Monday, August 10, 2009

Minke and Eelco at Kyoto's Kiyomizudera

Minke and Eelco’s first full day had to be spent in quintessential Japan, so of course we went to Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. And even though it was rainy today, Kyoto was still as beautiful and mystical as it has always has been.
After we arrived at Kyoto station, armed with cheap umbrellas, Minke and Eelco learned how to use a fair adjustment machine, to make sure they’ll never pay too much for the Japanese train.
Kyoto’s attractions are often hard to reach by train so we took a bus to the temple of pure water: Kiyomizudera. Where we enjoyed cleansing ourselves with pure water and endured not so pure water falling from the sky.
There are lots of things to experience at a Japanese temple and they’re all things to improve yourself. Like lighting incense and wafting its smoke toward yourself to become smarter and healthier.
Eelco had read about omikuji (sacred lottery) at home and really wanted to give it a shot. So he shook the omikuji-box, collected the numbered pin that fell out and received the fortune with the same number. When the predicted fortune on the omikuji paper is bad it’s custom to tie it to some rope somewhere in the temple grounds, hoping the bad luck with hang around there instead of attach itself to you. When the omikuji predicts good fortune you keep it. Eelco was lucky indeed and received the second luckiest omikuji available, so he happily kept it.
Inside Kiyomizudera’s temple grounds we found Jishujinja shrine, dedicated to Okuninushi the god of love and good matches. There are two love stones, placed 18 meters apart, which you can try to walk between with your eyes closed. If you’re single and lonely and successful in this venture you’ll find love, and someone is allowed to help you but then they’ll have to help you achieve love too. Not sure what happens if you’re in a relationship already, but we thought it couldn’t hurt. We all walked the 18 meters with our eyes closed, with the verbal guidance of our lovely partners, and were very happy to touch the second stone and achieve even more love.
Of course, we also had to sample some of the pure and holy water from the Otowa waterfall, where three streams of water fall in a pond. The three streams are believed to confer either wisdom, health and longevity, and you’re not supposed to drink from more than two streams otherwise your greed will turn into bad luck.
Besides loads of pure water and luck we consumed some other Japanese things today as well. Like onigiri from the konbini. Which was quite an adventure if you can’t read the characters describing the filling of the rice balls and if you’ve never opened one before, but Minke and Eelco loved the Japanese snack. And they’ve also been drinking a lot of Japanese tea, they’ve almost completely adjusted.
Other intresting snacks in Kyoto are soft serve ice cream with funny flavors and yatsuhashi. We tried to find the salt soft serve I had last year, but they didn’t sell it this year, so Minke tried some mango with Japanese green tea and Eelco had some black sesame with honey and vanilla. I think that with Japanese soft serve it’s usually the weirder, the better and I think they kind of liked it too. They also sampled loads of yatsuhashi, which is soft rice cake wrapped around sweet red bean paste, and they even bought some to take home and share with other Dutchies.
Being so obviously foreign can give you many stares in Japan, but also free food, as Minke and Eelco experienced today with two very friendly and talkative old Japanese ladies. They were very eager to share their homemade lunch of makizushi with the interesting looking foreigners and strike up a conversation in their broken English and our broken Japanese.
The day is only half over and already Minke and Eelco have experienced so many new things, and they’re not even over their jet lag yet!
Minke and Eelco at Kyoto's Kiyomizudera

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