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kyonoki - 京のキー

Eely Eels

When I first ate eel it was with a grimace and wince, trying to swallow before I could taste anything. It came as a surprise that it is one of the most delicious of Japanese dishes. The skin is a little bit slimy, but as they are grilled there is nothing approaching the horror of the jellied eel. Eels are prized in Japan as being good for stamina. They are usually cooked in the form of kabayaki by broiling them, basting them with a sauce made from eel stock, soy sauce, sweet rice wine and sugar. They are usually served on a bed of rice. Preparing the eel involves nailing the head down and slicing with a very sharp knife. Gulp

It is an old Japanese custom to eat eels on Doyo-no-ushi-no-hi, (around the 20th July) as a way of strengthening yourself against the apalling heat of mid-summer. Unagi is river eel and Anago is conger eel. In Kyoto and Osaka eel are often called mamushi, meaning 'viper'.

26 07 05 - 01:44 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Windswept

Why does it always seem to rain on the weekend, yet by the time you wake up on a Monday it is the most perfect weather for going on a picnic or sunbathing. Of course it means that at the start of the Summer Break a typhoon was almost guaranteed. Imprisoned in the claustrophobic heat of our apartment, I am going stir crazy. Outside, the dark grey clouds whisk by at dizzying speed and wind drives rain against the balcony doors. The day has an unnatural dusk about it and the gusts cause the insect screens to chatter in their frame. Typhoon season has officially opened.

22 typhoons threatened Japan last year, the high schools shut up shop and evacuated their students 5 times. Each time, as I commuted the furthest, I would literally have to race back to Kobe as quickly as I could manage. On the last typhoon to hit in October the train was halted two miles from my station as sea water had pummeled the railway tracks and flooded whole sections of the coast in Western Kobe. I remember walking home, the frightening cloud banks obscuring the mountains and threatening to break in a deluge of rain. My umbrella was whipped inside out and broken as soon as I emerged from the subway. Winds drove hot breathless air against me. Unnaturally dark, the city emptied of people, all struggling to get home. Like a space invaders film. My excitement outweighed any fear that I had, although I wondered if my clothes were going to stay intact.

That night the typhoon hit. Mitsuko and I huddled around my computer, watching movies as the battery slowly died. The electric box for our street was wrenched free by the winds causing a massive explosion and cascade of sparks, that led to an immediate blackout for 14 hours. No lights, no airconditioning, no TV, no hot water. Fun filling a bath by saucepans heated on a gas-stove, looking out into the strange city scape with absolutely no electricity. It was eery. Like a black out in the war.

Kyoto has nothing near as exciting as this. Far from the coast and nestled happily in a bowl of mountains, the most threatening weather it gets is torrential rain and scarily hot winds. The typhoon warning is out for the next couple of days. It means very little, except the weather can become mean. Rhod was shocked cycling home, spotting the Kamo way above it's banks, flooded with typhoon waters pouring down from the mountainside. So I sit typing this, lights blazing to counter the early dusk. Clouds whiz by and rain comes and goes. I have marched downstairs a couple of times, retrieving clothes blown free of the balcony. Rather ripped free, pegs snatched away. Storms are quite horrible if you want to go out, but when you have nothing better to do they are quite exciting. Dry, it is fun to watch the weather go bad.

26 07 05 - 01:31 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Nagoshi No Harai

Whilst visiting the Heian-Jingu Shrine with Alex and Becci last month, I saw that giant rings made of reed had been hung within the grounds. Bound with white rope, they are as tall and wide as a man, smelling of the river-banks. At the very end of June people wipe away the previous year's sins by walking three times through rings made of reed, just in time for the Summer.

Eating the celebratory dish of minazuki (rice mixed with red beans) is traditional on June 30th. It is said to bring luck.

20 07 05 - 03:22 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Yukata Girls

Gion Matsuri is here. Traffic has been halted outside the centre of the city, food stalls set up, floats constructed, houses opened and heirlooms dusted off. Over the course of the next few days five hundred thousand people will descend on Kyoto, flooding the trains, buses and taxis to breaking point. Bicycles will crowd every free space along the tight alleyways. Notes are posted at most parking spaces warning of theft during the matsuri season.

As the sun died away the street party began.The main thoroughfares squeezed with a tide of bodies, slow waves of people pushing and shoving their way from food stalls to floats.. Rhod and I were a little late, parking our bikes in the garage of his workplace and walking towards the hub of the festival. We had planned to meet Tomi, Jol, Misako and James, but it became clear the crowds were going to make us very late indeed.

Far from the main attractions, the side streets and back allies were full to bursting with people. Women dressed in yukata, cameras flashing, squid, noodles, fried chicken and shaven ice all being eaten. Floats block many of the tiny roads, damming the flow of people, bodies jostling and sweating and squeezing against one another. With beer flowing freely the atmosphere is jovial and care-free.

Tomi, Misako and Jol looked fantastic in their yutaka and we quickly gobbled down candy floss, strawberry tequilla, takoyaki, and corn on the cob. And as quickly as that it was all over. None of us watched the main procession, but as Kyotoites will warn (with a knowing look)...it is better to watch the whole event on TV.

18 07 05 - 05:34 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Gion is Coming

Gion Matsuri is one of the largest festivals in Japan. The month long celebration starts on July 1st. Throughout July there are street fairs with games and Japanese festival-food such as takoyaki (balls of battered octopus) and tomorokoshi (grilled ears of corn brushed with soy sauce). The ancient parade floats are constructed on the city streets and some can be toured. Many festival goers dress in yukata (light summer kimonos) and geta (high wooden shoes).

The matsuri is an annual festival of the Yasaka Shrine, said to have been inaugurated to counter an epidemic which the people in the Heian Period believed was a curse from vengeful spirits. In 869 a priest from the Gion Shrine (Yasaka) led a procession of people through Kyoto in an attempt to appease the Shinto gods. The plague soon ended, but the festival endured. Each July the entire city of Kyoto gets swept up in the festive mood and various rites and ceremonies are observed.

The highlight of the festival is the evening before the parade (Yoiyama) on the 16th followed by the Yamaboko-Junko (a procession of floats through the streets) on the 17th. From around the 10th of the month nine wheeled-floats topped by a tall spear-like poles (hoko) and twenty-three smaller floats (yama) appear on Shinmachi and Muromachi streets. Each hoko is decorated with precious ornaments imported from various parts of the world (Dutch embroidery, Gobelin tapestries, Persian carpets and Nishijin weavings). Most date back to the 15th century.

Each of the large hoko floats carries musicians and truly look centuries out of place as they are dragged through the streets. The hoko floats are so large that they must be pulled by a team of attendants. One of the most exhilarating sights during Gion is the turning of the floats. The hoko and yama are pivoted using blocks of wood and watered bamboo in an elabourate maneuver to turn them at each street corner.

14 07 05 - 01:16 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Battle On The Beach

My first apartment in Kobe was a tiny cupboard on the foothills of Takatori Mountain. I could walk to Suma beach in under twenty minutes. The best thing about Kobe is that you are never more than a small hike from either the mountain-side of the coast. I would often walk to Suma, through the jumble of houses, under the railway tracks and out onto the beach.

A little way down from the aquarium the beach is sand rather than crushed up pieces of shells, and although the water is not amazingly clean, it is still ok to swim there. Across the Bay of Osaka it is possible to see the shadowy mountains of Wakayama and the hazy form of Awaji, green and relatively untouched by development. Suma is beautiful, even if you have to ignore the litter on the beach. In the blazing, sunburning heat of summer or the bitter winds of winter, I would walk the few miles along the coast from Suma station to Takumi.

As you leave the city centr, traveling by train, the mountains press in, squeezing the land until it is no more than a narrow corridor between the hills and the sea. Occasionally the mountains fall straight into the bay. The skyscrapers and high rise apartments stop and houses, larger and larger as you go West, spring up. Things begin to feel more Mediterranean, something that is more common along the edges of the Seto Sea.

There was a reason that I enjoyed taking walks in Suma so much. In fact when I didn't want to go out in the baking heat or breathtaking cold, I would still do so in search of the spot on which Kumagai Jiro Naozane fought and killed the young warrior-boy Tairano Atsumori. Suma played an important part in the Heike Wars, and it is where Genji from the famous tale was exiled at one point.

The Heike Wars were fought in the 12th century between the Taira (Heike) and Genji (Minamoto) clans, essentially over who should rule Japan. After years of struggle with the balance of power switching from one side to the other, the Genji finally gained the upper hand and began to overcome the Taira.

One of the greatest tales from the Heike, and a turning point in the war, was the Battle of Ichinotani. Fought in February 1184 between the Heike troops camped in the Ichinotani valley to the West of Suma (in the province of Settsu - what is now Suma-ku, Kobe) and the Genji army marching to subjugate them under the command of Minamoto Noriyori. The Heike army believed a truce could readily be discussed because the retired Emperor Goshirakawa had assured them that he would send a peace mission to the Genji. But they were misled. Noriyori's soldiers attacked them from the front and Yoshitsune's from behind, winning the Genji an overwhelming victory over Taira Munemori and his troops. The remnants of Munemori's army were forced to flee by sea to Shikoku.

In Sumaura Park there is a stone-marking showing the position where the Battle of Ichinotani took place. A short distance from it occurred one the most romanticised stories of the entire war. The warrior Kumagai's son, Kojiro had gone alone to the Taira encampment. After some fighting he was wounded and carried back to the Genji camp. After a night of surprises, the Heike realised they were defeated and that their only course of action was to escape by open sea. With their armada anchored a little way out, a massive exodus began to save as much of the remaining Heike army as possible. Atsumori, a handsome young warrior, was riding towards the sea so he could swim for the boats and save himself. Kumagai, enraged by his son's wounds, chased after Atsumori, shouting for him to turn back and fight. On horseback they battled in the shallows and on the incline of the beach, before Atsumori was thrown free and fell to the mercy of Kumagai.

Before he would deliver his deadly blow, Kumagai asked his opponent for his last wish. Atsumori answered that he was not afraid of death, but regretted that he could not say farewell to his parents. He asked Kumagai to send his body back to his home. Kumagai hesitated in killing the boy and may have had second thoughts. But then he heard his men complaining that to spare the enemy warrior would be traitorous. Astumori asked Kumagai to kill him. If Kumagai did not then Atsumori said he would take his own life. The 16 year old boy bowed his head and prayed. In terrible sorrow and in agony about his actions, Kumagai cut off the boy's head in one clean sweep.

This tale is the stuff of legends. Just thinking that all of this happened beneath the earth that I walk over most weeks made me think how it must have been. Suma is little changed. Take away the houses and roads and you still have a good idea of what things must have looked like back then. Each week I would hunt for the place in which Atsumori was said to have been beheaded, but each week I could not find it. I wandered around and around, asked teachers at my school and consulted books. Still nothing. Then, one day walking with my friend we found ourselves trapped on the main road, unable to get back across the railway tracks to the beach and miles from the train stations. The road is dirty and mucky, and the traffic always heavy, polluting the air and deafeningly loud. It is not a nice walk. Hurriedly we walked along the Sanyo rail tracks, occasionally passing odd houses and restaurants by the roadside. Suddenly I stopped, turned, and saw a grave marker a little way from the road, hidden by a fence and trees. There was an old, broken sign and after pulling off ivy I realised that after three years I had finally found the place Atsumori's knelt to die.

It is a sad tale, and maybe my obsession with this story has been slightly odd, but to think of such important history occurring on the same soil all the years ago is the most exciting thought for me. It is history come alive.

13 07 05 - 01:51 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

The Buddha And The Deers

Rhod and I took a trip to Nara today. Disembarking at the Kintetsu Station, it is only a few minutes walk through the park to Todai-ji Temple. Groups of deer (considered messengers of the gods) walk freely through the park. During war-time the deer population was decimated, but of late the numbers are thriving again. Although they are revered, I get the sneaky suspicion that one or two ended up on the dinner table during the food shortages of the war. The males have their horns cut and blunted, and most are generally timid, tame enough be fed oat cakes, though they do push and shove.

At the edge of the park is Todai-ji, home of the popular 'Great Buddha'. The Daibutsuden Hall is the world's largest wooden structure, the gigantic statue inside 15 metres tall and weighing 25 tonnes. It is the greatest bronze buddha.

If Kyoto has modernised to become a buzzing metropolis, then Nara seems quaint by comparison, frozen in a simpler time. The tiny city is quiet and relaxed in a way that other Japanese heritage sites are not. Because much of the parkland, mountains and primeval forests are preserved, the city feels its age. As you walk from temple to temple, along dirt paths cut into the hillside, it is easy to lose a day in the peace of the park.

Nara is one of my favorite places. It seems old, and it is that lure that makes me journey back every year to visit new places, explore the countryside and go see my friend Big Buddha. When I came to Japan on holiday with my family, it was one of the first tourist things I did and it is still pretty special. Because it is hidden away in fairly undeveloped countryside, Nara seems a lot more of a 'journey' than Kyoto or Himeji.

10 07 05 - 04:30 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Onokoro

At the the beginning of time heaven and earth were not divided. From the ocean of chaos a reed arose, and it was the eternal land ruler, Kunitokotatchi.

Then came the female god Izanami and the male god Izanagi. They stood on the floating bridge of heaven and stirred the ocean with a jeweled spear until it curdled, and so created the first island, Onokoro. They built a house on this island with a central stone pillar that is the backbone of the world. Izanami walked one way around the pillar, and Izanagi walked the other. When they met face to face, they united in marriage and procreation.

Their first child was called Hiruko, but he did not thrive and when he was three they placed him in a reed boat and set him adrift. He became Ebisu, god of fisherman. Izanami then gave birth to the eight islands of Japan before the gods who would fashion and rule this new world came forth: gods of the sea and of the land, gods of the wind and of the rain. When Izanami gave birth to the god of fire she was badly burned and died.

Izanagi was furious with the fire god and cut him into three pieces. Distraught with grief he set out in search of his wife. He went down into the Land of Gloom looking for her. He cried, 'Come back, my love. The lands we are making are not yet finished!'

She came to him, saying 'You are too late. I have already eaten the food of this land. I would like to return however. Wait here for me, and I will ask permission from the spirits of the underworld. But do not try to look at me'

Eventually Izanagi got tired of waiting, so broke off a tooth from the comb he wore in his hair to use as a torch and followed after Izanami. When he found her, he saw that she was already rotting and maggots were swarming over her body. She was giving birth to the eight gods of thunder.

Izanagi drew back, revolted and Izanami called after him, 'Shame on you'. She commanded the foul spirits of the Land of Gloom to slay him.

The spirits pursued Izanagi, but he managed to escape. He threw down his headdress and it turned into grapes, which the spirits stopped to eat. Then he threw down his comb which turned into bamboo shoots, and once again the spirits stopped to eat.

By the time Izanagi reached the pass between the land of the dead and the land of the living, Izanami herself had nearly caught up with him. Izanagi saw her coming and quickly blocked the pass with a huge boulder that would take a thousand men to lift, so making a permanent barrier between life and death.

Standing on the other side of the boulder, Izanami shouted, 'Every day I will kill a thousand people, and bring them to this land'.

Izanagi replied, 'Every day I will cause one thousand and five hundred babies to be born'.

Then Izanagi left Izanami to rule the Land of Gloom, and returned to the land of the living.

The home that Izanagi and Izanami made for themselves was on a small island surrounded by darkness and the immenseness of un-creation. The island is called Onokoro, the first island to exist in the Japanese archipelago. So where is it? Scholars have argued about its exact location as if these myths are historical fact. Many islands around Japan proclaim themselves to be Onokoro.

My friend Chris, also a teacher, works at the Iwaya Junior High School. When visiting him, I came across one such island proclaiming itself to be Onokoro. Iwaya is a tiny fishing town on the very northern tip of Awaji island, important for its harbours before the suspension bridge linking Awaji and Honshu was built.

Lazy and quiet, the town's streets are filled with sand and the smell of fish. All the shops are small and old, the houses slowly weathering away, the sound of the highway a constant hum in the distance. Slowly Iwaya is reverting to how it was many years ago before the ferry terminals brought it a steady wealth. Now that there is a bridge, there is less need for ferries and the harbours grow quiet. The younger people move away and slowly the town is dying a quick death.

Chris has a lot of free time on his hands because the school class sizes diminish year by year. By comparison, his apartment is five times the size of mine due to cheap rent. He does, however, have the inconvenience of living in the middle of nowhere. He is a car-drive away from the nearest town, which you can spot down the coast with its giant standing buddha looking out to sea.

In Summer the tourists come to fill up the beach. The water is famously clean, the beach sand soft, and the views spectacular. Everything that Kobe's beaches aren't. Disembarking from the ferry, you walk past the 70s harbour buildings onto the road and then follow it to the beach. Behind, the mountains gently roll across the backbone of Awaji island.

In the middle of the harbour is a small rock, bizarre because of it's rusty colour and pockmarked appearance. It is no bigger than a house, a small ice-cream shaped swirl with small shrine perched on top and still waters lapping at its base. After sitting and eating lunch, watching the traffic driving across the bridge (high up in the air), I noticed a small sign. .

This is the birthplace of Japan. This is Onokoro. Chris explained that the locals constantly point it out to him. Awaji was the first island created by Izanami and Izanagi. Bearing that in mind there is a certain logical sense that this tiny island is Onokoro. But it is so small, so unimpressive. The backbone of the world once stood in a grand house upon this island?

If you believe the creation story, then why not believe that this tiny, ragged rock is Onokoro. It is truly beautiful.

10 07 05 - 04:29 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Starfox and Fushimi-Inari

Whilst working for Nintendo in the early 90s, Giles Goddard and Dylan Cuthbert had helped create a spectacular new 3D shooting game set in space, but had found no inspiration for characters to fill this universe. Meeting with executives from Nintendo they were taken on a tour of Kyoto.

One of their stops was the Fushimi-Inari shrine. The hundreds of kitsune statues in the grounds helped give the team the ideas they needed. The main character would be a fox, a fighter pilot with his own spaceship careening across the galaxy. A fox, adventuring amongst the stars. A Star Fox.

The train cuts through the low lying, forested hills South-East of Kyoto. As it rattles over the canals and drives through the last smatterings of houses before the countryside opens up, you can make out the rooftops of Tofuku-ji. One of the first station stops after Kyoto is Fushimi-Inari, garish red patterning and fox statues decorating the old platform. If you get off the train and walk for a little while uphill, you feel like you have been dropped into the 60s, everything painted in celebratory reds.

The immediate difference between shrines and temples is the colouring. Temples are constructed of more natural, unpainted wood that gives the illusion of somber peace. By comparison shrines are spattered with red and can seem garish in their red and whites. The most famous thing about Fushimi is the abundance of torii gates (the gateways that mark out the entrance to shrines, denoting the step between the normal world and the realm of the gods) and fox statues. Not orange-red, bushy-tailed Basil Brush type things, but white, more ferret-like Japanese versions.

Since ancient times Japanese farmers have believed that the fox is a messenger of the god of harvests. Over 40,000 shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari and their fox guides. Fushimi-Inari is the focus point of all these shrines, people believing in an animism that considers the Inari as mediator between the human and spirit world. Five shrines are scattered about Mt. Inari, the paths that wind about the mountain running under more than 10,000 red torii gates. Old, new, battered, smashed, stone, wood, metal, gleaming, lacquered, dull, dirty gates. 4 kilometres of paths take you through the bright red tunnel created by the gates.
The animism of the Inari is a peculiar belief. In some parts of Japan, a kind of mental illness called 'kitsunetsuki' in which a person believes himself to be a fox is still reported, even today.

From the tip of Mt. Inari you can look down at the grey suburbs of Kyoto, while the dells and valleys take you through the cool shadow of the forest to secluded ponds, graves and smaller shrines, streams trickling alongside the paths. It is well worth the journey to see the gaudiness of the gates juxtaposed against the untouched green of the mountainside.

Starfox

08 07 05 - 23:44 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

The Battle Of The Komainu

The rain has not stopped. I spent most of the week stuck up at Chion-in, squeezed under the foundations of the main hall, watching the pouring torrents day in, day out. It is quite comfortable, if a bit stuffy and damp, full of spiders and creepy-crawlies. I had a lot of time for dozing and contemplation. I remember when all these hills were aflame, the city just a grey landscape of smoldering ash and broken homes. That must be going back a long time, when Ashikaga Yoshimasa was planning to build Ginkaku-ji, poring over his poetry, indifferent as Kyoto burnt below his villa. The Onin War was a terrible time. 80,000 Yamana soldiers camped out in the leafy suburbs as another 85,000 Hosokawa guards rushed to meet them. It was an awesome sight, and especially frightening to see the camp fires burning throughout the night. It was the calm before the storm. Thousands of armed soldiers sat waiting.

Before war had come I spent my days curled by the great gate that led to the Hosokawa Villa. Kyoto was green and the Imperial Court was a hive of activity, people forever coming and going. There were bad times of course. Fires would be rampant in the summer months, as would the plague, and then there was the horror of courtly intrigue.

Then came the Onin War and all that changed. The Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa had proclaimed his new born son (Yoshihisa) the future heir, snubbing the brother (Yoshimi) he had forcefully dragged out of a monastery to protect his dynasty whilst he was still childless.

As the complications after his son's birth unfurled, the Yamana and Hosokawa clans renewed their personal conflicts, interfering in the affairs of other clans and families. As there were now two heirs to the Shogun, each family was forced to choose either Yoshimi or Yoshihisa as heir. The Red Monk, Yamana Souzen, decided to support the infant Yoshihisa, while my own master Hosokawa Katsumoto threw his weight behind Yoshimi. Things were even messier when you think about it. Souzen was Katsumoto's father-in-law.

Mustering armies of samurai and mercenaries, both forces met and camped on the outskirts of Kyoto. Neither one was prepared to fire the first arrow, fearing that in starting an insurrection they would appear rebels in the eye of the Shogun, losing them the support of the provinces. The threat of war seemed to linger endlessly on. Yamana pulled in another 20,000 men. A little time after this horrible waiting game had begun the Hosokawa Villa was set alight. I saw the black clothed men scrambling over the walls and into the garden. Agents of Yamana. The buildings went up in seconds, the fire roaring through the open walkways and burning the orchard. The household ran for safety, but Hosokawa's little boy was trapped in the nursery with his wet nurse. Eventually the boy managed to struggle into the pond and was saved.

As of July 1467 the Northern part of Kyoto was in ruins and all those who could, had fled. I stayed on. Angry and grieving, I rampaged through the enemy flanks, flinging men left and right, crushing them under my feet and biting their bones until they broke. For ten years the war raged. Even when Yamana and my own master were dead, the skirmishes went on. Kyoto was a desert, looted and ransacked by mobs of men. Finally Masahiro Ouchi, a Yamana general, became sick of the stalemate and of being labeled a rebel. He evacuated his section of Kyoto and burnt it to the ground.

The war was wasteful. Nothing had been achieved, only death and destruction of a once beautiful city. Many people believed hell on earth had begun, me included. Many Komainu died at this time, shattered and crushed and burnt. Those who did not flee fought bravely on, whatever side they chose. The Onin War sparked off massive Civil War in all parts of Japan. Nowhere was safe. Men lived by the sword. I retired to the green hills of Yamashina and lay forgotten amongst the trees, watching the city rise from the ashes, seeing the great Ginkaku-ji constructed piece by piece.

07 07 05 - 03:47 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Orihime and Hikoboshi

A long time ago, Ten-kou (god of the sky) had a daughter called Orihime. Every day she busied herself, weaving special cloth for the gods. Tenk-kou worried that Orihime (Vega) was lonely, spending each working hour weaving and doing little else for herself. He devised a plan in which his daughter, while running an errand beyond the Amanogawa River (Milky Way), would stumble upon a simple cowherd. Hikoboshi (Altair) was startled by the beautiful young girl and as his life was consumed by taking care of cows he was glad for company out in his fields. Slowly a friendship formed, which turned to love and happiness that they were no longer alone. Obsessed by their new love for one another Orihime forgot to weave cloth and Hikoboshi began to neglect his cattle.

Ten-kou was enraged by the lovers carelessness and snatched up Orihime, carrying her back across the Amanogawa. In punishment he flooded the river so that the young couple could no longer meet, but were each imprisoned upon opposite sides of the water. Orihime was beside herself and Hikoboshi devastated. Ten-kou knew at once that he had been too rash and despaired that he had hurt his little girl. In compromise he relinquished a small part of the punishment, allowing the waters to flow and ebb to little more than a trickle on a single day of the year. Another version of the story says that a magpie called Kasagi came across the weeping princess and contrived a bridge for her using magpies, wing to wing. Should it rain then the bridge cannot be formed and so the lovers cannot meet.

On 7th July the lovers meet for one fateful day, then are forced to part to resume their duties for the rest of the time. This is the festival of Tanabata. Small children write down their hopes and wishes on small pieces of coloured paper and tie them to branches of bamboo that are then displayed in public places. People wish for clear skies, for if it rains then the Amanogawa will swell with water and be impassable, condemning the lovers to another year without each other.

Today was clear all afternoon until thunderstorms and a huge deluge of rain ruined the early evening. As thunder battered the skies and lightning flashed across the city-scape, I smiled that maybe Orihime had been trapped on the opposite bank with Hikoboshi, and perhaps the booming storm was Ten-kou's anger at their elopement.

07 07 05 - 02:35 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

A Strange Case Of Rain

Englishmen seem capable of conjuring up rain at the drop of a hat. Alex and Becci touched down at the end of a fairly dry Rainy Season, twisting their way to us from Tokyo through sunny mountains. As soon as they stepped onto the platform at Kyoto station the blue skies washed to grey and the heavens opened up.

That was six days ago and the clouds have parted for only a few hours since then. The rain has been constant and draining. I think we have been wet for a longer time than we have been dry. Rainy Season has come late and just in time to drown out Alex and Becci's Japanese adventure. Despite this it has been very fun playing tour guide. In between showers we have been cycling to shrines, shopping for kitsch good and eating at some fantastic new restaurants.

On Wednesday Becci found 40,000 yen just lying on the street. With no-one around and after a lengthy discussion about what we should do we eventually decided to give it up as a lost cause. We funded numerous temple trips, cinnamon ice-creams and a rather pretentious restaurant dinner.

Alex and Becci have been great sports crashing in our Games Room and not complaining. It has been really nice to meet them. With their departure they have brought us a strange sense of homesickness and desire to get back to England and see friends.

04 07 05 - 03:22 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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