Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Shrine Maiden

It occurs to me that if my life were a novel...let's say a light novel, being in Japan and all...the theme would be "experiencing things that can't be seen."  This strikes me as ironic, considering how much I love taking pictures, but still I've written before about the fact that most of what I do - in travel as well as other aspects of my life - has a spiritual theme to it.  My favorite anime almost all include aspects of higher powers.  If you extend this to include fantasy, then basically everything of any nature I willingly choose to read or watch is included.  I even take my history with a healthy dose of mythology - who needs hard facts and evidence when you can spin tales of the gods?  What can I say?  Mundane reality is kind of boring.
Today I decided I would go to one of Kyoto's bajillion shrines - literally.  Sunday afternoon a couple of foreigners stopped to ask me where the shrine was and I had to stop myself from laughing in their faces.  Shrine?  Which one???? -  that I missed eleven years ago.  Daigo-Ji is more than a little off the beaten track, its mountain being tucked behind already-off-the-track Fushimi-Inari-Taisha.  But then I saw a shot of this scene, and decided I had to go.  That is way too gorgeous to pass up.  Sadly, the fall colors haven't hit their high note yet.  Engrish got me all fired up talking about some thing she'd seen on the interwebs about Kyoto's fall foliage, and I was hoping to see some of it, but by and large the party hasn't started.  Still, totally worth it.
There is a final ticket booth before you enter the area leading up to that scene.  (I assume the pamphlet they gave me explains what that building is, but I got better things to do than read brochures on vacation, so I guess I'm going to keep calling it that).  After you buy your ticket, or have it torn, if you bought it already, you enter this densely wooded grove.  When I stepped inside, I was hot and sweaty - the sun had been beating down and October in Kyoto feels a lot like July in Ulaanbaatar.  As I walked up the path, suddenly a chill breeze blew toward me, and when I stepped out of the grove at the other end, the skies were cloudy.
It felt as it I had stepped into a different world, one where scenes like this are actually possible.  I wanted to lie down in the sun on that patch of moss and pull it over me like a blanket, build a house there and start raising baby Totoros.  The amount of beautiful places like this that exist in or around Kyoto is mind-blowing.
Finding things to do in the evening is always a challenge for me, and when I found myself pondering what to do tonight, I came up with a genius plan...I was going to go to yet ANOTHER off-the-beaten-track shrine place.  I didn't think I was going to get to go to Kibune, but having nothing better to do, I decided dinner, a shrine visit, and a soak in the onsen was in order.  Thus, I hopped the train bound for Kurama, getting off at the Kibune stop, and walked over to the bus stop that would take me up the hill.  It was 5:24.  The last bus came at 5:24.  I counted myself lucky and headed on up to the village, admiring all the waterfalls along the narrow, poorly lit road along the way.
I walked up to the shrine, figuring I'd have dinner at a restaurant so it could get good and dark before I started shooting.  Except, all the restaurants seemed to be closed.  Kibune is famous for their kawadoko restaurants, set up on platforms over the river that keep you nice and cool during the summer.  Unfortunately, summer is behind us, the amount I have sweated in the last few days notwithstanding, so they were all closed.  Nevermind, I told myself, I've survived all day on a single cookie - I'll manage a while longer.  I went ahead and took my photos, and started walking back down the hill, til I got to Kibune onsen, which the bus had passed on it's way up.  It was nice, but small, with only 5 pools.  Since I was the only one there, I wasn't too bothered, but it probably gets crowded when it's not 6pm on a Tuesday night in October.
Alright now, here's where it gets interesting.

Actually, it gets boring from here.  Mom, if you've been reading this, you should stop now.  I left the onsen all fresh and clean, walked outside, and - poof! - I was back in central Kyoto.

Is she gone???  Cause actually, it got a little scary then.  See, the bus wasn't running anymore.  I was way the heck up on the side of a mountain, in the deep, dark woods, with a decently long, poorly-lit road running alongside a rushing creek between me and the train station.  AND I have been reading this sort of creepy urban fantasy book for the last week or so, with nasty things lurking in the dark trying to kill each other.  This was either a terrible time to have an overactive imagination...or a good one, I guess, if you want to look at it that way.  I can't remember all of the 23rd Psalm, but I remember that good line about, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."  And it seemed entirely apropos all of a sudden.  When that started to feel repetitive, I started singing hymns.  It probably says something about my spiritual state that I have forgotten a fair number of words, but then, how many songs can you sing perfectly with all the words?  That's what I thought.  And then - hallelujah! - a very nice Japanese lady pulled her car over and asked if I would like a ride?  But what did I do?  I told her it was okay.

Yes, you read that right.  I literally fucking - excuse my language, this was supposed to be some sort of spiritual post and it has degraded into profanity, but I can't express my sheer idiocy without it - I literally fucking told her, "It's okay."  Now up to that point, it had been okay.  The road wasn't perfectly well lit but there were street lights pretty regularly and no monsters had jumped out of the woods to devour my soul.  But just around that corner, there were no lights.  The road continued to wind.  The station was not right there like I suppose I must have thought it was - I felt like I'd been walking for a while.  So she drove off and when I realized what I'd just done...as educators we say, "You made a bad choice."  And then the praying really got intense, alternating with me freaking out on myself a little.

I believe there is a lesson there for me about making bad fucking choices and how it leads to walking in the dark, but I try not to get too religious on my blog, so we'll leave it where I'm most comfortable - with profanity.  Which probably demonstrates said lesson in some way, but again, I'll leave it at that.

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