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.

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This month’s representative maiko from Fureaikan was from Kamishichiken, a hanamachi or flower district very near to the Kitano Tenmangu. Her name is Ichitaka and she belongs to the okiya Ichi. She was supposed to dance three dances, namely Momiji no Hashi, Gosho no Oniwa and Gion Kouta. But the cassette tape for Momiji no Hashi was broken so she only danced the latter two. In any case, she was a graceful kyomai dancer!

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I was able to participate in a subsidized study tour organized by the Graduate School of Biotudies, Kyoto University targeted for the international students. The tour was destined to Awaji Island by crossing the famous Akashi Kaikyou Bridge connecting the island to the mainland Kobe. We had a fantastic view of the sea, or maybe I was exaggerating it, because it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. I miss the smell and color of the sea!

The main goal of the tour was to learn how to make the Japanese thick chewy noodle “udon”. I actually like udon very much so I was very glad to make our own handmade noodles (although the staff made the dipping broth). The secret for the chewy consistency is kneading the dough several times by stepping on it! Then we cut the dough to 4-mm thick using a cool-looking knife.

After making and eating udon, we went again to the famous bridge and there was a promenade park underneath the structure. I have a bit of fear of heights so I had trouble looking below the glass pane overlooking the sea below. Then we went home after sunset.

That trip was certainly relaxing since I have nothing to do and worry about anything. But one thing I realized is that Kyoto is still more beautiful..

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Kouyou or autumn foliage is now nearing its peak in Kyoto. Some ginkgo trees have already turned yellow in certain parts of Kyoto, especially along the Kawabata-dori, but not yet in my place near Shimogamo-jinja. I am looking forward for the spectacular sight.

Meanwhile, we were supposed to meet up early for the tour yesterday so in fear of being late, I woke up too early and so had spare time to kill during the early morning. Which is good because I never had the opportunity to stroll along the ever-alluring Kamogawa or Kamo River. Almost of the trees along the riverside have already changed into their autumn foliage which was breathtaking to see with the morning light illuminating and even more highlighting the golden colors. Such is the allure of the Kamogawa! Maybe I should just stroll the 3-km distance from my lab to my apartment once in a while.

Kitano Tenmangu is a Shinto shrine located in Kamigyo-ku dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane. It was said that he was the first person in Japanese history to be enshrined as a deity. He is best known as the “god of academics” and so many students come here and pray for academic-related intentions, especially entrance examinations.

The lighting conditions was not very good at the day I went here due to cloudy weather. Also there was not much kouyou (紅葉) or autumn foliage yet. I will definitely come back here to see the famed momiji and ume in February next year.

You can read for more information in the shrine’s site here: http://kitanotenmangu.or.jp/top_en.php#en_tp4

Zenkyo-an is a sub-temple of Kennin-ji (建仁寺) which is located in Higashiyama-ku just across the Ebisu-jinja. What’s interesting about this place is the presence of many wild pig or boar statues. Still, it’s a nice quiet place tucked hidden in the narrow streets of Kyoto unlike other shrines or temples.

Shikomi are trainees aspiring to be maiko or apprentice geiko. They are usually 16 years old or junior high school graduate when they start their training in an okiya which lasts for about a year. They do household chores and also attend lessons for dance (mai), singing, shamisen, and other traditional instruments. If they are successful, they will be able to debut as maiko and will be assigned to a geiko who will act as their official onee-san (older sister).

These young ladies are shikomi, probably from the Kawayoshi okiya in Miyagawa-cho. They were very kind to pose for a picture. I am so much rooting for them. Go girls!