Saturday, 2 July 2016

Kyoto Research Trip - The Kamo River and Mt. Kurama, Take 2

Today I spontaneously decided to take a 12 mile hike through the mountains.

Okay, only half spontaneous.  I was following the Kamo River north until it forked with the part of the Kurama River.  East had a sidewalk, west did not, so I followed the river east and at some point decided it would be easier to hike to Kurama and take a train back than to turn around and walk back down the way I'd come.  There were no more buses.  I was in the boondocks.

In retrospect, it would have been easier to just walk back the way I'd come, but less fun.  I pretty much stumbled across the Kyoto Circuit trailhead, which was nice because pedestrians weren't allowed in the tunnel that lead strait to Kurama.  I was excited at how nice and paved it was, until it wasn't and I was climbing on bare rock again.  It was just under a mile from where the two-track turned into mountain trail.  I was very definitely not prepared for that.  I was definitely glad I'd grabbed an extra bottle of water from a vending machine I found.

The map projection is a little off.  I'm working on fixing it, but it gives the gist of the path and the temple.  By the time I got to Kurama Station, I was tempted to just get on the train and head home, but then I sat down in a cafe and had the most amazing pile of shaved ice I think I've ever had.

Dessert spoon for scale.  Between that and the iced tea, I decided to see if the path to Kibune was open.  It was, so like a genius, I climbed up a second mountain.  Worth it to say I've made the hike, and it was easier since it's a pilgrimage route so it's well maintained.  One thing I noticed was the sacred trees.  There were a lot more between Kurama and Kibune than I've seen elsewhere.  This one is 800 years old according to the sign.

There were a few trees like this that were marked off as well.  Not sure what kind they are, but it's something I'll look into eventually.

Some neat things I saw today:
An egret catching his lunch.

A bird I haven't identified yet.

Cool flower.

A butterfly that actually landed so I could take a picture.

I would have hated my parents if they'd made me trek out to a cabin this far off of a road, but these were pretty neat to find.

Some of the Seven Dwarfs.

Bridge guardian?

A different take on the popular peeing statue.  Apologies for the crappy quality photo.

A cool little pond on Mt. Kurama.

So many waterfalls!

And monkeys!

Okay, not real monkeys.  Yet again I leave Japan without seeing wild monkeys.  But it's been a really productive trip.  I'm so grateful I was able to get the funding to come and explore the city and its mountains even though I'm in such an early stage of my research.  I closed out my wonderful trip with another visit to the river to watch the kites flying around.  It was definitely a good way to end this trip.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Kyoto Research Trip - City Archives and Heiankyō Sōseikan

After the last couple of days, my body needed a break, so I took it easy this morning - slept in, did my laundry, and then made my way back to the City Archives, with a pencil this time.  Things to know ahead of time if you ever need to use the City Archives (京都市歴史資料館):

  1. Have a 100 yen coin handy for the lockers.  You get it back, but you need it to lock your bags up.
  2. No photos, 10 yen per copy.  The copy machine is pretty small (read: normal size copy machine) though, so I'm not sure how you'd get a copy of larger documents.  You can get a receipt for copies.
  3. They don't deal much with 20th century apparently?  I asked about the city's records for construction related to the Kamo River, and the archivist said that the 20th century was outside of the archive's scope.
My conversation with the archivist then lead me to the City Library and Heiankyō Sōseikan.  Kyoto City, you're doing your public museums right!

It's a pretty small museum, just two exhibit rooms and a video corner, but it's really neat.  It focuses on the layout and archaeology of Heian.  The cool part is that it's not only free, it's also attached directly to the City Library and has stuff for all ages.  There were mostly older people sitting and watching the videos, younger adults to middle aged walking around, and the little kids played in the Taiken Corner with their parents.

Is this not awesome?  Aristocratic children's clothes display here:

Try them on here!

The little ones who were there while I was were too little for this section, but they also had a play area.  They could match shells with pictures on them or play sugoroku (or just pick up the chips).  

They also had a huge floor map and a 1:1000 scale diorama of a reconstruction of the city.  This is what the archivist sent me for.  Apparently scholars, including him, have been working on mapping as closely as possible since after the war.  I knew someone had to have been doing it here.  I'm geeked to have found it.  They also sell published materials and maps at the museum office.

What's cool about this particular diorama is that it's not just a portion of the city.  Nor is it limited to the city's official boundaries.  It's definitely idealized considering the city was probably never fully settled like this, but most of the important places are there, including the places in the mountains.

Also really cool is the full sized replica of the Uesugi Rakuchū Rakugai screens along the back wall.  It's rare to be able to get up that close, even to reproductions.  Usually they're at least up on a platform and set back.  These were just the wall.

Also, because it's Kyoto and everybody loves Kamo no Chōmei, here's his 10 foot square hut, complete with his two icons:

This was actually the only random display there, and the only one you'd have to really read (or already know) to understand.  Everything else was really well set out with contemporary images, archaeological finds, and replicas, like this food:

Also, I'd encountered the Ritsumeikan Virtual Kyoto Project in the course of working on my own maps, and I got to look at their display in action.  It's set up in the same room as the floor map and diorama.

It was a bit buggy, so less exciting than I wanted it to be, but still cool to see how the project is being used and the fact that it's available to the public.

This evening I took myself out for a picnic at the park where the Kamo and Takano Rivers meet.  It was lovely.  I mostly watched the birds and listened to the water.

These guys were cute.

But, surprise!  One of these bastards stole my dinner!

Took it right out of my hand!  I didn't see or hear it coming.  I was eating a peanut butter chocolate chip Larabar.  I'd taken a bite and was just sort of holding it and sitting there, and then swoosh.  All I saw was a blur and felt like I caught a ball or something.   The kite snatched the bar, wrapper and all, and flew off.  I don't think he liked it though, because they let me eat my second bar in peace.  It made me laugh though. 

Here's a fun colored pigeon to end with.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Kyoto Research Trip - Kamigamo Shrine and Fushimi Inari Shrine

Today was all around fantastic, but now I'm trying to write while I'm exhausted and paying for two days in a row of too much walking.  So this will be short.

I started today at Kamigamo Shrine with one of my friends.  We met up to watch a ceremony called nagoshi no harae  (名越の祓).  It looked like a purification ritual for the first half, then the priests moved into the main shrine building and I had a hard time following what was going on.  It looked like they were passing plates of food, but I couldn't see well.  I will be looking more into what this ceremony is.

My original plan was to continue to follow the Kamo River north, since I was so close to where I left off, but that didn't happen.  For one, my knees and hips are shot from yesterday, and for two, it was threatening rain and I didn't want to get stuck in a downpour two days in a row.

So my friend and I went to Fushimi Inari instead.  It's the famous shrine with all of the gates.

And foxes.

And far too many people.  There was a really cool oku no in off the trail though.  Oku no in are the innermost part of a shrine, apparently where founders and such are enshrined.  It would be interesting to spend more time back there reading the plaques, but it was really hot and full of mosquitoes.  

There's a "waterfall" named after Kobo Daishi, but the waterfall must be long built over.  In the back it's just wet and there is a pipe with water gushing out of it on the ground.  There is a shrine to Kobo Daishi though!

After that we went to Kyoto National Museum.  Bonus, this time they actually let me use my student ID to get the college student discount!  It was really fun to walk around the museum with someone else interested in and knowledgeable about the same kind of stuff I like.

Some of today's highlights:
I fed a sacred horse tiny slices of carrots... from a plate.

I found another bird I can't identify.

And another cormorant (maybe?).

And these little guys may have been the most exciting part of the day.  There were two nests of baby swallows (燕)on the approach to Fushimi Inari.  The parents were zipping around over our heads.  I've been trying to get a picture of a swallow since day 1, but they're so fast and so small all I've gotten are blurs.

They're big enough to fly (they shoved one of their siblings out of the nest right before I took this picture).  Gorgeous birds.

Here's the other nest, because we need to end on more cute.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Kyoto Research Trip - Mt. Hiei

I am very excited about the fact that this happened.  I wasn't entirely sure my joints would let me do it, and at some points I had to stop every few steps because my hips hurt, but I made it!  Three hours up the mountain.  I don't have pictures of the climb because it was literally a climb in a lot of places.  I needed both hands quite frequently, especially near the beginning around Kirara.  It was a great experience though.  My adviser suggested I make the hike to see what it was like for the premodern monks who went back and forth.  The trails are definitely more maintained, but they're still very rough.  They don't always look as much like trails as narrow ruts.  Some of it is bare rock, which was tough because it was slippery, but most of it was dirt.  Some places had terraces built in with support beams or old blocks of concrete.  I'm still not sure if that makes climbing any easier or if they're just there to reinforce the trail so it doesn't give out.

This is as close to a view from the top as I managed because right around this point it started raining.  It wasn't too bad at first, but it started pouring right around when I reached the temple, which, well, let's just say I'm thankful it didn't do that before because the trail would have been a lot more dangerous and unpleasant.  It was still really cool to look out over the city.  I didn't get to check and see if Kurama was visible though because, well, I was inside a cloud and not much was visible.

Mt. Hiei is home to Enryakuji, probably the most notorious temple of the medieval period.  It's monks were numbered among the proverbial three uncontrollable forces in the 14th century military chronicle The Tale of the Heike, up there with the waters of the Kamo River and the fall of the dice.  They had a habit of protesting as a means of influencing the court and seem to have quite frequently gotten their way.

The pagoda in the picture is the East Pagoda was originally built in the 8th or 9th century by the monk Saichō, who brought Tendai Buddhism to Japan.  The compound is very conscious of its architectural history, and signs in a couple of places mentioned that this was one of the buildings burned down near the end of the Warring States.  Oda Nobunaga leveled the compound and chased the monks into another part of the mountain.

Enryakuji is still a very active temple, so it was an interesting mix of old a new.  They had these billboards along the walkway showing historical scenes.  This one is a reproduction of a Kamakura era painting of the East Pagoda,.  There were others showing famous figures and saints like Hōnen and Ippen.

These pictures are so terrible... but this is the Kaidan'in, originally built in the 828 for ordaining Tendai priests, which I was excited to see.

By this point my shoes were soaked through and I was freezing, so I spent some time in the museum, ate my lunch, and then headed back.  I would love to explore the western area and Yokawa, but that will have to be on a day when it's not raining cats and dogs and probably won't happen this trip.

Getting back was another mini adventure.  I was so done being on the mountain that I didn't want to walk the 2-3 km to the Yase cable car, so I took the closest one, which dropped me off in Shiga, next to Lake Biwa (on the opposite side of the mountain).  

Apparently the Sakamoto cable car is the longest in Japan, and when it's not going through a rain storm it's supposed to have a fantastic view of the lake.  I had fun looking for the waterfalls and wooden animals.  I do not recommend this if you're afraid of heights!

This is an awful picture, bu it's the only clear-ish one I managed.  They have wooden animal statues along the whole course.  They're so fun!  They even have a popularity ranking board in the Enryakuji Station.

The station buildings are neat too!  They're also registered as cultural properties.  Both were built in 1925-26.  They're two story concrete, and you can actually go up to the second floor of the Enryakuji Station building.  There's a small exhibition on the history of the station and the cable car.

The yellow building is Enryakuji Station, the white one is Sakamoto Station.  The insides are so fun!  Definitely not your normal train station.  

The car is also pretty neat.  It's a very smooth ride, and an audio guide tells you about the different stations along the way, bits of history associated with the view you're looking at, etc.

Then, for a totally unexpected find, I was going to take the bus to the train station because of the rain, but I'm a twit and watched it leave because I don't even know why.  The station attendant looked at me ten minutes later and was like, "You didn't get on the bus!"  Yeah... I don't have a good excuse for that one.  So I walked.  He said it was only about ten minutes and gave me directions.  I'm so glad I did!

Hiyoshi Shrine, didn't know it was on that side of the mountain, and I clearly pay really close attention to maps when I'm out wandering...

Hiyoshi Shrine is mentioned in Japan's first national history, the Kojiki, written about 712.  It had imperial patronage during the Heian period and became one of the country's protector shrines.  It also had the only monkey I saw on this whole trip.

Yeah... sad, right?  I'm cursed to never see wild monkeys!  The only non-human mammal I saw on the mountain was a very surprised deer.   I also saw this really awesome crab in Shiga.  I nearly stepped on him.  He was about the size of a US quarter and I almost didn't see him while I was walking.

Another really cool find from today was this abandoned house near the Eizan cable station.

I really, really wanted to get closer to check it out, but I didn't want to risk it.  The old steps looked stable enough, but I would have had a really hard time getting up, and who knows what condition the ground around the building is in.

All in all, I would really like to go hiking there again, or do the trail around the city.  Hopefully next time I get the chance my body is healthier and my joints can keep up with me.  There are so many branches you can step off and explore.  There were a lot of small shrines or historical markers.  Once you're on the trail, it's pretty clearly marked.  The hiking map I bought had the main trails on it, but the markers have a lot of the smaller ones, and they tell you if the trail is a dead-end or not.  

As a final, parting thought for the day, jellyfish is surprisingly crunchy.