Thursday, February 2, 2012

Izumo adventures

Yay, here's the Izumo post FINALLY.  And this time I WILL NOT LET MY COMPUTER BE RIDICULOUS.

But first!

This is what the walkway by the side of Nanzan looks like right now.  SO MANY FLOWERS.

Anyway.  Izumo.

Two of our classmates came up on the night bus, so we met them at the station pretty early on Saturday morning.  We then took a train over to Izumo Taisha station, where

...there was a giant torii in the road.  'cause why not?

Anyway, we headed outside the torii to see the old Izumo Taisha station, which was built in 1912, I believe?  It stopped being used as a station sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s, but the city decided to preserve it as a sort of museum.

Most realistic dummies ever, right?

Don't you wish stations now had random tea rooms?

These are basically the classiest ticket gates.

Izumo has a thing about rabbits.  It's mostly because of a story about Ookuninushi-no-mikoto (the main deity of Izumo Taisha) and a rabbit.  I'll save that story for another time, though.

Tracks toward the mountains!

They had an old engine you could climb on, if you wanted to be a giant dork.


The tracks just sort of...stop.  It's kind of funny, actually.  There's a random sidewalk at the end of them.

It might be slightly hard to tell from these pictures, but there are these weird-looking turtles all over the roof of the station.  That's because turtles were considered to be messengers of the kami, and also because there's a mountain in the area named "Turtle Mountain."

So then we trekked back through the giant torii!

It's really ridiculously huge.

Here's another statue of Ookuninushi-no-mikoto and the rabbit.

The cool thing about Izumo is that there are pictures and statues of various different myths and legends EVERYWHERE.

Here's the shrine!

Everything was pretty dead-ish, since it was winter and all.

This is apparently a statue of one of the myths that I don't know.  Need to do some more reading.

Oh, hey, yet another statue of Ookuninushi-no-mikoto and the rabbit!

...okay, I'll tell you the story.

Ookuninushi-no-mikoto (who, by the way, has about a bazillion names) had eighty brothers,* and all his brothers decided to go to woo an extremely beautiful women.  They made Ookuninushi-no-mikoto carry their bags, because they were great brothers.

Anyway, as they were walking along, they came across a rabbit with no fur.  They told the rabbit that it should go bathe in salt water and then lie on top of a mountain and let the wind blow on it.

Needless to say, the rabbit found this experience incredibly painful, and by the time Ookuninushi-no-mikoto showed up, it was crying in pain.  It turned out that the reason the rabbit had no fur was because it had deceived a crocodile** into forming a bridge from another island to the mainland, by telling him that they should have a contest to see who had more relatives (and the rabbit would count the crocodile's relatives by hopping across the tops of their heads to the mainland).  The crocodile realized the deception right before the rabbit made it to land and skinned the rabbit.

Anyway, Ookuninushi-no-mikoto told the rabbit to wash in the river and then roll in a special kind of pollen. When the rabbit did this, its skin and fur was healed.  The rabbit thanked Ookuninushi-no-mikoto and told him that he would be the one to gain the incredibly beautiful woman all his brothers were going to woo.

When Ookuninushi-no-mikoto showed up with his brother's bags, the incredibly beautiful woman (who may or may not have been a princess) said, "Actually I am going to marry Ookuninushi-no-mikoto," which, needless to say, ticked off his brothers and they killed him twice, but that's another story entirely.

My classmates bought omikuji, and all of them got ranked as either the highest or the secondest high luck and apparently all of them are likely to get married this year?

Izumo Taisha is, if you remember from the Kaminazuki discussion before, where all the kami go for their big meeting in October.  Needless to say, that's A LOT of kami packed into a not very big space.

(Although, the main section of the shrine was under construction, so we didn't get to see it.  Story of my life.)

This moss was dripping freezing water and flecks of ice everywhere.

Sometimes I take pictures of weird things.

You can see the construction tent back there...


Also, Izumo Taisha is a LURVE SHRINE.  Well, to be entirely correct, it is THE lurve shrine.  If you want to get married, this is where you go.  Basically everything in the area has enmusubi written all over it.  I mean, I bought some tea, and it turned out to be ENMUSUBI TEA.  Some of the shops were selling ENMUSUBI ZENZAI, which had heart-shaped mochi in it.  (It also cost more than normal zenzai.)

...but even at love shrines you can find things like this.


Here's that statue from before, just close up this time.

I really need to figure out what story this is.

So then we headed over to the History of Izumo Museum, which was more like the Really Old Stuff from Izumo Museum.  Also, they allowed pictures, hurrah!

This is apparently what Izumo Taisha used to look like.


At this point we went to see a movie which was a compilation of Ookuninushi-no-mikoto stories.  It kind of looked like part of it had been made by some B students in an animation class, part of it had been made by some C students in a green screening class, and part of it had been made by some pretty okay students in an acting class.  The actors (with the exception of one) were all real people, but the sets were either clearly CG (and not good CG; think computer games 10 years ago) or rotoscoped pictures.  And the rabbit was CG.  And I could only really tell it was a rabbit because the narrator said it was a rabbit.  But it was a kind of fun movie, in a really cheesy yet sincere way.

And then it was back to the museum!

Really old hammers!

This was a movie about life in ancient Izumo.  This dude is dumping this lady because she is not hot enough.  It is really sad.  The lady should go out and find dudes who are more appreciative of her singing skills.

Really old bells!

Really old (from the 1st century BCE to the 1st century CE) swords!  REALLY OLD.

Swords from the 6th century CE!

Well, you have now seen stone tools from Shimane 30,000 years ago.  I hope all you archaeology people are happy.

Anyway, after that we got lunch (Izumo soba, which is meibutsu and also DELICIOUS) and then hopped on a train where I fell asleep and my entire class moved to the other side of the train without bothering to tell me so when I woke up I freaked out and thought they had left without me.  But they hadn't.

So then we went to the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue, where Hearn lived for 14 months (and met his wife).  It was small but really cool!  I learned a lot about Lafcadio Hearn.

Then we went for a walk through Matsue...


Oh, hey, look, it's Matsue Castle!  I guess we can go up there...



But it was closing as we arrived, so we couldn't go inside.

The sky was really gorgeous.  I think I'm just used to the sky in Nagoya, which is really grey and kind of depressing, so whenever I get out of Nagoya I get obsessed with how pretty the sky is.

And here's the shrine at the bottom of the hill again.

Definitely one of the cooler lion-dogs I have seen.

Snow and plants on the roof!  What more could you ask for?

So then we headed back toward the station...


So then we headed back to Izumo, got dinner, and bid the guys taking the night bus back to Nagoya farewell before heading off to bed ourselves.

The next day!

We went HERE.

I would talk about the significance of this random rock in the middle of the beach, but I don't really know, except that it's sacred.  I think it's linked to one of the myths I haven't read, 'cause I kept seeing pictures of Ookuninushi-no-mikoto dragging a rock from the sea onto shore...

The weather was really weird.  First it snowed and then it snowed and rained at the same time and then it was raining on one side of the street and snowing on the other...


So then we went wandering through the surrounding town and found a little museum of a bunch of pottery from the area.  It was really gorgeous!  I really liked the museum.

And then we headed back toward Izumo Shrine/the bus stop:

Hard to tell from this picture, but there's snow on the mountains.  WHOO, SNOW.

Anyway, after that we got zenzai and then took a bus back to the station where we caught a train to Okayama where we caught another train back to Nagoya.

And that was the end of the Izumo adventures.

*"Eighty" could just mean "a lot."  In older Japanese, big numbers that start with eight usually just mean "a lot."  Like the term 八百万の神々 (eighty thousand kami) is used to signify that there are a lot of kami in Japan, not that there are literally eighty thousand.

**Or a shark, depending on who you ask. Or sometimes a sea monster.

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