Hein (fub) wrote,

Heian and Meiji-era crafts

After breakfast at a small neighbourhood café, we took the subway to the Heian shrine. Inbetween the subway-station and the shrine was the Namikawa Cloisonne museum, so we went to check that out first. Remember that exhibition of Meiji-era art that we went to long ago? Well, it turns out that Mr. Namikawa was the most reknowned cloisonne artist of the era -- earning him many medals and even imperial recognition! The museum was housed in his house/workshop, and the doors were 1.80m high -- unusual for that time, but one of the uses for the house was to receive foreign guests to show them the work, and so the doors needed to be taller.
The works on display were breathtaking. The detailing and the enamel colours were exquisite, for lack of a better word. You would look at something and think: "Hey, that is a neatly painted laquer vase!" -- but this is enamel. There weren't much of the works on display, because most were sold to foreign collectors (a major source of foreign currency in the Japan of the Meiji era!), and this was the largest collection of works in Japan. There were some displays about the cloisonne process itself too, as well as one of the first works Mr. Namikawa produced -- it lacked the refined technique apparent in the later works, but it showed craftsmanship none the less. From the timeline, it seemed there was only four years between his start as a cloisonneur and him winning the first prize in a national exhibition!

After that, we went on to the Heian shrine. We have been there before, five years ago, but that was as part of a tour and so we were on a tight timeline then. Now, however, we had all the time to look around the shrine itself and, of course, the gardens! We took it easy, took a lot of photographs and took time to sit down and simply enjoy the scenery. There were some tour groups as well, but we quickly let those pass us (they had to hurry too). Other than those, there weren't many people walking around in the garden, so it was very relaxing too. We had tea and some sweets at the teashop there, too. They had a notebook where they invited their guests to write down their remarks, and of course we couldn't let that pass without imprinting our own stamp on it! The lady who manned the tea shop was very impressed by this, and thought it was a very pretty stamp.

We left the shrine (after having a bit to eat from the conbini-bought onigiri) and walked over to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre. We had visited that too five years ago, and just as then we wanted to do some souvenir shopping there. Lots of cheap kitsch, but also some genuinely nice things to bring home as gifts. I was especially impressed by their huge selection of woodblock prints (and two print-makers working on wooden blocks to make more prints) -- all of the colors were so lively! Some prints were very cheap, while others of the same size and quality (as far as my untrained eye could see) cost ten times as much... Age and the number of prints made surely have something to do with that, I guess.

After that we had another stop at a café (hey, we do a lot of walking -- surely we have to replenish our energy in some way) we went on towards a park with some temples and shrines in it. We did visit the Konkai temple, but seeing the tall stairway up the hill towards the other temples in the area convinced us that our time could better be spent elsewhere. So we started off walking into the direction of downtown Kyoto. We came upon the river and followed it for a while. The river is quie wide, but it's not very deep -- not like the rivers we know from the Netherlands. Because of the large difference in height, the rivers are not really suited to use a boat on, so it is left to accumulate sediment as it goes along. Ducks and cranes make their home of the river, and there are islands of lush vegetation in the river itself, which makes of a nice, relaxing spectacle.
In the city centre we dropped off our shopping in a coin locker, and went into one of the shopping arcades. Here, too, we found some stores selling things we wanted to take home.

We tried to get food in an okonomyaki place, but it was full. We still have to experience the Kansai okonomyaki style, so it's still on the list. Eventually we wandered down a side-street and found a yakitori place where we had a good dinner. We somehow managed to get back to the city hall subway station and made our way to the ryokan -- but we're not taking another step today!

Tomorrow we plan to visit Nara -- apparently the place is easily navigable by bicycle, and there's a rental place close to the station. Seems like there won't be as much walking tomorrow, which suits us fine!

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