This is an aid to usher you centuries into the past, leave this year behind. Once again, my Instagram and Twitter, where you should really follow me for interesting insights into Japan and Korea ;) So unless I want to continue blogging about this trip though my July, I'm going to be updating every two days! So watch out for this space for visual pleasure.
Now, a little background knowledge first. Analysing my week in the Osaka area, I had achieved a startling lack of foray into cultural endeavours. Partly because my accommodation was so far away from the must see destinations and my own ineptitude (getting lost, flustering strangers with my rudimentary Japanese, I'm sure you can envision it ahaha). And I wanted more than flouncing around, especially in Kyoto, I wanted to understand the multitude of the past. So with a quick google, I booked a short half day tour with Viator . Seriously, the guide was amazing, she had everything planned to the last minute. We caught every train within a minute or two upon arrival at that station and even the carriage was strategically chosen to stop directly at the stairs.
Kyoto has thousands of temples (truth or hyperbole, take your pick then google your surprise), realistically. a single day isn't going to enrich you. So my Airbnb host suggested I go to a rather unique one to break the monotony,三十三間堂 (Sanjūsangen-dō), inside stands 1000 Buddha statues so you can see why he suggested this one alone. Unfortunately, I came into Kyoto, preparing an ancient civilisation and was greeted with this.
Kyoto Station. Honestly, I was stunned. Alright sure, its 2015, but given its reputation, I was expecting a very different picture! So of course, I got lost in its confusing labyrinth and by the time I figured out my bearings, I had to hightail it to the tour lest I miss it. So that's background knowledge of my inadequacy, now let me lull you into the fragments of history that I vaguely recall.
The two main religions in Japan are Shintoism and Buddihism. I, myself, consider myself a Buddhist, mostly as that's what my family practices but also, from a scientific, moral standpoint,it seems the most feasible as they do not proclaim creationist beginnings. The main core of Buddihism is that to live an enlightened life, there are a few simple but meaningful practices one may follow. There is no need for strict attendance on a Friday or anything else. It's a way of being. That is why, these two main religions overlap in some areas as they uphold the same principles. On the way to the Tofukuji Temple, which happens to be one of the great five Zen temples of Kyoto, and a rare surviving Zen infrastructure from the 13th century, we peeked into a temple. The tour guide asked for me to pick out something cute. So can you guess which five little figures that I did? I don't remember their names but they protect the children of the after life, children lost through miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth and other tragedies.
I can't even imagine how beautiful this place must be during sakura season - not even then! Imagine it red and gold from autumn!
This is a 三門 (sanmon), and it plays an immensely important role. Basically, they clear you of your sins, of greed, hatred and foolishness. Not in that sense exactly, but they're designed for you to liberate your burdens and from there, enter the temple in order to be completely reinvigorated.See that bottom pillar right where you enter? It's designed to be high enough that you must step over in order to circumvent injury. This emphasises the practice of being aware of your surroundings if even in just that current moment. And from that detail alone, you can glean the significance of a Buddhist temple.
And this was when the tour guide began to geek out haha, This is a maiko, an apprentice Geiko. Apparently, they are rarely seen outside Gion, and there were three wandering around! They must've been hired for photographic purposes, and the tour guide let out a long stream of gushing at my fortune as that was where the typically usually ended in the hopes for a mere glimpse of one. The required skill set of a geiko is immensely vast. Not limited to physical abilities that utilises their bodies like singing, dancing, playing traditional instruments, they are required to keep up to date on politics as well to better entertain their guests.My respect for them soared by leaps and bounds upon hearing that.They aren't your well dressed puppet, they possess wisdom as well!
Dragons were the ruler of water (?) or weather and were the protectors of temples.
Yes, this is real snow. What I began to realise that although placement for various objects may appear random or a hindrance, there existed a grander scheme. Like in the first picture, the rocks represented the land, and the concentric circles (which the monks etch everyday!), the ocean. Thus, I thought that this was entirely fake and dumped there as a representation of something! So when the tour guide informed me that it was snow that hadn't melted from the summer, I was shocked! Now can you see the healing environment that a temple provides? You wander around, revalidating your existence. Everything in this universe has its own place in the world, as do you, so when you ever feel small, remember that you're part of a greater fabric of life.
伏見稲荷大社 (Fushimi Inari Taisha). As the earliest careers in Japan revolved around agriculture, the shrines were built in regards to remaining prosperity. Now, as the main career has shifted to salarymen, the main purpose of the shrine has accommodated that, to wish for success in their businesses. But it is for that cause that the protectors of the shrines are foxes as they are messengers of Inari.
You can literally buy good luck charms for everything. Business, safety, education.. I have notorious bad luck that can tip the Earth out of its usual axis so I abstained from playing the hopeless game of chance.
Apparently, it takes approximately two hours to make a complete circuit, but of course, the more that you walk under, the more your fortune is supposed to rise exponentially. There's also a saying that if you were to complete 100 circuits, your wish would come true. This was when my tour guide got slightly bitter because her mum had done that for her elder brother to pass his exams, but as the youngest, she never received such treatment haha, If anyone was to do 100 circuits of this place, I wonder if it would be counterproductive. I mean, in 200 hours，you could accomplish a great deal. I have several phrases I abide by, one is to create your own miracles, so you can walk through all the temples and shrines in Kyoto for all the luck in the world, but really, with that amount of time spent doing that, you would actually receive fulfilment not just wish for it.
|Ingni Lace Collared Shirt (700yen, Kinji), earth, music & ecology Ribbon Jumper (700yen, Kinji), Knee Length Blue Skirt (500yen, The Jumble Store), Forever New Anorak, Leather Converse High Tops|
OOTD! Channelling my inner Saber from Fate/Stay Night! Haha. Probably the only one, it's too embarrassing asking strangers to take my photo. Being from Sydney, our winters are .. well.. the word 'winter' is rather generous, I've never been able to layer like this before! And ironically, I've never worn as many skirts during such frigid cold! Apparently earth, music & ecology, collaborates with anime and Vocaloid as well? Oh my god. Oh my god. It's only been a week but oh god, take me back Japan!
From the outside.. you can buy those structures, if you think that'll improve your business. But they are very costly!
Extra fancy taiyaki, which I ordered because I thought it was ice cream instead of just whipped cream. It holds all its toppings in its mouth so after your tastebuds are rejuvenated, they scream in protest at the flavourless, cakey body. I much prefer regular taiyaki, it's visually impressive enough to make up for its lack of taste.
And now we take to the streets of Gion!.. To accomplish something we already did right at the beginning of the tour! AHAHHA.
And that wraps up Kyoto. So just as a reminder, I will be updating every 2 days, so don't leave me too soon, right?