Monday, September 28, 2009
Adventures with Megumi
One of my favorite people- the ever crazy, fun loving, adventurous Megumi came to visit me in Shimane. Megumi is currently attending college in Tokyo but wanted to come visit Shimane-ken (for some reason she had never been out this way before. . .). Anyway she took a night bus from Tokyo to Hiroshima, and it was for her sake that, at four o'clock Saturday morning, I drove Japan Car to Hiroshima. Now, I am somewhat of a morning person but nothing in this world besides love for my friend would have dragged me out of my warm bed to drive for four hours into the crazy traffic inevitable of a big city in Japan.
And it was definitely worth it. In the morning, we visited Miyajima. I would like it to be made known at this point that my camera chose this time to die- just as I was visiting this lovely , historic place considered to be one of the three most scenic spots in all of Japan. Thanks, camera. Anyway the pictures from here on out are taken on my phone camera and are therefore considerably crappier than normal. Miyajima is a little island off the coast of Hiroshima. It's inhabited by very tame deer that have an appetite for maps and tourist's pockets. They are everywhere and will literally walk right up to you. That giant red torii or sacred gate you see behind us in this picture, is the thing people mostly come to see. While we were walking around the temple we got a got a glimpse of a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony. These ceremonies are ridiculously expensive and intricate- I can't imagine what it must have cost to do one in Miyajima. After the main ceremony a god comes down and does a dance for the bride and groom- he is wearing a crazy mask that looks something like a fox or a dog. Not that you can see anything in this video anyway (thanks again phone camera).
After Miyajima we explored the city some more (i.e. ate and shopped- girls are pros at these activities).Hiroshima was brilliant, and we had a great time. But between Osaka and Hiroshima I've decided I'm THROUGH driving in big cities in Japan. The crowded, tiny roads are one of many reasons to take the train whenever possible
We hung around Okuizumo some today. I would like to point out that even Megumi, who is Japanese and from Toyama which is pretty rural, was astonished at how inaka (rural) Okuizumo is. I'm telling you guys- you have to see it to believe it.
This afternoon we went to Izumo city to see Izumo Taisha 出雲大社 one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. Izumotaisha is famous for its 1.ancient architecture, 2.being the gathering place for the eight million Japanese gods and for 3.its huge Shimenawa.
1. It is built in the Taisha style, the oldest building style that involved a roof made of straw. Every sixty years it undergoes construction, not the least important of which involves replacing the disgusting, moldy, straw from sixty years ago with new clean straw. This construction takes five years to complete. Unfortunately I happened to arrive in the Izumo area during this construction so I hadn't been able to visit it until now, but fortunately the main work is finished and we can see the front gate. 2. In October all the gods of Japan are said to gather in Izumo at this shrine. So while the rest of Japan is going to be sad and godless (called kannazuki or the "month without gods") we are going to be tripping over them (In the Izumo area we call October kamiarizuki or "the month with gods").
3. The shimenawa or big rope used in Shinto religion to mark a holy place is the biggest in all of Japan- it is thirteen meters long and weighs for tons. I'm pretty sure that is heavier than Japan Car. On the right you can see the underside of one of the fluffy ends of this rope- the diameter of this beast is probably about two meters in and of itself. People try and throw coins in it so they stick there. The fun part is often when you try to throw a coin in instead it will knock loose a shower of other coins down on you. This shrine was built for the god Ōkuninushi, who establishes marriages and good relationships He's the rabbit guy- remember him from my previous post! See, it all comes around.
Sadly, Megumi had to leave me tonight. But I am lucky to have such awesome people in my life.
I can't say anything more or I will start crying all over my keyboard.