I’m still harping on Japan. I know. I’m slow. There’s much to share from my trip in ‘ahem’ February. I can’t help but tell you more. Today we shall take a trip back to Kyoto. Everyone I know claims that Kyoto is simply beautiful – and after my visit, I too am a Kyoto fan. Unlike busy, metropolitan Tokyo, the city of Kyoto is brimming with ancient shrines, old-style architecture, cobble-stone streets, traditional tea houses and kimono-clad ladies. You read that right – where trendy fashionistas rock the sidewalks of Tokyo, beautiful women dressed in gorgeous kimonos are a common sight in Kyoto.
While we were in Europe, all we saw were churches. After a while, you tend to visit the most famous one and then give the rest a miss. Here in Kyoto, the shrines take over. However we had to visit the most famous shrine – Fushimi Inari – which is also the ‘head shrine’ of Inari, the papa shrine, the one that is featured in all Kyoto travel photos. The one with the orange-red torii (sub-gates) that line the pathways to the main shrine. This place is huge, and it’s definitely a sight to behold.
The other touristy spot we visited was the Arashimaya bamboo groves. The district itself is rather lovely to explore and many people like to hire bicycles and venture through the area. It is also famous for the monkey park but we had already seen snow monkeys in Nagano, we gave that a miss as well.
Beautiful Kyoto – imagine it in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom! It would be amazing. We were there in winter but were lucky to spot a few cherry blossom trees that were early bloomers. You want a slice of Japanese culture? Visit Kyoto – oh my, I sound like a travel agency.
Aside from lucky cherry blossom spotting, we had the opportunity to join in the festivities of Godairikison ninno’e. This is the largest event in Daigoji held on February 23rd each year. This religious festival is attended by over 100,000 visitors a year. Monks pray for peace, health and happiness for Japan and paper charms are burnt and distributed. What caught our attention and brought us to the festival was actually the famous ‘mochi-lifting’ ceremony. Men and women take part in this ceremony by lifting giant mochi (rice cakes) – 150kg for men and 90kg for women. Apparently the longer one lifts and maintains hold on the giant mochi, gets dedicated with power (strength and health perhaps?) However the appearance of a superhero made me think that maybe the participants are really asking for super powers? It was very interesting and entertaining. The whole area of Daigoji Temple was filled with throngs of visitors, food stalls (there seem to be food stalls at every festival – I love it), colourful flags and giant mochis. Great fun.
Next up: A home-style cooking class in Kyoto