was carving a wood block which he would then print. He was selling postcards and notelets that he`d designed, carved and printed by hand. Even these tiny notelets were made from 4 separate wood blocks, one for each colour.
There were some more obscure shops, such as this one selling weird sculptures.
And this, which we reckon was some kind of Chinese medicine place...maybe.
At the top of a VERY steep hill was a museum of the Meiji Restoration period. This spans roughly our Victorian period and was a time of great social and political upheaval in Japan. There are 32,000 graves on that mountain alone for those who lost their lives. Although it was just about all in Japanese, it sparked my interest and is something I`ll definitely be reading up on when we get home. Especially the leader of the Shinsengumi Secret Police, of whom there was an extremely realistic lifesize model. I noticed quite a few ladies lingering over this model, and when I got up close I could see why. Tasty!

Daughter dressed in Shinsengumi costume, and a lady came running out with a samurai sword and lantern for her to hold. Fierce, no?
Lastly, random shot of the day has to be this one. Flyed Lise, anyone?


  1. It looks so beautiful. I hope you had a lovely trip and recharged your creative batteries. Such a shame that people are staying away, I do hope it picks up soon and people start returning.

  2. Totoro is my profile picture on Facebook!