Thursday, January 19, 2012

Recap: The last of the Kyoto adventures and the S-As face my Japanese class

I would have posted this yesterday, but I was busy writing an article for The Fulbrighter and then finding out that it's getting published in the next edition, despite the fact that it includes the phrase "giant, wooden phalluses."  WHOO.

But now it is time to leap* back in time to Sunday, January 8, 2012, also known as our last full day in Kyoto.

As it turned out, my host brothers' Boy Scout troop was having a special beginning-of-the-year ceremony (with the local Girl Scout troop as well) at Shimogamo Shrine, the shrine where they normally meet, and my host mom invited me to come observe.  (Apparently she's actually involved in the troop now, which is pretty cool.)  ANYWAY, we got up early, took a train up to the shrine, and met with the rest of the troop there.  I should mention that it was approximately VERY COLD and Moto, my little host brother, was in short sleeves and shorts.  SHORTS!  He seemed perfectly fine.  I, on the other hand, was freezing to death while wearing two jackets.**  I feel so weak.

In any case, there were two Korean Boy Scouts (one boy and one girl)*** visiting, so we weren't the only outsiders to the troop.  We lined up with the troop and paraded inside the shrine, where we sat for a while and waited for the ceremony before ours to end.  The second in command of the troop (who I found out is Mr. Takabayashi's eldest son) gave a bunch of directions about what to do in the ceremony: how to pray, when to pray, what to do if you couldn't see what was going on, etc.  

After that we all filed into the honden and squished together like crazy because there seriously was not enough room.  I was squished over in a corner, so I couldn't really see much of what was going on, unfortunately.  There was the standard purification and norito and the head of the Boy Scouts and the head of the Girl Scouts both offered tamagushi and a blessing by the miko with bells.  Then the second in command priest came out to talk to the Boy Scouts and tell them that they should try their hardest this year, especially because of the earthquake and tsunami last year.  He mentioned a bunch of events that the Boy Scouts were doing with the shrine over the coming year, including a "Shinto contest" of some kind and a field trip to Ise in June, and urged them to get involved in other activities at the shrine, including a photography contest and a waka (a kind of poetry) contest, which were accepting applicants of all ages.  He also said that this year is the 1300 anniversary of the writing of the Kojiki, and then added, "But I can't really tell you to go out and read it, because it's too hard to read.  But go out and read a version of it this year!"

After that we stuck around for their opening ceremony (which mostly involved raising the Japanese flag and reciting the Boy Scout pledge and greeting the Korean Boy Scouts and giving a special prize to one of the Boy Scouts) and then headed out.

We walked over the Imperial Palace, which happens to be in the area, but, unfortunately, you can only get inside if you schedule a tour in advance, and the gardens were pretty dead, what with it being winter and all, so we decided to head toward Nijo Castle instead.

If you want to see pictures of Nijo Castle, you can head over to either my blog or Mary's blog from last time we were there.

So after that we hopped on a train and rode to Arashiyama, which is a district in the western mountains of Kyoto.  I'd been before, and you can find my previous blog posts about it here and here.

We stopped by Tenryuuji, which is a temple known for a GIGANTIC painting of a dragon on the ceiling.  And then we headed over to another one of Arashiyama's famous sites: a huge bamboo forest.

...where Miranda started randomly knocking on bamboo?

I dunno.

Miranda continues doing things!

slkhjlksarhekahre WHAT HAVE I SAID ABOUT GRAFFITI lksjlktajrkehaere

So then we wandered around a bit and found...potentially my favorite shrine in the world.

It is called 御髪神社.  Yes, the first two characters are read "mikami."****  BUT WAIT IT GETS BETTER.

As you can probably guess (if you speak Japanese), it's a shrine to a kami of hair (or, if you want to be really punny, a kami of kami).

It had the tiniest hand-washing basin ever.

Okay, looks pretty normal, right?

"I will win against DNA!!"

Here's an ema from someone who wants to pass the national examination to become a hair stylist.

"May Dad not worry about not having much hair."
and written under that
"May Dad grow lots of hair."

Here's the back of an ema from the shrine.

"May I continue to have abundant and flowing hair until I am 60."

P.S. This shrine is ALL ABOUT HAIR.

A lot of the people who donated to the shrine were actually hair salons.

Also, they had a cat which apparently was using the hand washing basin as a drinking bowl.

So then we wandered around a bunch more, picked up some omiyage for various people, snitched ate various food samples, and somehow wound up at the river as the sun was setting.


Then we found a little shrine up in the hills by the monkey park:

They had these ema for getting married, where one person (in a relationship) would write one half and the other person would write the other half.

The request written here has absolutely nothing to do with the aliens from Toy Story.  I dunno.

(It says, "May my family and friends and everyone pass their days laughing.")

Also, I have no idea why these are paddle-shaped.

Once you'd written the two halves of your wish, you tie them together!  Ha ha, you've been enmusubi'd.*****

Soooooooooo then we headed back to Kyoto to pack up and get ready to head out the next morning.

The next day!

I had plans to meet Hidemi, my language partner while I was on CLS, in the morning, but something came up and she had to cancel at the last minute.  It was just as well, because I was feeling pretty awful and sick.  Still, we weren't going to waste our last morning in Kyoto, so we decided to hit Touji, a temple near the station.

This is what Touji is famous for--a giant pagoda. Unfortunately, this was the closest we could get to it without paying money.  Bah.


So then we hopped on the Shinkansen, which was exciting because there were no seats so we stood for 35 minutes.  After that we headed our separate ways, I wrote a very short blog post, and then I collapsed every which way.


I had class in the afternoon, but after that I met up with Nick and Miranda and we played Bananagrams (because I totally brought my copy with me) in my dorm's community room (the only room they're allowed in in my dorm).  Nick slaughtered us.  It was not pretty.

After that we all went to my Tuesday Japanese class, where the S-As were IMMEDIATELY ACCOSTED BY SO MANY EXCITED GIRLS.  And also Tuesday sensei.  And we discovered that Tuesday sensei speaks English.  CRAZY.
Also, one of the girls in my class randomly turned to me and said, "Yep, he's a bijin (美人; beautiful person), as I expected" and I started laughing hysterically and Nick had no idea what was going on.  Oh dear.
Oh, and then there was a moment of EXTREME EXCITEMENT when the Chinese-speakers discovered that Nick can speak Chinese.
Basically, it was a normal Japanese class with Tuesday sensei.

Afterwards, O-san asked me how long we had been dating.
Me: Seventeen [her eyes got really wide at this point] months.
O-san: Oh!  I thought you were going to say seventeen years.
Me: No, seventeen MONTHS!
O-san: You would have had to start dating at three or something!

And then after that one of my classmates remarked on how super duper rabu rabu we were****** and O-san said, "Well, they HAVE been dating for seventeen years."

Oh, and then we found out that Kocchan speaks English too.

It was an exciting day.

So, yeah, that was our Tuesday!

*Oh no, I've been in Japan too long.  PUNS ARE STARTING TO BE FUNNY.  QUICK, SOMEONE SAVE ME.

**It probably didn't help that the water at the shrine's hand washing place was FREEZING.

***In Japan, the Boy Scouts are unisex whereas the Girl Scouts are for girls only.

****In Japanese, the honorific used for many kami is 御神 (mikami), which is the combination of an honorific (御) and the character for kami (神). 御髪 (also read "mikami"), on the other hand, is the combination of an honorific (御) and the character for "hair" (髪, read "kami").

*****Enmusubi (縁結び) means "marriage" but its literal meaning is "knot of fate."  Ahahahaha, puns.


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