Geisha Spotting in Kyoto, Japan

After tromping around the mountains for a week we headed to Kyoto for five days to soak in some Japanese culture. We took a multitude of trails to get around, punching four separate cards to arrive at Kyoto from Kamikochi. 

Shinto is the main religion of Japan. Shinto temples are characterized by their bright wooden posts, painted orange to ward off evil spirits. The temple below was just outside our ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn).

Our first night in Kyoto we grilled meat on a hot charcoal plate, a typical Kyoto dish. 

Above and below are pictures of "Kyoto's Pantry" otherwise known as Nishiki Market. Below is a popular octopus treat! The heads are replaced by ostrich eggs. No we did not try this; we admired this one from afar. 

Adorable bikes are a popular way to get around in Kyoto! Bikes were complete with adorable baskets on the front and nice leather seats. Children's bikes were similar to the adults' - no Barbie bikes here! There were even huge bicycle garages for parking while people went into work. 

In the Shinto religion bunnies are symbols for procreation and easy child birth. These pictures are in a temple dedicated to fertility. 

These are pictures from a Shinto cemetery -- beautiful but eery.  

We're still not sure what the above is but it wasn't an uncommon site around Kyoto. Sometimes these structures were featured outside people's homes. 

The Kyoto Imperial Palace

One of the most important things for us in Kyoto was to learn about the Maiko and Geiko (Geisha) culture. It is fascinating and couldn't possibly be summarized here. Some great summaries of Maiko featured here and geiko (geisha) featured here if you are interested.  

Participating in a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with Matcha Tea - so cool!

On the left is a woman playing a Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument and on the right is the art of traditional Japanese flower arranging called Ikebana.  

A beautiful Maiko dancing

Traditional dancing and puppet play demonstrating traditional Japanese stories

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 

Can you believe these are all plastic?! They look incredibly real. 

Paul preparing to enter one of the most important Shinto shrines in Kyoto - the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  

Prayers from people all over the world

There are 1,000 of these posts along the trail to the top

The above symbol is a called a manji used frequently in Buddhist tradition. This symbol has been used for thousands of years by many different cultures throughout the world. It is not always a symbol for Nazi Germany. 

Our last delicious meal for our Japan adventure was at Shabu Zen, an amazing restaurant which serves sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a typical Japanese dish, which usually consists of thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked over a hot pot at your table. The meat and veggies are cooked in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and mirin. After the meat and veggies are cooked, you dip your mouthful into a bowl of raw egg. We were skeptical of this combination especially with a long flight the next morning, but it was one of the most delicious meals we have ever had in our lives.

One of the highlights of our Kyoto trip was seeing a real live geiko walking through the streets in Gion! Here she is on her way to a client meeting. Many tourists try to get a picture with them as they go to and from their client appointments, but they are usually in a hurry and therefore do not indulge visitors for photos. It appears as though she was a full geiko (as opposed to an apprentice) based on her white collar.