October 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jidai matsuri - 時代祭 - The Festival of Ages

5:41:00 PM
This Saturday was supposed to be the day for the famous Jidai Matsuri (時代祭り), which annually takes place in Kyoto on the 22. October. However, this year was an exception; because of the bad weather conditions it was prospered to Sunday the 23rd.. Apparently the cleaning-prosses of the traditional clothing is quite expensive if the costumes happen to get wet, so no wonder they decided to postpone it.
Jidai Matsuri at Heian Jingu
So for those of you who haven't heard of Jidai Matsuri before I can tell you that it is, along with Aoi Matsuri and Gion Matsuri, actually one of the largest festivals in the city.
The parade itself is a display of various traditional Japanese costumes, from 794 when Kyoto became the Japanese capital, ending in 1868 with the Heian period after which the capital was moved to Tokyo (formerly know as Edo - 江戸). The festival is a celebration of Kyoto's many years as Japan's capital, and one can say that this also is why it is called Jidai Matsuri, or the Festival of Ages.
A lady dressed up like the famous authoress Murasaki Shikibu
The parade starts in the morning at the old Imperial Palace (Gosho 御所), and ends up at the Otenmon-gate at Heian Jingu shrine (平安神宮) more or less two hours later. Did you know that both Jidai Matsuri and Heian Jingu actually dates back to 1895? This is because Heian Jingu was built for the first Jidai festival, in honor of Emperor Kanmu.
I went to the Heian Jingu-shrine, which mentioned is the place where the parade ends, to watch the parade on Sunday. Here I met up with my friend Isabel, her husband and their friend Laura.
Since we were at Heian Jingu already at more or less 12:30 we were lucky, and could pick out some seats with a good view. The parade itself started at 12:00, but it took nearly two hours untill the parade ended up at Heian Jingu. It is still a good thing to be early though, cause trust me, at festivals like this it is essential to be in time; it will definitely get crowded..
Anyway, here are some of my pictures from the day:

Some fancy nobles
Apparently there are somewhere between 2000 and 3000 participants in the Jidai Matsuri..
...and there are definitely a lot of people in the audience as well..
Laura and Isabel :)
You can see all sorts of traditional clothing - and fancy hats - at Jidai Matsuri... :p
One of the Heian - ladies
Right in front of the Heian jingu shrine there was also held some performances during the festival
A mikoshi being carried through the gates of Heian Jingu

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life in a Japanese village: Benten-san Matsuri 弁天さん祭り

1:17:00 PM
The great thing about living in a Japanese village is that you get to participate in a lot of activities that you wouldn't have the chance to if you lived in a big city. The reason for this is that my community really likes foreigners, and they let me participate in all their local activities. I guess foreigners are more rare when you get just a little bit outside the bigger cities (I actually live only a 30 minutes bike ride from Kyoto, so its really not that far)
Last weekend I joined my neighbors for the local sports day (運動会), and this weekend I got to participate in their Benten-san festival.
This festival is for the Japanese goddess Benten (more commonly known as Benzaiten), who is considered one of the seven Japanese Gods of Fortune.

Drummers in front of the local shrine
Preparation by the local Buddhist priest
After a meeting with other people from the community at the local shrine we took of with our  mikoshis, one for the men, one for the women and some smaller ones for the kids to carry. 
So what we did was basically carrying the mikoshi to different parts of the neighborhood, and when we got to a new area, we stopped and took a break. We were welcomed by the people there, and while the drummers were playing and some of the men danced around in dragon costumes we received food, drinks and snack from them.
The men carrying the otoko-mikoshi (男神輿)
The women's onna-mikoshi 女神輿
Me carrying the mikoshi
 We also stopped by a couple of senior citizens' homes, and it seemed like the inhabitants thought it was nice with a little festival too.
A dragon entertaining an old lady at the senior citizens' home
 I think we might have stopped by more than 10 different places during the day, and at all the different places we received warm welcomes from the people living there. Trust me, when the day was done I'm pretty sure i had gained some kilos.. I ate and drank way too much, haha..
Lunch break! For the 4th or 5th time that day.. :p
 Also, we was really lucky with the weather! Both Friday and Sunday had been terrible, with rain poring down like in my hometown Bergen.. And actually it was supposed to rain on Sunday as well, but I guess we had good luck on our side. The weather was instead almost too hot, haha :)
Anyway, it was a really great day! I wish they had these types of festival more often.. I had so much fun! Not to mention that it is not often that foreigners get the chance to participate in festivals like that, so it was also kind of a unique experience. The people in the neighborhood was so welcoming, and some even invited me to come visiting them whenever I want.
Conclusion: Haradani might be situated in the middle of nowhere, but you can still have some nice experiences here:) Haha..

So, some final pictures from the matsuri:
The mikoshi from a closer angle
Apparently it brings good luck to stick your head into the dragons mouth..!
祭, the Japanese sign for Festival.
My neighbors serving us Japanese food such as yakitori.
Some more drummers
Again, the onna-mikoshi
Finally back at the shrine after nearly 7 hours of walking (, eating and drinking;p)
Some final rituals before the matsuri is over.
Peace out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Student Life in Kyoto: My Japanese Sports Day (運動会)

5:58:00 PM
This Sunday my landlord gave me the opportunity to participate in the local sports day, or undōkai (運動会) as it is called in Japanese.
Since today, Monday the 2nd of October, is a national holiday dedicated to sports, there are usually a lot of sports days taking place all over Japan in the weekends before and after this date.
The sports day I participated in was situated not that far from the little valley I live in, which situated north of the famous temple Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), better known as The Golden Pavilion.
People from the whole ward was participating in the sports day (Named after the place, the arrangement was called 金閣学区民体育祭), and I competed alongside with my neighbors in Haradani (原谷), the place where I live.
This was actually my first time to participate in a sports day in Japan, and I think it was quite exciting! I got to meet all my neighbors, and to compete against people from my community in a wide range of activities.
Haradani Hokubu

People gathered for the opening speach
Most of the competitions involved a bit of running, which suited me just fine. And since the competitors received some prizes depending on their results in the competitions, I actually got a lot of Japanese food to take with me home afterward as well. Lucky!
The age of the participants varied a lot, but I guess there was most kids or people over thirty. So I guess I had an advantage there.
The only time things didn`t go so well, was in the competition where we had to run and pick up a random paper board with a word for an object written on it, and then had to find a person carrying that object. Lucky me got a sign where it said 30 000 yen.. I mean, almost nobody goes around with that amount on them, that's close to 400 dollars.. So, I have to admit I lost badly on this one.
But still, I had a lot of fun. It's all about participating, right?! ;)
One of the running contests
The sports day`s brochure
Lunch break
The obentou we got for lunch was really delicious!

Members from Haradani Hokubu
After the undōkai we had an afterparty with the rest of the neighborhood where we had delicious Japanese food, and since there was still good left when the party was over we even got the chance to take some with us home. So now I will have great Japanese food for lunch for a couple of days:D I certainly wish there was more undōkais coming up:p
Tug of war
The kids are running for candy!
Ball-throwing contest!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back in Japan: Studying International Relations @ Ritsumeikan Graduate School

6:48:00 PM
Hi everyone, here comes a short update from Japan..!
After having spent my holiday in Bolivia working as a volunteer, taking classes in Spanish and not to mention traveling around the country I'm now back in Japan ready for a new semester.
That is to say, I am no longer an exchange student at Ritsumeikan University like I was before, instead I'm a full time student enrolled in their master degree program for International Relations, more specifically the Global Cooperation Program.
The characteristic clock tower at Kinugasa
But besides the master degree in International Relations Ritsumeikan also offers a so-called DMDP (Dual Master Degree Program), which means that you have the opportunity to go abroad to one of their Partner Universities and take a master degree there as well. If you work hard enough that means you have the opportunity to take 2 master degrees in 2 years.
And even though I haven't 100% made up my mind if I'm going through with it or not I am taking a lot of credits this semester to ensure that if I decide to take the double degree I'll have enough credits to finish my master at Ritsu in a year.
Normally you need 30 credits to finish your 2-year long Master Program at Ritsumeikan, and this semester I'm taking 21. This way I will have more time to write my thesis next semester!
So far it is going good, but that might be because we haven't started to get a serious load of homework in a lot of the classes yet. I will definitely be busy once we get started for real..!
But still, I think this semester will be nice. I also finally got the chance to take classes in other languages than Japanese, so this semester I'm taking a Spanish and a German Reading & Discussion class. Which has been going well so far.!

Banners at my campus (Kinugasa)
Also, since I came back I got myself a new apartment; I now live in a little village in the forest north of Kinkakuji. It is a nice place, and they are arranging some activities in the local community that I get to participate in as well, such as an 運動会 (local sports day, actually this weekend) and a festival (祭り).
I guess Ill be writing another blog post about my apartment and so on later, cause both the apartment in itself and also the village is really nice. Only thing is that I don't have internett in the apartment yet..  But still it is not that bad, because it makes procrastinating a bit harder! Haha..

Anyway, I am heading to the gym in some 10-15 minutes, so I better get going. Hasta luego!

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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