Letter from Kyoto
From seven Watchtower Society missionaries in Kyoto, Japan
Our assignment for location is beautiful. It is a paradise completely engulfed by mountains. The city of Kyoto is a treasure in itself, filled with ancient palaces, sculptures, paintings, landscape gardens and lovely, tiny people arrayed in brilliant-colored kimonos.
The other day we had occasion to visit the world-famous flowering cherry blossom festival. Our first stop was the Imperial palace and park. Throughout this park of some 200 acres were the most gorgeous blooming cherry trees that you can imagine. We were told that there were only ten different varieties of these flowering trees and some of them are to be found only in Kyoto.
As we neared the Imperial palace we were literally swamped with hundreds of little vendors selling everything from dried squid and octopus to beautiful dolls, for which Kyoto is world-famous. This little episode reminded us of our circuses and carnivals in America. Before entering the Imperial gardens there was an arch that we had to duck under, but when we lifted our eyes we simply were spellbound, awe-struck at the most magnificent clouds of pink petals drooping to the ground. Most of the branches had to be propped with stakes to prevent them from breaking. When we finally recovered from our “ohs” and “ahs”, we continued on down a blossoming lane to see the entire garden, known also for its irises. It appeared to us that the spirit of Japanese gardens was found in the way of the use of water and the unique arrangement of stones. Needless to say, we were deeply impressed by the array of beauty fixed against a background of simplicity. The surroundings were enough to leave a person speechless.
Since we were plagued with hunger, a nearby Japanese restaurant came in handy. We ordered curried rice and a cup of ocha (Japanese tea). Take it from us, these people really know their rice. They never fail. It is always very light and fluffy. We topped the meal with soft ice cream made, by the way, in an American machine.
What seemed to be (at least to us) a second dessert was the high light of the Cherry Festival where the famed Cherry Dance is performed by two companies of the most beautiful geisha (artist) girls in Japan. These young ladies are trained from childhood in the arts of dancing, singing, tea ceremony officiating and playing the harp. What amazed us was that when we entered the theater it was nearly deserted. But five minutes before curtain time people began flowing through every door, even to the balcony. That is all the time they needed, because within but a few minutes there was not a place that was not occupied.
The lights dimmed. The curtain rose very slowly, and the crowds gasped at the magnificent display of pink blooms over the heads of the lovely geishas dressed in multicolored kimonos. Their movements were unusually precise and graceful and were enhanced by the large folding fans each of them used in the dance. There were several parts of the performance that were dramatic, starring actors dressed in ancient costumes. But we missed the plot, not understanding the language.
We cannot help but say our assignment is wonderful, colorful, instructive and lots of fun. We are fascinated with the countryside and in love with the people.