Text and photos by: David Andrick
The fourth day of the MIRAI program was about Kyoto, an old and very traditional city, which could preserve many cultural heritages, because it was not targeted during World War Two. That’s why Kyoto can be seen as a cultural centre of Japan, offering many temples and shrines to visit. And of course, that’s what we did.
The day started by driving to Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which is located in the Northwest of Kyoto. Its a three-story buddhist temple, whose upper two stories are completely covered with pure gold leaf. The sight was amazing, as it was a perfect example of beautiful Japanese architecture. Moreover, it was the first temple to see during the program for my group, and I had waited for an opportunity to visit and see a temple like this one for a very long time. Thus, it was a very unique and inspiring moment for me personally and I took a lot of time to soak up the view. At the same time, our coordinators gave us detailed information about the temple via audio guides, completing the experience of the temple. After what felt like at least thirty photos, I joined our coordinators to take a walk through the whole temple area, as the temple is located in a magnificent Japanese garden. The garden itself was an attraction for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the views. At the end of the tour through the garden I bought a fortune paper and I got an excellent fortune, rounding off a perfect experience at the Kinkaku-ji area.
After Kinkaku-ji, we were headed to Higashi Hongan-ji, another buddhist temple in Kyoto. The temple was located in the East of Kyoto and has a Western counterpart, the Nishi Hongan-ji. The Higashi Hongan-ji does not consist of just one building like the Kinkaku-ji, instead, several buildings form a temple area. Equipped with audio guides once again, a guide from the temple led us through the various buildings of the area. Once more, the views of Japanese architecture and the insights on Japanese culture impressed me and I was grateful for the experience.
Afterwards it was lunch time. We drove to another building not far away and we were offered a full buddhist vegetarian meal, just like buddhist monks eat regularly. That was a very unique experience. Most of the meal I had never seen in my life and I was very curious to try it. However, to be honest, the meal was rather tasteless. Completely plant-based with all sorts of gluten or soy variations, its focus rather laid on peacefulness (no killing of animals) and health than on taste or enjoyment. Still, I thought it was absolutely worth the experience and I had a lot of fun trying it.
For the last part of the days’ program, we went to a Noh-theatre. There, a member of the theatre gave us an introduction about Noh. Noh is a form of traditional Japanese masked dance-drama. Its origins go far back and it has been performed for a very long time. It involves masks, costumes, music, singing and dance. The main idea is to utilize as little gestures, mimics or words as possible and still create maximum effects. The introduction involved showing us the masks and we were given information about each one of them. Concerning the first mask, the presenter explained among other things that the mask was used in a very famous Japanese movie called „Spirited Away“. As I have seen this film over fifteen times already, I could completely relate to what she was talking about. That was very cool and unique, especially since many others of the group did not seem to know the movie and thus could not understand the reference. After the introduction, where some of us also had the chance to try on some of the masks and costumes or play an instrument, we were presented a short, but wonderful stage play involving everything we had learned about Noh. In general, the play seemed very foreign and unfamiliar, since I had never seen something similar in my life. However, thats why I could particularly enjoy it and I was touched that I had the chance to see something so traditional and so rooted in Japanese culture live on stage.
After Noh-theatre, we drove back to the main station of Kyoto, where we took a Shinkansen (high speed train) to Hiroshima. Looking back, the day in Kyoto was full of amazing and unforgettable experiences and I hope someday I will have the chance to visit Kyoto again.