May 28:

We had a LONG train ride from Miyazaki to Kyoto and had to change trains a couple of times in the process.  Unfortunately I lost my Kindle during one of the train changes.  We arrived in Kyoto about 5:00 PM and had dinner at a nice little restaurant at the station.  Kyoto Station is an enormous and impressive thing.  It includes several stories of shops, restaurants, and hotels.  We spent some time running all around the station trying to find an ATM that would accept American credit cards.  We finally found one at the post office and Ken and I both got cash.  We took taxis to our ryokan and checked in.  The rooms were tiny but comfortable  Kurahashi-sensei came by to take Ken and me up for our lessons.  He drove us to his house and served us tea in his little upstairs music studio.  I had my lesson first, a review of the honkyoku piece “Sashi,” then Ken had his lesson.  As we were walking out to his car so he could drive us back to the ryokan, Kurahashi pointed to the street in front of his house and said “A thousand years ago this used to be the city limit.”  I appreciate Kurahashi very much.  He is not only a great virtuoso player and a great teacher but also a very kind and gracious person.

May 29:

We took a tour of the Shugakuin Imperial Villa, an amazingly beautiful place.  The tour guide spoke only Japanese and we were the only non-Japanese people in the group.  They had English language guide narratives on portable audio players that we borrowed for the tour.  Then we visited the Katsura Imperial Villa, an even more awesomely beautiful place!  (and also used the English-narrative audio players)  To be in such a place is inspirational for me.  I found myself wishing somehow I could put into practice in my own life the kind of profound and elegant aesthetic sensibilities I experienced there.  We went to the Kiyomizu district and walked up Kiyomizu-dori with all of its shops and crowds of people, and then at the top of the hill we walked around the Kiyomizu Temple, a fantastic structure built entirely on enormous stilts in such a way that it projects out from the hillside and overlooks the city below.  We had a great dinner afterward at a tiny obscure restaurant hidden away in an alley, that specialized in some kind of dish that Ronnie referred to as “Japanese pizza” but which seemed to me more like some kind of combination latke/souffle thing.  It was delicious though.