Sunday, December 11, 2016
Today I went with my three of my Japanese friends to Kyoto to explore various shrines and appreciate the temporary fall leaves.
The first shrine we went to was a quaint little shrine called Kawai Shrine (河合神社/Kawai-Jinja). It sold a warm drink called Beauty Water (美人水/Bijinsui) that supposedly makes you more beautiful if you drink it. The ema (絵馬), small wooden plaques to write your wish and leave at the shrine, are all shaped like faces that you draw the details to the face onto. Most wishes I saw written on them were something along the line of “so that I become more beautiful.”
A short walk away, the second shrine we went to was called Shimogamo Shrine (下鴨神社/Shimogamo-Jinja), a shrine estimated to have been built between 3BCE-4CE, making the shrine itself over 2000 years old. There was a wedding that walked through the shrine as we were arriving, but they had left by the time we made it in the shrine itself.
The next place we went to, Ginkaku Temple (銀閣寺/Ginkaku-ji) was a 230 yen bus ride away. The temple itself, surrounded by mountains and a scenic little town, was absolutely gorgeous.
Another 230 yen bus ride away was the last shrine we visited that day, called Heian Shrine (平安神宮/Heian-Jingu). This is possibly the largest shrine I’ve been to with a large courtyard. Outside the shrine was definitely the largest torii gate I’ve seen, stretching over a main roadway.
After visiting Heian Shrine, we went to the neighboring Tsutaya, a book store, and looked at magazines and art books for a little bit before heading back home.
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Today was strange for two reasons.
The first was that there are still fall leaves (and even some green trees still) outside despite it being almost halfway into December. Where I’m from in New England, fall usually lasts from mid-October to mid-November. It doesn’t feel like it’s almost Christmas when the majority of the trees still have colored leaves.
The second is that I didn’t use any English with my friends that day. I could have used it if there was a gap in my language ability since they’re all studying English. But, the fact that I felt comfortable enough to speak in Japanese all day really surprised me.
It had been a goal of mine before I got here: to be comfortable enough to speak Japanese and not rely on my English. It didn’t really hit me either that I was doing just that until one of my friends commented that I was speaking fluently and comfortably just like a native Japanese speaker.
It was strange, but definitely a delightful strange.