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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

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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

Fureaikan in Miyako Messe showcases many beautiful and elegant Kyoto traditional crafts. And in every third Sunday of the month, they invite maiko from different hanamachi as maiko use and wear many Kyoto handicrafts such as their hana-kanzashi, hikizuri, okobo, and others. The admission here is free and this is only one of the few events you can see a maiko perform.

This October, they invited Maiko Fumiyoshi from Miyagawa-cho. She talks in very sweet and soft-spoken Kyoto-ben. She performed three dances: Hagi-kikyou, Momiji no Hashi and Gion Kouta.

I was torn whether I should finish the sumo match happening in Shimadzu Arena or attend this instead. I chose the latter and I do not regret coming here.

Ebisu-jinja (“Ebisu Shrine”) is a Shinto shrine located in Higashiyama-ku dedicated to Ebisu, one of the Shichi Fukujin or seven lucky gods. I found it while randomly strolling around the Miyagawa-cho area. Right now there aren’t much shrine goers but I bet it’ll get busier when New Year comes.

At last my dream came true! I was able to see a maiko real close when I went to Miyagawa-cho. Actually my first time was when I went to Gion in an izaka-ya but I was just too star-strucked or dazed to even react. What really surprised me about Miyagawa-cho is that it was such a long yet narrow street with a community feel. Maybe it will feel like hanamachi during night time with the lit-up lanterns in every ochaya or establishment.

Her name is Toshiemi, a first-year maiko (apprentice geiko) in one of the five hanamachi of Kyoto. I’ve seen pictures of her before in the internet but she was even cuter in person. I personally think she is a classic Kyoto beauty. Thank you Toshiemi-san for posing for me!

Note: Since this month is October, her hana-kanzashi has the theme of chrysanthemums. Her first year status can be seen clearly with the shidare in her kanzashi, very red eri, and only her lower lip painted.

You can read more about maiko and geiko in my previous blog post here.

This year’s lantern parade, in my opinion, was better than last year’s. Lanterns were generally more beautifully and interestingly-designed. Although it’s a bit disappointing that there was no fireworks show in the end which I was very much looking forward to watch. I heard that the money for the fireworks show will be put to better use to donations for the Yolanda typhoon victims which I think was a very good and noble cause.

The parade was already moving when we ran down from Vinzon’s Hall. Maybe just enough time to have a glimpse of the former Ms. Universe runner-up Venus Raj who was with the CSWCD.

We watched the parade in the amphitheater although the view was not that good. It would have been better if the people in the parade turned their lanterns around so that the majority of the audience from the back could see them more clearly.

I think this was the most beautiful float in the entire parade. The float was inspired from the legendary sarimanok of Maranao people. Just look at the intricate details!

Of course, the Fine Arts people had the best stuff. Their theme this year was Filipino folk legends, epics, traditions, etc. which was a very cool choice! I was not able to remember the names of the float but some familiar ones were bulol of the Ifugao, t’nalak dreamweaver of T’boli and wedding tradition of some ethnolinguistic group in Mindanao.

I hope I would still be able next year’s lantern parade.

I made some illustrations of the scenes from Chapters 16, 19 and 20 of Noli me Tangere, written by our esteemed national hero, Jose Rizal. Looking back at these illustrations which I did roughly eight years ago as a school project, I must confess that these were badly drawn! Well, maybe because I used MS Paint and mouse. Still I was amazed on how I imagined the scenes.

This is the town of San Diego.

This is Sisa, preparing a wondrous feast for her two sons, Basilio and Crispin, who will be coming home from their sacristan duties. However, things will go wrong for the rest of the chapter.

This is during the conversation of the teacher in San Diego and Don Ibarra Crisostomo. The teacher is stating his bad experiences in his initiative to improve the education in San Diego.

This is during the meeting for the upcoming fiesta in San Diego, on how they will spend the money, etc. The conservatives and liberals will later on debate with their ideas.