Sunday, 31 January 2010

Meet the Interpretation and Guiding Club

Having recently been in Morocco I'm on my guard when someone approaches me close to a tourist attraction offering some sort of deal or service. I've met my fair share of fake tour guides - usually young teenagers, wanting to take you around the sight and ripping you off at the end of the tour. "Please, just look. One or two pieces. For the pleasure of your eyes," is still my favourite invitation to date.

So, having just arrived in Kyoto (and dropped bags off at Mrs Hashimoto's quaint little ryokan) and then walking up Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane) to the famous Kiyomizu Temple, it was somewhat unexpected to be approached by a smiling young Japanese girl on the temple's steps. This is after all the land of being reserved and extremely polite.

"Do you want a guide? It's free!"

My North African scepticism kicked in telling me this smelt fishy, like sushi going off in the sun. But, I hadn't even had the chance to even (politely) decline, when five other rather geeky and timid looking teenagers rocked up behind her saying they were also part of the tour.

I thought to myself, "Hello Kitty, this is definitely the ultimate Japanese Tour Temple Scam!"

Mr Aventures wasn't much assistance at this point either.

But within seconds our fears were allayed as the 6 member tour guide team started introducing themselves - this was the real deal.

Yoko, Yui, Yuto, Akihiro, Natsuki and Manami turned out to be members of the Interpretation and Guiding Club of Kansai Gaidai University. They'd come up to Kyoto for the day and all they wanted to do is to practice their English. A few of them already had fairly good conversational English, but for the others, you could immediately see that they were trying very hard to work on their language skills and in their own time.

So off we went to visit Kiyomuzi - the pure water temple.

Our young student guides all clutched colourful note pads and followed the directions of Yoko, their energetic instructor. On Yoko's cue the guides gave a short presentation at each point of cultural or historical significance. Some were very insightful, others were... well, they need a bit more practice - though their enthusiasm made up for any deficiency in delivery.

I must say, I learned a lot about temple rituals. For instance, you have to wash your hands before entering the temple. Not only that, the left hand must be washed first. And I think there was something about the left hand symbolizing worldly matters and the right being more spiritual.

Along the way our young guides patiently explained all the tiny shrines where you can determine your luck in life, health and love - we tried them all! And while the last time around I was given bad fortune, this year is looking surprisingly good.


Anonymous 14 February 2010 at 14:51  

Interessanter Beitrag

Anonymous 27 February 2010 at 03:08  

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

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