Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kyoto: Day 3 – Omi-Jingu, Higashiyama, Kitano Tenmangu

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Omi-Jingu is seeing a different sort of pilgrimage than it’s used to these days.


Having made the journey to Enoshima last month and seeing that York Shin isn’t likely to be an option anytime soon, there was never really any question that I’d be visiting Omi-Jingu while in Kyoto.  And I’m clearly not the only one.  Keihan Railways, one of the local transport companies in Kansai, has decorated a number of their trains on the Ishiyama-Sakamoto line with gorgeous artwork from Suetsugu Yuki.  And the shrine itself – associated with Karuta long before Chihayafuru made anyone besides Karuta geeks aware of it – clearly saw opportunity knocking here too.  In addition to Chihayafuru artwork scattered through the precincts they’ve also dedicated the second floor of their clock museum (a surprisingly interesting place in its own right) to a Chihayafuru display, and set up a video program in the lobby.

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Being in the middle of all this felt quite odd in a way, because in a very real sense it’s the most direct convergence of the two Japans I love equally, but have always been separate entities in my experience.  Omi-Jingu is a very old place, a big Jinja in dense woods about a half-hour outside Kyoto.  It’s full of interesting and beautiful old buildings, and on the morning I was there the Hatsumode fires were still burning and there were miko (!) doing Kagura dances.  Yet there were Chihaya and Taichi among the midst of all that.  As I arrived at the local station and started snapping photos of the Chihayfuru artwork there, a Japanese family of four (parents, two young sons) stepped off a train and exclaimed at the sight, clearly there for the same reason I was.  And I saw that family and several other Japanese at the shrine, taking in all the Suetsugu goodness.  I’m sure it’s been quite a windfall for Omi-Jingu, and certainly Karuta hasn’t gotten this much attention in a very long time.  Chihayafuru may not have been a commercial powerhouse in BD/DVD terms (though it did pretty well for the genre), but it’s clearly struck a chord with many people judging by the things I’ve seen here, ranging from Omi-Jingu to places like Animate.

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The rest of the day I spent in more familiar haunts, mostly in Higashiyama (Eastern Kyoto).  Kiyomizudera is a place I visit every time I’m here, both for the temple itself and the incomparable atmosphere in the surrounding precincts.  In many ways I think Higashiyama is really the essence of Kyoto – the aesthetic of the place is imbued in the cobbled streets, the temples and parks, and the remarkably fascinating shops, some of which date back centuries under the same family.  I also took a trip out to Northwest Kyoto to see Kitano Tenmangu, the hugely popular local Jinja dedicated to Sugiwara Michizane, the Heian noble revered as one of the great scholars and patrons of education in Japanese history.  This is the shrine students from all over Japan visit to pray for academic success – though there are hundreds of local branches, this is the head shrine for the country. 

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Kyoto is a truly unique place, and it quite literally always leaves me wanting more – I’ve now been there four times and I’m nowhere close to exhausting the list of “must-see” places in the city and surroundings.  Without a question if you were to visit only one place in Japan, Kyoto would be the choice. To wrap up the trip, there are couple of photos of Fuji-san from the train ride home (8.5 hours), and a video of a geyser erupting at the “foot onsen” in Atami Station, one of the five places I had to transfer making the trip on local trains.

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14 comments:

  1. There is nothing to say. It is Kyoto.
    I must visit Kyoto in every season before I am satisfied. I've only done winter so far.

    But yes, if there is one city I have to recommend it is Kyoto. In fact, I persuade all my friends to take the plane to KIX and not to TKO.

    Take photos of some Kyoto Cuisine next time, and do yourself a favor and get a better camera. You are in Japan. It is especially cheap in Osaka, although Kyoto is still better than other countries. Thank you.

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  2. I think you missed the no picture sign near those Chihayafuru photos. I missed it too after I snapped a dozen pictures of that display. lol

    Glad you made it to Omi Jingu. It was probably my favorite thing I did on my trip. I had no idea the Chihayafuru stuff was going to be there when I went so that was just an added bonus but it was nice to go to a shrine that is sort of outside the regular Kyoto sites.

    Not to mention I ended up meeting several nice people at that shrine. There were these two girls who just gave me their Chihayafuru post cards when they realized I didn't have two stamps.

    And then I ended up trying on a Kimono at that shrine in the clock tower with the Chihayafuru display. The older lady who worked there and myself could only communicate through a few words and hand gestures but she was just extremely lovely.

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    1. Wow!

      I must confess, I didn't see a "Shashin o Tormiasen" sign anywhere. I always abide by those, so I wouldn't have snapped the pics if I had.

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    2. Like I said I didn't notice until after I snapped a bunch of pics either.

      If you look at some of your pics right above the red divider you can kind of the see the no photo sign. I think since your eyes are looking at the photos above it it's easy to miss. I am sure we weren't the only two people to miss it

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    3. It's torimasen.

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  3. I have come to the conclusion Kyoto would be THE place to visit if and when I get the chance to visit Japan... mostly going by books and movies. Good to have more confirmation from the first-hand veterans so to speak.
    Thanks for the pics and for the little lovely geeky bits. P.S.: your camera seems decent enough. If anything the weather in some shots seems a bit on the cloudy side---> dulled colors. I don't think you have gained weather-affecting abilities (yet :p).

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    1. I personally think one should try to do both Tokyo & Kyoto which is very doable. I love both cities and they both offer something different.

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    2. I agree completely - both fantastic places and totally different (and there are a bunch of other places I'd add to the list). But if it were only one...

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  4. I've seen your old pics of the place---and I've been here myself---but I didn't know about the Kitano Tenmangu shrine being related to education. No wonder I saw a lot of students there. But wow, to think I'd hear about it again...

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    1. My old pics? I'm 99.9% sure I've never been to Kitano Tenmangu before. I'd remember - it's pretty far off the main tourist track.

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    2. I think I mixed up some of my photos with your photos :P Or maybe someone else's too.

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  5. I've already made myself a mission to explore Japan on the whole. Your trips have further solidify my resolve to do it. Glad that I found your blog, and I'm looking forward to reading more of these. It will definitely help me on my future journeys.

    And I feel kinda bad for the miko in your first video for having only 2 person inside that tent. The crowd died down, perhaps?

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    1. No, what happens is, the pilgrims make a donation (like buying an arrow or Hatsumode charm) and the miko do a dance for them. So it was happening over and over, a couple of people at a time. A bit odd, really.

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