December was such a busy month that I didn’t notice it passing so quickly. Today is the last day and soon a new year will unfold. And I have almost forgotten to post about my enchanting trip to Kobe Luminarie.
Kobe Luminarie is held every December in which illuminations are built in memory of the Great Hanshin Earthquake which struck Hyogo Prefecture on January 1995. I was still young back then so I didn’t know such a disaster happened in Japan. It must have been very hard during that time in Kobe. But now they have largely recovered and that is very good.
There was a huge crowd of people as expected. Saying it ‘huge’ in this post is actually an understatement. Because it’s so huge and large-scale that they have to slowly direct all these people to the illumination site so there were a lot of walking and detours.
It was really a spectacular sight. Though I must be frank, illuminations are still grander in the Philippines.
And so for the reflections of this past year..
I remember back then, I said during last year’s December that I will definitely have a different Christmas next year. And sure enough it happened. I received many blessings, so many that sometimes I can’t contain my happiness to myself. I am very thankful. I was taking my master’s program from the University of the Philippines during the almost first half of this year, and then I transferred during the second half at Kyoto University.
It was just dream before, going and studying to Kyoto. I didn’t know it could be possible. It’s all thanks to my sensei, he was so kind to accept me in his lab even though my background is different from their research interests. And the lab members are also kind to me, friendly and helpful. And I should note that I am their first and only international student.
I think the most important lesson I learned this year is to believe and to have courage. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today. I am just so glad. I hope this coming year will also be a blessed one for me. Let’s do our best! 頑張りまあしょう！
Happy New Year! あけましておめでとう！
I’ve been wanting to go and see the famed momiji trees in this shrine at the earth fort called “Odoi”. And so when I saw the news that today was the peak time to see the momiji in Kitano Tenmangu, I immediately planned my visit. There was an entrance fee of 700 yen which included a tea and a snack at the end of the route.
It was my first time to see many momiji at its peak of kouyou so I was really awestruck at the colorful display of leaves. Everywhere you see was like a painting with hues of reds, oranges, yellows and some light greens! The shrine’s bright orange constructions even exudes a rather unique atmosphere. I also liked how you can view the leaves in the canopy and at the bottom part of the garden.
The tea was probably houji-cha while the sweet had a characteristic ginger taste.
Actually, the Kitano Tenmangu is more popular for its ume or plum blossoms but they’re not in season now. They will probably bloom by around early February. Interestingly, I’ve read from the shrine’s Facebook site that there were already some ume blossoming which is unusual. So I checked the ume trees after momiji viewing to see if it’s true.
So there were really some early bloomers… nice! But I will come back again for more.
This festival is held in honor for the famous Gion Kouta or Ballad of Gion song from the film “Gion Kouta Ehigasa” and was created by Mikihiko Nagata in the Yoshiuta ochaya of Gion Kobu. This year’s maiko representatives were from Kamishichiken, the first-year Ichitaka and the more senior Umechie. The Ookini Zaidan president, kabukai presidents from the five hanamachi and the Yoshiuta ochaya okaa-san were also present to pay tribute.
Ichitaka and Umechie recited some of the lyrics of the Gion Kouta and then the participants offered flowers to the memorial stone where the lyrics of the song were etched. Finally, they gave away Gion Kouta lyric pamphlets as souvenirs.
I actually have no plan on going to Maruyama-koen to see momiji. I went here to see the Gion Kouta Matsuri that would be held at the memorial stone located at this park. But I arrived a little too early and so I killed time and went around the park and see the landscapes. Maruyama-koen has a different atmosphere, but in a good way, probably because the landscapes are Zen-inspired. It’s a different kind of beauty from the mountain scenes of Jingo-ji. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking and taking photos of the fall sceneries.
Jingo-ji or Jingo temple is one of the Buddhist temples that can be found in Mount Takao in Ukyo,ku, Kyoto. I went with my international friends here for momiji-gari or viewing the momiji but we were too late as almost all of the leaves have already fallen. But there were still a few trees at its peak and the mountain scenes were serene and breathtaking so I guess it wasn’t too bad.
The origin of Jingo-ji goes back to 824 AD and has gone through many disasters throughout the history (like fire). I will quote what was written in the pamphlet that was given to us during the visit:
Wake-no Kiyomaro, who was in charge of building the new capital at Heiankyo (now Kyoto), established Takaosan-ji Temple on this site at the end of the eight century. In 824, Takaosan-ji and Jingan-ji Temples were combined as Jingo Kokuso Shingon-ji Temple.
Before the merger, Takaosan-ji Temple had played a key role in the Heian School of Buddhism, including visits, as guests of the Wake clan, by Tendai sect founder Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) and Kukai (Kobo Daishi). In 812, Kukai gave esoteric teachings of Takaosan-ji to Saicho and 190 others, laying the foundation for the establishment of the Shingon sect.
Heian-jingu or Heian Shrine is one of top Shinto shrines in Japan located in Sakyo-ku which was built to signify peace and rejuvenation of Kyoto after the transfer of the capital to Tokyo. You can read more about its history here: http://www.heianjingu.or.jp/shrine/heianjingu.html
My main destination was actually Miyako Messe to watch the monthly maiko performance in Fureaikan (see my previous post). But since I arrived earlier, I spent my time sightseeing in the nearby Heian-jingu as I never been there even although it’s quite a popular tourist spot.
That day was also Shichi-go-san so there were lots of families with their children dressed in kimono. It was an adorable scene.