Text and photos by Ewa Szubska
Coming to Japan has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I have read books, news on the internet, watched Japanese series, attended Japanese Days on my University in Łódź, Poland, tried Japanese food in restaurants but… it all became more real after coming to Nippon (a reading of kanji that refers to Japan). It is a different feeling when you are actually in the country, fulfilling your dream.
I would like to tell you about my experience in the cherry blossom country. While traveling I noticed that roads and stations are really crowded, but you probably already knew about it 😉 Most of people are wearing suits. When they are waiting in a station they are standing in a line – it surprised me a lot. To get into a train, which I am traveling on right now, you have a certain amount of time to get in or out. This time we had 90 seconds to get onto the train. No wonder that the public transport is always on time. The seats are really comfortable and have a lot of space even for tall people. Enough about transport, I had a really interesting day in Kyoto today and I want you to read it, not skip the middle because it is too long ;-D
Firstly, we went to the Golden Pavilion Temple. We had really nice weather, so we were enjoying the beautiful garden on which you would like to spend a day, just passing through it, viewing and relaxing. Afterwards, we visited a Buddhist temple. The main religions in Japan is Buddhism and Shinto. It can be hard to understand that Japanese people do not only have one religion. Shinto is about “kami” which are gods and they are with Japanese people during their life, but after passing away that religion is not enough. Here is where Buddhism plays a role. When we were coming into the shrine we needed to take off our shoes. It is believed that on your shoes there are “evil spirits” from the outside and taking the shoes off is viewed as safe. While doing that you can not touch the floor with your shoes or socks. That kind of behaviour is not only in a temple, but also in daily life while coming to the house. While coming to a temple we enter in socks, but before coming into we bow. We put our shoes in the plastic bags which we were carrying during the visit. For lunch we went to eat with the monks, a traditional Buddhist meal. The meal was without meat and fish. To fill the lack of protein they are eating beans.
The last stop we had in Kyoto, at the Kawamura Noh Theatre. I saw same pictures before coming to see it, but it actually suppressed me a lot! I thought that this is like the show in the masks which is supposed to tell you who they are, but the reality was totally different. Noh theater is really old tradition and it is about noticing and imagination. Even Japanese people have problems with understanding the show, so before it actually started we had a lecture about it and instruments which are used in a play. What would you do if someone from the stage fell down? My answer was – “I will give him a hand and ask if he is ok”, but it was a wrong answer. For the actors their masks are much more important, so they are worried about them, not their body. If you are interested in this you should listen to the music during the show, the shouts of musicians will surprised you. Oh, and one of the instruments is the hardest one in the word! The performers practicing each day! That is the reason why there is less Noh theater these days.
This is the end of the day. We are going to Tokyo now. Days are passing really quick and soon it will be the end of our trip. I met a lot of amazing people during the MIRAI Program 2017. This project is an opportunity to visit Japan, but I also think that the people are important with whom I am shearing these precious moments with.