Friday, August 3, 2012

it's been a while since i've really been able to set aside time to try to post - sorry about that! i've been back in kyoto for several days now, but of course, as soon as i got a decent nights' sleep in, i was back out trying not to waste any valuable time, walking around for 7-9 hours every day to see as much as possible in heat that is still pretty bad even if it's not quite as nasty as i thought it would be. it's been in the upper 90's every day lately, i think. i expected it to be over 100- i guess the summer i was here 2 years ago was a record breaker. go figure. i've seen too much in the past few days to be able to remember all at once, especially right now - my head is totally cooked. but yesterday i spent the entire day at fushimi inari taisha, which was probably about a half an hour walk south from my guest house. but it was hot as hell, so i took the subway a few stops. everyone's seen a photo from this shrine at some point or another - it has what looks like, and what i thought was just a long, long pathway under bright red torii (gates) packed tightly together that go uphill someplace. i thought there was one path that led to the main shrine. i didn't realize how much more there is than that. the main buildings are actually down almost at street level, a few blocks from the train station with plenty of omiyage shops and restaurants between.
the famous torii are actually scattered along a surprisingly large trail system in the forest on the mountain/hills behind, and as many of them as there are (hundreds? thousands?) there have got to be twice as many actual inari shrines, from huge to tiny, in clusters all over the place in the woods along the paths. most of them are in tightly packed clusters, with very narrow almost accidental paths that somehow make all of the shrines accessible, technically. a lot of these clusters of small shrines sort of center around one larger one that faces a small shop that sells some combination of shrine supplies, omiyage, and food/drinks. some are more isolated and would have been completely silent if not for the almost deafening cicadas and other bugs and birds in the woods. there was one in particular that i spent a long time taking pictures and video in, and finally heard someone sweeping after what must have been at least 20 minutes (fushimi inari taisha is a very popular tourist spot, so it was weird to be able to spend so much time in a group of shrines off the path without seeing or hearing any other tourists walking around). oh crap, i've exceeded my quota. will have to delete some old photos so i can fill up this post. be back soon...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We had a few hours off yesterday afternoon and went on a short local hike. I heard these cicadas for the first time two years ago, drifting down from the mountains that surround the valleys we've been working in. They start singing late afternoon and stop when it starts to get dark out. It's been one of my favorite sounds since the first time I heard it. It was a little different so close up, but still so cool that when they suddenly started up all around us in the cedar trees, I was making a wizard metal fist before I even realized what I was doing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sorry I haven't really had time to work on posting over the past week - work in Sasayama is a lot more hectic than it was two years ago. The situation here has changed quite a bit, and though there's never a dull moment, we start work at 7 and I usually can't sit down to do anything like this until around 10 PM, and then I'm too tired to be able to concentrate on anything anyway. It's fun, but I don't know how many pictures I'm going to be able to take this time. It's also been raining a lot, which makes sightseeing bike rides or walks on the weekends kind of difficult. I'm here for 3 more weeks - if I can't update much while I'm here, I should have time once I go back to Kyoto. That thatched roof house in the first pictures is where I'm staying. We're working on the white building on the right.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

my brain hit a wall sometime in the middle of the day today - seeing too many beautiful places in a short amount of time.  i went to arashiyama, on the western side of kyoto, if you want to look it up. i took a TON of pictures, but i'm not ready to sit here and start working on them.  taking the bus to sasayama tomorrow - hopefully after a little decompression i can get back on it.  had a great time today- really, i'm just a little overwhelmed, i guess.  kyoto's famous for this.

Monday, June 25, 2012

map schmap

of course i went back to kiyomizudera - i've been around the surrounding streets (which are full of souvenir shops and food) several times.   i've been eating too much matcha ice cream, way too much matcha everything, at this point.

iced  pickle on a stick.  really good in hot weather

  i've seen these things running around in anime before, but didn't realize they came from something.  stupid me.

 there's a lot in the hills around kiyomizudera besides kiyomizudera.  my pictures came out terribly, but i hiked through a lot of places including a very, very steep old hillside graveyard, and up these stairs to a shrine at the top.  i wanted to take the other one that went through the woods, i really did, but the mosquitoes were getting out of hand.

 it seems like trying to plan where to go and what to see ahead of time is just a waste of effort in a place like this, when stumbling upon things works so well.  i can't even remember where i was trying to go when i banged a left into Gion and after wandering in a circle found some pretty big-looking temple grounds that were closed for the night. because it's pretty close to where i'm staying, i decided to come back during the day to see what might be open.  

and i'm really glad i decided to go into the dark reception room with a sign i couldn't really read where they were charging admission to get in.  i think it was about 7 dollars.

according to the pamphlet i got on the way in, kenninji is the oldest zen temple in kyoto, founded about 1,010 years ago.
there's a covered walkway that leads to a separate building, where you have to put on red slippers to cross, since you left your shoes at the main entrance 2 hours ago... i was curious about what was in this other building, because it's big, kind of dark, and stood out a bit even from the outside.

and what i found was pretty freaking cool

Saturday, June 23, 2012

too many mediocre pictures

Left the guest house in Osaka a couple of days ago and spent about a day and a half with friends who live in Nishinomiya.  We visited a friend of theirs who lives further west, and whose husband has a second, very rural rental house used as a studio for making pottery.  Really, really nice pottery.  He wasn't there when we went, but we had an amazing lunch

(the other half didn't fit on the table - there was much more), and somewhere in there is fresh, real wasabi that Masa-san grated on-site (you Never see real wasabi in the US - it's always horseradish), the best homemade inarizushi ever, and lots of other good, fresh food that for whatever reason is difficult to replicate at home.  The mountains in the area are very close, and the view from the house was amazing.   It was very quiet - a car would occasionally go by behind us on the road, but I remember hearing mostly trees in the wind and an uguisu showing off. I tried to take photos of the scenery from inside the house, but they didn't really come out.

 then we took a short walk a little further uphill to the shrine/temple which has a creepy story attached - I'm not sure I understood it exactly, but for some reason this shrine is well known, or popular, or good for....somehow tied to a particular kind of 'request' - women whose husbands had taken up mistresses would sneak out at two AM (much worse than midnight here, I hear) in white kimono (probably wearing candles on their heads before street lights existed), making sure no one saw them, and at the shrine, would drive a nail through a straw doll representing the mistress into the wood, wishing death upon them.  Pretty specific, huh?  I can't imagine being female and living in a time where they were so powerless and desperate when things went wrong that resorting to this kind of tactic really seemed reasonable.  Lucky me.

We got back kind of late, so I spent that night in Nishinomiya as well, and late morning when I finally woke up, took a walk up a nearby river.  Not too far in, I found a bush full of these butterflies.

I also heard and saw frogs for the first time this trip.  Speaking of, saw two snakes as well - one black one at the shrine, and another brown one on the path next to the river here.
Then this afternoon I lugged my stupid heavy bag back down to Osaka and up to Kyoto.  I had reserved a room in a guest house here for just a few days, because Kyoto is really amazing and I haven't given myself enough time to walk around and see things here.  The guest house has a main building with a cafe on the first floor, and an annex not too far away, where I'm staying.  It was a little difficult to find, even with a map (mostly because some streets here are so small or narrow that they don't bother putting them on a lot of maps) but I found it (my shoulders are still a little traumatized from the long walk with all that weight) and it's really, really awesome.
When I finally turned down the right side street, I thought it was another wrong turn, because I saw this, and I was sure it was supposed to be on the right side

turns out the sign I was looking for was just small. And the building is nicer than I was expecting.

It's on the right, there. Gojo guest house.

It's an old building that fortunately hasn't been "updated' much - the hallways are solid wood floors, not quite level, smooth and waxy, the walls are all fresh plaster, and the fusuma are all papered, just like they should be.  

That's the corner of my 3-tatami room.  It's pretty small, but it's private, lockable, and less than 40 dollars a night.  Not bad for a short stay.


So after finally dumping my stuff in my room and taking a shower, I took a walk up the hill, eastward - the sun was just setting and the view was amazing. It was steep - Kiyomizudera, that temple above the trees from the other photos, is not too far behind me where I stood taking this picture.  I'm right down the street, near Gojo station- you can look it up on Google maps if you want -
Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Komatsuchō, 11−26

  I have more photos, but I am exhausted.  There are plenty more coming - I have a lot to see in the next few days!