So back at Christmastime, at the end of the trip from hell, Five proved the fact that I did not, in fact, plan to never leave Mongolia again by saying that she was thinking of using her Korean Air miles to go somewhere for spring break. I immediately responded, "If you go to Japan, I'll come with you!" We discussed what the possibilities were in Tokyo versus Osaka/Kyoto, and she chose Door Number 2. So here we are. But here's the thing: I waited until she'd talked to Korean Air, and I bought the itinerary they reserved for her. When she went to actually book it, they told her that date was sold out, so she had to fly out the following day. This meant I had to figure out what to do with myself for 24 hours.
Me being me, this wasn't a problem. For starters, I went to Omi Jingu. At some point in the last week I was panning over Kansai on Google Maps (this was obviously before I figured out that you could play Ms. PacMan on them) and when I saw it's name, it immediately rang a bell. Most of the anime I've watched since New Years' has been stuff I've already seen, partly because I've been too lazy to try to find new ones, but mostly because I sometimes miss subtitles when I sew, and it bothers me less when I already know what's going on. This is important because one of the animes I've rewatched is Chihayafuru, which is kind of like a sports anime, except it has class. The sport in question is karuta, in which two decks of 100 cards each have, respectively, the first two and second two lines of 100 poems written on them. The point of the game is to identify the second line of the poem being read and take it before your opponent. The national championships happen at Omi Jingu, aka, the place I had just scrolled across on Google Maps. This being one of my favorite anime that I watched last fall, I definitely had to go.
I got to Kyoto around 1:30, and after a quick stop in the train station to exchange money and reserve some tickets, I checked into our hotel, dumped my stuff, and headed out to the metro. It turned out to be possible to get to Otsu with only two transfers, and along the way there was some nice scenery (although I feel a little cheated...when I went to Tokyo two years ago sakura season was in full swing. Here it's hardly started). Otsu is on the shore of Lake Biwa, and it was pretty chilly, standing on the platform of the second transfer waiting for my next train with the wind blowing in, but when I got off at Omi-Jingu-Mae I felt warmer. The neighborhood was pretty small and quiet, and the walk up to the shrine was through a heavily wooded area. There was hardly anyone there, which I loved - there's tons of people in Kyoto right now, and I even stumbled across the entrance ceremony for Ritsumeikan University this morning - and it was unmistakably the shrine from Chihayafuru. Now, I'm not about to go full-blown weeaboo on you and visit every site of every anime, but it was still pretty cool.
So that took care of last night. This morning I had leftover plans from 6 months ago. When I came in October, there were two things I was going to do on Sunday, before I found out that the Saigu Procession took place that day. The first was yuzen dyeing at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. The museum is free, and for a small fee, you get to use traditional brushes, dyes, and stencils to decorate the item of your choice. Since making cool shit has kind of become my thing, and now that there were no festivals in my way, I was all in. The museum was awesome, and made me realize that there are way more traditional crafts to try in Kyoto than I realized. Probably enough that I could fill up several more trips with them, but we'll have to see where I end up next year, or if I even get a job (it feels a little hopeless right now). I chose to make a bag because I am getting tired of taking my backpack everywhere with me; it's a little more expensive - 2,000 yen - but they let me put a design on each side, so I thought it was well worth it. It's an interesting technique. You basically wipe off ALL the dye, then brush what's left onto the fabric through the stencil using a circular motion. This means you can get some really cool ombre effects and make different tones...and the fact that I get totally jazzed about experiences like this make me think that maybe I shouldn't give up on the whole art teacher thing just yet.
My second course of leftovers was the antiques market at To-Ji. These happen twice a month...the bigger one is called Kobo-san Market and happens later in the month. That was the one I missed by going to Arashiyama. However, today's market had more than enough to ogle - including one shunga print that I found while looking through a stack of antique ukiyo-e prints. There was so much stuff - it's fun to look at, even if you have no intention of buying anything. I, however, had every intention of coming home with something. I've been envious of my friend Racy LaRaye ever since she brought an antique kimono back from Japan during my final stint in Korea, and I thought that was what I was after today.
However, at some point since I started making plushies I became interested in making accessories for them. And by accessories I mean swords. Is it just me, or are swords the freaking coolest way to kill people of all time? They are beautiful, they require skill, strength, and grace. They don't kill by accident. So yeah. Swords are cool, and since I'm generally more interested in shounen anime, many of my favorite characters have them, and I've considered making some in miniature. So when the first booth I walked past had swords and pieces of swords, all possibility of me walking away with an antique kimono evaporated. Although I did find one place that was selling remnants for 50 yen each, so I bought several pieces. Because you can never have too much fabric. I mean, unless you are moving all your shit to some unspecified destination in two and a half months.
Now, if you have never considered making a miniature katana, you may not realize how freaking many pieces they have, especially if you come from a Western background. It's a lot, and they all have names. At the To-Ji market, I think it's actually possible to buy everything you'd need to make a Frankensword. But be warned, each little piece is an antique, and the Japanese are fond of their swords. I ended up buying the hand guard piece, called a tsuba if Wikipedia can be relied on, and wanted to buy a couple of other pieces, but after spending 6,000 yen on a less expensive one, I couldn't quite bring myself to shell out another 8,000 for the ones I was looking at. If I had been willing to look a little harder, or try a bit of bargaining, it might have happened, but I was due to pick up Five from Kyoto Station, so I left it at that.