Fun of the fair

Lunch at Hirapa, and time for terror!

21 02 10 - 00:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fruits of summer

My beloved pepper plant is still holding on to thoughts of Summer.

21 02 10 - 00:29 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Get your skates on!

There is only a couple of weeks left in the ice-skating season, so Erina planned a trip for us all to the outdoor rinks at Hirapa. Maybe because of the Winter Olympics the rinks were so crammed full of people that it was quite impossible to go faster than a stumble, and I wisely decided to ditch my skates in favour of playing with Gilead while the others skated. When considering the crowds, the park should have allocated time-slots, or at the very least employed attendants to make sure that there were just children in the smaller of the rinks, but I suppose money always wins out over common sense. Poor Rhod and Erina looked like a sardine, swirling round and around in a vast shoal. Kitty took to the ice like a true pro. Lucky for us the fee was reasonable when compared with the other rinks in Kyoto, and the sun made a welcome appearance.

21 02 10 - 00:28 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §


I thought some of you would like to see what our house in Kyoto looks like (middle picture). The neighbourhood curls around the Shusei-Inari Shrine, and would be quiet if it weren't for the constant clanging of the prayer bell.

21 02 10 - 00:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Cows, komainu and a Rhod amongst the blossoms

The title says it all.

21 02 10 - 00:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Gilly and Thomas

Gilead is sure learning to talk. Most of his sentences revolve around characters from Thomas the Tank Engine and don't make much sense unless you have a vague idea about life on the Island of Sodor, though Kitty seems to have perfected the role of interpreter. While the others went ice-skating we watched from the rink-side for a while until he grew extremely agitated. Grabbing my hand he attempted to pull me towards the exit, and it was only after some careful listening that I realised he wanted to go and see Thomas. An earlier ride on the toy train had given him an insatiable appetite for more railway time. His obsession (even when compared with other boys his age) with Henry, Percy, Gordon and Harold is quite extraordinary...and not for one second of his trip to Hirakata Park did he think about anything else, except perhaps his second favourite pass-time - food.

21 02 10 - 00:13 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Plum blossoms

It's official...Spring is here! The plum blossoms are out, air conditioners have been switched off, windows are open and Winter clothes are going back into storage. A feeling of optimism has taken hold, colour is blossoming all around, and fresh, flower-scented air has blown away the muggy damp of January. Kitano-Tenmangu once more throws open its plum orchards to the public for a fee, but we saw more than enough beauty in the shrine to keep the change in our pockets. One benefit of paying is to view the ancient city wall*, now no more than a few grassy humps scattered across the city. Famed for gods of learning and healing cows, the shrine was crammed full of people waiting to pray.

21 02 10 - 00:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shrove Tuesday

Maybe for the first time since leaving home -all those years ago- I finally remembered Shrove Tuesday, and with a trusted Delia recipe whipped up a batter. Rhod took up the frying pan in what may be his first voluntary stint in the kitchen and flipped away.

16 02 10 - 21:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Remembering defeat

Uji is very much a summer town. Without the trickle of tourists, the picnicking couples and fully clothed trees the shops seem abandoned, the river-banks ugly and the historical treasures muted. Japan is a country best viewed in warm weather, when it is easy to forgive the modern scars and focus on the unwavering beauty of the mountains. But I like the winter, and the brief opportunity it presents to explore places that in other seasons would be crammed with sightseers.

Set apart from the Uji-gamo shrines (arguably the oldest in the country), the Uji Shrine (formerly known as Rikyu Hachimangu - Kirihara Higeta-no-miya) is far less grandiose and far less visited. Dedicated to Uji-no-Wakiiratsuko, one of the Emperor Ojin's many sons, the Nihon-shoki (the oldest official chronicle of Japan) claims that the shrine was built in commemoration of the prince after he committed suicide in the Uji River. The prince battled with his elder brother (the future Emperor Nintoku) for succession to the imperial throne and upon defeat ended his own life close to the site of the shrine.

15 02 10 - 18:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Beside the Uji River

Returning Rhod's broken DS directly to the Nintendo Depot at Ogura for mending gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy a bracing walk along the bleak banks of the Uji River. Mostly tourist free in the Winter months, the town's shops and inns seemingly doze, waiting for weekends, festival days and the onset of Spring's thaw.

15 02 10 - 18:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Growing up

08 02 10 - 18:16 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A little taste of snow

Enjoying what may well be our only snowfall of the year.

08 02 10 - 18:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Roasted beans and demons

From morning til evening the bucket-clang of the prayer bell has been ringing as a steady stream of the faithful and not-so-faithful come to visit the shrine next to our house. From my desk in the bedroom I can peer down onto the fish-scale tiles of the main hall, but cannot see the crumbling stage where shrine maidens dance on festival days. Every few minutes the drums sound to signal that the maiden is again dancing with her bough of sacred sakaki, the shrill accompaniment of wailing flutes and bells distracting. Red lanterns are hung about the smaller shrines that circle the hall, trestle tables line the crumbing path and a sign announces Setsubun. Most commonly known as 'The Bean Throwing Festival', Setsubun (Risshun) celebrates the traditional coming of Spring and the banishment of evil for another year. Falling on February 3rd, the festival acknowledges the lunar new year and reminds us that before the Western calender was introduced Setsubun hailed the Japanese New Year. Ceremonies are held in temples, shrines and households to cleanse them from evil accumulated during the previous months and to purify living spaces against disease-carrying spirits. The ritual of mamemaki literally means 'Bean Throwing', and many children still toss beans to scare away demons.
Despite the constant noise and irritation of the shrine bell ringing at all hours, it was surprising how the shrine miraculously came to life when so often it looks unloved. While not the prettiest shrine, it has a certain urban charm that grows special as darkness falls to hide the rotting wood and decaying concrete. The local convenience store (Family Mart) set up a stall to sell Eho-maki (uncut makizushi), a common food for Setsubun in Kansai. It is traditional to eat the rolled rice in silence while facing the yearly lucky compass direction (determined by the year's Zodiac symbol). Households may also decorate doors with holly and sardine head-shaped ornaments to scare away spirits in a similar vein to Halloween traditions. During the cleansing of houses and temples, the head of household (more commonly children nowadays) will throw roasted soybeans (fukumame) out of doors. Occasionally someone will dress up in a demon (oni) mask, and the bean throwers will chant 'Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!' ('Demons out! Luck in!). Afterward it is customary to eat one soybean for each year of your life, plus one for luck. As it is a time to cleanse evil, many people visit shrines and temples, and bonfires can be seen burning prayer tablets and charms that have been exchanged for fresh amulets. To Western eyes it is a strange mix of Halloween and New Year celebrations, a wonderful way to welcome the Spring.

07 02 10 - 23:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

True colours

03 02 10 - 22:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Foot of the mountain

02 02 10 - 00:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


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


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Last Comments

David (Get your skates o…): Dear Kieren, I’m also f…
Ki (Gilly and Thomas): Hi Hazel, I hope you are …
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