Japan Part 2: deer, temples, foxes… and me as a geisha

1. Doe a deer, a Japanese deer…

After 5 days in Tokyo, we took the shinkansen (super fast train)
to Hiroshima, then got the ferry to Miyajima.

It’s somewhere we’d planned to go on our first trip
but we ran out of time (and money).

Miyajima is a Spirited Away-style little island
with a huge floating tori (gate) and a whole
lot of wild, tame deer… everywhere.

They’re just there crossing the road,
hanging outside your window,
sneaking up behind you while
you’re chatting or snapping pics…

After a stay in Miyajima (at an amazing ryokan (Japanese inn)
where an old Granny made my husband eat fish eyes!)
we went on to Nara… which is not far from Kyoto.

They have the world’s largest wooden building…
and oh yes a whole lot of tame, wild deer too!

We loved this warning sign about how the deer
might attack you… knock down being my favourite!

There’s something so strange about wandering
through beautiful shrines and temples…
pursued by nibbly little animals!

(I’m somewhat protectively hanging
on to my green tea here!)

2. Temples, shrines, tori… oh my!

If you have time on a Japan trip, go to both
Miyajima and Nara… they’re both quite compact
in size so you can happily walk around, taking
in the sights in a relaxed manner.
(Followed by deer of course!)

Oh and see that glowy statue?
He’s the Dragon Warrior!
If you’ve watched Kung Fu Panda,
you’ll know what I mean!

As we’d been to Kyoto before, we wanted to see
some ‘new’ things… so we went to flea markets
held at temples, handmade markets at shrines,
tried our hand at Japanese printmaking,
a tea ceremony, and even went to some
temples with singing ‘nightingale’ floors.

If I tried to show you everything we did,
this would end up the hugest blog post ever!

3. Foxes! (At Fushimi Inari!)

There was one Kyoto shrine we revisited though…
the amazing Fushimi Inari shrine.

This was our favourite place in Kyoto last time.
(And that was before I noticed the fox thing!)

We originally went just as the sun was rising
(amazing!) but we didn’t want to spoil that memory
so we decided we’d go at dusk to make
sure it was as different as possible…

Turns out shrines are pretty scary
when the sun is going down!

All the pictures came out rather spooky too…
especially the one below of me
holding a fox prayer plaque.

Quite cool though, right?

4. Going geisha

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter,
you might have spotted one of the pics
below already… yes, instead of going
geisha spotting this time…

I had a maiko makeover!
(A maiko is a geisha’s apprentice)

This was something we’d considered doing last time
but again didn’t have the time and budget for it…

I thought it sounded like something fun to do.

Actually, it’s a very serious process.
You’re not allowed to bring a camera
while they do the transformation.
But here’s what happened:

First, you have to change into a robe undergarment
and remove all make-up you’re wearing.
Then go get painted up – this was surprisingly cold!
Then someone does your make-up. There were no mirrors
so I had absolutely no idea how I looked.

Then you go to the wig room… yes that’s a wig I’m wearing.
And it’s super, super heavy. And uncomfortable.
All the adornments are then added to the wig.
The girl who did mine spent a lot of time
getting them just right.

Next comes the outfit.

Well, almost.

Turns out that geishas are meant to be sort
of ‘flat’ and I’m not. I’m hourglass-y.
So they padded me out with towels
and strapped everything else down!

Then the layers of pretty robes, belts
and sashes went on…

Walking down the narrow stairs afterwards was an experience.
I felt huge and cumbersome… not an elegant geisha!

According to my husband, I also looked rather freaked out.

This was also the moment I saw myself!

I had no idea what I thought I would look like
but I was surprised that I didn’t look like ‘me’.

(Look how tanned my arms look!)

And after all the deer, temples, foxes, geisha-ness and
a whole lot more… it was time to go back to Tokyo!
For cat cafes, shopping, and a Lost in Translation experience!

P.S. Thanks for your lovely response to the last Japan post!
Even if all the Tokyo chat makes me want to go back now!