Where have we wound up this time?
Well, it looks like
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2012
when we left Nagoya for Kyoto, but took a detour along the way to ISE.
...since I have already been to Ise twice, you should probably go look at those blogs (here and here) if you want to know tons about Ise, but, here, have some random pictures.
Despite it not being a national holiday and being 3 days after New Year's, it was INSANELY CROWDED.
...also, it was exciting because we stowed all our luggage in lockers at the station, except Miranda's bag didn't fit, so she spent the whole day dragging it around Ise LIKE A BOSS.
It was so crowded that they had erected separate entrances and exits at the inner and outer shrines.
When we stopped by the little Inari shrine on the way, they had a bonfire burning. Which was nice, because the temperature was approximately VERY COLD.
Even though there were signs saying "don't throw coins into the river" people threw coins into the river.**
The river was also a lot lower than last time I visited.
Here's the shrine office for the inner shrine...
SO MANY PEOPLE.
A SEA OF PEOPLE GOING TO PRAY.
So, uh, yeah, that was exciting.
So after that we had some of the best fries I have had in my life (long story) and got on a train to Kyoto where...
...it was snowing! I might have been thrilled out of my MIND.
(P.S. Nick totally took this picture with my camera, because he has SKILLS.)
...then we found out our internet was THE SUCKS. That was less awesome.
THE NEXT DAY!
We decided to head over in the direction of Kiyomizudera (which is a huge temple complex), but we stopped by this tiny shrine on the way:
It also enshrined the kami of pottery, and apparently is the site of a huge pottery festival in August.
And it has omamori for improvement in pottery. I totally would have gotten one for Alyssa, the Fulbrighter working on pottery, but the shrine office was closed. OH WELL.
So after that we went to Kiyomizudera.
I last visited Kiyomizudera 2 1/2 years ago, so it was really nice to go again, especially since it is probably my favorite temple.
Here's the temple bell.
...well, at least they know what they want.
At this point, we went through "the Womb of Kannon," which is basically a pitch black passageway which you walk through to touch an illuminated stone at the end (which is said to grant your wish). They added guide rails since the last time I visited, which meant there was 75% less screaming, crashing into other people, and accidentally getting turned around in the dark.
It's hard to see in this picture, BUT on the corner of the roof is a wind god.
Views from high places continues!
Here is a statue of Kannon (a bodhisattva). You're supposed to fill a water scooper and walk over without spilling any water and then pour the water over the part of Kannon that corresponds to where you are hurting. So if your shoulder is hurting, you pour it over Kannon's shoulder.
Needless to say, this is not the easiest task.
The containers really, really want to spill water everywhere.
...and sometimes you just pour the water over Kannon's head accidentally.
There were a fair number of people visiting that day, but it was nowhere near as crowded as the last time I was there.
Did I mention it was built on a MOUNTAIN?
This is a view from the Jumping Balcony. The Jumping Balcony is a balcony (WHOA, NO WAY) which, if you jump off of it and survive, your wish will be granted. I seem to remember that the survival rate is ~70%? Of course, then people say that the only way to survive is to wish to survive the fall...
The temple complex takes up most of the mountain!
This is a fountain that we'll come back to later...
HI, PEOPLE ON THE OTHER BALCONY.
Kiyomizudera has a tiny shrine in it called Jishu Shrine. The shrine is associated with Ookuninushi no mikoto, a kami associated with love and marriage. Needless to say, it is a LURVE SHRINE.
These are a list of thanks from all the people who prayed at the shrine and then got married. If you notice, there are a bunch of foreigners up there too.
The shrine also sells charms related to Lurve-Related Activities (this is the scientific term).
This was a really cool booth that had been set up for the New Year. You write your name on a paper doll and then dissolve it in a bucket of water to purify yourself. What may be difficult to see from this picture is that the ink didn't dissolve in the water, so the characters would still be floating on the surface! It was kind of like that scene in Spirited Away where Yubaaba steals Chihiro's name? Yeah.
Oh man, there are a whole lot of people interested in LURVE.
Here's an interesting hand-washing station. Each ladle has the character(s) of a benefit written on it, and you scoop water with that ladle to receive the benefit.
Ookuninushi no mikoto's animal familiar/messenger is a rabbit, thus this giant stuffed rabbit holding a purification wand.
Here's the jumping balcony! And KYOTO.
And here it is again. If you'll notice, it would take a fair amount of effort to actually jump off of it.
Okay, so now we're back down at this fountain again. There are three streams of water, and (according to the cool students from Osaka U. who were our guides on my last visit) they grant love, wisdom, or longevity, depending on which one you drink. Of course, I had forgotten which one was which and there were no signs up, so we made a semi-educated guess based on which one had the most teenage girls drinking from it?
I keep seeing these flowers EVERYWHERE. They are gorgeous and apparently flower in winter. Anybody know what they are called?
There was a tiny garden farther down the mountain as well.
...and also a graveyard?
So then I managed to sort of get us lost a little and we tried to go to Nijo Castle, but it turned out to be closed by the time we got there, so we wandered around Sanjo and Shijo (both districts of Kyoto full of SHOPS) and had one of the worst meals I have ever had in Japan. It was at a French restaurant where they served pizza and fish and chips, so...yeah. The fish kind of melted in my mouth? It was really strange. But it was pretty okay. Miranda and Nick's pizza was just BAD, though. You shouldn't really get things with cheese in Japan.***
And then we went back to our hostel and CRASHED.
On a side note, in the real world it is currently January 16, and Nick left for the States this morning**** (Miranda left on Friday). We walked a total of 150+ miles (135 while Miranda was there) and had some crazy adventures. I'm about 11 days behind on blog posts, but hopefully I'll catch up fairly quickly. In any case, it was great to have both of them visit, and hopefully they weren't too weirded out/exhausted by the whole experience. よかったら、また遊びに来てね！
*Will I run out of time traveling jokes at some point? Maybe. BUT NOT TODAY.
**In regards to the translated signs from last time, YES, they really do say "even if." Very pessimistic.
***Unless they are orange cheese pastries from Valor. THEY ARE MY NEW OBSESSION OM NOM NOM.
****We did not cry down each other's shirts because we are tough like RAWR.