Fun of the fair
|Lunch at Hirapa, and time for terror!|
|Lunch at Hirapa, and time for terror!|
|My beloved pepper plant is still holding on to thoughts of Summer.|
|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.|
|The title says it all.|
|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.|
|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.|
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.
|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.|