Japan – Day 4

Good evening all, or should we say, ‘good morning’!? Today our friends jet-lag and exhaustion certainly made their presence known- I don’t think a mini-bus of 13 teenage girls have ever been so quiet; ‘The Best Driver in Kyoto’, certainly wasn’t complaining! Don’t worry though, we quickly found our zeal for exploring and we were definitely met by thrilling visits and equalled excitement from the students of Kyoto Koka Junior Highschool, but more on that later …
     Our day officially began at 9:30 ( ‘yes – a lie in!’), after a delicious range of intriguing Japanese breakfast cuisine and greatly missed western style buffet foods. We met with our guide (Keiko) and embarked on our first adventure; ‘ To the KinKaku-hi we go!’. The Golden Pavillion ( as it is known to the western world), is an incredibly scenic location full of culture and religious history. The kinkaku itself is coated in gold foil on lacquer  , and a sight of extremely intricate beauty. Alongside the obvious immediate allure, the temple is home to relics of the Buddha. The gardens and buildings are said to represent the pure land of Buddha in the world, and the area overall is recognised as a World Cultural Heritage Site ( as of 1994). There are also statues of the Buddha (to offer coins in exchange for good luck to), and, according to traditional Buddhist tales, partial ashes of the Buddha are located in the prestigious rooms themselves. When attempting to land coins successfully in the pot, one can say with confidence Mr Davenport’s aim was far from accurate, as was Aahi’s( who received 2 years bad luck consequently), but Lia has a deadly accuracy! As the most picturesque visit to date, the staple of Muromachi- period architecture is absolutely a Japanese must see rich with culture and beauty. The golden temple, in the golden sun, wins gold from us !
    Back on the bus and off on our travels again, this time to the highly anticipated school visit. As soon as we passed through the gates, we were met by bright eyes and wide smiles. ‘Konichiwa!’ To begin the session, the students and staff presented a talk on Kyoto and then proceeded to lead a tour. Despite a total of 130 students, the building was great in size and facilities ( including a full-sized auditorium and traditional culture rooms) , and quite simply put the Devisdale to shame! During lunch we were taught how to use the vending machine system, and enjoyed a meal of chicken and rice- not quite the famous AGGS brownies, but delicious nonetheless! Afterwards we joined an English class and played a game of, ‘Two Truths, One lie’, which allowed us to learn about the girls and find lots in common ; Eva especially indulged in engaging conversations about K-Pop phenomenons ‘BTS’ and ‘TWICE’. They then performed mini- assemblies on their favourite parts of Kyoto and their enthusiasm was contagious! We definitely want to come back and explore Japan during Cherry Blossom season; 2020 reunion anyone?!  The students were incredibly proud of their school and culture, generally an absolute credit- as we hope we have been to our school as well. Hopefully by the time of our GSCE’s, our language of choice as as strong as their English !
     Our third visit of the day was to Nijo-jo Castle, another World Cultural Heritage Site. Upon arrival, we were asked to remove our shoes as a form of respect and then entered the grand building. The floors are often referred to as,’nightingale floors’, and described by legend as a purposeful rat tic to detect invading parties. However, the singing floorboards are a result of old age and the  longevity of use. Through the castle the walls are decorated by paintings, which can be used to differentiate between time periods. The earliest painting depict tigers (a symbol of power used to intimidated enemies) but as you progress the art begins to convey messages of good health and luck ,by portraying cherry blossoms and including bamboo illustrations. As the home of the Shogun and family, the castle is of a traditional nature and include floor levels to symbolise status ; the Emperor always being position above the military leader. Furthermore despite the authentic identity, the castle is in fact a 1950’s replica of the 14th centenary original as the building was burned down in the aftermath of WW2 ( by vengeful monks).The experience enables great appreciation of evolution in Japan, from the opening to trade in the 18th century, the regrowth after WW2 loses and the abolishing of the top knot!
      Only one quick stop left in today’s sight seeing adventure : the Heian Shrine. Together we gathered to make wishes and purchase charms to wish loved ones luck and success.. The Shrine was a captivating sight of religion in practice, and a fantastic way to immerse ourselves into the culture of Japan. Finally we travelled back to our hotel for the next couple of nights. There we relaxed and regenerated before heading off for dinner.
    Tonight we were allocated a 2000 yen budget, and dispersed across multiple restaurants to enjoy our penultimate evening meal. While some braves new Japanese cuisine and others retried new-found favourites, we opted for a flavour of our food home away from home: a good old pizza! We know, we know;  ‘ but, you’re in Japan!’  To make matters worse ( or better, depending on  how you look at it), we also had time to go shopping were we enjoyed a good old Starbuck; basic much !? We loved experiencing ordering despite the language barrier, and the cheap ‘Forever21’ prices didn’t hurt either!
     That’s it from us, sayōnara! We hope you have enjoyed our blog.
      From Amba, Eva and Malak.