Friday, August 3, 2007

Aug 2 Kyoto

I was up early (out of the door by 7:30)and walked to see lots shrines and temples. I tried to go to Kodaiji and Ryozen Kannon but missed the turn and ended up at 8:00 at another shrine that was just opening. I walked around that, and it appeared to be a shrine for peace since I saw all the paper cranes, and also monuments with a gun and helmet. I came across a turnstile and it requested 300Y to pass, so I paid, and then it opened, and I walked up and up and up through the forest. I think I was walking through a very old grave yard. There were stone grave markers but no wood, so maybe they had all rotted away. From up on the hill there was an expansive view of the city, and also very conveniently a bench (by the usual drink vending machine-yes, even in an old cemetery on a mountain you need a coke). I ate the granola bars that I had brought with me, and then headed back down.

I went to Ryozen Kannon and I was the first person there. I put the first stick of incense in the burner and got up to the temple just as the monks were starting prayers at 9am. It is a very curious ritual involving bells and gongs and drums and lots of incense and chanting. one monk was chanting with overtones. The temple itself is quite impressive because of the giant white Buddha sitting on top of it. I actually saw the Buddha from the parking lot over the trees. I walked all around and even in the Buddha. They have a slab of stone with Buddha's foot prints on it-they are more than 6 feet long. Also in this temple they have a memorial to all unknown soldiers that fell in world war 2. There was a room with sand/soil from military cemeteries from all the allied countries and drawers with lists of names (presumably) from each of the allied countries of the soldiers that died in Japan. I found Canada's drawer. The Japanese names were kept in another room.

I left there just as the other tourist busses pulled in, and went on more of an exploration toward Kyoto station. I stopped in at various places, and called home from a payphone just to see how that worked. I got to Kyoto station around noon and took the train with my rail pass to Inari station to see Fushimi Inari shrine. It has many kilometers of trail up and down the mountain. I think the maximum peak was up 230 meters or something--I'm not so sure about Fuji anymore! This was a hot climb, and I was not prepared really to walk that far in that heat. I brought my water but finished it really early, and had to stop several times and use the shrine water to wash my hands(cool my wrists down). Some crazy guys were there jogging up the stairs up the mountain, and others were racing each other. I met a Japanese woman at the top and we climbed down together, and joined up with 2 cram school teachers from Tokyo who were on a break for the week. They must have been grad students I think. Their English was good, and we walked and talked down the mountain. All told I was there for about 3.5 or 4 hours. We headed back to Kyoto, and then I started another adventure.

This time I was tired of walking, so I went to the first big street that I could find, and I took the first bus that stopped at the first station that I got to. The bus went toward north west Kyoto, and ended up suddenly at the bus terminal-not much fun, so I took the next bus to Arashiyama to the famous bridge. I watched the sun set, and the clouds whipping by--the typhoon was a few cities away but we got a bit of wind. After sunset, I walked across the bridge and noticed boats with lanterns on them floating around, and searched for the boat dock. I got a ticket for the 8pm boat ride, and had an interesting time doing so because the boat operator didn't know english, and he even had trouble writing the japanese words in english letters...he definitely would not simplify his speech or speak slowly even when I asked. Anyway, the boat ride was great, I met 2 boys in yukata (summer kimono dress) and I met another young woman who spoke a bit of English. We got into the boat and took off our shoes before entering the tatami area. It looked like a longer, wider canoe, enough space for 2 people to sit on the flat bottom comfortably, and the sides were high enough to come up to your arm pits so you didn't feel like you'd fall out. There was a roof on the boat but no walls, and from the roof there were paper lanterns lit by candles. The boats were propelled by men using long bamboo poles to push off the bottom.

I didn't really get what we were going to see or do on the water, I was just happy to be in a cool place with a breeze sitting down and relaxing. It turned out we were in for quite a show. They had 2 boats out fishing for river trout with cormorants. 5 birds were on leashes and the handler held all 5 leashes together. A man in the back of the boat propelled it, and another man in the middle hit his paddle against the side of the boat to scare the fish. On the opposite side to the man hitting the boat was a fire suspended in a metal basket from a metal pole near the bow of the boat and the birds and the handler. The scared fish would go toward the light made by the fire, and then the cormorants would attack them. When they got a fish the men would yell out, and then the handler would yank in the leash, grab the bird by the neck and force the fish back up and out of its mouth into a basket. This happened over and over again. It was an interesting look into a historical way of fishing, but I felt bad for the birds.

I ran and caught the last bus to Kyoto and stopped off at a grocery store to buy my dinner-yogurt and 5 bananas and some kind of fruit jelly thing, all for 400Y. It was pretty good. I've had my fill of bananas for the week.

I sure slept well after all of that excitement.

No comments: