Monday, July 03, 2006

Kyoto and Nara

J had a Kyoto enkai on Friday night, so I headed into Kyoto on the early train Saturday morning. I wandered around most of the morning, just temple/shrine hopping. I got a bus to Kiyomizu-dera (clear water temple), and spent a few hours tasting the holy water, getting my shuin (calligraphy and stamps from individual temples and shrines), and being amused by all the school kids who were on class trips.

Next up was Sanjusangen-do (33 bays temple). It houses 1001 images of Kannon. 500 on each side, with a gorgeous and massive Kannon in the centre. Sorry, would have liked to use my own photo there, but it was prohibited. This temple was also famous for holding an archery event every year, where and archer would shoot for 24 hours to attempt to break the "most arrow to hit the target" record. Its currently held by a 19 year old (at the time he shot) who hit the target 8000 times. Damn!

In the afternoon, we went to the Fushima-Inari Taisha, with the famed vermillion torii. It was huge, and the torii path led over 4km up the mountain. I think I favor the inari shrines over just about anything else. I'm not sure if its the idea of the fox, or the really bright unabashed colors they use, maybe both.

That night we went out with an old student of Josh's and her father (Kocho-sensei at Kamiichi). We had dinner, and then sang karaoke for bout 2 hours. It was great, we were tipsy... there was dancing, singing in English and Japanese (yeah, I sang 2 songs ALONE in Nihongo, which was fun as hell, but absolutely terrifying!).

I haven't even started on Nara yet.

Josh and the antlered school boys in Nara.

I swear I didn't wear this shirt on purpose! The deer were chasing everyone around for food, one tried to smell me, but ended up blowing in my face. Two school kids were trying to show off by harassing a few deer and accidentally stepped in a pile of shika-unko (deer shit), so we laughed as they made a big scene about wiping it off their shoes.

Nara - Todai-ji!

As a true art nerd, I have been yearning to go to Nara all year. Todai-ji was at the top of my "things to do" list. Not only the Buddha, but the architecture, the size, the history... oh man, I totally dorked out. I even got to crawl through the nostril hole of enlightenment! There is a pillar located on the right side, kinda behind the Daibutsu, and at the base of it is a hole that is the same size as the nostril on the actual statue. After waiting for a few adorable children and one very determined man to shimmy through, I took a few moments to ponder my hip width and dove in. J was on the other end taking pictures but he said I shot through so fast that he couldn't get a good shot, and that I really didn't look like I was enjoying myself. In actuality, it was awesome, I was just really focused. Watching him get through was almost better, though!

After the nostril episode, I purchased another nokyocho (blank book that you collect stamps and calligraphy (shuin) from Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples throughout Japan), because I had finished mine at Kagusa Shrine earlier that day. I think of the first nokyocho as my 1st year in Japan, and felt it was appropriate to start my 2nd with the temple I had been most looking forward to all year. J then surprised me and bought us a roof tile. It turns out, for a donation, you can write in calligraphy, your name and whatever you want to personalize a roof tile that will be put on Todai-ji! So, we have our own little part of my favorite temple now.

We went hunting for yukata to no avail and headed back into Kyoto to catch the late train home. I am still exhausted, but it was an amazing weekend. Please enjoy the new hats we will be sporting this upcoming snowboarding season! Thank you deer-obsessed Nara!