Dear everybody who commented on the "lung" at a noodle place in the last post; that was a typo. It should have read "lunch." To be fair, before that I wrote "dinner" and then in my half-asleep state realized that it didn't make sense to eat dinner twice.
...although I may or may not have eaten lung before in that sketchy "it has organs in it" meal.
But, no, no lung this time. Yay, typos.
Also, HAPPY NEW YEAR by the lunar calendar.
ANYWAY, now that that has been cleared up, it is time for some more time travel,* back to Saturday, January 14, 2012.
Most shrines in Japan have a day about halfway through January when they burn a whole bunch of stuff from the previous year, like old omamori and ofuda and decorations that were used during the New Year, etc. Saturday was Gosha Shrine's giant bonfire day, so Nick and I headed over there to check it out.
See that giant tarp full of stuff? They were burning two of those. (The stuff, not the tarp.)
There were a bunch of people who came early to clean up the shrine, which meant sweeping up all the leaves that had fallen.
These people were trying to break up the kagami mochi which had basically become as hard as a rock in the two weeks since the New Year. They were using hammers and saws and chisels and some sort of cutting contraption (like a paper cutter but for cutting more intense things) and the kagami mochi was still winning.
So there was a short purification ceremony, but I was all the way in the back, so I couldn't see or hear much. But after that was when they started burning things.
ALL THE THINGS.
Here's the kagami mochi, after they had managed to subdue it somewhat.
Then they cooked the kagami mochi. And ate it. Both in zenzai (a kind of sweet red bean soup) and on its own dipped in soy sauce and sugar. DELICIOUS.
Meanwhile, lots of things were burning.
SO MANY THINGS.
They were using this bamboo pole to poke the fire...but it kept catching on fire...
Also, as we were all chilling, enjoying the fire, a group of guys walked past with a 25-30 foot bamboo pole and a hacksaw. Apparently they were cutting down a bunch of bamboo which was growing on the side of the shrine, cutting off the offshoots (to throw in the fire) and then storing the bamboo by the side of the shrine office for...something.
More excitement occurred when Nakano-san, apparently seeing that many of the children wanted to throw things in the fire (despite their mothers' wishes) told all of them to write something on paper to burn in the fire, and so that their handwriting would become better. Cue a mass exodus for papers and pens and very little interest in throwing other things in the fire.
That's kagami mochi cooking on the bonfire, if you couldn't tell.
Also, apparently eating the kagami mochi cooked on the fire (or with coals from the fire, in the case of the other picture) will keep you from getting sick for the rest of the year.
If you want more pictures of THINGS BURNING, Nick took about a million of them and posted them here. He actually knows how to take pictures, so you should go check it out.
Anyway, after that we decided to hit Tokugawa Museum and Gardens, which was in Nick's guidebook.** In any case, the museum was okay, although nothing to write home about. They had a lot of really cool artifacts from the Edo period (1603-1868) and a big exhibit on swords, which I feel I would have gotten a lot more out of if I actually Knew Things about Swords. It turned out, though, that entrance to the museum is free for Nanzan students, so yay for that.
After that, we wandered around the gardens for a little bit.
They had a thing for waterfalls while designing the gardens, apparently.
They also had a bunch of roses (or what I assume were rose-like flowers) blooming in little straw hut things...presumably to protect them from the cold.
THE KOI ARE COMIN' TO GET YOU.
These are winter sakura, which have been blooming all over the place. They're really tiny, but still pretty.
...and this is not a very good picture of them. Oh well.
Random spurts of water from between rocks! I dunno.
So, yeah, that was the garden and museum and the end of our Saturday.
Sunday we decided to go exploring, so we took a train up to Inuyama, which is right at the edge of Aichi Prefecture.
You can see Gifu Prefecture right across the river.
This is the Kiso River, by the way, which is the sixth longest river in Japan, or so I have been told.
And that was our goal, Inuyama Castle, also known as the oldest castle in Japan.
I am not fascinated by strange rock formations in the water, I SWEAR.
There are a bunch of shrines all clustered at the bottom of the hill that the castle is on.
They were doing some sort of earthquake retrofitting, and so there were bracers up everywhere.
Yes, it is called "the pine tree of fate and the vagina rock."
Nope, not seeing it.
This is not actually a hand-washing place, despite what it looks like. It's for washing your money. If you wash your money here, it will multiply many times! Or so the sign next to it said.
This is a rock which you are supposed to lift. If it feels really heavy when you lift it, it means your wish won't be granted. If it feels really light, your wish will be granted.
It was really heavy.
I guess I am screwed.
This is sacred sand.
Or so the sign said.
Views from high places, Inuyama edition!
I like how what's written in Japanese is completely different than what's written in English.
How to pray
Two bows Bow deeply twice
Two claps Clap twice
One bow Bow deeply twice
Apparently this was put together as part of a prayer day/festival for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in March.
This may be one of the coolest sacred horses I have ever seen.
So then we went up to the castle. When I went to buy our tickets, the woman at the ticket counter said that there was an English-speaking tour guide coming in just a few minutes if we wanted to wait for him. I said I didn't need a tour guide, since I can read Japanese just fine, but Nick said he'd like to have one.
As it turned out, our English-speaking tour guide didn't...actually...speak English. He was certainly very enthusiastic, but it was fairly clear that he didn't understand any questions Nick asked him in English. He also couldn't actually give a tour in coherent English. Much of his tour sounded a lot like, "Map! Old map! Map battlefield. Sekigahara. All battlefield map. Wow!" It was very unfortunate. I feel like I could have given a better tour in Japanese without looking up any of the necessary vocabulary first.
BUT the castle was pretty cool, and we got a nice view from the top floor!
PEACH ON THE ROOF. It's a guardian peach. For fighting off demons.***
These stairs were TERRIFYING. I thought I was going to die. I am growing increasingly convinced that Japan is just excessively bad at stairs.
This is a tree which was REALLY OLD except then it was struck by lightning and died. But it's now sacred because the tree was the exact same height as the turret of Inuyama Castle, so it took the hit instead of the castle.
This is a stele which was put up to honor the lord of the castle at the time of the Meiji Restoration, who refused to let the castle be destroyed, even though the Meiji government wanted to destroy all the castles and get rid of the old feudal system.
So then we went back down the hill and got lunch and I discovered the glory of nabe udon. And then we found another shrine.
Oh, hey, a peace memorial!
...right next to a stone for remembering the glorious war dead.
So then we went on a stroll through the town nearby, where we happened on a tiny temple:
You won't be senile!
It's a chair of passing tests!
It's a "definitely pass" Jizo!
So then we walked all the way across town to a bunch of temples on the mountainside.
There was a sort of hill + statue + garden thing as you climbed up the mountain.
We were pretty high up.
The big temple in the area had a big Buddha statue at the top of the mountain.
I think that the lines and lines of little Jizo down there are a mizuko memorial. I'm not entirely sure, though.
Temple parking lot!
This is what happens when you try to sneakily take a picture of Nick.
They're gathered around two pots with burning incense. At a fair number of temples they have purification by incense instead of purification by water. I prefer water purification, even if it's really unpleasant in the winter, because it's significantly less likely to make me have an asthma attack.
I don't have an obsession with heights, I swear.
This was another temple to protect against senility. This is a serious concern now that the population is aging.
Hey, look, it's a tiny shrine!
A tiny Inari shrine, to be precise.
I believe these statues represent a variety of different Buddhas and bodhisattvas as well as some prominent samurai from the area? I should have taken a picture of the sign.
On our way back to the station, we passed this:
I assume it was the remains of a kagami mochi + mikan set-up from New Year's, but all that remained was an incredibly tiny mikan. So sad.
So then we hopped on a train and rode back to Nagoya. We had dinner at a pretty awesome tempura place by Kanayama station, which was really cheap AND had vegetarian options! Very exciting.
The next morning I saw Nick off to the airport, although we had some excitement first when there was an earthquake (that neither of us noticed) and all the trains were delayed. There was some minor freaking out, but in the end he made it to the airport ontime and there was much hugging goodbye and definitely no crying down shirts because we are tough like RAWR.
And thus ends my adventures with the S-As. It was fun, guys! We should do it again!
*Emily asked for more Doctor Who, so she gets it...sort of.
**Which, it should be noted, described Nagoya as "gray."
***The story goes that after Izanagi seriously ticked off his dead wife by looking at her maggot-infested body (long story) she decided to send the armies of the underworld after him. After a long and somewhat convoluted chase scene in which he threw various articles of clothing at them (which turned into grapes that they stopped to eat) he grabbed three peaches and fought of the hordes of the underworld with them. Because he could.
I feel like maybe I should do a post on the Kojiki at some point. I'm not sure that would make anything make any more sense, though.