Kyoto School Run

I have read that the Japanese believe evil things come from the North East, and it is in this inauspicious direction that we head today, because my computer is broken, and the shop where they might be able to fix it is in the North East of Kyoto.

As its quite a long way, and a beautiful sunny but cool day, we get out the bikes. Bikes are the most popular vehicle in the city. You see mums on the school run on them, old grandads and grannies, spike haired teenagers and young kids all cycling like crazy on the pavements. If you are walking two abreast, they sneak up behind you and ding their bells.

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Keeping Slim Kyoto Style

What I wondered was how, with all the delicious looking sweet shops  providing irresistible temptation (see below), the locals stayed so slim – cycling is the answer!

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Kyoto Sweeties

Trying to join in with the slim ladies of Kyoto I get on my bike only to find  that it has a problem with its steering column, but it turns out its not that, its just me! Having a massive handbag in the front basket doesn’t help. At last, underway, and off to get my Mac fixed, I find myself wobbling along the pavements of Kyoto, terrified of hitting old people, children, pillars  and dogs. The good news is that I am earning myself lots of calorie free sweeties.


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Imperial Palace Gardens, Kyoto

After dropping off the Macbook, we head for the Imperial Palace where we have booked the 2pm Englihsh Speaking Tour. In the Imperial Palace gardens I almost grind to a halt on the gravel until I find a tiny cycle lane, where the gravel has thinned out. Now I finally pick up a little speed but my long English Eccentrics “Diamond Jubilee” scarf threatens to do an Isadora Duncan, in the bicycle wheels. At that moment I look up and see huge black birds of prey circling overhead – do they know something I don’t?

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Circling Vulture
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Imperial Palace, Kyoto

The tour of the Imperial Palace in English begins. Our guide is a charming woman who explains that old Kyoto nobility have their own crests but that only the Emperor is allowed to use the 16 petalled chryanthemum.


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The Cinnabar Gate

Only nobles and foreign royalty were allowed to enter through the south gate (the Emperor sits facing south), and it is still the same today, except Presidents and Prime Ministers are included in the list. The colour bright orange is good luck for the Japanese, and our guide explains that it protects against evil things happening in the night. The orange colour is from Cinnabar,  a mercury compound that is poisonous and used to prevent termites. (Orange is considered good luck in Japan, whereas in China, red is the auspicious colour)

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Tigers in the Waiting Room

Visitors allowed to see the Emperor waited in a series of rooms with beautifully painted sliding walls. There were three waiting rooms according to the rank of  the visitor. The room for those of the highest ranks has tigers on the walls and white bound tatami mats, as opposed to red bound, for the lower ranks.

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The Emperor's New Tent

Our guide explained how the Emperor lived like a god on earth, being carried around on a palanquin, and resting from the business of empire in a tented area inside his part of the palace, a splendid 15 roomed building which was for his sole use. His family lived in separate buildings within the walled palace grounds.

Showing us a map of the Palace, our guide pointed out that the North East is considered an unlucky direction for the Imperial palace, so there is a symbolic guardian monkey placed under the roof on that corner of the building.  The monkey is encased in wire gauze.  This is because the monkey may do evil to passersby at night, making it necessary to confine it. Additionally, the north east corner of the palace walls is cut away as an added protection.

Perhaps, I need a monkey to occupy the north east corner of my desk, watching over my Mac, when it returns from the menders.

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Blossom Watch, Imperial Palace, Kyoto

Today’s Blossom Watch is a painting from the Imperial Palace

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