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It’s been half a year since my last post! It only shows how busy I had been these past few months. Lab experiments were fun, challenging and can be time-demanding and so I haven’t been able to do blogging, much less sightseeing these days. I am currently cramming the data I’ll be presenting for this week’s symposium abroad. After this, I will definitely slow down and relax, and go around Kyoto!

While it’s already summer here, I’ll be sharing some off-season pictures for these coming posts.

And yes, I went to Kamigamo-jinja, the sister shrine of Shimogamo-jinja and another World Heritage Site. It’s a large complex located along the upper banks of the Kamogawa and near the mountains. But I think I still prefer Shimogamo-jinja for its tranquil forest. Nevertheless, it was beautiful with canals intertwining some parts of the shrine.

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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

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.

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.

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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