Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tahara Festival

I'm about a month behind on posting. The Tahara Festival took place at the end of September while Kristin was here visiting.

We woke up to fireworks going off at 6am. At Tahara Castle we were kidnapped and forced to drink beer with ten old men at 10:30 in the morning and then invited to sit in VIP seating for the Buddhist ceremony at the temple the next day (which sadly we could not make.) We watched floats go by on our way out to Long Beach and again when we returned. And again the next day when we headed to Takigashira to hike. Sunday night I dragged her along to a City Hall function where she got to see me introduce myself in shamefully bad Japanese to a room full of drunken bureaucrats and then we watched as fathers put their lives in the hands of their sons, draped over live fireworks. We ended the weekend with fireworks and what Kristin loves best - karaoke.

Keely and Jovan came to stay too and we occasionally crossed their paths at breakfast and bedtime while they tried to say their goodbyes to their Tahara friends since they go back to N. America this month. It was a really great weekend.

Check out the random white guy from Cincinnati pulling this float. It is really is a small world after all.

Everyone helps out young and old.

Two floats come together.

Some of my students carry flags.

My students were so excited to see me. Aren't they cute?

Taking a short break.

All three in front of Centfaire.

A smaller handmade float later in the afternoon with some dancing women.


I love these little girls with their hair and makeup all done up.

Regular fireworks.

Crazy fireworks. The father drapes himself over the pipe firework while the son waves a flaming stick around. Then once dad is out of the way they light it. Awesome!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Typhoon Update

So the weather now is gorgeous - blue skies and sunny - but man it was pretty bad last night. I didn't sleep very well because the rain and wind was so loud. It's pretty windy here but this was worse than normal and then the power went out at around 4am. It stayed off until almost 1pm. Luckily I have a gas stove so I was able to cook breakfast but I still had to improvise a little. I made my toast in a frying pan since the toaster wasn't working and I used the hot water left over from boiling an egg to wash my dishes with because while my water heater is gas the controls to turn it on are electric.

Around 11 I went to the grocery store to pick up some things for lunch and discovered I wasn't the only one without power. The traffic lights were down so people were taking turns at the intersections and I shopped by candlelight at the grocery store. On the floor, lining the aisles, they had small candles sitting in cupcake tins. Although they must have had a generator because there was one room in the back that had lights on and their cash registers were working but most of the refrigerated items weren't out and you had to put your face to the shelf to see what you were looking for. The 7-11 across the street didn't even have that. They were packed to the gills with people looking for easy to cook things like Cup of Noodles while the poor cashiers had to add up all the totals by hand.

I read most of the morning, tidied up a bit, and played some sudoku, but I was ecstatic when the power buzzed on at around 1. You don't realize how much noise your refrigerator, computer, and other electrical devices make until they stop making them. The silence was starting to creep me out. I'm a product of the modern world I guess.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


It's been raining since Monday afternoon although the typhoon isn't supposed to really hit until tomorrow. That didn't mean that my commute to school by bike wasn't absolutely sodding miserable though. The bus schedule changed a few months ago and I can no longer take the bus to this school so I was left with no choice but to climb on my chari and go. Despite the rain coat and rain pants I was wearing I still showed up soggy (although without them I would have been drenched.) It was horrible, but luckily one of the English teachers loaned me some dry clothes.

The day didn't get better really when I found out I had five classes, four of which consisted of grading speech tests. I listened to 150 horrible speeches about their summer vacations. Things finally looked up when they told me speech contest practice was canceled and because I only have one class tomorrow and school is likely to be canceled anyway, I should just not come tomorrow. One of the teachers drove me home and since I left my bike at school I will take the bus to school on Friday. It doesn't get there until 10:15 but she said since I didn't have a class until 3rd period that that was okay.

So in review...had a bad morning but I came home early, don't have to work tomorrow, and can come in late on Friday. Awesome!

I'm still deciding whether to go to the gym tonight or just hang out in my pajamas watching TV and eating Kit Kats.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dragon Festival at Kiyomizy-dera

I've now been to Kiyomizu-dera three times. It's not really that exciting but it really can't be left off any list of "Things to see while in Kyoto." So we went. This time I decided to spice it up by making sure that we were there for the Dragon Festival. This is my story and I'm sticking to it! (Although the truth might be that I had no idea when or what this was and just got lucky.) The dragon came by in a procession that also included guys dressed up as warriors, some monks, and musicians, two of whom were playing conch shells like trumpets to announce the dragon's approach- totally awesome. The dragon made its way to each of the smaller shrines within the temple and paid its respects (or at least that's what it looked like to me. Wikipedia failed me when it came to details.) It was a scary looking dragon but as far as I know it didn't eat anyone but we left early so it's hard to say. Enjoy the pictures!


The procession goes by.

The dragon.


It stopped at each shrine within the temple. Here it is at the shrine by the love rocks.


On its way to the next shrine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


There are two kinds of geisha sightings in Kyoto. You can see fake geisha and maiko (geisha apprentices) which are really tourists dressed up and then get their picture taken. And then there are real geisha sightings. If you see one in the middle of the afternoon wandering around a park or temple with a photographer...tourist. If you see one quickly walking down the Hanamachi in the teahouse district of Gion around 5 or 5:30 on the way to an appointment...real maiko. See one in a taxi in Gion...real geisha. Looks like it's not really her hair but possibly a wig...tourist.

Unless you are my dad and then every maiko you saw in Kyoto was very really real.

Kristin and I spotted some true maiko while in Kyoto. We showed up in the right neighborhood at about the right time but we weren't having much luck other than a few geisha in taxis until we noticed an American girl and her Japanese host-mom standing in the same spot that we had seen them in 20 minutes earlier. We hung around for another 5 minutes or so and spotted our first maiko on her way to a tea house. When the host-mom took her exchange student down the way to wait at a different spot, we followed. And were rewarded with seeing two more maiko.

Apparently, you have to walk as an apprentice maiko but once you graduate to geisha you can take a cab. That's one way to tell a geisha from a maiko. Another difference is the red in the maiko's hair and her collar. It signifies that she is still in training. The sleeves of her dress are a little longer, but with the geisha in the taxis it was hard to make out the difference.

Overall this was one of my favorite days of our trip. We hiked Fushimi Inari in the morning, stumbled across the Dragon Festival at Kiyomizu Dera in the afternoon (a separate post coming soon,) and spotted maiko in the evening, finishing the day with my favorite Japanese meal ever - sukiyaki.

Spotted in Gion along Hanamachi.

Look at her hand and how elegant she pats her hair.

Doesn't she look young?