Messing around

23 03 10 - 00:04 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Kyoto is in the grip of a late-Spring freeze. Although the photo is obviously blossom, the streets have been peppered with snow all afternoon and the temperature is plummeting as the night draws on. Strange weather indeed, but I do remember a similar thing happening back in Brighton shortly after the cherry trees had begun blossoming. Tomorrow should be back to normal, but for now I am happy to be wrapped up in Omar's house.

22 03 10 - 23:56 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Blossoming snow

When Emperor Kammu moved his palace from Nagaoka-kyo to Heian-kyo (Kyoto) in 794, he established Hirano Shrine on the city's Western flank to serve as guardian for his new capital. Ever since its earliest years the shrine has been patronised by members of the imperial family and enjoyed a special relationship with both the Genji and the Heike before both clans tore themselves apart in civil war. In 965, Emperor Murakami sent imperial messengers to report important events to the guardian kami of one of the city's protective shrines Hirano was included in these visits.*

22 03 10 - 23:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Let the chaos of sakura season begin.

22 03 10 - 23:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The oldest festival

Hirano Shrine's famous cherry blossom festival has been an annual event since 985. The long and successful history of festivals at the shrine began during the reign of Emperor Kazan, and the blossom viewing in particular has become the oldest regularly held festival in Kyoto. The festival begins in the morning with a ceremony at the mausoleum of Emperor Kazan, followed by an afternoon procession. Rather aptly, the insignia of the shrine remains a cherry blossom.

Although a few weeks shy of the festival, many of the trees are already in bloom. Beneath the orchard boughs workmen are busy constructing stages that will soon host the hundreds of guests come to drink and eat under the pink blossoms. Celebratory red and white banners brighten the temporary pillars, and for a brief time the sober grounds and ugly modern gardens will come alive with the sounds of merrymaking.

22 03 10 - 23:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Misako portrait

This is an old photo, made to look older by the steam from the cooking plate. I love the 70s quality and the unobserved expression on Misako's face. Sometimes I miss that slightly worn-look of photos taken in my childhood rather than the crisp clarity of digital film.

15 03 10 - 01:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Arashi pose

Arashi's impact on the Thomas household seems to have filtered down to the youngest member. Gilead has perfected a moody, boy-band look at the mere mention of the group. With Erina out at karaoke with other Arashi lovers from a Mixi fan-group, we helped Dale take care of the kids with lots of running around and computer games. Although Kitty was camera shy as a toddler, Gilead is fascinated with having his photo taken and will pose as long as he can see the result. It is interesting that he actively seeks out items to photograph, especially parts of his Thomas the Tank Engine collection. The result is very cute.

15 03 10 - 01:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Darling buds of March

14 03 10 - 17:33 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Shusei Shrine belongs to that group -many thousand in number- of sacred spots dedicated to Inari, god of rice (and by extension harvests, agriculture, merchants and business). It lends its name to the crowded neighbourhood and gives the small block a certain character that lifts it above what would be considered just another neat, but slightly rough-around-the-edges, suburb.

The concrete torii gates may be cracked and stained with rust, the wooden walls of the hall are most definitely worn and in need of renewal, but this shrine is no forgotten altar to the gods. From before the sun is up the priest (who lives in a smart modern house in the grounds) performs his noisy rites of clapping, and from that moment on the elderly stream to pay their respects at the many small shrines that fill the grey space. Throughout the day a trickle of workmen from the local factories stop by to toss a few coins into the altar coffer, breaking the peace with a sharp tug on the prayer bell. Later come nursery school children, out for a walk with their carers, loudly running across the gravel and excitedly chatting under the shadowed veranda. Be it sun, rain or wind the shrine is never ignored. When the weather is fine, the trees and flowers that line the broken old path stretch to hide away the ugliness of modern Japan and tourists flock, bemused that this plain shrine is their goal. A few will turn their heads, believing that there must be a far greater hall hiding away somewhere. There is not.

Shusei is famed for housing a god dedicated to work woes. And as work is something all of us need do, he is never without patrons. Men and women come to pray for promotion or for help in finding new employment, university graduates come hoping for guidance with their careers. All buy a fortune before they leave, tying the tiny strips of paper to the bushes and chicken-wire that stand in front of the prayer-hall.

At times the shrine is irritating. We live so close that every clap, every clang of the prayer bell, can be heard. Often it wakes us early in the morning, or late at night when we are drifting off to sleep. And if truth be told, the god has not brought us more luck with work while we have lived under his protection. But that said, it is a remarkable thing to slide open the window blinds and see the ornate tiles of the roof below, the hint of red paint from the smaller shrines, and to always hear the crunch of gravel as the faithful arrive to keep the shrine alive.

10 03 10 - 01:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Portrait of a nerd

Rhod slumped on the floor with mac-chan ('mac-chan reborn', specifically, after he succumbed to the terrible condensation of a Japanese home just before Christmas). The Christmas break was no doubt the worst period for Apple hardware losses in our house ever, what with Shuffle-Chan also deciding to stay at the Bath-House and never return home.

04 03 10 - 17:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


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


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