June 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Okonomiyaki in Japan

10:10:00 PM
My friend Ericka is way more effective than me when it comes to video blogging, so I just thought I'd post a couple of her videos from back in good old 2010 when me, Erick, Silke and Rai went to eat dinner at Jambo; the favorite okonomiyaki-place for all Ritsumeikan-students.. :p Her username is mousee09 and she has got a lot of videos about life in Japan so feel free to check it out!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One year in Japan - the road from here

10:51:00 AM
It has been almost 10 months since I came to Japan now, and my time here as an exchange student will soon be over. It has been a lot of fun to follow the SKP - Study in Kyoto Program, and I have learned a lot in the past months too.

It is a bit strange that there is just one month left of the semester, and that my time as an exchange student soon will be over. Though there is still a month left of the SKP and probably more adventures coming up before I leave Japan, I've got some other news considering the future I thought I should write a little about.

First of all, I will be going to Bolivia during my summer holiday! My goal with this, is to work as a volunteer at an orphanage in La Paz, and at the same time take classes in Spanish.
I am traveling through an organization called The Mission Alliance, which also has projects in other South American countries, Africa and Asia. Though I mainly will work as a teacher I might get to work with other tasks as well, since The Mission Alliance also runs other projects here, like providing the people with clean water for instance. I guess I will be back with more info when it is getting closer to departure. I haven't bought my plane ticket yet, but I believe I will be leaving in the beginning of August.!

However, I am not done with Japan just yet, because I just got news that I got into Ritsumeikan's master's program in International Development.! Which means that I'll be back again in Kyoto in September and stay here for another couple of years.
I've got a bachelor's degree in Pedagogy (education) and soon a degree in Japanese as well, so my point of study will change a bit from what I've done earlier. This semester I have been studying as as seiki (正規) student at Ritsumeikan, which means that even though I'm an exchange student I can take regular classes with the other Japanese students, and I've used this opportunity to take some classes about International Relations too.

I'm sure that both working as a volunteer and also continuing my studies at Ritsumeikan will be challenging, but I'm looking forward to it and believe that it will lead to a lot of nice experiences. So stay in tuned for more adventures in the future:)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Student Life in Kyoto: Expedition 蛍: Firefly!

1:37:00 PM
These days it is possible to see fireflies in Kyoto, but the firefly-season only last for a couple of weeks so on Tuesday me and some of my friends hurried out to look for them.
There are only a few places in Kyoto where you can actually find fireflies, so we was quite uncertain whether or not we would be able to see any fireflies at all.
Arriving at the Philosophers Road the sun was about to set.
 To get to the river where the fireflies are, we followed Imadegawa Doori (今出川通) to the intersection where the road called Tetsugaku no michi (哲学の道 - the Philosophers Road)
When you arrive at the intersection you can see a sign where it says 哲学の道, and then you simply cross the little bridge to the north and follow the road alongside the river Shirakawa (The road is called Shirakawa Sousui doori - 白川送水通)り to the left. After a minute or two the river bends to the right, and that is where the fireflies use to show up.

We found ourselves a bench and waited for the fireflies to appear. 
We had brought food and beverages with us, so we had a good time waiting for the fireflies to show up. And after having waited for 10-15 minutes, the first fireflies started to appear.
Looking for fireflies by the river
There was also a little girl there, she had brought with her a plastic box, and she caught a couple of fireflies which she gave to us. Thanks to this we got some nice 蛍-pictures!

Fireflies in a plastic box
Holding a firefly
Firefly on my arm
The camera made some strange effects in the dark..
Fireflies flying around by the river
Of course, all of the fireflies was released after we had taken our pictures:)

For those who are interested in finding fireflies in Kyoto, I found this page which has a lot of information about where to go. Though it is in Japanese there is also a map at the bottom of the page where the firefly-places are marked. Beware though that the firefly-season probably ends pretty soon, so if you want to see them you should hurry up;) Apparently there are most fireflies on the day before a rainy day when the air is humid, so keep track on the weather forecast if you want to see as many as possible.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wagashi-class in 弘道館: Tea Ceremony, Kimono & 鍋-Party!

11:17:00 PM
Like I have mentioned in a previous blogpost I'm taking Wagashi (Japanese Confectionery)-classes at Ristumeikan this semester. I have to say though, that we have been doing quite a lot beside making sweets in these classes (we have a lot of theory classes about Japanese culture etc as well), and the class this week was in particularly special. Our wagashi-teacher invited us to the former house of a Confucian scholar called Kien Minagawa (皆川 淇園), which is a house build back in 1806 (in the Edo-period 江戸時代). Here we got to take part in a tea-ceremony, dress up in Kimono and not to mention having a Nabe (hot pot) party together at the end of the day.
The entrance to 弘道館
A picture of the garden
Arriving early we helped chopping the vegetables  we were going to eat later that evening
The Tokonoma (床の間)
After helping with the preparations those of us who arrived early got the chance to wear Japanese Kimono (着物). Though I have been here for nearly a year now this was actually my first time to try one on, so it was quite exiting..
Getting dressed is a lot of work! Luckily we did get help..
Those of us who got the chance to wear Kimono (+ Alex in Samurai outfit..)!
Alex got to dress up like a Samurai.
Me in Kimono
Before entering the room of the tea ceremony we had to wash our hands outside in the garden fountain (つくばい -> 蹲)
Our teacher seems to collect things that has a special background and history. This tea cup was actually used by David Beckham under the World Cup in Berlin 2009.!!!)
Our teacher (to the right) talking about the different tools being used during a tea ceremony
After the tea ceremony was over the room was made into a much less formal party-room instead. The Nabe some of us had helped preparing earlier the day was brought in, and we had a huge nabe-party!
This is probably one of my best school days ever, haha..
Getting ready for a nabe party!
A picture from our table.
At 弘道館 they do have some monthly arrangements where you among others can experience a Japanese tea ceremony yourself. The place is close to the Imperial Palace so it is quite easy to find, and the address is 
Also, feel free to check out their web site (not translated into English yet)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekend trip to Koyasan 高野山!

12:44:00 PM
Last week my father and stepmother came to visit me in Kyoto, and in the weekend we went together to a place called Koyasan (高野山) in Wakayama-ken to do some sightseeing and to spend the night in a Buddhist temple.
The town of Koya was first settled back in 819, but it is still a bustling place today, and it is visited by loads of tourists every year. Koyasan is a very famous place in Japan, and with its 120 temples Koyasan was designated a World Heritage Site in 2004. 

Going to Koyasan actually takes quite a lot of time, cause you have to change trains a couple of times, not to mention that the train up the mountain side is slow, and eventually you have to go by bus to reach you destination.
If you are going to Koyasan from Kyoto you have to chance train at Shinosaka or Osaka and head for Namba station. From there you can take the Nankai Electric Railway to Gokurakubashi Station. After arriving at the station it is time to change transportation again, and this time you have to go by cable car to get to the top of the mountain. But the trips is not over, cause to get into the village you have to go by bus. It took us about 4 hours to get to Koyasan from Kyoto, so make sure you have enough time.

Train heading for Koyasan
Though the trip to Koyasan does take quite a lot of time, it is still nice cause you get to see a lot of pretty scenery; forests, rivers and small Japanese houses clinging to the mountain sides.

The end of the track for the train to Koyasan.
We had left Kyoto quite early to get to see as much as possible on the first day, so when we got there we left our luggage at the Ichijyo-in temple where we was planning to spend the night.
The weather was nice (though it is supposed to be the rainy season here in Japan right now we seemed to be quite lucky with the weather), so it was perfect for sightseeing.

The Kongobuji Temple, which is the headquarter of Shingon Buddhism
Arriving at one of the temple areas, called Garan (伽藍). To the front you have Konpon Daito Pagoda (根本大塔), and the Toto pagoda (東塔) to the right.
Konpon Daito Pagoda (根本大塔) again, to the right.

A torii (鳥居) archway in Garan
The Konpon Daito Pagoda and some Buddhist monks.
Inside one of the temples the Buddhist monks were performing their rituals.
Buddhist rituals

Even though Koyasan is a fairly big area most of the sights can be reached by foot. Here is the main gate to Koyasan, the Daymon (大門):
The Daimon, litterary "the big gate"
A statue we passed by along the road
We went back to the temple we were staying at to eat dinner, and ended our sightseeing for the day. The next day we got up pretty early (around 5 o'clock) to take part in the rituals in the temple, and then we headed out to explore the east part of the town. We took the bus to Okunoin (奥の院), which is a big cemetery area (the largest in Japan) where you can see over 200 000 tombstones all lined up in the middle of the forest.
The passageway to Okunoin

A video from Okunoin
Some of the tombstones we passed on our way.
The further you go, the older the tombstones gets. Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of the forest, surrounded only by trees and tombstones (well, there are a lot of pilgrims and tourists too.. But
it is possible to visit Okunoin by night, so if you have the chance why not.. I guess there won't be that many tourist there then either).

Walking in the forest in Okunoin

Some of the older tombstones in Okunoin
After walking for a while you arrive at the temple area of Okunoin, where you find the main temple: Torodo (Hall of Lanterns). Beware though that it is not allowed to take photos after crossing the Gobyonohashi bridge.
But there is things to see before crossing the bridge up to the temple as well: a group of statues dedicated to the Boddhisattva Jizo is supposed to look after children, travelers and not to mention the souls of the deceased, and so it is supposed to bring you luck if you throw water on them.

Children throwing water on one of the Mizumuke Jizo statues.

A temple we passed by on the way to Torodo.
After visiting Okunoin it was time to head back to Kyoto again. It was a great trip, both Koyasan itself and the temple lodging is something I would recommend for anybody who wants a unique Japan-experience.
The Koyasan cable-car

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekendtrip to Koyasan: Lodging at a Buddhist temple

5:45:00 PM
Koyasan is not only famous for a lot of old temples and shrines, but it is also known for temples where you can stay the night, or so-called shukubo (宿坊).
And of course me, my father and my anya Haini wanted to try that out as well. There are over 50 temples that offer lodgings, and the one we stayed at is called Ichijyoin (一乗院).

The gate to Ichijyoin
The main building of Ichijyoin 
 We were welcomed by some of the monks upon arrival, and they gave us a tour of the temple. In addition to our room there was of course a lot of other things to see as well in this nearly thousand year old temple.
On of the monks who greeted us when we arrived at Ichijyoin
One of the rooms, with its rich decorations and tokonoma (床の間) alcove.
The corridor by the entrance
Another room (these are not used for lodging, as far as I know)
Part of an old map hanging in the corridor
At 6 o'clock it was time for dinner at our room. Two of the monks came in carrying small tables with our food. Since the monks themselves doesn't eat any meat, the food you get at the lodging is totally vegetarian. Still, there is a lot of different dishes that you get to taste, so I'm sure you'll find something you'll like. Personally I though it was very good too, but I guess the others are a little bit more sceptical to unknown food than me, so after the dinner I kinda get the feeling that some of us still were hungry..

The monks seperating the small tables.
And this wasn't all: the monks came with more food for us while eating as well!
After dinner our room was made into a bed room.
The garden seen from the temple
Me, my father and Heini in front of the temple garden.
The entrance to Ichijoin by night
Ichijyoin also has traditional shoji (障子)-doors made by paper.
Regular slippers, and toilet-slippers.
 In Japan it is usual  to have a set of slippers to use inside the house, and another set you use only in the bathroom. My first week in Japan I "always" walked out of the bathroom in the toilet-slippers even though I knew wery well that those only are for the bathroom. I guess it is something you just got to get used to..

The corridor by night
 In the morning we woke up at 5:50 to participate in the morning ritual in the temple. (There is quite a lot of noise in the temple around that time, so you might be awakened even if you don't intend to get up early)

The hondo (本堂), or main temple building, where the morning rituals are being held.
The roof in the hondo.
An after the morning rituals are finished around 7 o'clock, it was time for breakfast. Again, breakfast as well is 100% vegetarian. Enjoy!
Vegetar breakfast at Ichijoin

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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