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kyonoki - 京のキー

At the doorstep of Enryaku-ji

Enryaku-ji is far too big for its own good, though if you can believe it there were originally thousands of temples and buildings that made up this holy city. Oda Nobunaga, threatened by the power of the temple and their rough band of warrior monks (Sohei), decided to destroy the complex. Slaughtering thousands and burning the entire mountain top (a single building survived), Nobunaga consolidated power shortly before being betrayed and forced to commit suicide.
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31 08 09 - 07:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Descent in mind

One of the most spectacular things about the Hiei-zan hike was actually the bus trip down from Enryaku-ji. The Hiei-zan Driveway twists and turns around the mountain so much that I actually felt sick, but the views were absolutely stunning and not for those who have problems with heights. To see Otsu so far below was just amazing, and it kept me awake to see the strange settlements nestled in the woods. I can't imagine who lives here. There are no shops and most people seem dedicated to stone masonry or the timber industry, though you can always guarantee there will be an exotic looking cafe. Monkeys skitter across the road at regular intervals, and finally you are in the leafy suburbs of the city once more, most people snoring contentedly.

26 08 09 - 07:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Otsu at twilight

I took this photo as the bus plunged around the hairpin curves of the Hiei Driveway and so it is far from great. An early twilight grew out of the rain, but could not diminish the stunning scenery of Lake Biwa.

26 08 09 - 07:42 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The 1,200 year old flame

Within the Kompon Chudo burns a tiny flame sitting in a saucer of oil. Twice daily the supervising monk replenishes the oil within the golden lantern, a task that has been undertaken for nigh on 1,200 years since the founder of Enryaku-ji first lit the flame. A kindly monk came over to explain the meaning of the light (you are not permitted to take photos of the building or inside the hall). Although you can only see the hint of a flicker from within the lamp, helpfully there is a giant photo hung up which shows a tiny lick of flame. In many ways the fire represents not only the compassionate light of Buddha and enlightenment, but also the enduring qualities of both Enryaku-ji and Kyoto itself (founded at about the same time the lamp was first lit). It is a nice tale, but I am afraid my cynicism clouds my thoughts at this point.

Not only did Enryaku-ji burn to the ground sporadically throughout its history, but was actually entirely annihilated by Oda Nobunaga. As the soldiers were slaughtering at random, did some monk pick up the lantern and flee? No, I do not think so. But then again, many shrines and temples do not know themselves the truths behind myths that have grown up. If it gives the faithful hope then why not believe such tall tales?

26 08 09 - 07:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

East Enryaku-ji

What follows is the history of Enryaku-ji - Given imperial blessing, a priest named Saicho (helping to establish the Tendai sect in Japan) constructed a devotional hall on the summit of Hiei-zan to protect the newly founded capital from the 'misfortune' said to flow from the North East. His little temple was to become one of the greatest Buddhist centres in all the county. As Enryaku-ji's power grew, so conflicts erupted with the other Buddhist sects of the city and even the imperial court. The Emperor Shirakawa in the eleventh century lamented that the only things he could not control were, 'The roll of the dice, the Kamo River, and the monks of Enryaku-ji'.
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26 08 09 - 07:36 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

September 25th

The Big Day. September 25th. Osaka.

26 08 09 - 07:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hiei-zan Cable-car station

Chigusa Tadaaki's grave is marked with a huge concrete tombstone, now mostly overgrown and barriers crumbling away. If the trees were not so tall, he would certainly have one of the best views of Kyoto. Instead he now rests in the quiet dark, with only the occasional hiker for company.

Our legs were getting tired, but the path does cease to climb until the cable car station. Here there is a rather stunning vista and a few benches set out for the weary traveler. Finally we had made it, and so took our time to greet the ancient jizo that now sits in a battered old shelter and then rest at the ropeway waiting room. It was quite nice to swagger in the knowledge that we had climbed the mountain, and that the tourists pouring from the ropeway had not. Lazy! Yes, even you old woman!
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26 08 09 - 07:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mountain frog

Misako squealed and danced in disgust at this monstrous beast barring the upper path to Chigusa's grave. It was about the size of my little finger's nail.

26 08 09 - 07:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Climbing Hiei-zan: Half-way

Forty or so minutes had passed since we commenced our climb from Kirarazaka and we were at the first branch in the path. A large stone pillar sits on the spot, a memorial to Chigusa Tadaaki, who died here in 1336 as he returned to Kyoto from battle. Deeply trusted councilor to Emperor Go-Daigo (1288-1339), Chigusa fought the armies of Ashikaga Tadayoshi (1306-52) in present-day Shiga Prefecture.
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26 08 09 - 06:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Climbing Hiei-zan: Ascent

It is that feeling you get when a person you find particularly irritating invites you out somewhere and you find yourself fumbling for an excuse, as if your own mind is betraying you by refusing to work fast enough and in the end offering up the weakest imaginable response. That is exactly what happened. My own mind became a traitorous beast. When Misako emailed and asked if I would like to hang out this week, I instantly responded by suggesting we go hiking. Not just a pleasant stroll by the river, but a challenging walk into the mountains. And not just any mountain, but Hiei-zan, one of the most challenging hikes in the city. My mind had clearly forgotten the horrors of climbing Mt. Atago way back in the comfortable autumn season, or the fact that I have never attempted something so energetic during the Japanese summer, for very good reason. Still, we were all quite chirpy and determined in the morning, and I had done enough homework to see us in the right direction.
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26 08 09 - 05:12 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Keitai Beach

I have already uploaded the beach photos, but loved this picture of Misako so much (taken on my cellphone) that I thought I would put it on the site.

23 08 09 - 06:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

By the crystaline waters of Omi-Maiko

A gorgeous afternoon swimming on the shores of Lake Biwa, only the occasional drone of a speedboat breaking the silence.

22 08 09 - 03:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Journey around Biwa

These photos were shot during the train ride from Kyoto station to Omi-Maiko. The scenery is especially pretty, if somewhat ruined by the usual strips of concrete-block houses and monolithic out-of-town shops.

22 08 09 - 03:32 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The fading days of summer

With summer quickly dying, we took one of the last chances to swim before the holiday end closes many of the beaches (like most things in Japan beaches are strictly seasonal with swimming frowned upon once they are closed). A fortunate mistake at the station led us on to the shore east of the crowded Omi-Maiko beach, and we found ourselves with a deserted strip of fine stones. Lunching on Japanese curry, the owner explained that all the rain in August had frightened tourists away which was a good thing for us. With thunder storms predicted for later in the day, we made use of the sun and I managed to burn my legs in a ridiculous pattern. Because of the rain the waters were crystaline and the rocky bed filled with scavenging fish, which had me thinking of Hikone and the filthy stretch of beach on the south side of the lake.

Feet fitted with newly purchased flip-flops, we splashed about with the rubber ring until it was time to head home.

22 08 09 - 03:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

River walking

P-Dez's time in Kyoto is drawing to a very sad close, but I decided to end things in the best way possible, with beer and grilled squid at a pretty outdoor cafe on the banks of the River Oi. With their wish to see bamboo groves fulfilled, we waded across a rather full river to cool our feet. Dez managed to cool more than that by tripping at the last moment and plunging both shoes and socks into the water. I was more than happy to have reached the other side safely, worrying the whole time that my camera and cellphone were in terrible danger of being soaked. Glancing up at Monkey Mountain, we considered it far too hot a climb and so settled for the less exhaustive activity of consuming alcohol.

19 08 09 - 08:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Torii tunnels

Each year the Emperor plants rice in a sacred field, demonstrating how integral rice is to the Japanese. Unsurprisingly Inari, the deity who presides over rice, is exceptionally important. Shrines to the god number in their thousands, but the most famous and possibly the origin of the cult can be found at Fushimi Inari. Established as early as 711, the shrine won imperial rank after association with Kukai (founder of the Shingon Sect and head of the great Toji Temple) who had used wood taken from Mt. Inari (the mountain behind the shrine) to build his temple. The rituals he performed to appease the mountain gods would forever link the two sacred spots.
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19 08 09 - 08:33 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fading

This poor (discoloured) praying mantis was clearly on its last legs, racing for cover but weak incredibly weak. Bad for him, but good for photographers and birds.

19 08 09 - 08:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

From Fushimi to Arashiyama

I met up with P-Dez again this morning to take them to the torii infested mountain of Fushimi-Inari. On the journey down there they mentioned some places they might like to visit in Kyoto and happily pointed to temples and spots precisely at opposite ends of the compass, an impossible task for one afternoon. Their laid-back attitude to everything is quite amusing, and just proves how irritatingly organised I am about sightseeing. Finally we struck out a deal to jump from East to West Kyoto where the bamboo groves proved to be quite a magnet.

19 08 09 - 08:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fox Realm

Mt. Inari is perhaps most famous for the thousands of cinnabar red torii gates erected in dedication to create vast tunnels under which pilgrims make their way to the summit and the fox dells. As a symbol of the city, there are not many sights as awesome as the massive gates that welcome visitors, gradually dwindling in size as you climb ever up through sub-shrines, past statues and around small eateries. Even for those toriis that have faded or crumbled completely away, there remains a deep sense of magic. The old and the new standing side by side only adds to the wonder of the place.
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19 08 09 - 08:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Stroll garden

More photos from Genkyu-en.

18 08 09 - 07:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Genkyu-en

Genkyu-en garden is located to the east of the Hikone Castle and across from the inner moat. It was built in 1677 by Naooki Ii, the fourth lord of Hikone. The garden is designed in the Chisen-kaiyu style, meaning it is centered around a pond. It was modeled after the garden of the detached palace of Emperor Hsuan Tsung (685-762) of China's Tang Dynasty. It is filled with plants and trees that provide different colors throughout the year. Genkyu-en was where the lord of the castle entertained his guests. From the Rakurakuen buildings that comprised the family's residences, the household could enjoy the view of the garden laid out before them and the castle above.

18 08 09 - 06:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Castle Park

Steep, steep steps lead up and down the main castle keep, frighteningly vertical and cramped. I was extremely grateful for the group of old people up front, the perfect cushion were I to trip and fall.

The castle itself is fairly small and empty, the view as good from the entrance promenade as it is from the top floor windows. More interesting are the huge bulwarks that cut through the hillside, paths leading through twists and turns, up long steps and down through shaded forest. Originally the castle had four moats and the walls extended out into what is now the town. Never stormed in battle, it is hard to imagine that any enemy would be able to take the keep by force.

18 08 09 - 06:16 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Matsubara Beach

There is a very good reason that people tell you to go to the lake's northern shore for swimming, but we did not heed the warnings. What Matsubara promotes as a beach is essentially a strip of muddy grit at the water edge, road flanked by an overgrown plot of land infested with biting insects. The water is not particularly clean (as the bay stills all natural currents) and the beach itself littered with garbage, the few families present having set up intricate campsites with more furniture and playthings than there is furniture in our entire house. It always amuses me to think of the two hours it must take to cram all this stuff in the car before setting out, and how little enjoyment both parents must get from the day having constantly to construct and dismantle.

We managed fifteen minutes before feeling dirtier than when we had arrived. After discovering the spa restaurant no longer serves beer, we decamped to a lonely bench perched at the edge of the empty harbour while Dez went foraging for sustenance. And a small miracle...the port building had cans of beer!

18 08 09 - 06:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hikone Castle

Oh such high hopes for the day! Swimming in the lake, sunbathing on the beach and a gentle stroll around the shoreline before a cheeky drink in the local spa. How quickly reality slaps you back into shape, forcing you to slump on the sole harbour bench drinking beer until the horrible reality of a garbage strewn mud-beach, lack of bars and Paul not actually having suitable trunks to swim (or pants for that matter) fades into a pleasant resignation. I will not blame Dez for maligning my deliciously horrible sweet and hot wasabi rice crackers (despite eating half the bag), nor point fingers for having been 'forced' to slurp a can of beer on the train ride home and thus becoming a skank, I will just say that it was a very pleasant day even if Hikone has the feel of apocalyptic desolation about it.
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18 08 09 - 06:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Daimonji haze

Not such a steady hand with the camera,

16 08 09 - 07:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

You lookin' at me?

16 08 09 - 07:29 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Gozan no Okuribi

Gozan no Okuribi, more commonly known as Daimonji is one of Kyoto's most iconic festivals, and certainly unique around the world. It is the culmination of the Obon festival on August 16th, in which five giant bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding the city. It signifies the moment when the spirits of deceased family members, who are said to visit this world during Obon, are believed to be returning to the spirit world (thus the name Okuribi - send-off fire).

Although there are several interpretations as to the origins of this event, it is generally regarded as growing from the ritual of setting fires at the city gates to see off the souls of ancestors (after commemorating the welcoming of their souls). The character of Dai (meaning large) on Mt. Daimonji, and those of Myo and Ho which make up the word Myo-ho (meaning wonderful doctrine, or wondrous teaching of Buddha) on Matsugasaki Nishiyama and Higashiyama mountains are perhaps most famous.

In addition to these three places, fires are simultaneously set to the character Dai on Mt. Hidari-Daimonjiyama at Kinkakuji Okitayama, as well as to a ship-like Funagata motif on Mt. Funayama at Nishi-Kamo, and a Toriigata motif (like the gate erected at the entrance of a shrine) on Mt. Manadarayama in Saga. These fires are collectively called Daimonji Gozan Okuribi.

The upper horizontal first stroke of the character Dai measures 80 metres long. The second stroke, which is the curved line from the center top to the bottom left, is 160 meters long, and the curved third stroke from the center top to the bottom right is 120 meters long. Seventy-five fire burning areas are set up, where split firewood of pine tree and pine needles are piled up and set ablaze all at once at 8 o'clock in the evening. The fire burns for about 30 minutes on each of the mountains (with slight differences in duration). Moreover, it has been believed since olden times that if you drink sake or water with the burning Daimonji characters reflected in your cup this very night, you will be protected from illness.

16 08 09 - 07:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sunflowers

Sunflowers in Arashiyama on another unseasonably cloudy Saturday.

16 08 09 - 07:22 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Bonfire Night

Now that Mizu-kun is happily married off, sadly we will have to forgo the nights spent viewing the Daimonji from his parent's rooftop. I had such high hopes for bonfire night, but as all best laid plans this one didn't exactly work out. It was my intention to cycle from the bridge at Demachiyanagi in a wide circle of the city, snapping as I went along. As the first bonfires are lit at 8pm, and then at five to ten minute intervals, I thought that I might just have enough time to catch them all with my camera. What I didn't count on was the sheer amount of ponderous people, nor having Andy and Omar tag along. As much as I love them both, in my experience too many cooks definitely spoil the broth.

Photographing the Daimonji is always hard, but this year proved an epic nightmare. Truthfully I am my own worst critic, but I am happy with none of the pictures. Crushed together with the thousands of others beneath Mt. Daimonji* on the Aoi Park bridges, there seemed no order to the proceedings and successive waves of people pushed and shoved for better position (including the tallest Japanese man I have ever seen) which stirred up a chaotic crush. Come the lighting of the bonfires and it was impossible not to be amused by the cooing of the crowds, all with cellphones held skyward to take photos. Sugoi! Sugoi! It is true that in recent years people are concerned more with documenting their experience rather than living it, something I too am guilty of.

Leaving the chaos behind, we pedaled with furious speed up the Shimogamo Hondori only to discover the next fires had already been lit. Immediately my theory on being able to photograph all the bonfires was dispelled. Rushing into the sports park at Takaragaike, we were in time to watch the single character 'Myo' burning on the hill close by (its twin 'Ho' being out of sight**) but were far too close and so the bonfires appeared as mere dots on the mountainside, rather than the kanji character they were supposed to represent. By then the Funagata (boat-shaped bonfire) had already been lit and so the evening was over. Sweaty and irritable, I took the evening as a lesson to next time enjoy Daimonji from a distance with a cool beer in hand.
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16 08 09 - 07:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Artful defence

This little chap was sitting atop our gate-light this morning. I am not quite sure whether he is alive or dead, but I left well enough alone and hope it looks unappetizing to the circling birds.

13 08 09 - 17:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Meriken Park

Our time in Kobe had come to an end, so with tired feet we dragged ourselves around Meriken Park to take a look at the lopsided lampposts of the Earthquake Memorial. With the sun-setting we bid farewell to the concordesque exterior of the Maritime Museum, the pretty Port Tower and the huge Canal Garden Mall, hopped on the train and -sun-slapped- made our way back home.

13 08 09 - 01:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kitano to Nankinmachi

Having spent the greater part of the day winding our way from the Herb Gardens to the Nunobiki Falls, we sped up the tour by mostly skipping the Kitano district. When Kobe port was opened following centuries of isolation, foreigners mainly set up houses around the Kitano ward. As a result, the area became home to numerous foreign residences giving Kitano area an exotic atmosphere. Although arguably the houses are not representative of their home countries (the British house looks like it belongs on a Swiss slope, the Sherlock Holmes figure doing nothing but create a rather disconcerting atmosphere), they are distinctly un-Japanese and popular with tourists. I remember well Louisa mistakenly buying a day ticket for many of the houses, and forcing herself to visit the rather dull interiors in an attempt to make up for the large amount of money she had parted with.

Happily licking on especially milky ice-creams, we posed with the bronze jazz figures and avoided a frightening street performer dressed as a pair of giant chopsticks. Then it was on through Sannomiya and the huge shopping arcades (mostly comprising of shoe shops and boutiques) to the rather small and stinky China Town (Nankinmachi) to cool down under the bizarre moisture fans that had been set up in the square. For a summer mostly deprived of sunshine, today was a welcome change though Dez ended the afternoon by having garish sunburnt strap marks on both shoulders.

13 08 09 - 01:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Nunobiki Falls

I stood at the bend of a mountain road today, the very path that winds up from the Nunobiki Falls all the way to the herb gardens that straddle the hilltop. It was not a particularly pretty bend, the barrier covered in graffiti and the withered grass of the banks speckled with garbage, but it overlooked the forested base of the mountains and I thought how ridiculous it is to take such small things for granted. I never seem to be able to live in the moment. I take photos, look back and think how lucky I am, but the here and now is mostly a blur. If ever there was a reason that we have temporarily abandoned England then this is it. Life hurries by so quickly that for the first time I think I understand the necessity in sitting still and soaking up the world around.

What I suppose I am bumbling on about is how nice it is, in this case by acting as tour guide for P-Dez, to be forced to sit still and take in the surrounds, when usually I would be scooting off immediately to do something else.

Kobe's Nunobiki Falls (comprising of four separate falls: Ondaki, Mendaki, Tsusumigadaki, and Meotodaki) has important significance in Japanese literature and Japanese art, and is considered one of Japan's greatest 'divine falls'. A well-known section of the Tales of Ise describes a trip taken by a minor official and his guests to Nunobiki Falls during which time they hold a poetry-writing contest.

13 08 09 - 00:52 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Herb Garden

How easy it is to look through rose-tinted memories at a place you left behind, how simple to paste over cracks in the idyll and fill unhappy times with fuggy thoughts of better things. This is Kobe for me, a place that has not been my home for a long time, but will forever be my Japanese home, the defining part of my early twenties and a great piece of my personality so to speak. Because I moved from the city before I had the chance to tire of it, it will remain perfect in my mind, perpetually sunny and beautiful, cosmopolitan and friendly. Kyoto intrigues me, but Kobe was my first love and so it remains.

Why the weepy reminiscence? Well I suppose that for the first time in about four years I truly took the effort to show someone (Paul and Dez in this instance, pictured) all the sights of the city. I wanted for them to unreasonably love Kobe as I do. Rather than change my predilection, the trip reaffirmed it. Forested mountains tumble into the glistening haze of Osaka Bay, a metropolitan-microcosm filled with wide boulevards and bright skyscrapers, fine shopping streets and pretty sea-side views. It is the new Japan, built from a clean slate following the destruction of war, but emerging clean and airy, the antithesis of Osaka.

Who could not love this city? It may receive no more than a few pages in any guidebook of Japan, but could there be a finer place to live?

13 08 09 - 00:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Happy Birthday Dez

Dez was 34 today and so we celebrated with a supper of battered octopus balls (the shape, not tiny testicles) and sneaked back home a melted gelato wonderment with candles on top. Sounds oddly disturbing, but was quite delicious. Happy Birthday!

13 08 09 - 00:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Rhod expounds on the wonders of Ninna-ji to Paul and Dez

The title says it all.

09 08 09 - 23:29 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A taste of Rhod-House

A week has passed since the move to Rhod House (for the sake of the blog and for various other reasons this is how I shall from now on refer to the new place) and things are slowly coming together. In the brilliant and unforgiving sunlight, my first exploration of the house was met with a gentle sigh and perhaps unfair disappointment. The house in almost every way is like our old apartment but with twice the space, including indoor toilet and loft. Now that I have spent a week turning the house into a livable space with working fridge and cooker, I discover that each day I am surprised by liking the rooms and the potential they each hold. Moving day was relatively stress free though it poured and poured, which was not entirely helpful when we were purchasing important electrical items, but in four days we have pretty much created a homely little machiya. Quite an achievement considering switching countries and properties twice in the space of a year.

Rhod House sits on a tiny little patchwork of roads, literally jammed into one corner of Shusei-Inari Shrine, which I will write about later. The shrine is pretty, though unremarkable by Japanese standards. There is a tiny front garden with trees and hydrangea bushes, and potential for a barbeque space. Entering the house there is a genkan (where you remove your shoes), then a step up to the ground floor. To your right are the stairs and a small toilet. Anyone who saw our previous 'squatting' toilet will be pleased to know this one is inside, fitted with heated toilet seat and bidet, and decorated with fantastic blue tiles on the wall and floor. The kitchen is a thin galley-like thing with all the necessary, if battered, units. Living room follows dining room, and as is often the way the bathroom (with sunken, metal cauldron bath) and sink area are separated from the toilet, and on the ground floor. Outside the back door is a patio area completely covered, in which sits the washing machine and potential for plant area.

The decor of the house is retro and Japanese, that is to say newish and yet still remarkably old fashioned. While it is quite plain, I have noticed that every room is subtly different, some with tatami and others with wooden floors. There is a hideous chandelier type lamp hanging in the dining room, both over-the-top and unnecessary. Rhod hates it but I will defend it with my life. It is so ugly it is brilliant.
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09 08 09 - 23:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Anatomy

This post is just for Rhod, who rather loves the guardian statues that sit in the gate alcoves of most temples. The photos happen to be from our recent trip to Ninna-ji.

Kongorikishi (also known as Nio) are two wrath-filled and muscular guardians of the Buddha, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in Japan in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are manifestations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani protector deity and are part of the Mahayana pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with the historical Buddha to protect him.

09 08 09 - 23:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The festival to protect the Kamo River for our children

Passing across Shijo Bridge to find the 'prettiest street in Asia' (according to the Lonely Planet Guidebook of Japan), we noticed tents pitched along one side of the Kamo right up to the Sanjo Bridge. Turns out it was to promote the beautification of the river by inviting various people to set up stalls and thus undo the actual beauty of the river. Nice job. Squeezed into the slow moving crowds, across mucky sand spread to try and level of the cobble-stones, there appeared no reasoning to the tents, nor any real promotion of the river itself. Most stall holders seemed half drunk, laughing amongst themselves. Interestingly there was quite a few old people teaching vanishing skills, such as koto playing and calligraphy, as well as a wailing women choir in floral outfits and a presentation of dying processes in the river itself (long strips of material were anchored into the water, allowing the excess dye to wash off and the colour to fasten).

The idea was there, if only half thought out, and although I usually hate crowds I do generally agree that these kind of festivals can do the city a lot of good. What does not do the river good is a city government determined to completely landscape all nature into oblivion and enforcing strict rules about actually enjoying the river. No barbeques? What miserable old sour-puss thought that one up. I cannot remember the city ever being endangered by rogue coals or troubled by the delicious smells of cooking food that help to cover the summer stench of sewers. Humbug I say. Let the Kamo be free.

We did find the 'prettiest street' described in the book, the ochaya district about the Shirakawa River, only it transpires that the writer considered it only really pretty in cherry blossom season and that he or she clearly doesn't know Kyoto, or Japan, or Asia very well. What a ridiculous thing to say! Anyone who knows Kyoto, knows that the prettiest streets are those around the Kamo Shrine. Take that Lonely Planet.

09 08 09 - 23:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

View from old apartment

For June we stayed in a monthly mansion (apartment), which was very cramped indeed but had a rather amazing view. This is about the only photo I have of the place, but I would advise anyone coming to Japan for an extended period to rent somewhere like this as it was centrally located yet perfectly quiet.

05 08 09 - 19:12 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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

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