Friday and Saturday‘s posts promised more updates. I mentioned that I wasn’t sure exactly what was going down for Friday’s photo shoot to commemorate the start of peace (or end of war, depending on your view). Well, there was a good reason: nobody knew. Our teacher picked 19 possible locations to check out. During the day there was constant discussion in the car about where we should go and what we should do. It changed rapidly, but we visited several of the locations and took a number of photos. Perhaps I will show some here, but that will have to wait on a few other priorities.
Not only was it the end of the war, but it is also the end of O-Bon (お盆) holidays, which meant some special photo ops. During O-Bon, it is held that dead spirits come to visit. As the holiday ends, all of the spirits must be sent back on their way or they will haunt us during the year. Kyoto has a festival each year where fires on the hillside shaped like a ship carry the spirits home. We observed smaller, more personal ceremonies, where relatives went to the ocean to burn incense and wooden sticks coated in wax or fat. I will get photos up next week with more detailed explanations.
Sunday’s tubing trip down the river was canceled. Ironically, after I poked some fun at Japanese concepts of safety, the trip was canceled because too much rain fell around the river valley. Indeed, the Miyagawa (宮川) river can become very dangerous when rainwater flows down the steep mountainsides and out to sea. This means I was unable to find out how safety conscious they were before the cancellation.
My girlfriend had invited me to have tea at her house (which is really her workplace) in the morning and I had passed because of tubing. Since it was rained out, I was able to see her home. Because it is a workplace, this was the first time I was allowed inside. A business meeting cut into our tea time, but I was happy nonetheless.
Afterwards, I was hoping to connect up with friends who I thought were going to the Kumano fireworks (熊野花火). Having seen them last year I was wondering if it could be worked out. Upon contacting the friend, I found out they weren’t going there at all, but another acquaintance had constructed a Chie no Wa (知恵の輪) for his temple (お寺) and we went to see him. Because of his connections we were allowed into the main temple building and went behind the a couple of altars. Until now I thought only priests and people who gave a lot of money could gain entry, so I was pretty excited to see it.
They made me practice their rituals and not wanting to offend, I relented; however, not wanting to pray in the temple, I tried Mu ni Naru (無に成る). Recently I was educated about this practice (which I formerly scoffed) and told it was more proper than praying at temples and shrines. As it was explained to me, I found it did not offend my religious sensibilities. I will try to post about this soon as well.
We also shot up a mountainside to eat some Korean food (韓国料理). Another busy weekend (I didn’t even fill you in on Saturday’s activities) left me exhausted and I crashed fairly early and slept through the night. Well, I filled you in on the promised updates, but noticed I added as many promises as I fulfilled.