My best experience in Kyoto was unplanned. I had contacted one of the several Welcome Guide groups in the city, to be told that no guide was available for my dates. But, the emailer said, although the guides usually went off duty at 5:00 pm, she planned to attend a Moon Viewing Ceremony – would I be interested in going along?
Of course I would! We arranged a date and time – she would meet me at my hotel. Then I sprained my ankle, but when I asked if she wanted to go alone, she said no. Instead of canceling, she checked with the front desk at the hotel for the best bus route, so I wouldn’t have to cope with stairs at the train station. I took my hiking stick (yet to duty as such on this trip) along to use as a cane.
We were headed for Arashiyama and the Daikakuji temple, originally a “detached” Imperial palace, and with plenty of chrysanthemum blossom decorations (hiding nail heads, for instance), to prove it. After we bought our tickets I bought us both bento boxes for dinner, and we spent some time sitting on benches (that looked more like tables to me) outside one of the halls, listening to music. As we sat down, a violinist in a long western evening gown took over, even playing, at one point, Moon River!
Most of the people there wore western dress (I saw few other foreigners), but a handful of women were in kimono. Apparently the event had been very crowded the previous year, but bad weather during the day had kept the numbers down. We hoped for a clear night.
The Buddhist ceremony started at 6:30 pm, and right on time the clouds parted to show a perfect white moon, equally perfectly reflected in the lotus pond behind the celebrants. Afterwards we rode a dragon boat round the pond, eating a sweet cake and drinking the bitter tea ceremony tea. Then my Welcome Guide walked me round the imperial buildings, and we traded moon myths – green cheese for white rabbits