Saturday, August 13, 2011

Learning by Getting Lost

It's certainly Sesame Street colored!
On day two of my Japan journey I had to hit most of Kyoto in one day. Kyoto is a pretty easy city to walk. Since, I went to bed pretty early the night before I got up at 6 am on my own accord and took off on foot to find Sanjusanjendo Temple in Kyoto. This is the most famous temple in Kyoto for several reasons.
1) It is one of the oldest and most holy places in the city.
2) It is the site of the Toshiya archery contest (where the Japanese version of the Robin Hood legend was born.)
3) It is the temple in "Big Bird goes to Japan" where Barkley was scared of the statues and ran away.

I first became aware of this temple due to Big Bird and wanted to see it to see if it would live up to my memories of it. I wanted a photo of me at this temple because I dreamed of it as a kid, sadly I get here and find out it is such a holy place that photos are not allowed inside the temple. I took some photos of the outside of the temple but my dream photo of being scared of the statues was crushed. Upon stepping into the temple I can see why the team at Sesame Street would make a character scared of the statues. They are terrifying looking. There were small toddlers in the temple that did not like them. The statues are of the seven gods that are the pillars of the Shinto religion. There are then 10,000 golden Buddhas behind them with 20 arms each perfectly lined up. Comparing this 10,000 Buddhas to the 10,000 Buddhas in Hong Kong I found it to be much more impressive. But there was also the pro of not having to walk up that big ass hill in Sha tin.

I did not know about the archery contest before going to the temple. I read about it at the temple because there are information cards at the temple in three languages. I found the information about it to be really fascinating. The Toshiya contest is an archery contest where they shoot thousands of arrows at targets who ever gets the most closest to the center of the target would become a Shogun or basically the equivalent of a knight to the king. One famous Toshiya that happened in the 15th century was that a female archer dressed as a man and entered the contest for the prize. There was a monetary prize that came with the title as well. She won the title and took the prize money and used it to give to the poor and she basically became the Robin Hood of Japan. She has been the main character in a lot of children's books and even a couple of movies. I just think it's really bad ass that a character in the western world that was always male was female in an eastern country which is typically male centric.

Temple that houses the big bell
After visiting the temple, I went across the street to a beautiful shrine I could see. It was very early in the morning and I could see I could have it all to myself. The pro of getting up so early in the morning. I walked over and had a walk through the beautiful gardens. They were being maintained at the time and I took in the painstaking process some of these men and women were taking to make sure all the leaves were the same length. We're talking measuring sticks.  The shrine was the home to largest bronze bell in Japan. It was housed inside a building and you are not allowed to take photos of it but I was allowed to take photos of the building from the outside and the grounds. While I was there I was watching them rake the zen garden. Suddenly, one of the monks turned to me and held out the rake to me! I was so stoked! He showed me how to do it and I got to rake part of the zen garden. It was a very strenuous but cool experience. He totally redid everything I did because it wasn't perfect enough but he was very nice to let me try. Another pro to getting to a place very early and being the only person there.

My only question about this shrine is: Why were there so many pictures and statues of feet?
Feet are important, for some reason... Don't ask me why!
After that my plan was to stop by the National Museum of Kyoto and check out of the Children's Museum. Plan foiled! Closed on Monday! *grr...* Oh well, I then decided I would walk to the Costume Museum which was about 20 blocks away- stop for a snack on the way and a drink and look at the temples I crossed on my way. This journey would turn out to be my most interesting one of the day. I ended up having my snack at McDonalds, I know that was terrible of me! But I wanted coffee cheap and they had McGriddles and I haven't seen one of those since I left America!!! It was delicious and terrible for me. Which is what McDonald's is always awesome at accomplishing. I talked to some very nice Spanish tourists who were on their way to the temple and were a tad lost, I showed them the way and told them about the National Museum being closed. I wasn't the ONLY one who had planned on stopping by while I was there!

Then, I began my journey to the Costume Museum. The Costume Museum is located in an old school in Kyoto, so I was warned it doesn't look like museum so you might miss it. I stopped by three temples. One which had an awesome banner about "Life is living being you. Celebrate life!" Apparently this was the phrase made famous by the nun who built the temple. I think she would have been a huge Lady Gaga fan. Then, I stopped by another temple that was started by Shoguns in Kyoto where I encountered the most obese pigeon in the world! He had three rolls of neck fat and was so fat he could no longer fly! People are feeding the pigeons and this pigeon is just the pigeon version of the people we see on "The Biggest Loser". STOP ME BEFORE I STOP MYSELF!
Water dispensary at the Shogun temple where the fat pigeon lives....
I fed the koi fish as well. None of them were fat. That's when the "fun" started with the costume museum. I was on the correct street. I was at the correct number. I could see several old schools but no museum. I walked around the block a couple times and at this point I had been walking for about two hours in total. My SPF 50 was not working enough and I could feel my skin burning. I asked a police man finally to show me on the map where I was. He pointed to the costume museum, so I asked him where is the museum? NO MORE. Apparently, the costume museum no longer exhists because it's not popular. WTF? I just spent two hours looking for something that doesn't exhist??!!! Part of me was angry, part of me felt like crying, part of me was happy I wasn't stupid for not being able to find it, and part of me was sad I couldn't see the one museum I really wanted to see in Kyoto.

I went back to the hostel area and went thrift shopping for kimonos. Shopping always makes a girl feel better.
If Zen won't help me on this journey perhaps shopping will!!!!!

UP NEXT: Getting lost (AGAIN) and the Firework Festival

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