Japan Part 9: Geishas on the Move

As usual, the sunrise during the wee hours of the morning made sure that I had no need for an alarm clock. Resigning myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, I got up and snacked on what was left of my food from the conbini last night. As Taylor was just waking up, I cracked open the pear juice I’d bought and took a sip.

The carbonation burned my tongue in a very unusual way.

“Taylor,” I said, “taste this.” She took a sip.

“Yeah?”

“Does it taste like it has alcohol in it?” I asked. She paused for a moment.

“Hmm…maybe.”

We went next door to Brian’s room and gave him a sampling, but we still weren’t sure. After a few more tastes, we agreed that it was probably just the carbonation that made it taste like alcohol.

The last thing I need is to be drunk during the day. 😉

After talking with Schau-sensei about how much I enjoyed my trip to Fushimi Inari the night before, she said that it seemed like the whole group should go. I agreed, so we took the short train ride and introduced the others to the fantastic shrine of the fox gods.

Having already visited once, I walked around casually, just taking in everyone else’s reactions. Surprisingly, most people seemed like they could care less.

You’re joking, right?

Walking through the stone pathways under the watchful eyes of towering fox deities was a little eerie, and the long red tunnels built from thousands of arches seemed otherworldly.

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And no one seemed to care. When a geisha appeared suddenly from between two arches, a few oohs and ahhs were all I got from my friends.

Ahem. Excuse me for a moment while I go care over here. You guys can stay where you are.

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When it comes to rare sights (and especially ones that can up and leave at a moment’s notice, like a geisha), I don’t give two flying flips if I’m making the people around me a little uncomfortable. You want to have a five foot radius of free space around you, you tourists? Sorry, but I’m punching a hole in this crowd and kneeling at the front. You’re feeling crowded? Too bad. I’m not in your way – you can still take good pictures. Get over it.

Once I’d made sure to get a few good pictures of the geisha (though she was actually a maiko, a geisha-in-training), I rejoined the group in time to watch Taylor and Sarah make charm dedications to the fox gods. You’re supposed to draw a face onto the kitsune – it seems Taylor went a little overboard….

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It was nice to return to Fushimi Inari, especially during the brighter daytime. I do, however, have a complaint. The train ride from Kyoto to Fushimi Inari was between 10 and 12 minutes. During this time, Sarah (who was, as usual, wearing her mp3 headphones and not paying attention to anything) managed to lose her JR pass.

It was two freaking stops away! Maybe if you didn’t have your headphones in and you were paying attention, it wouldn’t have happened. Those things are A LOT of money! You had BETTER be paying for your own train tickets for the rest of the trip instead of having sensei pay for them for you.

The same annoying headphones-oblivious thing happened at the shrine. We were in front of a beautiful series of arches, and Sensei wanted to take a picture of us all. And you, Sarah, kept walking, completely oblivious of the fact that we were shouting your name trying to get you to come back. Act your age. Maybe you’d learn something about Japanese culture if you could actually HEAR IT.

After we left Inari, we headed to another temple up in the mountains. This one, guarded in the front by a fierce water dragon, was one of the largest so far and was suspended high above the forest.

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Nearby was also Sanjuusangendo temple, home of (literally) a thousand Buddha statues.

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It was incredible! Before leaving, I received my fortune, which was as follows:

Fortune – good

Health – be careful of fever when the weather is unstable

Work – make sure you accept valuable suggestions

Money – be sensitive of expenses

Exams – agreeable if you work hard

Love – people younger than you are recommended

Journey – agreeable

Finding your soul mate – he/she will come

Home – agreeable

Lost item – it won’t be found in a hurry

Ironically, a few days after receiving it, I lost this fortune. I searched and searched but couldn’t find it for nearly two weeks. Although I did eventually find it, I thought it strange that the thing that wasn’t “found in a hurry” was the thing that told me that my lost thing wouldn’t be found in a hurry!

During this temple visit, I spotted yet another geisha (err, maiko again, actually) on the move and scrambled to get a picture before she turned away. They are notorious, I’ve discovered, for turning their faces away as soon as they see a camera.

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She was approaching the main shrine in order to ring the clattering bell to get the god’s attention before she prayed.

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After having sounded the bells at Fushimi Inari shrine myself (though everyone else, once again, seemed reluctant to do so), I can say that she did it like a pro by getting them to make sound pretty much instantly. It’s not as easy as it looks. 😉

At both temples, we found ourselves celebrities, it seemed (or pawns for a good grade…). Middle-school children from numerous Japanese schools would approach us, little red books in hand, and stutter in accented English, “Excuse me, do you have a moment? I would like to ask you a few questions.” They’d then, very slowly, ask us in English about where we came from and what we thought of Japan, whether we liked it or not, and if we’d be willing to sign their notebooks. In signing one, I noticed that, on the top of the page (and in Japanese), there was a small heading that said “English language interview.”

Cool. Glad I could help you with your homework.

It was nice to have a little bit of a slower day, but by the end our feet (and our autograph hands…) were aching and ready to quit. Because we’d chosen to go to Fushimi Inari, which was not originally on our itinerary, we didn’t get to go back to try for Nijojo again. In my opinion, I was ready to sit down and be done anyway, so we found our way to a ramen restaurant and had a seat.

The menu was fantastic – a handwritten scroll longer than the length of our table.

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I opted for a dish simply known as うまいラーメン [umai ramen; delicious ramen]. What’s in it? I don’t know, but it’s called Delicious Ramen so I’d better try it!

Indeed, it was quite good – the broth was thick and rich, and the noodles had a good flavor. As usual, it was too much for me to eat, but I gave it my best.

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Filled with my oodles of delicious ramen, I curled up on a futon back at the ryokan and settled in with Amy, Taylor, and Brian to finish the second half of Cloud Atlas (which, for the remaining hour and a half, continued to blow my mind). Because of the complexities of the movie, we stayed up until after midnight talking about what it all meant before finally resigning ourselves to bed to catch some shut-eye before the soon-to-be sunrise.

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