Where The Wind Takes Me – Day 9

Where The Wind Takes Me Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsStart of DayEnd of Day
Day 0 - Apr 21-22 2024Plane (Edmonton > Tokyo)Edmonton, CanadaTokyo, Japan
Day 1 - Tue Apr 23 2024Akihabara, Sensoji, Tokyo Sky Arena, Taiwan Food FestivalTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 2 - Wed Apr 24 2024Nezu Shrine, Tokyo National MuseumTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 3 - Thu Apr 25 2024Akihabara, Ginza, Yurakucho, Bocchi the Rock! Exhibition (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 4 - Fri Apr 26 2024Craft Gyoza Fes, Niku Fes, Odaiba, Kameido Tenjin ShrineTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 5 - Sat Apr 27 2024Niconico Chokaigi 2024Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 6 - Sun Apr 28 2024M3-53Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 7 - Mon Apr 29 2024Train (Tokyo > Osaka)Tokyo, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 8 - Tue Apr 30 2024Tsurumibashi, Expo Commemorative Park, Osaka Station (with Miyu)Osaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 9 - Wed May 01 2024Kyoto, Takenobu Inari Shrine, SaiinOsaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 10 - Thu, May 02 2024Train (Osaka > Tokyo)Osaka, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 11 - Fri May 03 2024Reitaisai 21Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 12 - Sat May 04 2024Japan Jam 2024 (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 13 - Sun May 05 2024National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 14 - Mon May 06 2024Haneda International Airport, Plane (Tokyo > Taipei), Liaoning Night MarketTokyo, JapanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 15 - Tue May 07 2024Taipei Main Station Underground Mall, Ximending Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 16 - Wed May 08 2024Shilin Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 17 - Thu May 09 2024Raohe Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 18 - Fri May 10 2024Songjiang Market, Guang Hua Digital Plaza, Shida Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 19 - Sat May 11 2024Dihua Street, Huaxi Street Night Market, Guangzhou Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 20 - Sun May 12 2024Gongguan Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 21 - Mon May 13 2024Plane (Taipei > HK), Train (HK > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelTaipei, TaiwanGuangzhou, China
Day 22 - Tue May 14 2024Zhongfu Square, Alpaca Sighting (with Kel), Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 23 - Wed May 15 2024Panyu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 24 - Thu May 16 2024Nancun Wanbo (with Kel), Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 25 - Fri May 17 2024Train (Guangzhou > Xiamen), Zhongshan RoadGuangzhou, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 26 - Sat May 18 2024Xiamen Railway StationXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 27 - Sun May 19 2024Mingfa Shopping MallXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 28 - Mon May 20 2024Train (Xiamen > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelXiamen, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 29 - Tue May 21 2024Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 30 - Wed May 22 2024Tianhe Computer Town, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 31 - Thu May 23 2024Comic City, Shangxiajiu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 32 - Fri May 24 2024Train (Guangzhou > Hong Kong)Guangzhou, ChinaHong Kong, China

Wednesday, May 01 2024 (Day 9)

I had come to Osaka for two things. One was to meet Miyu, which I did yesterday, and the other was uh.. to go to Kyoto for a day trip. So that’s what I did today. Specifically, there has been something on my bucket list that I’ve wanted to do since my first trip here, but that I had never been able to swing until today. This was to dress up and attend a Shinto shrine as a miko, or priestess, and experience what they do. It’s something I’ve always romanticized a fair bit since even before I started watching anime, doubly so since I was born male and transitioned to female, so. This time around I found a booking on klook.com (local) that allowed one-person bookings (usually there’s a minimum of two) and also offered an English version, so I went for it and booked a session for today!

Getting from Osaka to this shrine in Kyoto, Takenobu Inari Shrine, took over an hour and a half, nearly two hours. And it was raining too, so this time I grabbed an umbrella from my hotel room. I set off toward a different station away from the Tsurumibashi Shopping Street this time, passing some interesting shops like whatever this is (I cannot tell):

And this place that seemed to be giving out free morning breakfasts to locals:

Soup kitchen style it seemed. I don’t really know as I didn’t try to eat there. I instead went to Omiya Station in Kyoto, and had a tomato and egg rice cake from the 7-Eleven there.

Before heading to the shrine itself, which was about 10 minutes away from the station. It looked like this from the outside and just-inside:

There were a couple of shrine maidens and priests working here, and I was met by a lovely middle-aged lady named Chihiro, who took me in to a side room and helped me put on the orange and white robes that a miko priestess wears, as well as some white tabi socks. The clothes were quite warm, and I didn’t feel cold at all despite it being rainy and a bit windy. Chihiro did say on occasion that she was cold though.

The next two hours were a whirlwind of things, and she first showed me how to fold a piece of rice paper, smooth on one side and rough on the other, and then slot it into the robe. This was used for drying one’s hands after purification, and she said that priestesses sometimes carried around five or six of those at once.

She also showed me how to poke holes in another sheet of rice paper, and then cut and fold them to make paper lightning bolts called shide. These are used to mark holy spaces, say on a piece of rope that surrounds a holy tree or spot, or lined up along a rope hanging across the top of shrines. In our case, we were going to use it for another purpose.

Once we went out, Chihiro showed me how to purify/cleanse myself by cleaning my hands and mouth at the chozuya. I was somewhat familiar with this one already and she was impressed at that. Scoop up a ladle of water while holding the ladle with the right hand, and pour some of it over the left hand. Then hold it with the left hand, and pour some of the remaining water over the right hand. Then hold it with the right hand, pour some water into the cup of the left hand, wash your lips with it, and mime spitting the water out. Then pour some water over the left hand and rinse that again. Then finally tip the ladle up vertically with the scoop part at the top, and let the remaining water trickle down the shaft of the ladle to wash the handle.

She also showed me how to use the shrine’s bamboo brooms — she explained that sweeping the shrine of leaves and grass and garbage is also supposed to be representative of one cleansing their soul. However, since it was raining that day, we were not going to do any of that. She said that the sweeping needed to always be done in the direction away from the shrine’s main altar, as it would be disrespectful toward the enshrined kami or spirit otherwise. Lastly, even for small paths, the middle of the path (especially when there’s an odd number of flagstones or other path divisions) is for the gods, and we could cross that in parallel to get to the other side if needed but were not supposed to walk up or down the center of the length of the path.

Next, she brought out some green sprigs or wands of a plant called sakaki. These were used as offerings to the gods because they were evergreen, and retained their colour and leaves even in the winter. She showed me how to tie the shide that I had made earlier to the sakaki sprig by twisting the top segment of the lightning bolt around the top of the twig. She said that the shide and sakaki tied together like that formed a tamagushi, an offering that we could gift Inari Okami, the god in the shrine.

She taught me how to do this offering ritual on a raised stage area a little in front of the main altar. First, I accepted the sprig from the offering priest, left hand facing up and holding the left side of the sprig, right hand facing down and holding the right side of the sprig, with all the fingers of each hand together. Once the priest got out of the way, I would then walk forward toward the altar, with my hands upraised and extended in front of me while holding the sprig, starting off with my left foot and lifting each foot just a little off the ground and moving it forward while keeping the foot as horizontal as possible instead of taking large, normal strides. Coming to a stop in front of the altar, I then had to turn the sprig around clockwise like I was turning a steering wheel 90 degrees, and also lifting the far end up at the same time so that the sprig was vertical, its bottom end pointing toward the ground. The next step was to move my left hand, which was still holding on to the top of the sprig at this point, down to the bottom, holding on to the stem just above my right hand.

At this point, since I was holding the sprig upright with both my hands at the base of the sprig, a quiet prayer request was made to the gods. Once done, my right hand went up to hold the top of the sprig, while my left hand remained gripping the bottom part of the sprig. Again like a steering wheel, the sprig was then rotated 180 degrees clockwise without letting go of either hand while being moved back to a horizontal position (sprig parallel to the ground) again, with my left hand extended in front of my right hand now and the bottom of the sprig pointed toward the shrine. I then put the sprig down on the shrine table, and took one step back from the shrine, starting with my right foot, then left one.

From here, I needed to do bows, starting with two deep and slow bows that put my body in a 90 degree angle. Chihiro said that our knees could be bent slightly while doing this in order to help keep our balance. After the two bows, I brought my hands up together in a praying stance, opposing fingers touching each other, then slid my entire right hand down about the width of a finger segment. Two loud claps were then made, before the right hand was moved up again so the finger tips and segments were touching their equal counterparts on the other hand. I then put my hands down again, and did another two bows, one big 90 degree bow and then one smaller 45 degree bow. I then shuffled backwards to where I originally received the sprig from the priest, again starting with my right foot backwards first.

This entire last part is a variation of the bow-bow-clap-clap-bow ritual to summon the god that is done by normal shrine visitors in front of an altar after they throw a coin into the donation box, but more complex since it involves an offering. I practiced this entire thing a few times with Chihiro before doing it for real with a priest in front of the main shrine, and at that point there was another random local old lady worshipper that came by that also did a variation of what I did with the sprig offering, though she skipped a few steps and just sort of winged it.

Finally, Chihiro taught me how to do part of a kagura dance, a miko priestess dance done either with kagura bells called suzu, or the tamagushi sprigs like we made earlier, or even with cherry blossom sprigs during spring. In this case we used the tamagushi sprigs. There are many variations of the kagura dance, and it can often be up to about 15 minutes long, but the one we did was called Toyosaka no Mai, or a portion thereof, basically the 25 second portion from about 1:25 to 1:50 of this video.

In a nutshell, so I can sort of remember it in the future, it started with a similar position as receiving the sprig from the priest, with both hands held forward in front of me and my right hand with fingers down on the sprig while my left hand had fingers up underneath the sprig. Both hands then did a wide circle in opposite directions in front of me, left hand clockwise and right hand anti-clockwise, with the sprig held in my right hand. The right hand with the sprig down by my thigh, while the left hand ended up outstretched above and to the left of me. The left hand then did two more slow, wide clockwise circles in front of me, while at the same time, while I was doing each circle, my right foot shifted forward and to the left of my left foot, and then my left foot shifted to the left of my right foot.

Two steps and two circles later, I then turned to the right 90 degrees, with my right foot moving back and pointing in that direction and acting as a pivot as I crossed my left foot around it, pointing 180 degrees behind toward where I started, and then continued turning my body so I did a full 360 degree spin and faced in the direction that I was originally facing again. My right hand had moved up at this point so the sprig was at waist height again.

That was hard to describe, so I’m glad I got the name of the dance from Chihiro so I had a video to look up. It was somewhat difficult to coordinate both my hands and my feet at the same time. I would concentrate too hard on one aspect and forget what to do with the other.

She also did teach me how to use the kagura bells themselves, so I got to hold them and turn my wrist back and forth to ring it. She explained that there were five coloured pennants attached to the kagura suzu bells, each one representing an element or aspect of some sort — I was unclear about this but the green ribbon was always on top. Chihiro also said that when miko were using the bells and there were guests in front of the miko, one of the short sequences they did with the kagura bells was to hold the bell in the right hand, and the ribbon in the left one. The right hand would then start next to the left hand, and shake the bell as the right hand moved in a frontal arc, parallel to the ground, from the left side over to the right side. And then back to the left side. And then, without shaking, the right hand would move the bell about 2/3 of the way back to the right side, and then the bell would be shook once as a finishing move. All these bell shakes were supposed to be done with the wrist too, not the hand, and I got to practice that several times as well and found it a little tricky to do.

After all that, she took me back to the attached building where we had started, and put on a ceremonial ovecoat garb called a chihaya on me, as well as a headpiece called a kanzashi that was held in place with hairpins. She then had me pose around the shrine so that she could take some pictures of me, for me.

Very cool. We went back to the attached house afterwards so that I could change back to my regular clothes, and Chihiro mentioned that she had gone to Canada last year, visiting Toronto and Montreal. I told her that Edmonton was west of that, and gave her one of my postcards, which she seemed to be very happy to receive. I also bought a goshuin from the temple:

After that miko event, which lasted exactly two hours on the dot counting the postcard exchange and even the temple stamp afterwards, I walked around rainy Kyoto a little bit more, passing a nice apartment building that reminded me of Singapore with a bicycle area at its bottom level.

I found a bunch of Tobidashi-kun’s (and Tobidashi-chan’s), variations of the Kansai mascots for reminding vehicles to slow down so as not to hit children in their very crowded city roads:

And then I went back to the Saiin/Nishioji Shijo area, where I had stayed last year when I was here in Kyoto for my Ritsumeikan University exchange:

Here’s Floral Green Maple House, the lodging that I stayed in for five weeks:

And here’s the building that had popped up in the ensuing year in the construction lot where I had catalogued the destruction of the house that had been standing there last year, starting from this post onwards:

I paid a visit to the nearby Aeon Mall, where Zian and I had gone to many times last year. I went to buy some Sakura Arch foam erasers from the Can*Do 100-yen store there, something that I had kind of regretted not doing last year, and then went to have lunch at the food court in there:

This entire visit was very nostalgic, like visiting an old home or old friend again, except I didn’t actually stop anywhere to speak to anyone. Ah Kyoto, I left a piece of my heart with you. Your “long spring rains” are a little *too* long at times, though. As it was *still* raining and I had to leave Osaka tomorrow anyway, and I had lots of groceries stored up in the fridge and lots of things that I wanted to write down before I forgot it all, I caught the train back to Osaka from there and spent the rest of the evening in my room, supping on many small bowls of random-ingredient hotpot.

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Where The Wind Takes Me - Day 8

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Where The Wind Takes Me - Day 10

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