For part of this term we explored the old capital of Kyoto — a city that has been left largely unscathed by the ravages of war. There we had the opportunity to visit Nijō Castle, one of seventeen historic monuments in Kyoto that have been certified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We also set sail on the Hozugawa River for a two hour scenery-laden boat ride concluding in the Arashiyama area, where we were able to visit the holy Tenryuji Temple and Sagano Bamboo Forest. The Women’s Association of Kyoto instructed us on the proper way to roll sushi, and a trip to Gion Corner provided an insightful look into seven traditional performing arts, including Kyogen comedy, Kyomai dance, and Gagaku imperial court music.
The highlight of the trip for some of our students was an hour spent taking afternoon tea with a maiko at Ochaya Tomikku, a traditional tea house in the Gion Geisha district. After we finished sipping tea, we visited the awe-inspiring Sanjūsangen-dō, a beautiful Buddhist temple containing 1,000 armed statues of Kannon. Our visit culminated with a Samurai Kembu exhibition at the Otsu Traditional Performing Arts Center, where nimble swordsman demonstrated the samurai spirit with their blades.