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Japan

Art, Culture

Geisha Encounters

Kyoto is famous for the Geishas. But arriving in Kyoto we had no real idea of what a geisha was, we knew they were pretty Japanese women who dressed up in traditional attire, but what for? We weren’t quite sure.  David thought they were something like a traditional prostitute. Boy was he wrong. Staying at Ks Guesthouse we found a poster hanging by the tea and coffee station that explained to us exactly what Geishas are all about.

Geishas are broken down into Maiko and Geiko. Maiko are Geishas in training or apprentice Geishas, they’re under 20 years old and study how to be a professional in Japanese traditional culture. They’re taught how to entertain people with tea ceremonies, flower arrangements, and they know a lot about Japanese traditional music and dance. When they are 20 years old, a Maiko becomes a Geiko, a matured Geisha. Someone who is thought of to be skilled in Japanese Culture and Arts, they’ve reached “a higher level of artistry”.

It’s rare to meet Geisha’s unless you know exactly where to find them.  You will see women dressed up like Geishas wandering the streets of Gion, but more often than not, they are not the real thing.  Take the advice shown in these posters and you will more than likely find yourself the real thing!

Culture, Latest News

Japan’s bright future – The next generation

Sightseeing around the various temples and riding buses in Japan, especially in Kyoto, we were perplexed by the number of children running around at all the sites. We’d go to a temple on a Tuesday afternoon and there would be kids in school uniform everywhere. It turned out the kids were just following their standard curriculum. All kids in Japan, throughout the entire country have to travel to the city of Kyoto and around the the mainland to learn about the history.

At first I was a bit confused, why do we need to learn so much history when we are so young, even in the American school system? We mostly don’t remember what we learn in school when we’re young. But as we traveled more and encountered more kids I had a realization: these kids are taught real life skills of riding buses and trains on their own or with friends. They’re taught to read signs and have encounters with foreigners. In fact, they are required to speak to English speaking foreigners as a part of their curriculum as well.  One project they have is to interview tourists in English and transcribe answers. As a result they’re exposed to a lot from a young age and taught a lot about real life, not basic history and “after school” like we do in the states.

Overall we were quite impressed with the Japanese curriculum, one thing we caught on tape at the Golden Temple in Kyoto and thought was cute was when a young boy in his class came up to us and started to speak to us in English. He was communicating well with absolute strangers in a foreign language (we have the video here) and he couldn’t have been more than 10 years old. We quickly learned that this communication where kids would ask “hi, can I ask you a question, where are you from?” Was something they were assigned to do while visiting tourist sites.

We were happy with our realization and absolutely support this aspect of their curriculum.  Japanese children are taught valuable  communication tools that help them gain some insight into other cultures. And, even more importantly, they’re taught to have confidence and independence from a young age.

Adventure

The Almighty Fish Market – Tsukiji, Tokyo

If you’re heading to Tokyo, the Tsukiji fish market is something you have to see first hand! Whether or not you choose to arrive at 3am to witness the bidding war (on fish) or between 9-10am to simply walk the enormous warehouse full of fresh sea creatures is no matter, just make it there 🙂

If you have your heart set on the bidding know that they only let in 2 groups of 60 a day and it’s first come first served. This means to guarantee yourself a spot you need to arrive before 4am (and even then it’s not 100%). Once you have a spot, you’ll still have to wait a few hours before bidding begins…

If you don’t feel like partying all night in shibuya to arrive at the fish market early without getting any shut eye, rest assured the fish market is just as cool around 9am when they open the doors to all. David and I did stay up the entire night to witness the scene, but thought the 9am walk around was an experience in itself.

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Art, Culture, Tech

Osaka – Japan’s Brightest City

Of the cities we saw in Japan, we were most impressed by Osaka. It took us by surprise! We flew in and out of the airport 3 times and the transportation system around the airport is seamless. Namba (Dotonbori) is the main touristy neighborhood and we found it very impressive. It was home to a giant shopping district, hundreds of restaurants, cafés and nightclubs. To top everything off you could pick up a young prostitute more easily than you could get a coffee.

Walking around Dotonbori was like walking through Las Vegas or Times Square. It has giant billboards and animated signs welcoming people into local bars, cafés, and restaurants. It also has a beautiful canal running through the center of it. I’d describe this area of Japan like Amsterdam meets Times Square – Canals and prostitutes, but no Mary Jane.  There are an abundance of Love Hotels in this region as well, to read more about that side of the scene you can view the story here.

Japan is not exactly as advanced or lively as we expected, but Osaka was a fun, stimulating city that we didn’t expect to be so taken by.  On your next trip to Japan, give the city a few days and be sure to walk the canals in Namba at night time – it is a sight to see!