We started out our third day in Kyoto with a couple hours of free time. We went to a few shops in Kyoto Station to pick up fans, chopsticks, incense, and anything else our previous day of cultural learning may have inspired us to buy.
From there, we walked to a subway station, experiencing one of the many ways Japan has made its cities more efficient: diagonal sidewalks.
From the subway we walked to our first scheduled event of the day: samurai lessons. We split into groups, and Ryu, our teacher, patiently instructed us not to attack the floor, as typically your enemies won’t be laying down. We stumbled through his instructions of the different strikes and learned the difference between a Katana and a broadsword (a katana has a one-sided blade while a broadsword is a double-edged sword).
The samurai were second highest in the social pyramid from roughly 1185 until 1868, directly under the Shogun. While there was an emperor during this period, it was mostly a ceremonial position and the Shogun were the actual rulers of Japan. The samurai were the military power who pledged loyalty to Shogun. We learned how to walk both with the dignity and distinction of a samurai and silently and quickly as they would during battle. Well, we were taught very well, but the amount of dignity we had and the amount of noise we made was probably not acceptable for the samurai.
Halfway through the lesson we changed into traditional kimonos, and we have never looked cooler. Ryu knew exactly what we were thinking, and he gave us a ten minute picture break. I’ve done my best to compile the photos, but if you are looking for a full catalogue it is probably best to check out everyone’s respective social medias.
The big finale of the lesson was a choreographed skit which showed off all the different moves we learned.
From our samurai lessons we went to Nishiki Market. There we shopped around more at local shops and found amazing restaurants. We found a few more shrines around, which showed how integral the shinto religion is in Japanese life and culture. Imagine walking through the Mall of America and suddenly, in between The Gap and a Cinnabon, there was a church, ornately decorated like a cathedral. Several people were praying in both shrines we visited.
About halfway through our time in the market we started to see men dressed in white chanting and clapping parading through the halls. We asked one of the men and learned it was part of the Kyoto Gion Matsuri.
It continues throughout all of July, but there is a huge parade on July 17th. This festival started in 869 in hopes of pleasing the gods during an epidemic. A local boy is chosen as a divine messenger, and he is not supposed to touch the ground from the 13th to the 17th. We believe this smaller parade was a more local ceremony, but we did see a boy we think was the divine messenger.
Finally, we made our way back to Kyoto Station and took the bullet train to Nagoya. Tomorrow we start work on the RoboCup, so check back for more updates. Follow our twitter here and like our Facebook page here for more updates.