3.02.2017

Geisha Spotting

This was the absolute highlight of my trip. The first time I went to Kyoto it was just Lucy and I. We wandered around Gion one afternoon and unsurprisingly, saw nothing. This trip I decided to do a little more research. I learned SO much about geisha's and geisha spotting which really made this experience that much more special. I did not previously realized how special it is to see a real geisha. A lot of people think if you see someone dressed up like the lady above that they have seen a geisha, myself included before I did some reading. However, if they are stopping to take pictures, are not being mobbed by photographers, and don't seem to be hurriedly going somewhere, it's probably not the real deal. There are many people who pay to get made up as a geisha and walk around Kyoto, which anyone can do. Real geishas don't just roam around Kyoto in their full makeup and garb. Only when on their way to their event. They were stunning and amazing to see in real life. It was like celebrity spotting with paparazzi, but way better. The whole thing was hilarious and awesome, so I will tell the whole story below, along with some tips I learned. 
This maiko was the only one who had an escort walking alongside. 
First off, Geisha's are professional entertainers hired to perform and interact with guests during very expensive dinners and other special events. Teenagers train for 5 years to become a geisha. During this time they live in a okiya (geisha boarding school) and have an okason (house mother). During training they are called a "maiko" which is a geisha apprentice. Maiko's are under 20 and can be spotted by their more colorful accessories, and clothing. Geisha's dress very plain and usually only have one simple clip in their hair. All of the ladies I saw were maiko's except the last one. But for all intents and purposes I'm just calling them all geisha's in this post. :)

Your best chance to see one "in the wild" will be when they are on their way to one of their events. Most take taxis, but if the event is close by they will walk. They are always in the evening. I read that 5:45 was the time to be in Gion and that was perfect. I only saw them between 5:50 & 6 and then they were gone. This is why they typically don't stop to take pictures. They are on the clock and have somewhere to go. 

The other important factor is where you are. Gion is Geisha central-but their are certain areas to be. Hanamikoji Dori was the street I saw 4. I should say off this street. South of Shijo Dori and north of Gion Corner. If they can take an alleyway and not a main road, they will. I also read that sometimes you can spot them at nearby shrines praying before appts. But I think that's a little riskier if you don't have much time. 

Lastly, be respectful. I feel like it's a given, but people can get cray cray. Obviously they have somewhere to go, don't stand in their way and remember they are humans too. You can also watch maiko's perform for free at Gion Corner. 
if you see this sign you are probably in the right area ;)
This one I spotted walking down the alley after I had left to leave, so I walked behind her to get a picture and then was cracking up and felt so awkward bc of the mass of photographers in front of her.
 hey look who's in the background! ;)
The only real Geisha- do you see the difference between her and the other ones?

Now that you read the basic information, I have to tell my story. We had come back home one day after sightseeing and I had just finished reading all the info I could find on this topic. Duke kept saying "you're probably not even going to see one" I don't know what the big deal is". But what if I do?! I didn't want to miss out (#fomo). So I left Lucy and Duke at home and went out to see if I could see any. From everything I read they made it sound like I would be lucky to see even one. So I didn't even bother to bring my real camera. I also thought, I'll just enjoy the experience and not worry about pictures. I don't want to miss the moment. My plan was to hang around for 10 minutes and then go home. 

When I got to the area it was so weird! There were these photographers with some serious cameras just causally roaming around, clearly waiting for something. Then I started to realize we were all here for the same thing. I was walking down one of the streets and somebody yelled something and all of a sudden everyone clamored to one of the alleyways. I had a perfect clear shot of the geisha but didn't think to take a picture until she had turned the corner. We watched her walk to the end of the street with photographers on all sides following until she stepped into a taxi. Then all of a sudden everyone's running to another alley way. I was freaking OUT! I had seen 2 in like 2 minutes! And I didn't even expect to see 1!! Plus the excitement of the crowd made it more fun, everyone seemed to be equally excited to see them. Neither of the two ones smiled or looked at cameras and mostly seemed to be annoyed by it. Then I thought, well that's probably it and started to head back, after a few minutes I thought again, what's it hurt to stay till 6? So I turned down an alleyway and then saw a geisha (maiko) pass across my street. I hurried after her and was following her to try to get a better picture. No one had spotted her yet. (and now i'm thinking I should have just asked for a pic, who knows). But by the time I pulled my camera out the mobs had gathered at the end of the street. I hung out in the street a bit longer and we saw a real live geisha walk by. This one smiled and seemed a bit friendlier. I thought to myself if I were a geisha I would be cracking up every time that people are flocking to take pictures of me. I suppose it gets old after a while. After 6 I waited a couple more minutes and everyone seemed to agree that was the end. I made friends with a couple guys visiting from San Fransisco who seemed just as excited as me and they sent me one of the pictures that had me in the background. HA! I was so glad I took the 15 extra minutes to go see what all the hubbub was about. I was on a high the rest of the day. 

A couple articles with more information:

2.28.2017

Visiting Nara

On our last day of this trip we left Kyoto in the morning and drove an hour to Nara. We stopped at Todaiji Temple and interacted with the deer that roam around the area. I thought Todaiji was a bit of a unique temple. You get really "temple-ed out" siteseeing in Asia, but Duke and I still thought this one was cool. It was built in 752 and is the largest wooden building in the world! It was pretty big. On the inside is a 45 ft buddha statue.
As for the deer, wikipedia taught me that the ones in this area used to be considered sacred due to a visit from a certain god who appeared riding a white deer. Killing the deer was considered a capital offense punishable by death. After WWII the deer were stripped of their divine status but were designated as national treasure

Lucy's paparazzi-it never gets old!
In one of the wooden pillars of the temple there is this square hole at the base. It is believed to be the same size as the nostril of Buddha's statue sitting under the same roof. If you can fit through the hole you will reach enlightenment in the next life. So of course I had to stand in line and try!
Lucy was pretty timid of the deer as she is about most things, but I think she enjoyed seeing them from the comfort of dad's arms.
I loved all the fawns!
I had bought some weird snack from Family Mart that I didn't end up liking, so we fed the deer our 2 bags of them. These deer don't mess around when it comes to snacks!!
We thought this guy was going to follow us all the way back to our car^ but he eventually gave up.
I love the flight back to Okinawa. It's always so beautiful.

2.20.2017

Life currently

This last week (month?) has been so crazy for me. We are planning on flying Winston home tomorrow and that has consumed so many hours of my life this whole last month. If anyone needs to know anything about flying a bulldog from Japan to the USA I think I know everything now! Duke's sister came into town on Friday and we are sending him back with her. I honestly am not even 100% sure it's going to work, so I have been pretty stressed out about it.
I also got to play host to 4 Japanese students on Thursday for a few hours. They were here with their school from Niigata (somewhat near Tokyo). We got to practice english with them, take them to some sites around the island and feed them lunch. They were all 14 and had so much enthusiasm it really made the whole experience so fun. The first time we drove up a hill and they could see the ocean all the girls started screaming and freaking out. It made me laugh but I loved it!! We fed them PB&J for lunch and it was some of their first times having peanut butter!!! When they left they asked for my email to stay in touch and told me they miss me. Haha, seriously made my day!
Lucy is still cute as ever. She had a really rough day on Saturday that made me say if my next kid is a Lucy I'm done having kids! Ha. She just cried and whined the entire day. It was so rough on me. I think she may have been teething. She doesn't have all her 2 year old molars yet. I've learned that Lucy does not have a high pain tolerance. She has made it loud and clear each time she has had any tooth come through!
The weather here has been starting to get warmer and sunnier which has made me so happy and ignites my adventurous soul! We had a week or two in early February where it was cold (50's) and rainy and windy everyday. May not sound too bad, but I promise if you had been here you would have been freezing. Seeing the sun after that was basically the best thing ever. I'm ticking through my bucket list every weekend with Duke, trying to make the most of these last few months here in Okinawa! Although I keep adding things to my bucket list every week!
I made reading one of my goals this year. Last year I think I read 2 books. It was horrible! This year I finally finished Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. One of the best books I've ever read. Changed my life I might even say. (I'm a big nonfiction lover.) Read Talking as Fast as I can by Lauren Graham-actually listened to it on audible which was read by her. I really loved this book! Much more than I had expected to. Recently finished Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I thought it was so great. It made me realize the importance of speaking what you feel and also sitting through your pain vs. numbing it or trying to push it aside. I'm halfway through If you ask me (and of course you won't) by Betty White. I'm not sure if I'll finish it. It's pretty boring and just not what I expected. I love Betty White, but I was expecting more sage wisdom or how she got from here to there. It's none of that ha. Currently I'm listening to Shoe Dog by Phil Knight on audible and really enjoying it. He's the founder of Nike shoes.
I still have a few more posts from our Kyoto trip last July! Hoping to finish those soon and move onto my more recent adventures!

2.13.2017

Fushimi Inari Shrine & the Golden Pavilion

Fushimi Inari Taisha is my most favorite Shinto shrine. I love it for it's uniqueness and beauty and involvement of nature. Just past the shrine entrance there is a network of trails lined with torii gates that lead to the top of the mountain. There's smaller shrines along the way and even a couple restaurants. Lucy fell asleep so we enjoyed a nice peaceful, sweaty hike up and down the mountain. 

And for your history lesson...Inari is the god of rice in the Shinto religion and foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, which explains the foxes throughout the shrine. Also interesting is that all the torii gates are donated by companies or individuals, starting at $4000 and going up to a million! The writing you see on the sides of the torii gates are the names of those who donated them. 
entrance to the shrine^
 
 
One of the shrines at the top of the mountain
We stopped by the picturesque Golden Pavilion Temple as well. I didn't take many pictures since I took so many on my last trip.
We were cracking up at Lucy in this picture^^ She luckily napped so well on the go!