Japan Calling Japan Calling  

Kimono fashion show at the Nishijin Textile Industrial Association

different kinds of Manga available there. We were briefed by the Director of the Museum about the different kinds of Manga, their popularity in many countries all over the world, and the influence of Manga in Japanese culture and day-to-day life. We also interacted with some students of the Kyoto Seika University, who had come to meet us there.

    After lunch, we went to the Kyoto Prefectural International Center, where we started the most interesting part of our Japan visit, the home-stay with Japanese families. Each one of us was introduced and handed over to different Japanese families for a one-night home-stay with them. In my case, I, along with another colleague from Zimbabwe, was assigned with Mr. & Mrs. Katsumi of Uji city, located to the south of Kyoto, who took us to their home.

    The city of Uji is centrally located around the beautiful Uji River, and is graced with many temples and shrines, which is indicative of the city’s long history and rich culture. Uji City has become a cultural centre of Japan and has many historical sights and famous cultural specialities, including two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Ujigami shrine and Byodoin temple.

    We were very well looked after, and enjoyed our stay with the family, who served us tasty Japanese food and drinks. The next day, Mr. Katsumi took us in his car to see the Byodoin Temple and Hoshokan (Museum). Byodoin Temple was originally built in 1052. The Phoenix Hall was subsequently built in 1053 as an Amitabha Hall (national treasure) to house the Amitabha Tathagata. In Byodoin Temple, there are a number of cultural properties from the Heian period. Among them, the 52 Worshipping Bodhisatvas on Clouds, national treasures, are notable as the sole remaining group of Buddhist images statues in the 11th century.

    This was followed by a visit to the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum in Fushimi, which is one of Kyoto’s top 100 scenic areas. Here, we were introduced to Fushimi’s rich history of sake brewing with a valuable collection of traditional brewing tools. From among the 6120 brewing tools designated by Kyoto City as folk-craft cultural assets, visitors can see some of the main items used in the various stages of the brewing process. After touring the hall, we got the chance to taste some high-quality sake and also got a small bottle of sake as souvenir.

    On the way, Mr. Katsumi bought us packets of the famous Uji Green Tea as presents. After lunch, we were dropped back at the Kyoto Railway Station to take our return trip on the Shinkansen, and reached Tokyo in the evening.

    This was a truly wonderful and eye-opening visit for me, having given me the chance to experience Japan first-hand. I came back impressed with the remarkable developments made by Japan in all facets of life. The well-developed subway train network of Tokyo, the tall and imposing buildings, the neon lights, the well-maintained roads, and the well-stocked departmental stores, etc., on one hand, and the relatively laid-back, quiet and easy-paced life in Kyoto on the other hand, showed me two different faces of Japan. Yet, there is still so much more left to be seen, and I would love to go back to Japan whenever I get an opportunity again.