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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.

“燃えて身を焼く大文字…”
“My heart burns like a Daimonji…”

This excerpt is from the famous Gion Kouta song which elaborates the beauty of Kyoto. Daimonji-san is a mountain of less than a kilometer in height yet it stands majestically at the eastern side of Kyoto. During the summer event of Gozan no Okuribi (五山送り火), bonfire is lit up to take up the 大 (dai: large) character at the top of the mountain where everyone can see the spectacular burning sight at night.

The view from the Daimonji-san was breathtaking, although the strong cold wind was also taking my breath away (joke intended). I could imagine that the sunset would be even a sight to see but we climbed down before it could happen (because we lacked proper gears for night hiking). Still it was definitely a nice experience!

Here is the panoramic view of Kyoto from the top of Daimonji-san. You could see that Kyoto is pretty flat in terms of building constructions (except for a few buildings). I’ve read somewhere that it is their way to prevent the tall buildings from hindering the views of temples and pagodas.

And nothing was better to beat the cold and tiredness by eating ramen! They say that Kyoto-style ramen is having lots of negi or onion leeks.

It was my dream before to go to Kyoto to see and experience the traditional Japanese culture at its finest. I thought it was impossible with the little resources that I have. But I realized that there was a way, but it would be a very difficult one: applying for the Monbukagakusho (MEXT) scholarship.

And I successfully got in. It took me courage to send e-mails to Japanese professors as my research background was far from my research interest. But a professor has accepted despite that and he was even kind enough to make the study plan (because we were nearing the submission deadline). I am now currently undertaking my Master’s in Kyoto University with animal virus as my research study. My labmates are all Japanese with me as their first and currently only foreign student in the lab. Still, they were very kind to me and would initiate English conversations even when they’re having difficulty speaking it.

I remember that I used to be ask, “Why did you want to study to Kyoto”? And I would always answer simply, “Because it’s like hitting two birds in one stone”. Aside from experiencing the Japanese traditional culture, I also would like to build up my career as a researcher. And nothing is better than going to one of the best universities in Asia, or even the world, which is Kyoto University.

The first two weeks was a long nerve-wrecking adjustment period. I had to finish a lot of paperwork while attending the orientations and the first day of classes. But now, thankfully, I have settled down. I currently live in a nice cozy apartment near Shimogamo-jinja.

And so my journey to Kyoto begins.

Kamogawa or Kamo River in Kyoto

Kapok, also known as Ceiba pentandra, are very tall and imposing trees. The very old ones especially tower the small buildings with their astonishing height. Around summer (or spring rather), they release and fill the air with cotton-like fibers. They grow new leaves soon after their fruiting season.

I have been here for a few times since this place is near to the entrance to the jogging lane lined with vegetable plots which I have visited so often for my thesis sampling. The place has its own charm, it felt like being in a rural town. The space is huge enough for gatherings, children’s play space, and dance practices. Beautiful place indeed.

At last I am finally enrolled for (hopefully) the last semester in my university. It took me less than a day but longer than I expected because I didn’t know I was ineligible to enroll. The cause of my ineligibility was the book that I was not able to return last semester. Still, all was well at the end of the day.

I am also happy and grateful for the precious hours spent with my friends over Moshi Koshi lunch and bookhunting in Booksale just before the start of the classes tomorrow. I still remember the bold soy sauce taste of the broth of Tempura Udon that I ordered. And the chewy thick udon noodles! The tempura was also tender. I also was able to buy a P25 book in Booksale,, “The Binding Chair” by Kathryn Harrison. Before we parted ways, we promised to each other to spend another day like that again. I look forward to that.

I also remember the unusual scenery which graced the heavy traffic in NLEX. It was the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen in my life, a double full-arch rainbow! I think of it as a blessing from God, a sign of unending hope for this semester. What a good start!

It was my second time to go to Singapore this last holidays. And that meant airplane ride for three and a half hours. Though it wasn’t my first time, I still find it thrilling and a bit scary because I’m afraid of fast vehicles and heights yet I like the rare cloud scenery. It feels like you’re going to Vespin (a planet in Star Wars), the City in Clouds.

It was also my first time to feel turbulence during in the middle of the ride. The airplane went up and then suddenly dropped more than twice! It frightened me a bit, but what really made me uncomfortable was that nasty feeling in my stomach.

During the airplane ride, I spotted a curious-looking island and it turned out to be the tadpole-shaped Corregidor island. It’s really nice to know your geography once in a while.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year! I haven’t had the time to make a timely New Year post, and besides I do not have fireworks photos to share. But I really felt blessed last year and I know God will still bless me this year. It just takes a childlike appreciation to see the little blessings He showers us every moment of our lives. Though I felt I didn’t change much for good last year, I will always try to be better and never give up. I look forward positively on how things will unfold this year.