Friday - 21 Feb 2003
Kyoto (yeah, it.s redundant. i know)
Day 38 (Friday)
I took the JR (Japanese Railway) from Nagoya Station to Maibara and then transfered to a train the took me to Kyoto Station. Then, I used the subway to get to Kataoji Station. It may sound hard, but it was a nice 3hr. trip. Not bad.
My sensei met me in the subway and away we went to okonomiyaki (try saying that 10 times fast). Okonomiyaki is like a big pancake made from cabbage, eggs, and different things (ex. squid, veggies). I had the squid. She had the mochi (that.s pounded rice) and cheese. I got to mix and fry mine at the table. It was much fun. Afterwards, we went to the spuermarket and walked home. At this point, I wasn.t expecially impressed by Kyoto, but since it was still dark, I was willing to wait. Everyone makes such a fuss about Kyoto that it.s hard to believe that it.s really all that cool.
We chilled around the kotatsu (the heated table with a quilt for keeping your legs warm) for a while. Then I took the hottest bath I have ever had. Ever. That.s a good thing. You know how something is so hot your almost think it.s cold? (If not, try turning the hot water faucet on all the way and holding your hand in the water for a sec.) Yeah, almost like that. My sensei took good care of me.
We planned out the next day over tea and under the kotatsu.
I got to sleep on a futon. Before I got inside, sensei used this machine to heat it up. It was kind of like a vacuum cleaner with a bag on the end, going in reverse. Cool. I slept like a baby.
Day 39 (Saturday)
I was nice and cozy in my futon, but the sounds of quiet conversation drew me out. In my sleepy stupor, I found my sensei, her roomie, and the kotatsu. Blessed kotatsu. I had aloe and kiwi yogurt (yeah, you can eat aloe. it.s in yogurt a lot), fruit, and milk for breakfast. Now that.s my kind of breakfast. I got to read an English language newspaper, too. It had been a while since I.d read one, so I was pleased. Well, pleased until I heard about impending wars, subway accidents, and building fires. Life as usual.
We decided to see Kyoto by bike. I was really happy to hear this because I haven.t been doing much exercise here. I feel like a cow. We left the house at 8:30am and went to our first stop:
*I warn you, my spelling is probably off
...and I might call something a shrine when it.s really a temple
...and "jinja" means "shrine" and "tera/dera" means "temple"
...or it may be the other way around. I don.t know. Leave me alone.
This shrine was really close to my sensei.s house. Just a few minutes by bike through the narrow twisting alleys of Kyoto. S-Jinja is in the midst of all these trees. Because it was so early, everything was eerily quiet. At this shrine, there are these mini-alters set up to different gods. If you want the god.s favor, you offer it a few coins (sometimes in a basket, other times you just lay it down). Then, you say a little prayer/talk about your concern and clap (not a lot, once or twice). After you clap you pull on a cord to ring the bell above your head.
I.m one of those God-is-everywhere-not-just-in-my-own-particular-denominational-church people, so this little ritual didn.t bother me. However, if your church is a little stricter, you may not want to do this. Even so, the shrines are cool.
Next stop: Yoshida Jinja
This was a little shrine, but it was cute. My sensei told me that during a certain celebration, the shrine-people (not sure about the right word here) erect high walls, dig a really deep whole in the middle of everything, and have a gigantic bonfire. Supposedly, shrines are packed with people who have come for blessings or just to party. Now that.s religion.
By the way, all of the temples and shrines have omiyage booths where you can buy souvenirs for yourself and friends. They all sell pretty much the same things: little decorative bags with amulets inside, figures of religious significance, and postcards of the place. The souvenirs are expensive, but then so is everything else in Japan.
Next stop: Ginkakuji
*Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavillion)
So there once was this big powerful guy with too much money. He decided to build a temple and cover it with gold leaf (Kinkakuji). It was big and gaudy and he was happy. Later, some other guy (I.m pretty sure it was a descendant) thought to himself, "Hey. That was a cool idea. I.m gonna do the same thing, only in silver." And so he built the temple, but he ran out of money--he probably got roped into buying a lot of Hello Kitty Japanese stationary--so he couldn.t cover it in silver. Ginkakuji was born.
Most people will say that Ginkakuji is their favorite of the two, maybe even out of the the sights in Kyoto. Though it wasn.t my favorite, I definately loved it. This one is a pay-temple, but it.s definately worth the 500yen or so that it costs to enter. My sensei made me speak Japanese to get my ticket. Darn her. Not that it.s difficult. I.m just embarrassed to speak Japanese in front of someone who has already got a handle on it.
When you walk in, you.re almost knocked over by the greenery. All of the rocks are covered in moss of various shades of green. If you follow the path, you can wind your way around the pond (ponds come pretty standard with shrines/temples in Japan. all the WELL-known ones seem to have them). If you ever decide to come here, bring your camera. The main pavillion was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. The surrounding area was a mass of bamboo stalks. They were so tall. I love looking at bamboo...it reminds me that I.m in Japan.
Next stop: Honenin...could be a shrine, could be a temple, i.m thinking shrine because I don.t remember paying.
This was basically your average temple-y/shrine-y thing, except it also held the grave of Junichiro Tanizaki (he was a hugely popular--and very twisted--author). We climbed a hill to a little graveyard and got to see his headstone. Neat.
...ummm, yeah, so I./ll finish this after class...see you in three hours.