Takiguchidera

Making your way up from the wooden gate of Giou-ji to the foot of the mountain, you come across something like an old farmer's house which stands surrounded by trees. This is Takiguchidera Temple. It is remembered as the scene of a tragic love story about Saito Tokiyori, a retainer of Taira-no-Shigemori, and Yokobue, a maidservant of Princess Kenreimon-in. Meeting with strong disapproval from his father, Tokiyori gave up worldly temptations and entered Ojoin monastery, becoming a monk. Hearing of this, Yokobue felt pangs of guilt and visited the monastery, only to be sent away, never to see him again.

Giou-ji and Takiguchidera both resound with sad stories of the heart-broken who came to these slopes to live out the rest of their days in quiet seclusion, abandoning a cruel world that had dashed their hopes and smashed their dreams. And the sadness remains still.
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30 12 07 - 04:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Emperor Saga's wife

Danrij-ji is a temple built on the ruins of the old, new buildings decorated with cranes and imperial seals upon the tiles. No sooner had we set foot in the grounds than a friendly old man ushered us into the treasure house and explained about the statues and scrolls. In broken English he had Rhod pray, kneel and sound a Buddhist gong (peddling charms and amulets before we left), while dragons coiled about swords and the remains of the temple sat in sad looking glass cases. I have never felt so close to being in a jumble sale. Priceless art, ceramics, buddhas and calligraphy crammed into every available space, the gargoyles and embellishments of the old temple piled to one side. It was amazing and shocking in equal measure. Most museums in Japan would not have half the items on display in their entire collection. Outside there was little to see and less to comment on, but the experience was an interesting one.

Danrin-ji was established by the wife of Emperor Saga, a beautiful art-loving woman by the name of Tachibana Kachiko (786-850). She intended the small temple to be a school for the Tachibana family and named it 'Rengeshoja', one of many important religious houses in Saga, town of nobles. The empress installed the Chinese priest Gikuu as master and it was he that introduced an early form of Zen. Danrin-ji expanded and included 12 sub-temples, including Shokongou-in. Although it fell on hard times, a small part of the countless treasures it amassed can be seen still.
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30 12 07 - 02:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mossy Giou-ji

Giou-ji is a beautiful little temple. A muddy path winds up stone steps pinioned between twig fencing and then coils about a mossy lawn that looks like the British countryside in minature. A stream cuts through the greenery beneath trees -that have by this time lost all their leaves- and the slight grounds are surrounded by bamboo forests. The small hut where figures of the four nuns and Kiyomori sit stands beside the tombs of the women and by the time you return to the entrance you realise that despite its small size, it is one of the most tranquil places you could possibly find yourself. All anger and stress pours away for a short time.*

Resting below Ogura hill, the hermitage was originally part of Ohjho-in founded by Ryochin (a disciple of Honen 1133-1212). Ohjho-in was once vast and powerful, but time cowed it and led to devastation. Giou-ji survived as a small nunnery, watching on as the world changed. The story of the dancer Gio in the Heike Monogatari immortalised the small retreat. During the Meiji Period a small temple was built on the ruins of the hermitage, but all might have been forgotten and lost had not a geisha-turned-nun by the name of Chishoni revitalised the building. Having had an experience similar to Gio, Chishoni tended the compound until her death in 1994.

Giou-ji remains a haunted place, and the beauty refuses to be forgotten.
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30 12 07 - 01:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The dancer's cottage

Flecks of snow were in the air as Rhod and I cycled across the city into Arashiyama. Some of the higher mountains were peppered with white as we wove in and out of the taxis to the small nunnery of Giou-ji (Ghi-ohji). The temperature has dropped 10 degrees since yesterday and despite being wrapped up like arctic explorers I was still freezing on the hillside. I have to admit that I love sightseeing in the winter months as there are far fewer tourists, though many people were out and about, shopping before the country shuts down for the new year.

Princess Ghi-ou (Gio) was a beautiful dancer in the court of Taira-no-Kiyomori (then ruler), but lost favour to another girl by the name of Shirabyoshi (Hotoke Gozen). When Kiyomori took her rival as a lover, Ghi-ou retreated from the cruel world of the court with her sister and mother (Gijo and Toji). When Shirabyoshi later joined them, all four women went to live in a nunnery called Giou-ji, despairing at the transience of life.

All women died at the nunnery, and although Kiyomori visited them, never again did they return to the capital that had once welcomed and later spurned them.
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30 12 07 - 01:33 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Wii Mi

Mi-chan tries out hula-hooping on Wii Fit, with rather odd results. Rhod has been bravely struggling with yoga every day, but Erina and Mi-chan both seem more adept at the complicated moves, their balance nothing short of perfect. Whilst I have not gotten into the exercise modes, my chubby little frame has been having fun with the more bizarre balanced focused games, such as ski-jumping and football/panda avoidance.


28 12 07 - 02:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Thousand year old bridge

By looking at the three posts for Shugakuin and following the progression of photos, it is possible to get a picture of the grounds. Keep reading if you want some explanations of the photos, if not then take a look at the pictures and enjoy.
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27 12 07 - 19:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The pond of the swimming dragon

Early in the 10th century a small temple called Shugakuin was built. No sooner had it been built than it was destroyed, but the village and surrounding areas kept the name alive. Katsura Villa was completed and 30 years later retired Emperor Gomizuno-o (ascended to the throne aged 15 and retired 18 years later) decided to construct his own, most likely because he was so taken with Katsura on a visit to the villa. He spent a great deal of time trying to find the perfect spot, and finally settled upon the farmland about Shugakuin-mura. Construction began in 1655 and finished in 1659 (an astonishing short space of time). The villa consisted of an upper and lower part, but a mere ten years later and a middle section was added.

A palace was built close to the villa for Princess Genyo (Akenomiya, Gomizuno-o's eighth daughter), but following her father's death she became a nun. The palace was transformed into Rinkyu Temple. Come 1884 and half of Rinkyu-ji, as well as Rakushi-ken and Kyaku-den were transferred to the Imperial Household Agency and incorporated into the main villa. In 1964 80,000 metres of paddy fields and farmland were bought in order to protect the villa's scenic beauty in its entirity.
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27 12 07 - 19:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Another day, another villa. Well, another hour really. Kicking off our shoes and shelving our scarves, we had time for a quick cup of tea before unlocking our bicycles and travelling across the city. Down Oike, with its wide boulevard, across the Kamo and then along its Eastern bank to Demachiyanagi where once there were willow trees, but now there are only student dwellings and a rather rundown feeling. Stopping off for falafel (a rarity in Japan), we then had time to do a little shopping and the ongoing debate about harmonicas before completing the rest of the journey into the north east. Over tram lines and through parks, and around more spacious houses to the slope that leads to Shugakuin.

Secretly I had been hoping the villa was as spectacular as the photos in my books of Kyoto, but kept quiet just in case. From the outside there is very little to see save cobbled paths and behedged walls, farmland stretching out beneath the sombre winter mountains. With the tumbledown feel of many of the houses, you could well be in a Yorkshire village of old. As with Katsura, a uniformed guard appeared, took our names and pointed us over to a waiting room. There were many more tourists than before, and it was with surprise we were told it would be the final tour of the year. I stuck on the english audio guide, whipped out my camera and waited for the guide.

A few minutes later and we were off. The sun was slowly setting, burnishing the entire grounds in an orange glow that belied how deep into winter we already were. We held our breath and entered the first gate, hurrying to take pictures while we could. The guide grinned, very aware of what was to come.
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27 12 07 - 19:03 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Firefly on the water

Walking over a wooden bridge, past a pine tree boxed in by hedges that deny the visitor a clear view of the gardens to come, you tred over a path constructed of black pebbles, said to resemble fallen hail. If you look at the photos in order (over the last three posts) you will go on a virtual tour of the Katsura Villa grounds, where you can see some of the following (as well as the alien looking pine trees wrapped up for the winter chills).
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27 12 07 - 19:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The whistling wind through the pine trees

Prince Toshihito, younger brother of Emperor Goyozei (and first head of the Hachijo Family), came into possession of land beside the Katsura River in the beginning of the 17th century and by 1615 he had completed a grand villa. Despite his ancient heritage, the villa was tasteful, simple and melted quietly into the surroundings. The original main building (the Koshoin) was completed when the prince was in his 40s.

Following his death, the villa fell into disrepair. However, come the marriage of Prince Toshitada (Toshihito's son) to Lady Fuhime (the daughter of Maeda Toshitsune, Lord of the Kaga Clan) the funds appeared to renovate the buildings. By 1649, Toshitada had expanded and reconstructed the grounds. What we see today at Katsura is exactly what Toshitada achieved. The Shingoten and Miyukimichi were built on the occasion of Emperor Gomizuno-o's visit to the villa. The imperial title of the princely Hachijonomiya family was changed to Kyogokunomiya and then to Katsuranomiya. Unfortunately in 1881, on the death of Princess Sumiko, this branch of the imperial family ended.

Luckily escaping the various fires in the capital, the villa remains almost the same as on the day it was completed. To ensure the beauty of the surrounding area, much of the farmland was purchased and preserved. With ponds, islands, teahouses, lanterns, wash-basins, moss bridges and maticulously placed stones, the garden constantly surprises. Whilst walking the grounds it is not possible to view the entire villa at once, instead saving the best scenes for particular moments of your walk.
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27 12 07 - 18:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Katsura Imperial Villa

The alarm went off at an ungodly 7 am this morning. Washing with my eyes shut, I just about had time to drag Rhod from bed and get him ready before we caught the rush hour train to Katsura. There is something magical about being out early in the morning, though my stomach protests with growls about being up so early. Despite the chilly air, it was turning into a beautifully cloudless sky and the day stretched before us. With time to spare we were ready for the first tour* of the day around Katsura Imperial Villa. Lucky, as it was also the last tour until after the new year.
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27 12 07 - 18:56 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Knot tied

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26 12 07 - 00:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mi-chan gets married

Mitsuko married on September 29th, so today was the first time I had met her as a married woman. The time we spent together as flatmates seems so very long ago now. When I saw her in the Summer, she had not officially tied the knot, merely had a small ceremony to join her and her future husband in union (a kind of engagement in many respects, though she explained that they were legally married from the earlier date). Luckily she brought along a CD of the wedding, so I thought I would post the photos. She truly looks gorgeous and more importantly, very happy. From her mails, this year has not been a good one. With many mishaps and some tragedy along the way, hopefully she can put those things behind her. Congratulations Mrs. Kishida.
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26 12 07 - 00:25 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

All for one and one for all

Nabe! Nabe! Nabe!

25 12 07 - 23:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Nabe Christmas

Well Santa has been and gone. Rhod woke me up at 7 to a chorus of 'preseeeents', but I knocked him out by our strong, ovely hot air-conditioner and went back to bed. We tore into our gifts and waited for our guests to arrive. Christmas in Japan is over by the 25th. By some miscomprehention, Christmas Eve is celebrated with fried chicken, sponge cake and romantic dinners, all of which has me scratching my head. Of course, many people have only some vague idea of Jesus, much like school-kids in the UK nowadays. On the strike of midnight, Christmas decorations are torn down and the city decorated anew with New Year greetings. All very sad as the 25th is a normal working day.

Without an oven and the ability to cook a roast dinner, this year we didn't even try. Picking up a roast chicken from the department store, we decided to cook nabe, a kind of Japanese stew. A big pot of soup is boiled and into it thrown vegetables and meats. Guests pick out the food and tuck in. It is all very cosy and brings people together, so is about as Christmassy as I can imagine.

Erina, baby Gil, Andy, Estuyo, Rhod and I toasted the day and relaxed in a fuggy haze of too much food, wine, and bad TV. Perfect.
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25 12 07 - 23:37 - kieren - default| No comments - §

Kana's cake

Kana made a Christmas cake for me. When I picked it up she explained she had tried to make a giant mince pie without really knowing what one was. I had tried to explain to her before, so it was a miracle that the cake came out looking as fantastic as it did. While nothing like a mince pie, it was gingery and much like a Black Forest Gateau. Which makes it a success in my estimations. Thank you so much for being a wonderful co-worker, excellent cook, and great friend. Happy Christmas Kana.
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25 12 07 - 23:24 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Gilly's fan club

Erina, come on now, you did promise I could have Gil. Once he is off the mum milk, I will be taking charge of him, until he has teenager fits that is. The giggly little tyke sure is collecting a considerable fan club. While we supped on dinner, he struggled with a cough and bravely sucked up all of his vile pink medicine. He especially liked the new Totoro toy he got for Christmas (thanks to Andy and Etsuyo) and enjoyed snoozing on our comfortable bean-bag. He was not so sure of what to make of the video-chat with dad, sis' and grandma back in the UK, but screeched his happiness at chewing everything in reach of his strong little hands. Happy Christmas Gilly-chan.
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25 12 07 - 23:19 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Godzilla! Get off our tree!

'Tis the night before Christmas, and likely the mice are stirring. A very Merry Christmas to all and sundry. May Santa bring you what you wished for, and may your belt hold in your yuletide bellies. Put on the turkey, finish wrapping presents and tying bows, pray for snow, and why not have a mulled wine or two. From the land of the rising sun*, best wishes and here's to a cracking Christmas.
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22 12 07 - 23:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Mii-dera peacocks

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20 12 07 - 00:34 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The hollering bell

The grounds of Mii-dera sprawl on a hillside that overlooks Lake Biwa. Rhod and I climbed up the back entrance, up a steep stone staircase that took us to the highest point of the temple. Beneath spread the calm waters of Japan's largest lake and to the north the temple roofs of Enryaku-ji way up on Mt. Hiei. Many times have armies of warrior monks poured down the forest trails to torch Mii-dera, but today all is peaceful. Oda Nobunaga destroyed the power of Enryaku-ji and what remains is a sad skeleton of what once existed.

So sit comfortably and let me take you on a virtual tour of the grounds. Wrap up warm, for the trees are bare and the winter winds scream off the lake.
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20 12 07 - 00:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Ready for winter

Brace yourselves for a history lesson, or else look at the pretty picture.
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20 12 07 - 00:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The fruits of rebellion

The final parts of Hi-no-tori (Phoenix) picture the war between Prince Otomo and his uncle Prince Oama, the battle between the newly introduced Buddhism and the native Shintoism (though at this stage it is really just a jumble of local beliefs). Osamu Tezuka paints a supernatural world in which the native spirits are forced to war against the foreign interlopers. Sadly the Phoenix saga was meant to continue, but Osamu died (as he suspected) before he could conclude his grandiose work. What is remarkable about the historical parts of Hi-no-tori is that he deliberately attempts to separate the myth from the truth and weaves stories that, although improbable, are at least possible. He is Japan's harshest critic at times.

Phoenix's climax takes place about Otsu (the Battle of Seta Bridge), and Mii-dera (not featured in the tale) evolves as a direct result of the war's tragic end. Rhod and I took a trip to what is one of the biggest temples (only Todai-ji, Kofuku-ji and Enryaku-ji are bigger). I had visited Mii-dera in the Spring, but during a rainstorm which ruined my photos and had me cowering under an umbrella.
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20 12 07 - 00:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Santa's little helper

Today the mulled wine flowed free and Tama-chan dressed as Santa with cotton-wool sellotaped to his eyebrows. GSE's Christmas party was a final chance for me to say goodbye to the students. Very mixed feelings as I bid farewell to people I have hardly had a chance to get to know. Especially, I will miss Kana, Enko, Tama and Yusaku. Thanks guys.
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17 12 07 - 03:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The emperor's old house

Etsuyo and I toured the Gosho. It was much like the open day in Autumn, minus the mannequins and plus an English commentary from a woman that I'm sure was sponsored by Sony and Nintendo. One thing I did find out was that the Emperor stays in the Omiya Palace (closed to the public) where I am sure there is a modern shower, plasma TV and Wii. Now that I want to see.
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16 12 07 - 23:33 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Otsu from above

Dressed as Santa and swallowing a mouthful of beard, I shot this photo of Lake Biwa and Otsu city from the high-rise apartment where I was helping my good friend Miko throw a party for her students. Good, if strange, times.

16 12 07 - 23:19 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A whole lotta ho ho ho!

My paps and bro took part in a 2km run for a children's hospice. Little did I know that all participants would be dressed a Santa.
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16 12 07 - 23:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

City at dusk

There are certain times when Kyoto looks beautiful, when the outlines of buildings are hazy and it is easy to imagine from the veranda of a temple that you are submerged in a past time.
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14 12 07 - 07:35 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kanji for 2007

14 12 07 - 07:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kanji Kiyomizu

Each year Kiyomizudera chooses a kanji that best represents the year just passed. Often the message is positive and heartwarming, but this year has me wondering. The character can be read as 'fate' or 'betrayal' and really summarises uncertain times. Japan is fairly insular, so for people to feel the world is in a dangerous position, the government drowning under corruption and the SDF's role abroad questionable, is truly surprising to me. Not a great end to the old year, and certainly a worrying start to the new year.
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14 12 07 - 07:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Maiko pay their respects

Another grey and miserable day, with the sun deciding not to show up at all. Luckily the rain came in drizzly spells and for most of the day decided to give the city a reprieve. On this day the maiko and geiko of Gion spend the morning paying their respects and thanks to the local tradesmen from whom they purchase their goods, sup and often rely on. Photographers crowded round the ochayas in hope of catching the women on their rounds. Called Koto-Hajime, it is the beginning of the New Year season and the maiko greet people with Omedeto san dosu...welcoming the new year.
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13 12 07 - 01:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Cow heaven

There sure are a lot of cows in Kitano Tenmangu. As part of my rather odd idea of creating an Anglo-Nipponese Christmas tree I have been substituting baubles for amulets and charms bought from the temples and shrines about our apartment, I cycled with Etusyo to Kitano Shrine. Not only is this crossing cultures, it is making sure it is one lucky tree, with lots of protection from evil and misfortune. The shrine was almost empty, the rain clouds putting most off, and the end of the autumn season seeing the rest away. We walked around, marvelling at the intricate carvings and avoiding gangs of students, come to pray for their studies. Originally built for the thunder god, the shrine was later dedicated to Michinaze in an attempt to lift the curse many thought he had put the city under. It seemed to work and the shrine grew in popularity as a centre for blessing the studious.
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11 12 07 - 23:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

No wonder the emperor moved to Tokyo

All this Christmas spirit seems to be infecting the hearts of Kyotoites. 'Don't ride your bike here', 'You can't park here', 'I will pretend not to understand you, even though you are speaking fluent Japanese to me'. On the slopes beneath Toyotomi Hideyoshi's grave on Amidamine, Scrooge-like meanness seems to have spread like the annual flu epidemic. Etsuyo and I were just cycling for fun, trying to find new spots to visit and new pockets of history to explore. Every time we stopped, another old bastard appeared to dampen our mood and prove just how welcoming Kyoto really is. I think they could use the excuse that once their great city was capital for 1000 years (thus believing looking down their noses to outsiders is surely ok). I could use the retort, no bloody wonder the Emperor moved to Tokyo.
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10 12 07 - 07:04 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Christmas present hunting through history

I scrambled to do a final piece of Christmas shopping this morning (to make sure I get everything through the British post in time) and my journey took me up the thin paths to Kiyomizu Temple. With the crowds surprisingly thin, I pottered about, a little saddened that I had missed the short opening of the Abbot's Garden behind the more well-known temple. As always, it appeared I had missed the short, annual opening, by a single day. Skittering back down the tourist trail, I took a few pictures and visited the lesser known Komyo Temple (all modern reconstructions save for the prayer hall high on the hill, with rather impressive carvings about the door). It occured to me how odd it is to be doing my shopping amongst all this history, but nice.

Every year Kiyomizu choose a kanji character that will best represent the year just passed. Words like 'hope' or 'peace'. By popular vote, the giant kanji then goes on display. It occurs to me now that I have also missed this ceremony by a day.
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10 12 07 - 06:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The bell that destroyed

I have spun the fireside tale of how Tokugawa Ieyasu deliberately misread an inscription on the bell hanging in Hoko-ji Temple to destroy the Toyotomi family, and how I hunted and found it hidden behind a screen of trees at Toyokuni Shrine. But today I found out that for 100 yen you can get the key to the gate and step inside the bell-tower. I love history you can touch, can stand in, shout about and marvel at without fear of someone snatching away your camera or chasing you out of a private hallway. The inscription itself is still visible, outlined in chalk, after all these years. It is a massive thing, more massive because of the part it played in altering the course of Japan's history.
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10 12 07 - 06:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Nintendo!

You might get the feeling, if you keep even just a passing interest in this blog, that Kyoto is an unending series of connected temples and shrines. You'd also be excused for thinking that Ki and I must *surely* have seen them all many times over by now. NOT SO! A few weeks back, Ki identified somewhere on the map that we had maybe not yet been to. It was a weekend, and we had no plans, and so Ki pulled me away from Mario Galaxy in search of Chishaku-in. He'll tell you all about that in his posts, but on the way, we found... the original home of Nintendo.

One of the lovelier things about living in Kyoto as a Nintendo obsessive is that Nintendo's mark on the city crops up in day to day life. From more obvious marketing, such as their sponsorship of the local footie team, through to slightly more unexpected associations like Mario's status as mascot for the Kyoto Shinkin Bank. He can be seen punching the air on loan rate advertisements, and riding dolphins on ATM receipts. Convenience stores sell original Nintendo playing cards, and I've had taxi drivers light up with facts about the chairman when I mention what I do. One time I had a barman spend twenty minutes explaining to me how Nintendo has always been about the decay of society - first with gambling corrupting adults, and now with games corrupting kids. The gambling part, the old Nintendo, is what we stumbled upon on this particular journey.

I say stumbled - it was fairly deliberate. The last few jaunts that we've made over the higashiyama area of town have seen me try to factor in a detour, to no success. But here was my chance. We were on the very street! I knew it was close! Ki had a better idea of where it could have been, seeing as he explored the area earlier in the year, so we crossed the pretty little bridge over the river and there it stood. Yamauchi Nintendo. The building adorned (on every available surface) with a kanji character evoking 'luck'. The sign in English on the left of the door, Japanese on the right, proudly proclaims 'Playing Cards'. A far cry from their current market, this building seems no longer to be in active use, but is well looked after with security systems and signs of life.

There was nothing really magical about the building, but on that small street, across the road from the traditional food sellers and next to a peaceful stretch of the kamo river, it was hugely exciting and interesting to see that the place Nintendo left behind has stayed, like all the best bits of Kyoto, unchanged and unharmed by the marauding concrete and neon developments that blight the city centre.
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07 12 07 - 01:20 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Plump face

06 12 07 - 23:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The name on the tree

Sakamoto Ryoma was on the run, hunted by the government forces which sought to extinguish his life before he helped solidify the opposition to the shogun. In the hectic last years of his life, his mistress was forced into hiding, constantly fearing for her lover's life as Kyoto became a hotbed for revolution. In a tiny shrine close to Sanjo-Horikawa, where the arcade now cuts through the city, she waited unsure whether he was dead or alive. The shrine was dedicated to the Inari and in the precincts stood a grand tree. Whilst taking shelter beneath its branches she happened to notice that Ryoma's name was etched upon the bark. It was then that she knew he was still alive and her heart was at rest for a little while. The character vanished over time, but the story lived on.
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06 12 07 - 23:36 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Daikon festival

I never thought I would be the youngest person at any festival, but that is just what happened today. Senbon Shaka-do held a daikon (giant radish) celebration. Handing over one-thousand yen I got a bowl of radish stew in return. The taste was nice, but there was just so very much. By eating every morsel, next year should be a healthy one. Although I struggled for a while, finally I managed to cram the last mouthful down and grinned at the old ladies ladling the stew from massive cauldrons. Then it dawned on me exactly why there were so many old little men and women...health and longevity. With Okame's plump face grinning down, I bought a few souvenirs for my mum and cycled home.
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06 12 07 - 23:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

To all actors

06 12 07 - 06:22 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The tomb of Takauji Ashikaga

Ashikaga Takauji wrestled control of the country from Hojo of Kamakura and intended to hand it back to the Emperor Go-Daigo, but at the last moment changed his mind and decided to keep it for himself. As shogun he crushed his enemies one by one, until a puppet emperor challenged Go-Daigo and Takauji himself was the most prominent figure in Japan. Taking a small temple in the grounds of Ninna-ji, he swapped its allegiance for that of Toji-ji, his family's own temple. With the help of Muso Kokushi he created a temple that would serve his descendants. Muso became the founding priest and on Takauji's death the temple was renamed Toji-in.

Many believe the Hokyointo Pagoda is where Takauji was buried.
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06 12 07 - 06:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The amazing shogun room

After all these years I've finally made up my mind and chosen my favourite temple in Kyoto. Toji-in wins for three reasons: it has the most amazing statues, holds the tomb of Ashikaga Takauji (one of my favourite figures in Japanese history) and photography is allowed everywhere. Although the garden is somewhat scarred by the new buildings of the Ritsumeikan University, which block the mountains that were an integral part of the scenery (shame on you!), it is still stunning.
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06 12 07 - 06:07 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

100 days for love

Ono-no-Komachi was said to have been one of three most beautiful women in the ancient world. Although there is some debate that she was actually a woman (perhaps one of the reasons she never married, else reveal a much stranger truth), she served as an imperial maid until the age of 30. Many royal princes and the sons of noble families chased her and became enchanted by her looks, sending thousands of love letters, but she took no husband and retired to a small cottage on the grounds of Zuishin-in Temple. Prince Fukakusa fell in love with Ono-no-Komachi and she promised to marry him if he would court her for 100 days. For 98 days he set off in all weathers to reach the cottage and bring her a nut from the tree in his garden. However, come the 98th day he caught a terrible cold during a snowstorm and died the following day. So short of his goal, Ono-no-Komachi remained unmarried for the rest of her days. Living until 70, she had paintings and statues created imagining her in her old age, so that she would not forget the quick passing of youth and that her looks would one day fade.

'Beautiful colourful flowers will fade away, my youthful beauty will fade too, what a fickle life'
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03 12 07 - 22:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The ice of Kaju-ji

As the rain kept its distance, Etsuyo and I took a final trip to see the autumn maple trees, before wind and storms blow the last few leaves from the trees. Following Etsuyo's growling stomach to a famous soba restaurant next to Zuishin-in Temple, we supped in the cosy warmth and braved the icy chills to see some of the more well-known of Ono's delights.
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03 12 07 - 22:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Tragedy to triumph

The photos are all a little mixed up. As Bukko-in is such a tiny temple, the first few pictures are all I have. The rest of the Hachimangu Shrine, a little way to the South, of which I have no information at all.

Nakagawa Manjiro, proprietor of a geisha house in the Horie District of Osaka, went on a crazed rampage of murder in April 1904, attacking 6 geisha and killing 5. The sole survivor, Oishi Junkyo (a talented geisha of 17) lost both her arms and emerged from the tragedy to become a nun.

She overcame her condition, became a comic storyteller and singer and then, in her twenties, began to do calligraphy and painting with her mouth. After her marriage and the birth of two children, Junkyo supported herself painting kimono and obi. Eventually, she became a Buddhist nun, devoting her life to the copying of sutras, calligraphy, writing books, memorializing the victims and helping the physically handicapped. In April 1951 she founded the Bukko-in, a temple in southeast Kyoto. When she was 81 (21st April 1968) she passed away peacefully, on the very same day she had been attacked.
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03 12 07 - 22:16 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §

Awashimado Hall

Nankei Wajo was travelling to Kyoto from Awashima (Wakayama Prefecture) to transfer the god Awashima Myojin (some time between 1394 and 1428) to the city. As the he approached the city, the vessel carrying the spirit grew heavy and Nankei took it as a sign that Awashima Myojin wished to be enshrined on the spot. Awashima Shrine was created, but come the Meiji Period was stripped to just a hall as part of the government policy separating Shintoism and Buddhism.
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02 12 07 - 07:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Day with Kitty and Gil

Oh Kawaii!
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02 12 07 - 07:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Portraits of Gil

Rhod and I headed over to Erina and Dale's to see them and the kids. Gil is getting much heavier and droolier, though the drool seems to be most productive when he is happy, so I guess it is a good thing. He has to be the smiliest of babies, and especially loves it when Erina sings at him. Lying him down he was happy to grab at the camera snap while I took some photos. Meanwhile Kitty and Rhod played with Wii and DS, a little geek in the making.
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02 12 07 - 07:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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

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