This morning began with a lecture on Noh plays by Professor Monica Bethe. She gave us a very comprehensive lecture on the history of Noh as well as the various types of Noh plays and components of their performance. We even got to pretend to be the drum chorus and were able to follow along with the prescribed fan movements in the Noh dances with some beautiful Japanese fans that Professor Bethe brought to the lecture. She discussed in detail each of the plays that we’ll be going to see tomorrow, although I have to admit that I am most looking forward to the Okina play. For those of you reading this that are somewhat unfamiliar with Noh theatre, Okina is a play that is only presented at the beginning of the new year and when a new theatre is built and blessed. It’s a very special piece of art that exists somewhere between theatre and ceremony, and we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to see it tomorrow!
After the lecture we had a free afternoon to go and see some of the sights of Kyoto. I headed over to Nijo castle along with Frankie, Leah, Tiffany, and Joanne. It was a complex of buildings and gardens that was beautiful and austere. There were clear markings of status in the touches of gold on the sliding doors and the beautiful ceiling tiles, but I couldn’t help think of how gaudy it made more western palaces look. Perhaps I’m not the best judge as I have only been to three castles in my life, only two of which were still intact, but I felt that Nijo had more of a regal spirit than the western castles that I’ve seen. The gardens in the palace compound were gorgeous, and I was amazed to see that the nightingale corridor that was described in the book we read before we left sounded exactly as it was described! (For those of you unfamiliar with Nijo castle, the nightingale corridor is a corridor with wooden floorboards that make a sound like birds when you step on them due to the positioning of the nails.)
After we had explored the grounds of Nijo castle to our hearts content, we headed off for Nanzen-ji temple and the Philosopher’s walk nearby. The big gate at Nanzen-ji was gorgeous. We were able to climb to the top of it to see a breathtaking panoramic view of the city below us. I have to admit though, the staircase to the top of that gate was one of the most treacherous I have ever seen! The steps were very deep in height and shallow in width and I thought more than once that I was about to fall and tumble all the way to the bottom! We had spent so much time at Nijo castle that, by the time we had reached Nanzen-ji, the gardens there were closed, so we moved on to the nearby Philosopher’s walk — a stone path set into the ground next to a canal. The walk was pretty, and we stopped halfway down the path to grab some tea. I was able to try yuzu tea (yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus) and it was really great!
After the Philosopher’s walk, we walked back to the subway station in the lightly falling snow. It was a gorgeous end to a wonderful day — even if our feet did feel like falling off by that point! I have to admit, I’m pretty tired after all the adventuring that we did today. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Noh plays tomorrow!
I’ll talk to you all again soon!