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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Creative Travel in Kyoto, Japan: My Speech & High-Speed Intercultural Learning!

Japan … It just blows your mind. Times & times over. My first ever days in this “land of the rising sun” have brought with them an air of mystery, appreciation and utter fascination. I have started making some friends – over Guinness, cake, coffee, a mutual interest in creative travel as well as the local food & culture scene. Obviously, you may say, as food & drinks always make people meet – and more so if you are a passionate driven foodie traveller with a constant appetite for life & cultural learning!

“If I lived or stayed here longer, I would immediately start learning the language. I want to know how they say, what they say, and then pick up the individual nuances so as to decipher more about the Japanese concept of Tatemae & Honne – Harmony & Respect.”

There goes word by someone who is used to speak several languages fluently, suddenly halted in her tracks of constant understanding and linguistic interaction. It is therefore so very interesting to first relying on observing Japanese people. In the sense that, everything they do, say or express, is done with utmost care and delicacy. Really. Especially towards me as a foreigner, I may say. Beyond the gentle politeness and smiling expressions, I am forever thinking, “so what is it that they are really thinking? When do they have their moments of letting their guards down, of freely and openly argue, of living, laughing and sharing? It is difficult to tell with this language barrier … as Japanese is not only different in words and letters, but also in concept of behaviour and way of speaking. But perhaps, it is also a cultural barrier that takes time, observation and learning, to overcome, assimilate and adapt to.”

I am deep in conversation and thought with Dannie De Fazio, an Italian-born world citizen who has lived and worked across five different continents and now calls Kyoto home. Interestingly enough, his area of research is … the Japanese Geisha culture! “I would love to stay here forever”, he says of his three years in Japan that have taught him a deeper understanding of this very delicate part of (woman) history in Japanese society, a new concept of beauty as well as – some Japanese. “I am still learning”, he laughs upon being quizzed for his rather excellent language skills. I can hear him make perfect conversation with his fellow researchers and professors here at Doshisha University in Kyoto, where I have been invited to give a speech about Creative Tourism and my round the world trip focused on experiencing creative travel around the globe. Dannie and I are today’s speakers in front of a group of students & professors at Doshisha University of Economics. I feel honestly delighted, and forever honoured, to be here giving this speech as a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of meeting, sharing & learning.

My living quarters in Kyoto: Amherst Guest House at Doshisha International University speaks of an almost British Victorian flair, related to the country’s history and ties with the British culture.

My living quarters in Kyoto: Amherst Guest House at Doshisha International University speaks of an almost British Victorian flair, related to the country’s history and ties with the British culture.

 

First friendship: Takomoto, the owner of a local bar called "Cake Kyoto", serves me real draft Guinness (!), stories of travel, food, photography & music, as well as – delicious Japanese cake with milk of his friends’ cows from Hiroshima!

First friendship: Takomoto, the owner of a local bar called “Cake Kyoto”, serves me real draft Guinness (!), stories of travel, food, photography & music, as well as – delicious Japanese cake with milk of his friends’ cows from Hiroshima!

 

The next morning, I walk into this cute little coffeeshop called "Coffee Liebe" (!), where the local lady hardly speaks a word of English, but certainly, the language of the heart …

The next morning, I walk into this cute little coffeeshop called “Coffee Liebe” (!), where the local lady hardly speaks a word of English, but certainly, the language of the heart …

 

… as she forever smiles at me and offers me beautiful Origami as a present with my coffee !!! Must be the love – Coffee Liebe!

… as she forever smiles at me and offers me beautiful Origami as a present with my coffee !!! Must be the love – Coffee Liebe!

 

Here at the modern-looking Doshisha University of Economics in Kyoto …

Here at the modern-looking Doshisha University of Economics in Kyoto …

 

… I am invited to deliver my speech on creative travel around the world, getting ready with my personal English – Japanese translator!

… I am invited to deliver my speech on creative travel around the world, getting ready with my personal English – Japanese translator!

 

Love how the students in the audience take note of what I say – in Japanese, naturally!

Love how the students in the audience take note of what I say – in Japanese, naturally!

 

Celebrating Creative Tourism around the world!

Celebrating Creative Tourism around the world!

 

The audience is listening, including students from Mexico, China and of course Japan.

The audience is listening, including students from Mexico, China and of course Japan.

 

I am so impressed with my translator’s skills of simultaneous translation between Japanese and English !!

I am so impressed with my translator’s skills of simultaneous translation between Japanese and English !!

 

Thank you so much, dear Sasaki san, for your passion, support and mutual interest in developing creative travel around the world, and more specifically, here in Japan – and for Rebecca Wurzburger from Santa Fe Creative Tourism for bringing us together in the first place!

Thank you so much, dear Sasaki san, for your passion, support and mutual interest in developing creative travel around the world, and more specifically, here in Japan – and for Rebecca Wurzburger from Santa Fe Creative Tourism for bringing us together in the first place!

 

What an honour for me celebrating this form of knowledge exchange and discussion in front of such an international crowd here at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan!

What an honour for me celebrating this form of knowledge exchange and discussion in front of such an international crowd here at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan!

 

:D (Arigato – Thank you!)

😀 (Arigato – Thank you!)

 

 

“Some of the Geishas, they are my friends now. I can take you to them if you want! The way they move, dance or sing, it is just beautiful. A very visual sense of beauty. Often, men simply take a Geisha for entertainment, they don’t go ‘all the way’ as Westerners would think. An hour with a Geisha starts with, say, 200 British pounds at the very least?”

Fascinating. It is forever fascinating to listen to, and share some more understanding about Japanese culture with Dannie de Fazio. You can tell that he is totally enchanted with the concept of Japanese “beauty and art as expressed by the ancient Geisha culture“, the area of his research expertise here at Doshisha University. There are not many that have looked at this particular part of Japanese society over time – and certainly not as a man from ‘the West’. “I did not say this in my presentation, but being a man, my research is further complicated. The Maiko / Geisha culture is essentially a woman’s culture. It takes time, and patience, to obtain results and understanding from my point of view.”

Through this very delicate research focus of his, Dannie has not only achieved a better understanding of the Geisha culture, but essentially in my eyes, of Japanese society as a whole.

What better guide & companion could I therefore wish for on my first day of travelling around Kyoto?

“Come with me Elena, as I will take you round the city and introduce you to some temples and two of the five Geisha districts. I have got a spare bicycle, so we can take the bikes and see even more!” Thrilled about this unique opportunity of having someone to talk to, who is just as fascinated by (and knowledgeable about) Japan, I join Dannie on this unique nocturnal bike trip around the city of Kyoto.

As Dannie and I make our way across the park of the former Imperial Residence, a heron – Japan's national symbol animal – casually crosses our path.

As Dannie and I make our way across the park of the former Imperial Residence, a heron – Japan’s national symbol animal – casually crosses our path.

 

On yer bike: Off we go exploring Kyoto!

On yer bike: Off we go exploring Kyoto! (And yes … I am well wrapped up for winter after all this recent, lovely summer time travelling of mine!)

 

Dannie takes me to the temple city, where prayers to the Goddess of Beauty are written on wooden cards – by “ordinary” visitors and Geishas alike.

Dannie takes me to the temple city, where prayers to the Goddess of Beauty are written on wooden cards – by “ordinary” visitors and Geishas alike.

 

Thank you Dannie for taking me out – companion in spirit and unique storytelling genius on all things Japanese society, culture & customs!

Thank you so much, dear Dannie, for taking me out – companion in spirit and unique storytelling genius on all things Japanese society, culture & customs!

 

The stage for a Geisha to dance is set: "Only two weeks ago, they were dancing here", Dannie tells me, smiling happy at the memory.

The stage for a Geisha to dance is set: “Only two weeks ago, they were dancing here”, Dannie tells me, smiling happily at the memory.

 

First Japanese language lesson: The second sign from the bottom on the right means "woman" – can you spot why?

First Japanese language lesson: The second sign from the bottom on the right means “woman” – can you spot why?

 

Exiting the temple city is pushing my bike down the stairs …

Exiting the temple city is pushing my bike down the stairs …

 

… and further into the nearby Geisha district.

… and further into the nearby Geisha district.

 

Appetizer time: "Mochi" sweet, sticky rice ball street food in Kyoto!

Appetizer time: “Mochi” sweet, sticky rice ball street food in Kyoto!

 

Main course is for Japanese noodles in a sweet curry sauce complete with spring onions and deep fried crisps, at "one of my favourite places", Dannie smiles.

Main course is for Japanese noodles in a sweet curry sauce complete with spring onions and deep fried crisps, at “one of my favourite places”, Dannie smiles.

 

Free WiFi for foreigners !!

Kyoto celebrates free WiFi for foreigners !! …

 

Before we take to yet another place for dessert: Baked fish filled with a sweet bean sauce!

… before we take to yet another place for dessert: Baked fish filled with a sweet bean sauce!

 

Full of impressions, food & memories from a perfect day out, I fall into bed soon after this picture was taken … What a brilliant way to start my visit of Japan! Have a look at some more photos of this fascinating country here:

Disclaimer: Thank you so much for supporting my stay in Kyoto, Japan through my accommodation at Doshisha University Guest House as well as paying for my lecture in front of the international team of students and professors. All opinions are my own.

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
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