Our time in Kyoto was full of serendipitous discoveries as we wandered the city. Some highlights:
Hashimoto Kansetsu Museum and Garden: A magical garden—I envisioned the peace I would have sitting among the plum trees next to the lazy brook, painting the ducks in the pond or drops of water falling from a leaf after a rain. The artist’s magnificent work immediately captivated me, his style being the subtle yet powerful manner of Asian art. I bought a print of one painting, a small puppy crawling over a bale of straw; the moment moved the artist as it would me.
Gion Heihachi Shinsen-en: We ate at this fantastic restaurant located in a garden that dates back to 794. A beautiful setting for an exquisite meal of kaiseki (traditional Japanese fare).
Sake Bar Yoramu: Yoram Ofer, the owner, hails from Israel but has been living in Japan for over twenty years. A true connoisseur of sake, he taught us more about sake than I’ll ever be able to remember. He also dispelled many sake myths, such as warm sake is bad or that sake can’t be aged. We sampled eleven types of premium sake, ranging in age from a few weeks old to nineteen years.
Doshisha University: Hitoshi-san took us on a tour of his university, located in downtown Kyoto. Joseph Hardy Neesima, the college founder, traveled to Boston on a ship named the Wild Rover, escaping illegally so he could study at Amherst College. He returned ten years later and built a university based on “conscience education.”
Arashiyama: The Hozu River runs in this serene valley and our ryokan was located right on the banks of the river near the famous Arashiyama Bridge.
Ogura Hyakunin Isshu Hall of Fame Shigure-den: The museum features “classical poets who transcended space and time,” who composed waka. Waka are classical Japanese poems with a structured rhyming scheme similar to haiku and written on a special paper known as shikishi.
You begin your adventure by playing a game called karuta on a glass floor filled with screens. On your handheld device an image of a waka card appears, you then have to find the same image on the floor. I am proud to say I placed first both times! After the game a skyscape of Kyoto appears and you can choose locations you want to see and a bird guides you to it on the map.