I recently returned from a visit to Kyoto. It has been many, many years since I last visited there. My husband went with me, and together we explored the city. I wondered how much it had changed, he discovered this charming city for the first time.
We ate very well including this cheap Japanese breakfastThe city has changed so much. For one thing there are a lot more English signs, and now Korean as well. The old Kyoto station with its wooden walkways and stairs have been replaced with a super modern and huge station and now the subway goes East and West as well as North and South.
And yet much of the city has remained the same. There are the small narrow alleyways and courtyards of the Pontocho and Gion and much of the charming architecture of the city still remains. The Teramachi shopping arcade is still there,the department stores along Shijo and the Nishiki food market. Oike senbei, favorite senbei shop, Tsurugaya, Oimatsu and many of the the sweet shops are still there. As are Ippodo, Tsujirien, and Fukujuen tea stores. I also had the opportunity to sit in with Midorikai for a few days. I was lucky that the first day we practiced Shaza, my favorite shichijishiki. It is an ensemble exercise with 5 people. The second guest arranges flowers, the third guest lays the charcoal, the first guest does incense, the teishu makes koicha, and the hanto brings in and takes out all the equipment and makes usucha for the teishu. So much fun. The second day, I got to see the temae, gozumi shomo, or second laying of the fire by request. The teishu cleans out the ro from the first laying of the fire and invites a guest to arrange the charcoal for the second time. I had never seen this procedure and I was asked to lay the fire. It was an honor and not so hard because all the previous fire had been cleaned out and made very neat. And it boiled the water very well!
The third day I got to attend the student chakai. I had forgotten that all morning we cleaned the tea rooms, machiai, garden, tsukubai while the teishu and hanto prepared the mizuya. Since the sakura petals had recently fallen, we ended picking up individual petals out of the gravel walkway in the path leading up to the tea room. The chakai was lovely, with the uguisu serenading us at the break. How magical it is to attend a chakai in Japan!