The second day showed the whole RoboCup team a look into the Japanese culture, and, speaking on behalf of everyone I talked to, it’s unlike anything we’ve experienced before. We started the day with a 30 minute bullet train ride from Nagoya to Kyoto, going roughly 200 miles per hour. That in and of itself mesmerized the whole group. Check out a time lapse of the whole ride on our twitter.
After quickly stopping at our hotel, we headed back to Kyoto Station to meet with our guides for the first activity of the day: a bike tour. We split into two groups, so I can only speak for half of us as to what all we did. However, it was a long and hot ride, but the heat was made up for by both the wind and the information. Over the course of the tour we learned a lot about the religions here in Japan. Our first stop was the 1st shrine built in Kyoto after the capital had moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. It was a shrine of prosperity. Before we could enter we needed to purify ourselves with water outside of the shrine.
We then learned how to pray at the shrines: toss a 5 yen coin into the receptacle, bow twice, clap twice, and bow once more. The shrines are from the Shinto religion, the Japanese religion that originated before Buddhism came over from China. These shrines are meant to focus on life: past life, present life, and future life.
We moved on from that shrine to a Buddhist temple, which focuses on the afterlife. We saw two such temples and learned they were both from a sect of Buddhism called Zen Buddhism. The different sects of Buddhism used to have an extreme amount of infighting, so these temples had each been burned down numerous times. Luckily, the violence stopped for the most part after around the 1500s, so the temples are still quite old.
After the temples we went to another shrine, this time one for beauty. We all spent a good few yen praying at that one. At this point we were all pretty hot so we stopped for slushie-like drinks at that shrine which was meant to make us more beautiful. The flavor was that of a fruit that was like a cross between an apple and a pear.
We biked from there up to the philosopher’s trail, where a prolific philosopher strolled through the forest to think. It is rumored that David Bowie used to live in a house near this trail. Then we went to the truth forest and saw what used to be a holy site.
All in all we biked upwards of 11 miles during the first half of the day.
We took a quick break for lunch, we all went for ramen. Then we got right back up and started on our walking tour. We combined our groups and started off going to a third temple where we saw a depiction of Canon, the goddess of mercy.
We then went to one final shrine, for business. It is famous for its over 1000 gates, each purchased by different companies. Disneyland and Universal Studios both have gates here. These gates need to be renewed, as they are wood, but the Kyoto prefectures gate was in stone and is permanent.
Finally, we went to the Geisha district. The Geishas are entertainers who stretch back for centuries. They start to train once they are 15, become Geishas once they are 20 or 21, and typically retire by the time they are 27. From there Geishas typically marry or become “mothers” (trainers) for aspiring Geishas. Geishas put on tea ceremonies. If you want to attend you need to be invited by a Geisha or referred by someone who is a regular or your hotel. They tea ceremonies are extremely expensive and you typically can only go to them if you go almost every day.
Thank you so much to our wonderful guide for both the walking tour and one group of the biking tour, Lulu. She catered the tour to our interests and did a wonderful job showing us the city. Okini, Lulu.