Kyoto Day Trips & Joining a Club
For the eve of Setsubun, a small group of exchange students made the trek out to Yoshida Shrine after class. For an auspicious coming year, we ate the number of roasted soybeans that corresponded to our ages, although not everyone was successful; some beans remained scattered in our wake. The road leading up to the shrine was lined on both sides with colourful tents vending hot snacks, masks for children, and beautiful sweets. This route was so crowded, the slow walk to the first torii gate felt like a modern pilgrimage. Even within the shrine's grounds, the paths between areas were full of food tents and lanterns. This was our first expenrience of a matsuri feeling!
This past weekend, we decided to visit Arashiyama and its bamboo grove. Along the way, we stopped for drinks at Nekokaigi cat cafe. It was a very sweet and ethical place, with only adopted abandoned cats. The workers there were very mindful of each cat's individual personality and needs, and the cats seemed to adore them. The bamboo grove itself was very pretty. When we arrived the sun was already on a steep angle, just peeking over the surrounding hills, so only a few beams of light could pass all the way to the interior path between the many bamboo stalks, creating a beautiful dappled light. That evening we had our first kaiseki meal. We chose a restaurant at random and it turned out to be a very fancy and nice place, while luckily not too expensive. The set dinners we ate, to our astonishment, were all vegan. This was particularly special for one of our party, who is a vegan herself. As usual, my favourite part of the meal was the pickled radish ;)
The next day, a fieldtrip to Fushimi Inari Shrine was planned for one of the religion classes. It was the Hatsu Uma Festival that day, so the shrine and the surrounding area was especially busy. In a line behind the professor we climbed the many, many steps up to the summit, all the while listening to her explanations and observations. It was wonderful being able to suplement the classroom content with experiential learning, and it was rewarding to have a more informed eye than the average visitor. As we climbed higher the crowds waned, and the air felt crisp and clean, filtered by the moss clinging to every rock altar and fox statue. I will have to go again on a regular weekday with fewer people. Next time I think I'll stop at one of the small amazake shops at the end of the path, if I can muster the courage to sit alone among locals.
Aside from these few day trips, today I attended my first practice with Kansai Gaidai's archery club. Despite missing archery a lot, initially I was too nervous to join the club, but when I found out one of my Seminar House friends had joined, it was the push I needed. And I am so glad I did. Ayumi, the team captain, was so inviting, and all the other members were friendly and approachable too. I was able to use my own bow from home, and even store it with the team's gear, which is really convenient. I hope I can get to know everyone more over the next few months! Oh, one last crazy thing that happened today... I wasn't the only foreign student joining the archery club for the first time that day; two other students arrived shortly after me. It turns out that one of them comes from the same home university as me! I hadn't met or even heard of him before. Sometimes it really is a small world.