Today after checking out I headed over to Nishihongan-ji in the hopes of tracking down stores selling Buddhist goods, particularly rin gongs. The temple itself was very crowded, as there were several religious tour groups and some sort of ceremony being conducted. The inside of the temple is covered by tatami mats, which I hadn't seen in other temples I've visited. Another section of the temple had hundreds of folding chairs set up in anticipation for another event. I crossed the street, and found dozens of tiny shops selling a huge variety of butsugu; household altars, prayer beads, rin gongs, colorful textiles and more. I found several promising shops that I will revisit in two weeks when I have more time.
Next, I headed to Gion for the day's first Miyako Odori performance. First we had a mini-tea ceremony (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-D6n-4_AI8), and before that, I snapped a photo with a willing maiko. The reserved seats were already taken, so I opted for the tatami box seat. When I slid back the door, there were already several people squeezed into the tiny box, so I ducked back out, only to have a cute young usher have everybody make room for me (and somehow I squeezed my bag in with me). Several men in suits were drinking beer all around me (sitting on the floor), and it felt kind of like a picnic.
The show itself was an experience; the set changes were fantastic, although I couldn't follow the narrative. Dozens of maikos and geikos in a rainbow of kimonos performed highly stylized dances symbolizing the changing seasons in Kyoto.The beer-sipping businessmen seemed kind of bored, and the audience was almost entirely Japanese. However, the entire theater was sold out, and the show has been performed for 139 years.
After that, I headed to the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, where two more maikos were modeling seasonal kimonos and giving short interviews in Japanese. The craft museum was much cooler than I thought it would be; various artists were demonstrating wood carving, and there was an exhibit of Buddhist artwork in the downstairs gallery. I squeezed myself onto the third bus (the first two were jammed to the bottom step) and headed home. On next (and last) trip to Kyoto, I have to visit Nishiki Market and have lunch at Tenryuji Temple.