November 2010 - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Autumn view of Arashiyama & Iwatayama Monkey Park (嵐山モンキーパーク)

4:44:00 PM
Here comes another little update from Kyoto..!

Not much to say about the past week, the days are disappearing before I even notice it. Mostly I´ve spent my days in the library studying, and besides this I´m just going to the usual club meetings or hanging out with friends.
Yesterday was different than usual though: normally I´ve got my ceramics classes on Saturdays, but this time we had the day of, which meant I could do some sightseeing instead. This time me and Yuma went to Arashiyama, which is the name of a district in the western part of Kyoto, close to the mountains (besides being the name of one of the mountains there as well).
It is known among others for the beautiful sceneries, and it was not a surprise that a lot of other tourists had decided to spend their Saturday there as well.

Arashiyama. As you can see some of the trees had already lost their leaves, but the scenery is still very pretty.

After crossing the Togetsukyo brigde we decided to check out the monkey park at the top of Iwatayama. Luckily it didn´t seem like that many tourists went to the monkey park though, since most of Arashiyama was packed with people it was nice to avoid the crowds for a while.

A sign we saw in the monkey park. Nice Engrish, huh? ;)

Iwatayama has still got quite some red leaved trees left.

Kyoto seen from the top of Iwatayama, where the monkey park is situated.

Arriving at the summit of Iwatayama we had the chance to take a look at the view of Kyoto. The weather was great, and it was relaxing to spend the time there looking at the monkeys playing around.

Those who wanted to feed the monkeys had to enter a fenced enclosure, where they could fed the monkeys from the inside.

Another picture of the lake at Arashiyama taken from Togetsukyo bridge.

When going by the Randen-train leaving from Arashiyama station, one has the opportunity to check out the many different souvenir shops in the street right outside the station. Since it´s still kouyou-season it is certainly crowded though..!

After our visit to the monkey park we walked around the area for a while checking out some of the temples, the souvenir shops and so on. Seems there is a lot of different things to see there, so I guess this is one of the places I might want to visit again during my year in Japan.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sightseeing in Kyoto! Red leaves, 東寺、東福寺、清水寺 ++

9:37:00 PM
This weekend I´ve really had the chance to see a lot of Kyoto.
The sightseeing started already on Friday afternoon when Silke, Ericka and I decided to take a trip down to Kyoto Station to check out the Kyoto Tower.
The tower can be seen in most parts of Kyoto, but for us it was the first time to check it out.
Silke and Ericka in front of Kyoto tower

The Kyoto Tower was build in 1964, and its hight is 131 m. Since the buildings in Kyoto aren´t that high, it is possible to see the tower in most of Kyoto, and apparently a lot of citizens complained when the building of the tower was decided (it is not really that nice to look at, so I really understand that they disliked the decision.. :p)
View from Kyoto tower
Seeing the view of the city was really nice, but it was not as impressive as I had hoped. I guess most of the other towers in Japan probably are more interesting to check out, so if I were to check out only one of them Kyoto Tower would not be my first choice.

Me, Ericka and Silke.

Today (Sunday) I´ve spent the whole day sightseeing, and we started out by going to Toji (東寺) (South of Kyoto Station) along with Eki´s host mother and a couple of other exchange students from some other schools and/or study programs.
Arriving at Toji we soon discovered that apparently they were having some flea markets going on there today; it was pretty crowded and a lot of stands selling traditional Japanese stuff and food. It was quite interesting to walk around there though; the food was good and the area was really pretty. Unfortunately it isn´t allowed to take pictures inside the temples though..

One of the temple buildings, side by side with the flea market.
The Toji-tower
After our visit to Toji we went by bike to another temple area called Tofukuji (東福寺). It seemed a lot of people had decided to spend their Saturday here though, it was so crowded that it was hard to move at certain areas. Still, I think I somehow managed to get some good pictures there.

The color of leaves were really pretty..

Nice red leaves, and a swarm of people..
And some more red leaves. It is Kouyou(紅葉)-season , after all.. :)
After our trip to Tofukuji the others went back home, and me and Eki decided to continue the sightseeing on our own.

While waiting for the evening to come, we went a short trip to Gion (祇園) too. Our final goal was the light-up event at Kiyomizudera (清水寺) in the evening, so that meant we had a lot of time to kill.
Eki washing her hands inside the Gion temple-area.

If one wants to go shopping after a visit to the temple it´s certainly not far.
When it started to get late we left Gion and went further south to Kiyomizudera. Again, a lot of people, and mostly Japanese tourist for some reason. It was really pretty though, specially because of the red leaves. In the summertime it seems they have light up events too, so that people can see the Sakura flowers lit up as well. I guess the foreign tourist prefer coming during that season instead, since Sakura is more "typical" Japanese then the red autumn leaves.
Kiyomizudera by night

Kyoto seen from Kiomizudera. You can even see Kyoto tower here.
Another picture of Kiyomizudera
Temple lanterns
The sakura forest behind Kiyomizudera

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

University Festival: Rits Fes 2010

10:28:00 PM
On Sunday it was actually time for a festival at Ritsumeikan University's Kinugasa Campus, the so-called Rits Fes.

Me and some of my friends went there, first of all because we wanted to try out some of the different types of food we had heard they would be selling there, but also because this festival offers a wide range of entertainment; you can see anything from dancing to wrestling.

This type of festival is a chance for the many circles and clubs at the university to earn some money they can use for their activities, which most of them does by selling different types of food. Each club/circle has their own stand, so there are a lot of food to choose from. You can basically find everything from soup to Korean food, french fries and yakitori.
As for me I think it is a really nice chance to try out some new types of food for a fairly good price, and at the same time support the other student in their club activities.

Besides supporting the students by buying their food, we also got to see some of them performing live. On the main stage some of the interest clubs & circles got the chance to show the stuff they had been practicing too, like here with spanish folk dance.

Ericka, Eki, Silke and me. A bit hard to tell from this picture perhaps, but there was quite a lot of stands in this area where one could buy among others traditional Japanese food.

A stand where one could support a volunteer-club by buying used and (if your lucky) new clothes.

I was surprised by the fact that some clubs also sold used and new items such as books and clothes, for almost nothing.
I bought a shirt that was completely unused for only 100 yen, and when I got home I looked at the prize tag and got a bit shocked by the fact that the original prize had been nothing less than 7140 yen..
I don´t think I would have bought it for even half of that prize though. I do feel like I should have given more for it, but then again I didn´t really bargain or anything to get it that cheap so.. Oh well, I´m not complaining ;)

Our SKP buddies selling corn soup. I got the feeling that they might have sold worse than expected though, since they had to advertise with free hugs.. :P

One of the wrestling games at the festival. Personally I think they went a bit far, I´ve done Karate myself for some years, and seeing those guys tossing each other around with what seemed to be no limits or rules made me feel a bit.. Bad.. But of course it was really impressive at the same time.

There´s not much more to say about the festival. Besides shopping and eating we just hang around the campus watching stuff like wrestling and some dance groups having performances.
It´s always nice to spend time with good friends though, and I had a lot of fun this weekend too. I had to leave the festival a bit earlier than what I would have wanted though, because of upcoming mid-term tests.

The last couple of weeks has been quite busy due to all the mid-term tests, but today I had my one, so now I can relax at least a little bit more.
Still I guess I´m pretty easy to find these days, if I´m not at home you´re most likely to find me at the library, haha..

(The battery on my camera didn´t last long this day unfortunately, so thanks to Eki for letting me use her photos instead:D You´re great!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ritsumeikan Field Trip: Zazen meditation

6:57:00 PM
About a month ago in the Japanese Research-class we had the chance apply for an upcoming field trip. We could choose between different themes like making Japanese paper, or going to an Emergency Management and Training center. But my first choice was the Zen Buddhism style meditation, and thats what I eventually got to do as well.
The Zen meditation (Zazen/座禅) were to take place at Myoushinji (妙心寺), which is a temple complex situated a little south of Ritsumeikan University, and the date was the 10th of November (in other words: today!).
Before the meditation class me and Alex wanted to take a closer look at Myoushinji, and we found a road leading to an area where they had tiny traditional Japanese houses and so on.
Detail from one of the roofs in Myoushinji. This is a Komainu guardian statue, which is said to be a mix between a dog and a lion. The tradition of Komainu originally came from China.

The area in Myoushinji is really large, and besides the temples there are houses there as well. The people working in the temple area lives here, and apparently they don´t pay any tax for it! Seems like a nice place to live..

The leaves are starting to turn red in Kyoto these days.

After some sightseeing it was time for our meditation class. We were about 20 exchange students taking part in the class, and most of us had never tried (at least this form of) meditation earlier.
For those of you readers who haven´t heard about Zen meditation before, I can tell you that the word in itself originally came from the Sanskrit word dhyana, which means "meditation". On the way from Sanskrit to Chinese, and eventually from Chinese to Japanese, its pronunciation changed quite a lot though.. Oh, an by the way Zen is a part of Mahayana Buddhism.

Our Zazen-teacher walked around the room while we were meditating.

Usually the monks slaps you with their sticks if you fall asleep during the meditation, but for this class only those who wanted to got slapped. I decided to try it out, and he hit me twice on each side of my back, between the spine and my shoulder blades. I don´t think it hurt at all actually, perhaps they usually slap Japanese people harder than exchange students..? Haha..

Some others students from class practicing meditation:)

When meditating you are supposed to sit up straight with crossed legs. Then you put your left hand on the top of your right hand, which is supposed to show to others that you only have peaceful intentions (while the right hand usually is the one being used for actions such as hitting etc..).
In Zen-meditation you don´t close your eyes, but look straight ahead of you or towards the floor in front of you without bowing your head.
The breathing is also important; you must control your breath and so on in order to relax.
First we meditated for 10 minutes, and after a little break we did another 20 minutes. It might have felt a bit long, but apparently the monks does this up to 18 hours a day with only small pauses every 25th minute, so.. Well.. I guess one gets used to it.

Our Zazen-sensei.

I must say that this was by far my most peaceful lesson here in Japan up till now. Since we have had, and are having, a great deal of tests in these days, it was quite alright to get the chance just to relax a bit as well.. I feel a bit more calmed than I did earlier today, so perhaps it is a good idea to do some meditation on my own when (if) I have time. But for now, it is time to do some more homework.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Japanese traditions: Tea-ceremony

8:03:00 PM
And so another week here in beautiful Kyoto has gone by..
As usual there has been a lot to do, not at least because all the midth-term tests are coming up. Non the less, I´ve had the time to do some explorations this week as well; I´ve joined the dance studio Tokiwa, which is really close to our dorm, so now I´m taking samba-classes every Wednesday. Perhaps not exactly the most traditionally Japanese experience I´ll get here, but of course it is a lot of fun and I already like it a lot.
Besides this I also joined a volunteer-circle at school, so in the upcoming months I might be able to combine my love for traveling with the chance to help others as well. Nice deal! :D

Other than that the days are passing by as usual: studying in the library and hanging out with friends.
Yesterday my usual ceramic class involved a new experience for me though: We went to a traditional Japanese house to take part in a tea-ceremony.
It was really interesting! Firstly, the house was really old; The ceiling was low and the style was quite what I would call typical Japanese. The house was quite big though, and though Japanese houses like this tends to be a bit cold during the winter I still thought it would be a nice place to live cause it was so peaceful.
The room where the tea-ceremony was quite small, but that only made the atmosphere better.
I´ve uploaded a couple of my photos from the tea-ceremony for those who wants to take a look:

A picture displaying the lady of the house mixing Japanese maccha-tea (抹茶) for the ceremony. This tea is supposed to be very healthy, so I´m tempted to start drinking this everyday instead of the cheap apple-tea I bought when I came to Japan in September.

The alcove (Tokonoma; 床の間) in the tea-cermony room. The scroll and the flower arrangements in the alcove are supposed to bring forth a spiritual atmosphere, and at the same time they are reflecting the current season.

The inside of the Japanese house. Most of us had to be really careful walking here due to the low ceiling.. But it looks really cozy! :)

This calligraphy print shows what is considered to be a typical spirit of the tea-cermony: Ichigo-ichie (一期一会). The meaning behind the expression is that every encounter is unique, and that you therefore should care extra for your guests cause the moments that goes by will never come back.

A view of the garden. Though the leaves are beginning to turn red (known as kouyou/紅葉 in Japanese) it still doesn´t feel much like November.

My ceramic class! Our teacher (at the right side) invited us out to eat Dango (団子), or dumplings, after the tea-cermony was over.

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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