Kyoto, Japan, October 2011 travel blog

Kyoto Fumin Hall (ALTI Concert Hall) garden

Grass is perfectly appropriate in a Japanese Garden!

Douglas, our ever-active tour leader, in a rare moment of calm.

Incredibly pruned pine

Tea school

Our tea master for the day

Cutlery shop

Sharon (left) buys a really grreat chef's knife for her husband back...

They sharpen and polish the knife...

...then they engrave his name in Japanee on his special knife.


On the way back to the Heian Hotel for lunch, we stopped at the Kyoto Fumin Hall, a concert hall near our hotel, to spend some time in their small but wonderful garden. At each garden, Douglas describes its best features and areas he believes could be improved. Each stop is an educational experience either about gardens, architecture, or some aspect of culture.

After our delicious western-style lunch (only a little bit of tofu), we took the subway downtown to one of the busiest shopping streets. There, we spent an hour learning about the tea ceremony at the Fukuju-en Tea Company. In the tea room on the fourth floor, they presented tea ceremony in a very informal and educational way.

Since we were in the midst of a shopping area, we wandered the Nishiki Market, zeroing in on a cutlery store and an ikebana and tea ceremony supply store. I thought I had died and gone to ikebana heaven. I restrained myself admirably, only buying a couple of items that should make ikebana lessons and practice more enjoyable.

We’ve discovered the joys of shopping for supper food in the basement of the Isetan Department Store at Kyoto Station. It’s like a super-big deli, with more prepared foods than one person could sample in a lifetime. The shumai and gyoza are fresh (not frozen), salads are beautiful, and pastries require even more walking than we are doing to shed the calories. They put homemade soups into microwaveable containers, and since our hotel has a little kitchen for guest use, as well as refrigerators in each room, we can bring back quite a tasty dinner for much less than restaurant prices.

Luckily, our hotel is well equipped to meet the needs of long-term foreign guests. The staff is kind, knowledgeable, and skilled in English. There is a guest laundry room with three washers and two dryers, with a beer/soda machine in the laundry. What more could you want?

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