Today in Kyoto we had cloudy humid weather, light traffic around town and a radiation reading of — oh, wait, Kyoto isn’t even in the “zone”. Every day in the Japan Times, on the second page I think, there is a map of about 1/2 of Japan with concentric circles radiating out (ha!) from Fukushima. Today’s reading for Tokyo was .064 microseiverts per hour. Today’s reading for Sendai was .074. Today’s reading for Nagano was .041. Today’s reading for Shizuoka was .040. And that’s as far west as the circles go – they don’t go past Shizuoka (about 95 miles from Tokyo) to Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Ise, Naoshima Island, Hiroshima, Miyajima and basically, over half of Japan to the west of Shizuoka. The readings themselves, for the parts of Japan that are shown, with one obvious exception, are apparently the same or lower than many parts of the US; certainly lower than Mexico City and probably Denver, which have altitude.
So instead of spending our days outside the zone, we spent today zoned out… at the Kamo Odori. I would love to post a picture of this too, but cameras and videos are strictly forbidden. So all I have is a picture of the curtain which I took before the performance started. The Kamo Odori is one of several dance performance series put on by maiko (apprentice geisha); this one in May. The other one is the Miyako Odori, which is in April. If you’re in Kyoto during these months you can go to one of the shows.
There were two parts to this event for us – the most hysterical part was the “tea ceremony” that preceded the show. Our tickets included the “tea ceremony” – there is a reason I put it in quotes a lot. This was the fastest tea ceremony ever – we laughed the entire time. We were ushered onto an elevator, up the elevator to the fourth floor of the theatre building, into a room with about 5 long bench-like tables with small stools lined up in front of them. In the front of the room sat a young maiko (I guess), perfectly made up with tea implements around and a second one doing something (don’t recall what, no time to observe). The ushers pointed to us to sit down, one attendant went down the table placing a piece of paper, a small ceramic dish and a mochi with red bean paste inside on it. Then out came another attendant and dropped a bowl of whisked tea in front of each person. Then all the people around us either wolfed down the sweet or pocketed it, gulped down the tea, wrapped the dish in the paper and stood up and rushed out of the room. We were just trying to figure out what to DO and the next group of people were rushed in and seated. In the meantime, an attendant was scurrying along picking up the empty tea bowls – I’m sure I upset the plan when I didn’t finish my tea. David ate the rest of my mochi… All the while, the young ladies at the front sat motionless in some odd living still-life of a tea ceremony.
After we were shooed out of the “tea room” they sent us down a flight of stairs, past the first shop of souvenirs. Then down another flight of stairs, past another shop, this time with food souvenirs. Then through a big room, more stairs, more rooms, more stairs until we got to the right part of the theater to be seated. That’s when I took the illegal curtain shot. The rest of the show will remain a visual mystery – but it was really fascinating. The first half seemed to be a play/story with women in all parts – of course we didn’t understand a word but the costumes were wonderful and the expressions were fabulous. The second part was the dance and included a group of about 12 women playing instruments such as shamisen, flutes and drums. In fact, they had a very large percussion section with all sorts of instruments creating loud noises. The only one I couldn’t figure out was the very loud cricket sound -maybe it was just a bad microphone. Four of the ladies sang; sometimes together, sometimes alone. All this while we were treated to various dances – sort of a rockettes in kimono thing – with all the girls in full make-up, hair, etc. It was driving me nuts not to be able to take pictures! The thing was, since I didn’t understand the words and the music was not familiar and catchy, I found myself zoning out during the performance and just taking it in. It was incredibly relaxing after a busy day of touring.
So the point is, outside of the “zone”, there’s plenty of opportunity to find yourself “zoned-out”.