Published: December 12th 2007November 27th 2007
Koyasan Japanese Vocab aki
: fall/autumn kouyou
: the autumn leaves/the fall foliage momiji
: japanese maple leaves rousokku
: candle keitai
: cell phone kirei
November 10: Zach and I headed up to Koyasan (Mt. Koya) to see the changing leaves. Japanese people are very adamant that there are 4 distinct seasons in Japan (haha, as if they are the only place with seasons or something...). The fall season, aki
is marked by the changing of the leaves or koyo
, especially famous are the momiji
and people travel to various places just to see the leaves and experience fall.
This was my second visit to Koyasan- the first time I went with Zach to the Rousokku Matsuri, or the candle festival. It's during Obon season in the summer and everyone comes to pray and honor their ancestors and they light candles along the walkway between the temples and through the graveyards. Koyasan is said to be the sacred site where the monk Kukai began the sect of Shingon Buddhism, so it is full of buddhist temples. I think there are around 50 temples, most of which you can go and do an overnight temple stay at. The town of Koya is
red momiji leaves
quite isolated since it's all the way up the mountain. You have to take a train to the bottom of the mountain and then ride at cable car the rest of the way. But it is very beautiful and peaceful...when it's not full of tourists like meeeeeeeee! At key times in the seasons, namely fall and spring, the Japanese people flock to certain spots known for their seasonal beauty all on the same weekend (to see the leaves change and the cherry blossoms bloom). It's madness. Everywhere you look there's either someone taking pictures with a tripod and a camera with an oversized lens, or with their keitai
camera. Regardless, aki in Japan is very kirei
Since Koya has a higher elevation, the seasons hit it a little earlier than the other places in Wakayama- the leaves change earlier and it actually gets a good deal of snow in winter. It also has a very large and impressive stone graveyard where the Japanese creme de la creme are buried. Or something like that. All the brochures were in Japanese, so all of this is just guessing.
Kyoto: Toufukuji and Byoudouin Japanese Vocab aozora
: blue sky kotatsu
amazing invention consisting of a table with a heater underneath the tabletop. In winter you put a blanket over the table so that it surrounds your feet and plug that sucker in! It is soooooooo warm and condusive to napping!
November 17: And the hunt for the Momiji continues!!! Zach and I headed to Kyoto prefecture to the city of Uji to visit the Tofukuji, a kouyou (haha- you better remember the vocab) hotspot, and the Byoudouin, supposedly the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan which also happens to be on the back of the 10 yen coin. Unfortunately, our timing was a bit off and the trees were still not quite turned. Sigh...oh well. Regardless, Kyoto is a beautiful city and has sooooooo many tourist sights.
The fall weather has been so beautiful as you can see in the pics- aozora
all the way! But the fall beauty has peaked...from here on we slide into winter. The temperature dropped suddenly last monday- that monday exactly. The seasons definitely change suddenly over here...I woke up and it felt like winter (in california)...all my teachers make fun of me because I tell them that it feels like winter already...at around
10 degrees celcius. BUT, in January and February, apprently the coldest months, the temp drops to 0 degrees...yay...luckily I have the airconditioner that doubles as a heater and my handy dandy kotatsu
The Katsuragi-Cho Kushigaki-Matsuri Japanese Vocab ~Cho
: town (added as a suffix to the town's actual name...I live in Naga town, or Naga-Cho) Kushi
: skewer/spear...like yakitori kaki/gaki
: persimmon oshougatsu
: the Japanese new year celebration yosakoi
: Japanese modern dance style that uses crazy music and shouting...very richard simmons I think oden
: Japanese fall/winter stew/soup thing filled with konnyaku (potato jelly), bamboo shoots, chicken, fish cakes, hard boiled eggs and other Japanese dentouteki
goodies...you either love it or you hate it. It has a very Japanese flavor and texture dentouteki
: traditional gaijin
: somewhat derrogative way of saying foreigner, literally meaning outsider or outside person
November 23: My first taiko performance! For the last month and half I have been practicing taiko with the Shigo (city) Sendai Taiko group in Katsuragi-Cho. We performed at the Kushigakimatsuri- the speared/skewered persimmon festival. Katsuragi-cho is know throughout Japan for producing roughly 90% of all the speared persimmons in Japan. Why is this so incredible you ask? During Oshogatsu, they used the speared,
dried persimmons as part of their decorations. They are symbolic for long lasting friendship...or something like that.
At the festival, they let everyone peel and spear their own persimmons to dry themselves at home and to learn about the process. It's an aboslutely beautiful an charming festival- all the mountain folks come out to buy handmade goods and produce from local vendors, like hand made konnyaku and oden. They also make manju and mochi there, as well an get everyone together to roll and enormous maki-zushi that consists of cucumber, daiko, and of course, persimmon.
For entertainment, they have taiko, yosakoi and traditional japanese singing, enka, as well as comedy acts. Thus, my taiko world debut! I played in two pieces. All the members except for one, another English teacher in the next town over, Lara, are Japanese, so we usually don't know what's going on. For some reason, they made us wear bright red hapi coats, when everyone else was wearing black hapis...we though it might be some form of gaijin
descrimination, us being the token foreigners...BUT little did we know that they had something even more devious in store...a surprise interview on stage in japanese!!! After the
...with autumn leaves.
first performance, the MC singled us out and started asking us questions, in Japanese, on stage in front of all the mountain people. Nice. Real nice. Haha...can you say awwwwwwwwwkward?
Hiroshima City, Miyajima, Shinkansen and Himeji Japanese Vocab genbaku
: atomic bomb shika
: Japanese deer- the most agressive in the world!!! Will eat ANYTHING!!! tori
: a gate, usually red or stone, leading into a shinto shrine kaki
: persimmon- BUT, if the first syllable is unstressed, it means oyster shinkansen
: the super rapid bullet trains run by Japan Railways, fondly name Kodama, Hikkari and Nozomi (she's the fastest of the three) ~jou
: added after the name of a city or a place, meaning castle (himeji-jou= himeji castle, hiroshima jo= hiroshima castle)
November 24-25: After the persimmon party, Zach and I took the night bus from Osaka at 11pm and arrived bright and early at 6am at Hiroshima station in southern Honshu. We explored the city, walking to the Peace Park and seeing the genbaku
dome, or the atomic bomb dome. Since the atom bomb exploded almost directly above the building, most of the force was directed downwards rather then sideways, so the walls and the dome structure at the
top remained intact, one of the few buildings to retain any structure. While seeing the dome and the monument to all those killed, as well as the children, was very sad, it was inspiring to see how many people had folded paper cranes and left them by Sadako's statue. The cranes were bright and colorful, often folded by the hands of children and formed into the characters for peace. Standing their on a beautiful, clear day, it was hard to believe that such a terrible and violent moment could have ever happened.
After visiting the museum, we went to Miyajima, a famous island that has a shinto temple, known for it's floating tori
gate. The gate is built in the shallow waters off of the island and when the tide is high, it looks like it is floating on the water...unfortunately, we came during low tide and you could see that it was all a sham. You could even walk right up to the gate and touch it. Psh. The island, though extremely beautiful, was infested, not only with the usual flock of Japanese tourists, but with hungry, ravenous, rabid...well, not rabid... shika
. What's even worse is that they
sell deer food, so the deer will come up and attack you! Ok, well, more like sniff and nibble on your clothes and stick their nose in your purse, but still. To avoid the deer, we fled to the mountains to enjoy the leaves and returned later to eat some kaki
a specialty in the area. They were salty and squishy.
From there, we hopped on the Shinkansen Hikkari to head up to Himeji in Kobe prefecture. So what was a 7 hour ride on the bus, turned into a 1 hour long ride on the bullet train. Our first shink experience. Though it's fast, it's also expensive...about 8000yen ($80 US).
The next day we explored the city of Himeji, mostly in Himeji-Jou, probably Japan's most well known castle. It's a very pretty castle set against the cloudless blue sky. The inside is preserved, unlike most castles in Japan, so it's definitely more interesting than most castles.
We ate a lot of ice cream...
SIGH...that's all I can handle for now!!!!!!!!!!! See you all soon! I will be flying home on December 20th and depart for Japan on the 28th- haha, thought you could all use a
Zach and a tree
Inside one of the temple courtyards
little Christmas cheer ;)
There are more photos below