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北野天満宮 Kitano Tenman-guu

While studying abroad, I was informed that on the 25th of April, there will be a event called Tenjinsai occurring at the Kitano Tenman-guu (wiki) in Kyoto. I remember that I was pretty hesitant to go, but I decided that I might as well experience more things while I’m in Japan. And what a mistake that was…

Before arriving at the Kitano Tenman-guu, a lost tourist from China was asking for directions when I was at the bus stop. Me and a fellow classmate tried to give directions at the cost of missing a bus. Not a issue at all and I hope that she got to where she needed to go.

I was hoping that the two photos above would line up and give a nice panoramic view but this isn’t too bad. You can kind of see how the photos were supposed to line up by looking at the yellow banner that spans both photos.

Going into the main path leading up tot he shrine, you can see that there were stalls with colorful banners everywhere. And plenty of people too.

The majority of the stalls appeared to be selling food. There were plenty of variety of festive foods, such as taiyaki, takoyaki, yakitori, ringo ame, kaki kouri, yaki soba, okonomiyaki.etc.

Now, the problem was that I was told that this was going to be a flea market, and I came all the way over here expecting goods and merchandise.

While there were stalls selling merchandise, they were not the kind that is targeted at people of my age. For example, here are a bunch of old women looking at umbrellas.

Away from the main path, the areas on the sides were a little less crowded and sold more merchandise than food. However, such merchandise were the likes of plates, bowls, yutaka, other clothing, antique pots, and random ornaments. Yes, nothing that would be interesting to most people of my age. One of these areas was also where I exited after visiting on the main shrine. More on this later.

Returning back to the main path and proceeding down, you can see one such example of “random ornaments” in the first stall on the left side of the photo.

In the background, you can begin to make out the entrance into the Kitano Tenman-guu.

The entrance well in sight. The white and yellow banner on the right says “Honey Crepe”. In hindsight, I really should have tried some.

Finally at the entrance or gate. You can see a small group of students at the top of the stairs, whom probably have prayed for good grades or to pass an exam. Sounds tough to be a student in Japan.

Upon walking in, the scenery is quite beautiful. All of the signs and arrows direct you to different places. For the main shrine, go left. For those that can’t read Japanese, follow blindly. You can expect that the group of students will be heading for the shrine to pray for success in academics.

A look around before moving on. I’m not sure how many of you realized this looking at all of the photos so far, but there was a lot of old people here. In every photo in fact. It is not a joke when people say that Japan is an old country.

The grounds of the main shrine is pass that gate. In this photo, three kinds of people are shown, 1. elderly people, 2. parents with their kids, 3. students.

At the main shrine, people line up for their turn to toss money into the donation box and pray. The people lining up mainly consisted of old people and students.

Turning to the side, here is the fountain/well where you can cleanse your hands at, which I did so after taking the photo. I did not line up to pray though, since the line was long.

It was a mildly hot day, and a hot day with an overcast sky just wrecks any decent mood and by then, I was a little tired.

I was extremely reluctant to spend any money, but I decided that a single portion of food would be ok. I decided to try out this Taiyaki Parfait after seeing some classmates try it out. This was another huge mistake.

My first complaint is that so-called parfait part of this was not cold at all, not one bit. And while the photo gives an impression so, the parfait part does not fill up the entire taiyaki. Instead, all you see is exactly all there is. The taiyaki itself though was pretty good. The fact that the taiyaki isn’t hollow meant more substance of the taiyaki to eat. And while eating, a classmate dragged me all over the place looking to buy a yukata.

Before going home, I wanted to explore the side areas. As mentioned earlier, I exited the grounds but I wanted to go back to where I took the first photos of this post but ultimately, I got lost. Well, I wasn’t really lost. I had an idea of where I was going, but it took so long for me to get back to the very first crosswalk that I seriously doubted my directional skills. It felt like an eternity as I was walking straight ahead with the walls of the shrine on one side and residential houses on the other. I believe that I ended up circling the entire shrine.

So a summary of the events so far. I came to a festival that was selling lots of food when I was expecting a flea market. The stalls that do sell merchandise were all directed for elderly people. The day was hot. The only food that I did buy turned out be to so-so. I got dragged around by a classmate who was looking for a yukata. And then I spent a eternity getting back to where I started from. There was no way that I’m not going home at that point.

However, I was absolutely unwilling to spend another yen, since I considered every yen that I have spent that day to be a waste already. So after arriving at the subway station by bus, I decided to walk back home.

Before I give you details about how I got home, I came across the Kamo River, the same river shown in my Kyoto Botanical Gardens post. A beautiful place as usual, and I couldn’t help but to snap a photo. And do you notice that line of flat stones? Check out the video below.

Now, time for business. On the right is a Google Map of the exact path I took to get home. I walked a total of 9.8 km or 6.1 miles, which took me over 2 hours to get home. Of course, I have only been in Kyoto for 3 weeks and I really don’t know the place very well. But I had a genius plan for directions. Rather than taking the subway home, I will just walk from subway station to the next subway station. That was exactly what I did and all was well until…

…half an hour later. Where the hell am I?

Things went bad when I got to Matsugasaki station. I mistook one similar place for another and I was essentially lost. I knew that I still had to go North, and eventually I found a tiny stream and I followed it upstream Northwest until I reached a pond with a map. On the map was the location of a temple that I recognized. So I attempted to follow the map and I walked uphill until the slope got very steep and surrounded by more and more trees. Scared of going to the wrong direction, I walked all the way back down and tried a different route. This one headed Northeast and was also surrounded by trees, but at least there were frequent cars going by, so I wasn’t heading towards oblivion. I finally reached a town and since I walked Northeast for so long, I turned a corner heading Northwest. Following the street and much to my luck, I came across a stream that I recognized. I followed it upstream until I turn and saw the university some distance to my right. Surprised, I backtracked a bit and got home at last.

Looking at the Google map afterwards, I realized that there was no direct path from Matsugasaki station to the last station where I was planning to be at. A small forest is actually in the way. I also realized that my position was a lot more West than I thought it was. Overall, the trip back home was painful, frightful and damn adventurous. When I described what I did that day to a classmate, I was told that was quite a sightseeing trip. Yes, I probably saw more of the residential part of Kyoto than anyone else studying abroad.

PS: My adventures through forests and residential areas are not over yet.

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