Today involved the best sights and experiences that the ancient city of Kyoto has to offer. We began the morning in Kiyomizu Temple, a fantastic temple that was built without using any nails. Some delegates attempted to increase their luck in finding love by walking between the two famous mekura-ishi (Blind Stones) with their eyes closed. In the process some delegates bumped into other visitors of the Temple on their way as they walked so perhaps today became the day that some delegates met the love of their life! The Kiyomizu Temple also gave delegates the opportunity to drink water from the waterfall called ‘Otowa no Taki’ in order to increase their health, longevity and wisdom. The water was collected using a cup on a long handle. I drank from all three streams of water and certainly felt refreshed and revitalised
after drinking so perhaps there is truth to the belief in its special qualities.
After lunch at Konnichian, where the vegetarians ate a similar meal to what a monk would eat, meaning that instead it was the meat-eaters who were eating a strange and different meal, we all went to learn about and experience a tea ceremony at Konnichian Urasenke Centre. This was a very exciting experience that everyone on the program had been looking forward to since day one when we received our pair of very clean socks to wear especially on the occasion. Upon entering the buildings, some of which are over three hundred years old, delegates would remove their shoes to show respect for the hosts and their beautiful buildings. We watched the preparation of matcha tea and learned about the customs and practice surrounding tea in Japan. Afterwards, we were all able to try Macha tea for ourselves. Coming from Ireland, where tea is an essential part of social occasions that involve story-telling or catching up with a family member, it was a wonderful learning experience to drink tea in a way that is more calm and focuses on living in the moment.
After learning the importance of appreciating the moment, we went on to Kinkakuji, the Temple of Golden Pavilion. Here we saw a beautiful zen temple that is decorated in gold leafs. The temple overlooks a large pond that reflected the temple in a mirror image. This made for spectacular photos as well as an opportunity to reflect on the beauty of Japan and how wonderful everything we have seen is, from nature to art and architecture which are so truly unique to Japan.
After leaving the Golden Temple, it was time to say goodbye to Kyoto and get a on the Shinkansen Bullet Train back to Tokyo. Upon arrival we went to dinner with the young officials who work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were able to learn about the work that they do in MOFA as well as talk to them about our experiences so far in Japan.
All in all it was a very busy and extremely satisfying day. We had all been eagerly awaiting the tea ceremony and the visit to Kinkakuji. Upon return to the hotel all of the delegates were exhausted and so many decided to head straight to bed. The tiredness of all the delegates truly shows just how thrilling and exciting today was for us all.
Text: Shannon Buckley Barnes
Pictures: Shannon Buckley Barnes, Inga Menke and Tinna Sveinsdóttir