{travel} Things I Did In October: Kyoto National Museum

Oh hello friends, it’s me, the worst blogger on the surface of Earth. What’s cooking?

Seriously, though, I’m very sorry for not having posted anything in over a month now. Classes turned out to be a lot more work than I had thought. The standard workload per semester at Doshisha University is fifteen credits, which for us exchange students means about twelve to thirteen courses. However, I’m actually taking twenty credits worth of courses because I’m insane and like to torture myself. So that means that I have more courses than most of my friends (three courses every day) and more homework. In addition, I signed up to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December, so I have to study for that, too. And of course I also want to do all the fun and tourist-y stuff with my friends. So yeah, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve been busy. A little too busy to blog. And also a little lazy. Forgive me, I shall try to better myself.

Now I need to catch up with all the blog posts about all the things I did last month. I thought I could do something like a little series or whatever. Because I’m super original and creative I’m going to be calling this little series (jeez, “series” sounds so pretentious, I’m sorry, can’t think of a better description) “Things I Did In October,” and I’m going to kick it off by telling you about the Kyoto National Museum which I visited a few days before university started.

(Oh man, actually, when looking through the photos I took at the museum on that day, I realized that the day we visited the museum was actually September 29th. That’s not even in October. So now I should change the name of this series to “Things I Did In September/October,” but that’s too long and sounds stupid – because just “Things I Did In October” sounds so much better – so I’m just not going to change it. What even is the point of this paragraph? Nevermind. Ignore this.)

The Kyoto National Museum is only a twenty-minute-walk away from Kyoto Station. For adults the admission price was 520 yen; for university students, it was only half of that, 260 yen. However, when we went up to the ticket office, it actually turned out to be free for us Doshisha University students. Hurray to free student fun! 

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The main building of the museum was beautiful and very modern, and had three floors. Unfortunately, it was prohibited to take photos of anything anywhere in the museum, so you’re going to have to put up with my mediocre explanations and descriptions for this section of the blog post. Sorri-sorri.

The first floor of the museum was largely taken up by a huge, dark hall where Japanese Buddhist and Shinto sculptures from the Kamakura and Heian periods as well as well statues from China, Korea and South Asia were displayed. They were made out of a lot of different materials – stone, bronze, wood, gold, to name a few – and they were all several centuries old. It was pretty cool to see how well some of them had been preserved over the span of, like, seven, eight, nine, x hundred years.

At this point, a quick explanation of the Heian and Kamakura periods. The Heian period ran from 794 to 1185. The name of this period is derived from Heian-kyo, known as Kyoto today, the capital city at that time. The Heian period is when many Chinese influences – such as Buddhism and Taoism – were the strongest. Moreover, it is a period noted for its art – particularly literature and poetry. The Heian period was followed by the Kamakura period, which ran from 1185 to 1333. During this period, the Kamakura shogunate, a Japanese feudal military government, was in rule. During this period, the samurai emerged and feudalism was established in Japan.

There were four smaller halls connected to the big main hall. In one of these smaller rooms, some beautiful (and mostly religious) scrolls covered with Japanese and Chinese calligraphy were shown. All of them were drawn in different styles on different types of paper, and were very interesting to look at. Calligraphy never fails to impress me, because you can really see by looking at each character how skillful the artist was, and how much hard work and perfection he put into drawing each character, into every little stroke and dot. One piece at the calligraphy exhibition that I found especially nice was a part of the lotus sutra, where each character was adorned by a little drawing of a lotus flower underneath, which meant to symbolize that each character was sitting on top of a lotus flower. Much creativity, so wow.

Another small hall was filled with kimonos, some of them as old as antiquity! It was interesting to see what kind of symbols and patterns and colours were used on those kimonos, and what all these aspects meant. Apparently Japanese people have always been fond of the two seasons of spring and fall, and there are certain plants, flowers and colours associated with those seasons. In Japan, there is also something called hanakotoba which literally translated means “flower language.” According to hanakotoba, each flower has its own specific meaning. Cherry blossoms, for example, can signify kindness or gentleness, and were seen on a lot of the displayed kimonos.

There were two more small halls where Buddhist metalwork – such as bronze mirrors, tea kettles, armors, swords – and Japanese lacquerware decorated with the maki-e technique (literally meaning “sprinkled picture,” referring to a decoration method of sprinkling gold or silver powder using certain equipment) were shown.

On the second floor, there was a lot of art – illustrated handscrolls, Buddhist paintings, Chinese paintings, medieval paintings, paintings from the Momoyama-Edo period. There was also a special exhibition showing some works by Yosa Buson. Yosa Buson lived approximately 300 years ago (during the Edo period), and is considered as one of the greatest Japanese poets and painters. I really enjoyed Buson’s art and the particular style of painting he employed. I’m actually so sad now that I wasn’t allowed to take any photos to post them here and show them to you, so please excuse me while I go and steal a photo of one of his paintings from Wikipedia.

I didn’t see this particular one in the museum … but the works by him that I did see had a very similar atmosphere/character. So nice. (Source: By Yosa Buson (1716-1784) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The third floor mainly contained a lot of archaeological relics – old plates, pots, cups, weapons and other artifacts. Really interesting as well, although I must say that I enjoyed the second floor more.

But yeah, that’s essentially what went down at the Kyoto National Museum. My friends and I did some other stuff afterwards, but I’ll save that for another blog post. For now, thank you so much for reading, and sorry again for being such a horrible blogger and not posting anything for over a month. I’m seriously going to try to post more from now on.

Anyways, see you very soon. For real this time. BYE.

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