After the Philosopher’s Path and whirlwind tour of Ginkaku-ji, Don’s students and I headed to Kyoto University of Art and Design for a tour of the campus and a tea ceremony, and Don took Aardvark out to dinner (we’d been warned that the tea ceremony was not toddler-friendly, as we’d assumed, and since it’s more my kind of thing than Don’s, he nicely let me do it, even though it was an event for his course).
The university campus, wedged into the side of an incredibly steep hill (I will never complain about the hills at our local university again!), was beautiful – it had some very architecturally interesting buildings (the students were impressed by the names of some of the architects who’d designed them) and they made great use of what I would have determined was a hill way too steep to build a university on. Seriously, the students here must be in amazing shape, basically hiking up and down to classes.
Don’s class, along with the tour guides, about 10 very enthusiastic and very sweet students, who had become friends with Don’s class by the end of the tour.
Views of Kyoto from the NOT EVEN the highest building on campus. There were at least two more levels of buildings higher up the mountain than this one.
In the mountains along the horizon here, you can see the cut out where the fire festival images burn each year.
(And that ends my Kyoto skyline tour, folks, because I don’t know any other landmarks that would be visible from up here.)
The tea ceremony was performed by students in the university’s Tea Ceremony Club. They have a dedicated space on campus for practicing tea ceremony.
I’ve taken part in tea ceremony before, and this one was very casual, even for an intro tea ceremony, in part, I assume, because it was run by college students still learning the art of tea ceremony, and performing it for other college students for whom this is very first experience with and introduction to tea ceremony – and in part because it must just be hard with such a big group. Classic tea houses tend to be small and intimate. (Though of course there can be huge tea ceremonies – Tokyo just hosted one for thousands of people!) But it was fun, and I think the students really enjoyed it. And I even liked the ritual mochi sweets this time. (I don’t usually like mochi. Although, D & A just brought home some apple flavored mochi sweets this afternoon and I enjoyed them more than I thought I would, so maybe mochi is just growing on me.)
I did not take many pictures of the campus – I figured the students, all of whom brought fancy cameras, could share any architecturally significant shots with Don.
But I did take a few of the on-campus kindergarten (they literally took us to every building). The kindergarten is mainly in one huge, open room, where the students help with cooking their lunch, and do a lot of self-directed play. The kindergarten is one on the highest-up-the-mountain level, so this huge open room, which has floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows, looks down on all of Kyoto below on one side, and up at the rest of the tree-covered mountain on the other side. Apparently the kids spend most of their time outdoors, playing in the trees and up the mountain. They garden. They are out in fair weather and in rain.
To give some perspective, Aardvark’s preschool is also all about student-directed play and being outside, and is even designated an outdoor-school (or whatever the designation is, that is granted by some governing body that actually determines these things at a state or nation level). And the kids are outdoors a lot and they garden too and eat the food they grow…but not like this at all. Their play is in planned spaces, like sandboxes and play structures water tables and dramatic play corners and the like. And I am pretty sure if Aardvark’s preschool backed up into a mountain, they wouldn’t just let the kids go have at it. (There are no play structures here – the kids get their climbing on by for reals claiming a mountain.)
Anyway, it’s pretty incredible.
And the photo above, in the art and music room, is of obake – Japanese ghosts (friendly ghosts – there is a different term for scary, vengeful, not-at-all cute or Casper-y ghosts) projects the kids made. I also can’t see US preschool’s telling ghost stories, drawing ghost pictures and then having the kids make huge papier mache’ ghosts with 4-5 year olds. (But, Playschool folks – let’s totally do this with the kiddos next Halloween!!)
Yeah, so I was like, “Sign us up. Can we come back when Aardvark is 5?”
But then again, being on the top of the campus, halfway up a huge mountain DOES mean the parents – which are mostly from the community; the parents are not typically students at the university – do have to hike all the way up the mountain for drop off and pick up. Which does seem a little crazy…. It is at least a 15 minute steep hike, and that’s if you were to park right outside the entrance to the university.
So maybe we won’t aim to be here when she’s 5 after all…
Jizo statue, seen through one of the kindergarten windows in the smock-cubby room.