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Japan – Kyoto 31st October

We have known since our time in Japan just how much the Japanese love Halloween, from our first steps in Tokyo through to here in Kyoto there were pumpkins on street corners, halloween banners in food halls and fancy dress costumes on offer. Although the start to our day wasn’t particularly Halloween based we would experience more of this by the end of the day.

We had heard there was some bad weather on the way, the typhoon seemed to have missed this side of Japan but there were winds and rain to come, so after a filling and hearty breakfast from K’s – around £5.50 for eggs, toast, jam, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, juices, potatoes and frankfurters for the meat eaters we wanted to hire bikes again and set off around the city to do some historic Temple sight-seeing with the Golden Pavilion as our first port of call. It was a pretty long bike ride from the hostel and took over an hour to get there on our bikes, but we were enjoying taking in the streets around us, perhaps less so going up hills with no gears but all the same it was really good fun. We arrived at the Pavilion area and it started to rain, we hadn’t brought any brolly’s with us either so up went the hoods, plastic bags on the bike seats and we bought our tickets for the Pavilion. It was a real shame the weather was so poor, although it didn’t stop all the other hundreds of sightseers making their way to this site, it did mean we couldn’t get the best from our cameras and the Pavilion couldn’t shine in it’s full gold leaf glory. We find it hard to feel disappointed though as these things are always new to us and it’s all part of the experience being stuck in the rain at a world famous pagoda.

We thought it would take us a long while to get back so instead of going around the city as drowned rats we would just head straight back to K’s and then re-start the day when we had warmed up and dried off!! It took a further hour to get back and by that stage we were soaked, at the hostel they recommended we take a bath as otherwise they feared we would get a cold, so considerate of them! We opted for hot showers and cups of tea before deciding that catching up on photo-editing and blog writing would be a good idea. It’s very easy to fall behind with this!

So a couple of hours of editing, writing and joining in the chat with fellow travelers sitting out the rain and we were ready to go in search of a lonely planet recommended tea tasting ceremony a couple of tube stops away. It was still chucking it down but we were able to use umbrella’s from K’s (you can pick up a brolly outside anywhere and use it as long as it’s either returned or moved onto the next place for someone else to use). We arrived at En (the tea house) at 6pm on the dot, the last time slot of the day for the tea ceremony and were welcomed by a traditionally dressed young lady who welcomed us into the dimly lit tea room.

We were the only people in the ceremony so it was a really personal experience. She spoke to us about the history of the ceremony, that it is practiced as a form of meditation and conducted the ceremony, explaining that she would explain the process afterwards. It was a very heart warming experience with the sound of rain pelting down on the roof she quietly and smoothly went through the ceremony very methodically and in a way that was quite spell binding. She went on to say that an tea ceremony usually lasts around 5 hours and she would invite her friends round once a month to participate in the tea ceremony with her. The tea is green powdered tea and you whisk it up into a froth drinking it only when you have been invited to and after eating a Japanese sweet, that helps to take away any bitter tea taste. We each had a go at making our own tea and then asked her various questions and she posed for a few snaps for us. We felt really good after this, it was quite a calming experience.

We stopped off for a quick bite to eat at a local Thai restaurant on our way back and then joined in with the K’s Halloween party at the bar for an hour or so. Some of the staff did a performance and there were free sweets going around. The bar was packed and it was a good little atmosphere.

We didn’t stay out too late as on the list for the next day were a few trips where we would use our JR passes to get around.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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