Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 18 – Kyoto)

Tuesday, Nov 08 2022 (Day 18)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukicho
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensō-ji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Nagano
ට  Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022 – Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward
ට  Day 18 – Tuesday, Nov 08 2022 – Otsu, Omi Jingu (You are here)

Morning

One thing about Akira, the Airbnb host that I’m staying with on this trip — he insists I eat breakfast every morning so I have energy to go through the day. I usually skip it if I’m staying on my own. Other reviews have said that he sometimes cooks breakfast for them, but not for me, he gets up early and goes to a supermarket named Fresco to buy some morning bento box there, and then a bread store next to it to pick up something there too, and I’ve been awake early enough every morning so far that I’ve just tagged along with him. He makes me pick one bento box and one piece of freshly baked breadthing and buys them for me as part of the living cost here, so I try to pick something as cheap as possible and yet interesting-looking.

The first day he insisted on a salad as well, on subsequent days I insisted I skip it. Today’s bread contained a small, long piece of minced fish shaped like a sausage and skewered by the stick, then with fried bread coalesced around it. Apparently it’s some sort of Korean thing.

He also brought me up to Shogun’s Park (aka Higashiyama Unstained Court in my headcanon, although I’m pretty sure it actually refers to a nearby temple) again on the way back to the house, and I took a couple pictures of the morning view there.

I found out that i was his first guest after over 2 years thanks to COVID and the Japanese government’s ban on incoming tourists. He used to be an Airbnb superhost but had lost that status due to inactivity. He pointed out that I also had exclusively 5 star reviews as an Airbnb guest on my profile and that I could be a Superguest. I laughed and pointed out that there were only 5 of them and I’d never met 3 of the hosts at all, they were just property owners that own and rent out a number of vacant properties like short-term rental apartments, of which there were many on Airbnb and similar sites. He asked how I found him since he wasn’t a Superhost now and people usually search for those, I said that the Superhost flag was often a red flag for me too since I was looking for people to stay with and not for a generic apartment dealer, and so it didn’t mean much to me. His listing had great reviews (and was cheap) although I had skimmed over it at first due to its name (Japanese-German Club).

He now has four other groups waiting after me though, one from mainland China, one from Hong Kong or Taiwan or something, one from Indonesia, and one from the USA. I get the feeling he’s a little bit lonely on his own, he really dotes on me, so I’m happy he has more company coming his way too. I suggested he pick up a taxi driver job though as he said he loves driving and talking to people.

Also, I do my writing in this massage chair by a small desk next to my bed, and boy is this chair luxurious. It’s piled high with towels and blankets and I could easily fall asleep in it, never mind the bed. Maybe this is why I’m several days behind in my blog now.

Anyway, this was my first full day in Kyoto, and I had come here at around this time in the first place to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, which was holding some sort of a fire festival in the early afternoon today, November 08 2022, as well as some sort of ritual in the evening. So what did I do today? Ignore all that and head for another prefecture entirely, of course!

Journey to Otsu

I started my journey around 11:00 in the morning from Kyoto Station, as I decided I wanted to spend time in the morning visiting Omi Jingu, or Omi Shrine, which was located in Otsu, the prefectural capital of Shiga. Despite being a different prefecture altogether, it still was only a 10 minute train ride or so from Kyoto Station, so I figured I’d be there and back in time for the fire festival at Fushimi Inari in the early afternoon.

I took the JR Kosei Line, from Kyoto Station to Otsukyo Station:

The reason I wanted to come to Omi Jingu in particular is due to the anime Chihayafuru, based around the game of karuta, one of my favourie shows and one which I’ve written a metric ton about. The town definitely embraces being known for the show and the card game — things like this featured in the station itself:

Google Maps, which was better outside of Tokyo but not perfect, told me that the quickest way to Omi Jingu was via the Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto Line, from the nearby Keihan-Otsukyo Station (about a 5 minute walk from the actual Otsukyo Station) to Omi Jingu Mae Station. I went out and followed the path to this Keihan-Otsukyo Station:

Then I realized that this made no sense — I was only going to take the train one stop and then walk north and west, or I could just walk north and west from where I was. The difference was a 15 minute or so walk versus a 2 minute train ride (plus waiting time) and a 10 minute or so walk. So I balked at paying for a one stop train ride and just walked, retracing my steps and following the map. It was a pleasant walk, with the main notable event during that trip being my first encounter with a lowered train crossing here in Japan, and a nice Hibike! Euphonium train that went by.

Other pictures from the pleasant walk there include:

Omi Jingu

Pictures from this section are largely just going to be in two gallery dumps, as I took way too many due to its connections to the Chihayafuru anime (being a place that a sizable portion of the show takes place in). It’s a very pretty shrine, very red, and there were a LOT of birds around the area, a constant cacophany of birdcalls serenaded visitors to the shrine, especially on the way up the trail, which took me past what apparently was the “Omi Watch, Glasses & Jewelry Training School”, in the third gallery picture.

There were a number of families there with their little kid/s dressed in fine kimono, and proud parents taking pictures of them. An example being the 6th picture where the little one was toddling up the stairs. They were there in advance of Shichi-Go-San day, and Omi Jingu (and a few other temples I had visited, from Enoshima to Zenkoji to Fushimi Inari later on) had either a little side pavilion or building set up for receiving families for that event. A lot of pictures of the toddler or child would be taken, and they would even be brought in to the main temple building for some sort of blessing from a shrine maiden, as far as I could see.

I remember from the Chihayafuru research project that the middle area of those stairs is supposed to be for the gods and visitors are supposed to use the side stairs — I don’t exactly remember if this was explicitly stated in the show or just from someone’s research afterwards though — but there were no signs speaking about this there and in practice absolutely no one cared, locals or otherwise, so that one might actually be an Internet myth or something. Regardless, I went up the side on my way up, and took another exit on the way down. They also had an accessible ramp up to the main temple for people with less mobility, it was a side path off to the left of those stairs that was lined with little torii gates (the end of which was the 21st picture in the gallery below).

I also picked up a goshuin while I was here of course, and a picture of this is attached here. I considered picking up a second shrine book too but the ones here were kind of plain.

Omi Kangakukan

While the shrine itself has a good number of scenes, there’s a two-storey building down a side road where the majority of Omi Jingu scenes actually takes place in, and where the actual karuta competitions take place in real life as well. I wandered around the main shrine and the adjoining “Omi Jingu Clock and Treasure Museum” (which was a gift shop with a paid museum portion that I didn’t care for, but I did pick up a book from there) for a little bit without finding this side building that I was sure existed, and I saw signs talking about an Omi Kangakukan (近江勧学館) that I wasn’t able to find at first.

I almost left quietly without ever finding the place, but I decided to ask for help at the reception office for the shrine, where I had picked up my goshuin earlier, and a nice lady came out of the office and walked me all the way to the actual building, which turned out to be down a side road and outside the main area of the shrine itself, about a two-minute walk away.

I’m happy I did this, because that building was still a literal shrine to the show, with cardboard stands of all the major characters on display around the building and some very familiar hallways and rooms, most of which was available to explore. And I almost missed coming here, which would have been a darned shame.

It had a gift shop in front too, where I ended up purchasing a “karutakuji”, or a karuta lottery, which basically turned out to be a thing where you pay 300 yen and get to blind pick a random keychain/bag tag out of a box, with a different poem inscribed upon it. Basically a glorified gacha box. The one I drew was for poem 72, the oto poem.

The attendant said I was lucky when I pulled that one out, likely because it was one of the 21 poems (out of 100) penned by a female poet. The poem itself is one that I mentioned in my analysis writeups of the show to be a very significant card, one that seemed to be associated with positive turning points and crushing wins whenever it appeared, so me drawing this card was amazing.

Since there was no one around, Tigey also came out to get a picture in the tatami room where the finals are played:

I’m not sure he was supposed to be there and he might have angered a god or two, but that’s okay. That’s a pretty significant stage to be on though, considering its the pinnacle stage where the championship trophies are awarded from, among other things. These screenshots that I took of the trophy presentation from the Master/Queen match, the pinnacle of the sport, from a live stream in Jan 2020 show the same stage, for example:

But my crowning achievement here was something else entirely — the guestbooks! It’s a bad picture, since I apparently concentrated on the sign instead of the picture, but located here on a small table were 18 different guestbooks:

And while I like scanning guestbooks, 18 was a bit too many to do. so I decided I was going to do 3 of them, which I did. But after that no one had kicked me out yet, so I decided I was going to do 3 more to get to the 33% point. And then 3 more to get to the halfway point, at which point, I told myself, maybe I could come here on another day on the same trip to finish the scanning project since my phone battery couldn’t last that long. But I also had a portable external battery, so I plugged that in and decided to push my luck to see how far I could get. And this ended up with me finally scanning all 18 (well, 17.5, since the 18th was still being filled) guestbooks using my vFlat scanner app and capturing them to process and upload at some point once I get home.

This was extremely tiring, as it took me from 12:55 pm to 3:49 pm to do, but I also came out of the building extremely satisfied, with just over 1500 pages scanned and catalogued. Very rough scans, since time and battery power was of the essence, but better to have some sort of backup than nothing at all, and this way I can help the messages that people had left reach the world, and help those that cannot visit Omi Jingu bridge the gap and be able to read the guestbooks as well. It’s an extremely important part of archiving/observing to me that I don’t think anyone else has ever done, and hopefully in a couple months time it will be uploaded here.

Back to Otsu

One thing that I sacrificed for this project was the fire festival thing in Fushimi Inari that was scheduled to take place at 1:00 pm on this day. Oh well. I considered the scanning project to be more important. There was another ritual or event at 6:00 pm so I wanted to be back in Kyoto in time for that, but I hadn’t had lunch up till this point as well, so that was a higher priority.

After leaving Omi Jingu, I decided to take the local train line despite my earlier protests at taking the train for just one stop. At least at this point I would only be doing it once, so I could say I was doing it for the experience instead of for convenience, though there was a bit of that too since my food, energy, and time remaining bars were getting low. But I still had to walk to the local train station, Omijingumae station, and I strolled through the town as I did so. I then took the Keihan Ishiyama-Sakamoto Line train from there, one stop, to Keihan-Otsukyo Station, and walked to Otsukyo Station.

Kind of. I actually walked past the station, as I had noticed that there was an Aeon shopping mall nearby and I figured that was a good place to go for a quick, late lunch. I wrenched my ankle on a weird piece of sidewalk and probably nearly broke something, but one of my many charms saved me and the pain disappeared after about a minute of limping around.

Lunch was from a shop in the basement of that place, which was selling croquettes and other similarly yummy-looking things. Specifically, I got a Bite-sized Filet Cutlet, Hokkaido Croquette, Crab Cream Croquette, and Fried Squid.

This cost 815 yen and every last bit was delicious.

Back to Kyoto

Apparently Otsu has other cool things going for it, like a big lake (Lake Biwa), but I didn’t see any of that because I was trying to get back to Fushimi Inari before 6:00 pm. So after the croquettes, I took the JR Kozan Line back to Kyoto, which was a fairly quick (11 minutes), and free (with my JR Pass) ride, and then took the JR Nara Line (also free) to Inari Station.

Inari Station was nicely themed after the Fushimi Inari temple itself, with beams styled to look like red torii gates holding the station up.

The temple itself was a couple minutes away, and looked pretty much like the station had suggested.

Nightfall had arrived by this time though, and although the ritual/event, the Mikagura, took place in front of the main altar of Fushimi Inari, the area was completely dark.

In addition, no photos were allowed of the event itself, though plenty of idiot tourists tried. There was a raised stage with no shoes allowed and little cushion seats on it for the audience, but that was completely full and then some, so I stood at the side with others to watch/listen to the performance, A line of priests shuffled by us through a side gate into the main area, someone lit a small fire, and they proceeded to play instruments, wave a branch around occasionally, do a bunch of chanting/singing, and occasionally place other things next to the fire. It was hard to see any detail and somewhat ho-hum, but they’re not doing this to be a spectacle or public attraction after all, since it’s a ritual first and foremost.

I stayed there for about 40 minutes or so before leaving. I needed to find dinner, as Akira had scheduled to pick me up from the vicinity of Kyoto Station at around 8:00 pm. I returned to Inara Station and took a train back to Kyoto Station, found a station stamp there, then wandered south in search of a shop to eat at.

The moon was a weird reddish tint and many people, even locals, stopped to snap pictures of it. Mine wasn’t so good due to camera glare causing other artifacts on screen, but I was more interested in taking pictures of other people taking their pictures for my collection anyway.

I eventually ended up at an izakaya named Kyo Akari for dinner. That was one of my rougher experiences, as not only was I in a hurry, but for some reason even though they had an English menu, I couldn’t really connect very well in Japanese or English with the staff, who seemed busy and a bit dismissive. They were probably just busy, and didn’t take really kindly to someone who was just there for a meal with no extras or something. After standing around at the entrance for a bit, unsure if I should make my way in or leave as I was given no instruction, a nice staff member showed me to a table anyway, cleared away the previous guests’ bowls from it, and took my order. There was a comment on the menu on how there was a 385 yen surcharge or something applied to all seatings and which covered things like a side dish, but that never came, they only delivered my rice bowl and that’s it, and I was never charged that extra fee anyway, which suited me since I was in a hurry (but I didn’t tell them this). I had a quick bowl of tendon, or tempura rice bowl, for 858 yen:

Then hurried off to meet Akira to be driven back home, where I took a shower, and then spent the night working on work tickets while he wandered in and out of my room to heat up my bed with a hot air heated blanket device that he put under my blanket. Our workload from work had exploded, with lots of tickets to do, which would have been nice if I were actually at home to work on them, but working on tickets while abroad and while a couple days behind on my blogging was a pain, partially because I could never attend the daily work standup which was scheduled for 3:00 am Japan Standard Time.

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Kyoto to Otsukyo) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Otsukyo to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Kyoto to Inari) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Inari to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)

Running Total

Unreserved: 26,940 yen
Reserved: 30,440 yen

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