Wow, what an eventful few days.
First off, as usual the planned one night and two days at Naomi’s house in Uji turned into three nights and four days. During my stay there I got several things accomplished:
1) I learned how to make Unagi Donburi, Curry Rice, and Kimuchi Nabe
2) I got my haircut
3) I saw Ocean’s Twelve. In my opinion, it was one of those few times when the sequel manages to be more entertaining than the prequel. If you’ve got the time, see it!
4) I practiced lots of Japanese
5) Good times were had by all 🙂
After I came back, I decided that it was about time to take a nice hike. Normally I LOVE really out-doorsy travel; hiking, scuba diving, mountain biking, that sort of thing. But since it’s been SO cold here (and because I’ve been in Hirakata without any real means of transportation) I’ve done very little of that. So, after my workout at Ritsumeikan, I decided to just start riding. No particular trail in mind, I just picked a direction. As I mentioned before, Kyoto is in a valley surrounded on all sides by mountains, so if you go far enough in a direction, you’ll eventually come to the end of the city. And this house marked that end. Luckily, there happened to be a small road just behind it leading…UP! So, I got off my bike and started walking it up the hill, and up, and up…and up.
For the most part, the scenery was just plantlife. Now while this may not sound incredibly interesting, it was actually a REALLY pleasant walk – and quite a work-out. You may not be able to tell from this picture, but the path was freakin’ STEEP, especially since I pushed my bike the whole way up, and had on a backpack full of textbooks.
But the really cool parts were when I’d come to a random little area, such as this cemetery
Or this shrine/statue-thing, cut right out of the rock next to the trail. There were quite a few cool-looking bamboo forests every now and then too.
Eventually I walked so high that I ended up in a light snowstorm. Now, I’ve already had two or three people tell me that there’s never any significant amount of snow in Kyoto, that you have to go to Gifu (a nearby prefecture) if you want to actually see snow on the ground. These people have clearly never spent five hours walking straight up into the surrounding hills before!
Here’s a view of Kyoto from VERY early in the hike. If you squint and look real hard, you can see the dirt-colored clearing on the mountain across the valley. That’s the spot with the gigantic “Dai” character (that they set aflame for a festival later in the year).
Anyways, I finally hiked my way right to the top of the mountain; going any further would’ve started bringing me down into the next prefecture. So, I hopped on my bike. Now for the fun part! Or…so I thought. About half way down I slipped on some ice, and while I managed to jump off the bike and land on my feet, my camcorder wasn’t so lucky. Well, I guess it doesn’t have any feet to land on anyways. I’ll have to send it back to the states to get it fixed, so don’t expect a whole bunch of high-quality videos any time soon :-/
What a tiring day. Time for a good night’s sleep.
…sleeps until noon…
…opens his window…
WHOA! SNOW! And not just a little snow. A LOT of snow! I threw on as many layers of clothes as I could find and immediately set out to explore the city once again. Man, for those of you who’ve been to Kyoto in the summer and thought this place was beautiful…you ain’t seen nothin.
Something about those traditional sloping tile roofs covered in snow is just really striking. You can’t so much tell from the pictures, but just take my word for it. I eventually made my way clear to the other side of town, ending up just a block away from the other house I was looking at moving into (instead of the place I live at now).
Here’s a picture of what the view from my bedroom window WOULD have been like. Pretty nice, ‘eh? But I don’t regret my decision; the current place is so much more convenient location-wise, plus fully furnishing the place would NOT be worth it. Still, how nice does that look…
My location was also perfect to drop by the Setsubun Matsuri, a three-day long festival involving parades of samurai, children with torches, oni (Japanese devils),
a HUGE all-night bonfire,
and of course the giant vendor-fair that accompanies all of the festivals here. I’m really upset that my camcorder was broken for this one, although I did manage to piece a couple of videos together with my regular digicam. Check it out here.
~~Andnowitsallover (movie quote)**