I realized that I didn't talk about Ueno Tenmangu yet, so I should probably do that.
This past Saturday, due to a series of confusing circumstances which may or may not have had to do with it pouring rain on my fieldwork, I decided to go wandering around Nagoya. I wound up at Ueno Tenmangu.
One of the things the shrine sells is these little dolls, which come with a fortune rolled up inside. People apparently tie up their fortunes and then leave the dolls at the shrine. There are SO MANY DOLLS, as you will see shortly.
Also, these little guys all had acorn hats.
See all the multicolored dots on the statues? They're all dolls.
Here's the front of the main shrine building.
SO MANY DOLLS.
AND EVEN MORE.
Here's the shrine from a different angle.
These are gourds. They're a special charm that the shrine sells.
Ema for traffic safety.
If you can't read Japanese, on the back of the ema is the name of the requester (bottom line) and the car's license plate.
So that was a fun side excursion, even if I got kind of unpleasantly damp. I...still don't have an umbrella. I am kind of hoping that it will miraculous reappear so I don't have to spend money on a new one. Anyway, as it turns out, the head priest of Ueno Tenmangu is friends with one of the guys who works at the Nanzan Institute of Religious Studies, which means I have an in! Mwahahahaha.
On a side note, miso donuts are delicious, but don't really taste like miso. They make the underside of my tongue tingle, though, which I don't think is a normal reaction. I am eating a miso donut while typing this. That is your context. Yes.
So today I hiked over Gosha Shrine for penmanship class. (I need a better name for it, but that's...the literal translation.) This was what I worked on today:
I'm actually pretty proud of this one, except the bottom of the left side of the 5th character. Ew. I don't know what happened there.
Of course, this also took me about ten minutes to write, because I was trying so hard...
...I somehow managed to forget the date momentarily. It was amazing.
This is what a sheet with corrections looks like. (Circles represent "you did pretty okay here.") As you can probably tell, Nakano-san's corrections look better than my characters. Oh dear.
After class we had tea and marron youkan, which is a kind of jelly-block-thing made out of Spanish chestnuts. DELICIOUS. Also, lots of interesting discussion, some of which I will have to save for another time (and lots of anonymizing). We also talked about Kaminazuki, 'cause it's finally over. Kaminazuki (神無月) is another name for the month of October. If you read kanji, you know that it's literally "month without kami." Essentially, all the kami in Japan go to Izumo Shrine for a big meeting where they decide a bunch of important stuff for the coming year, including who's going to marry who. BUT, as Nakano-san pointed out, October is also when all the fall festivals occur. So why hold a festival for a kami who isn't there? We were trying to come up with explanations, but didn't come to a real conclusion. The best anyone could come up with was, "Maybe the kami have better concentration than humans and can concentrate on their own shrines while at the meeting." (Nakano-san made a face and said that they should be paying attention to the meeting.)
Also, as we were finishing our tea, the other women said that I should teach English as a part time job. (There was then much agreement that they would take English lessons from me.) I explained that I'm not allowed to have any part-time jobs while on Fulbright, and their first reaction was, "Well, you can just not tell anyone..." I tried to explain what a spectacularly bad idea that was, but then they had a better idea. "We can pay you...in FOOD!" So, to make a long story short, I'm going to be teaching English conversation to a group of women from the neighborhood on the 25th in exchange for lunch. I kind of adore teaching, so that'll be cool. Plus, it was decided that the conversation topic will be shrine-related stuff. So. It'll be exciting, at the very least?
In other news, THE SHINTO DIRECTIVE IS SO HARD TO READ. We had to read it aloud in class today, which would have killed me dead, except that I read better than some of the other students and even the Japanese students were struggling with it. There are several things that make it really hard to read:
1. It's written in an older form of Japanese. Thus, there's weird grammar all over the place.
2. It uses a lot of really weird kanji. Like 而して. If you have no idea what that means, it's しかして. Also, いかが has a kanji????
3. All the hiragana is katakana.*
If you want to try to read it, the full text is online here. Ow, my eyes.
...and now I should probably start heading toward bed. So tired.
*If you don't speak Japanese, here's a simple explanation:
There are three alphabets in Japanese: katakana, hiragana, and kanji. The first two are phonetic. You normally use hiragana to write the bits of words that aren't in kanji, but for some reason, the Shinto Directive is written so that all the hiragana is katakana. It looks really weird, and is really hard to read. ImaGINE IF you were READing a documeNT that lookED likE THIS. ExcePT it'S WOrse in JAPANese.