A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

May Days

A Japanese Wedding and the School Sports Day

A brief update today to share a some pictures from the second half of May, local stuff this time rather than big travels but some nice things I hadn't seen before.

On May 29th I was invited to attend a friend's wedding ceremony. Naomi used to work at the library in Imazu, but was recently moved to a different library so I haven't seen her for some time. It was nice of her to invite me as I know she only did so as I was curious about seeing a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony. Normally only family are invited to the ceremony, with friends and colleagues joining the reception party later (which I didn't join).

I hadn't met her husband before (seems like a nice guy though), but as he is a Shinto Priest this was a full traditional Japanese wedding.

Naomi looked great in her full white kimono and tsunokakushi (the white hat; which, according to one Japanese culture book I have, is to 'hide the horns of jealousy' ???).

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I like the center picture in that collage, as that was the point when Naomi spotted me (not hard as I was the only white person there!) and she really smiled and gave me a little wave despite the 'serious' atmosphere of the ceremony :-)

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The ceremony took place in a shrine in Takashima, with traditional music played inside the shrine while the priest intoned the official marriage rites to the kneeling couple. When the vows had been taken, and the guests inside the shrine served with tea, the couple came out to meet the well wishers.

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This was the last very official part fhe ceremony, and I was invited to join the group wedding photos as well (though I didn't get a copy of them).

After that it was more relaxed and people could chat more, so I gave my personal congratulations to Naomi.

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I still got one last piece of personal treatment as next there was a lunch served, and (as I wasn't a member of either family) I was invited to eat with the bride and groom (and a close friend of the groom's who was also there) in a nice small back room overlooking the rice fields behind the shrine. Overall it was a really interesting event, so thanks again to Naomi for the invite!

After that I was in a great mood, so I got changed and went out exploring and got a few more nice photos of the local landscape; including a nice natural bamboo grove. and a giant plastic swordfish.

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A few days later it was time for another event; the school sports day.

I used to hate sports (day) as a student and I'm still not crazy about organised sports now (I didn't even know the world cup was happening until a couple of days into it when one of the Japanese teachers asked me if I'd seen Japan's match!), so I had a distinct lack of enthusiasm about this event - still I didn't have to run... or not much... I had to do a short three legged race with another teacher... and we won that, so result! Anyway, I've decided that sports day is much more fun when you don't have to do the sports, but rather just shout at other people doing them and take a few photos.

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It's actually a great chance to interact with the students outside the classroom, though the first years are cerainly the most fun; as they're stilll young enough to want to impress you with their silly antics (and to be impressed by your silly antics).

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There were a few interesting events though, like the hundred leg race; like the three-legged race, but with three classes tied together.

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and whole classes jumping rope together!

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Both of these events, you may notice, place emphasis on group achievement - and this whole event was much more about working together than individual victory - as shown in this all school.... dance routine. (Man, I really hated to call this a dance, it's more what happens when your coreographer is your PE teacher trying to think of stuff for you to do with a Michael Jackson song in the background!)

Well that's enough sports, I'm feeling quite exhausted :-)
So, we'll close with some nice tranquil sunset shots.

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Now that's more like it!

Posted by DKJM74 04:18 Comments (0)

The Gold, the Mad and the Uji

Another diverse weekend in Kyoto

Ok that was quite possibly the worst pun title on an entry in my blog so far (and I am hanging my head in shame), but I didn't know quite how to bring a visit to the Golden Pavillion, a Samurai Movie theme park and Uji Botanic Gardens all under one blanket title - but that was my weekend, so here we go.

The Golden Pavillion is another place I first visited 3 years ago with Nik - as you can see here.

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I hadn't actually planned a return visit, but by chance I ran into Kitty and Ryan on the train. They were just about to go there with Ryan's visiting friend, Brian. So I decided to tag along. So here we are at Kinkaku-ji (as it's known here). Kitty and I were chatting and walking much slower than Ryan and Brian, so soon we were trailing behind.

Somewhat embarrassingly I'm actually wearing the same T-shirt as 3 years ago as well!!

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Despite looking very old the Pavilion is actually a recent reconsruction of a much older building, the reason for that is quite interesting; Wikipedia can explain it better than me I think.

On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the pavilion was burned down by a monk named Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody. During the investigation after the monk's arrest, his mother was called in to talk with the police; on her way home, she committed suicide by jumping from her train into a river valley. The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released because of mental illness on September 29, 1955; he died of other illnesses shortly after in 1956. During the fire, the original statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames (now restored). A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio Mishima's 1956 book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

The present structure dates from 1955. In 1984, the coating of Japanese lacquer was found a little decayed, and a new coating as well as gilding with gold-leaf, much thicker than the original coatings (5/10,000mm instead of 1/10,000mm), was completed in 1987. Additionally, the interior of the building, including the paintings and Yoshimitsu's statue, were also restored. Finally, the roof was restored in 2003.

I left the others at Kyoto station and headed off to meet Haru.

Next day we headed out to the Samurai Movie park on the outskirt of Kyoto.

Unlike places like Disneyland and Universal Studios, Toei Studio Park is actaully an old (and still working) film studio.
Several ongoing TV dramas and movie scenes are filmed here, but there are also shows, exibitions and attractions to bring visitors in.

Inside, the best exhibition is the one with the hero and monster costumes from the Kamen Rider/Power Ranger/Ultra Man type shows.

So, here they are the goodies and the baddies - Oooh, who's going to win??

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I have to admit I've never been a fan of these shows - but being a Doctor Who fan I can appreciate a good low rent monster outfit when I see one - and this was my personal favorite.

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Outside you are quite free to wander around the historically recreated streets and some of the studio sets as well. Although it didn't mean much to me, Haru recognised several locations from shows on TV and she said she saw one famous actor as well (who had a part in 'The Last Samurai' apparently!).

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Even some quite dangerous props were left laying around to be picked up.

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Throughout the day various Chanbara (Sword fighting) shows are played out on stage and on the streets, between these shows actors also wander around in costume to add to the atmosphere.

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Though I felt quite sorry for these paid employees of the park as they were hopelessly outnumbered and outclassed by the many amateur Cos-players wandering around. I talked to one guy (centre with a small beard in the photo below), who was an elementary school teacher from Nara, and he told me that Cos-players from all around come here just to do use the great sets for their own group photos. I was really impressed with some of the groups who had obviously put in a lot of time, effort and money into their costumes.

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I'm planning a return trip sometime specifically to take more Cos-play photos and, as it's possible to rent period costumes there, maybe get in costume myself; I think Kitty and Leila would be really up for a trip like that. Haru was very tollerant of me running around taking Cos-player photos, but the Cos-play element of the park was a big surprise so I'd like to go back and really focus on that.

Our next trip was just the two of us. Actually, we should have joined another Satoyama group event, but Haru wasn't feeling too great so we skipped that (and the early start it would have required) in favour of sleeping in and taking a more personal trip to Uji botanic gardens.

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Generally it was a typical botanic garden. Herb and floral gardens outside and a pretty decent glasshouse. One thing I did like was the pond; a deep crimson red from the weed on the surface which at first glance seemed to be waterless clay, though on closer inspection huge hidden fish stirred beneath breaking the surface - for some reason it reminded me of Yoda's swamp in Star Wars.

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Perhaps the best thing though was the ridiculously overpowered water fountain, add an unpredictable breeze and funny follows.

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And that is pretty much that, except for a brief footnote for Gavin's benefit (as I know he loves huge ugly industrial structures). So here's a photo of the dam on the river just outside Uji that we stopped off to have a quick look at on the way home.

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Next time: A friend's wedding, school sports day and more scrapbook oddities.

Posted by DKJM74 17:46 Comments (0)

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