Japan 2009: Monday, April 20
Charlie started his day with an early-morning walk back to the Kiyomizudera, to see more of the temple buildings & visit a sacred waterfall that he’d read about in our guidebook. He came back with a bottle full of water from the falls, which is considered to have healing properties (he was a bit shy about collecting some of the water until he saw someone filling bottle after bottle from the falls, so he figured it would be ok :). We shared some of the water at breakfast- with all of the walking lately, my body can use all the help it can get!
After breakfast we hopped on the train for Uji. The weather was cloudy, but warm, with no rain expected until the afternoon. We transferred trains once & arrived in Uji within half an hour. The first time we were in Uji, nearly 2 years ago, we took a cab to the Ujigami Shrine & then walked to the Byoudoin Temple, stopping at a sweet shop on the way for anmitsu- a combination of odango (a mochi sweet), ice cream, fruit, and anko- red bean paste. This time we decided to start at the Byoudoin & work backward to the Ujigami Shrine. The place where you could arrange to participate in a tea ceremony was near the Byoudoin, so we found a cab at the station (it wasn’t a terribly long distance, but we like to save our energy- neither Brendan nor I have much endurance for long walks) & the driver, whom we got chatting to about Uji, actually got out of the cab & walked us down the path to the visitor’s centre.
When we got there, we discovered that the next seating for tea was full, so we decided that we’d come back later if we had the energy. We had visited the Byoudoin last time we were in Uji, so we decided to concentrate on omiyage shopping & figuring out where we wanted to eat lunch. The shops along the road leading to the temple sell mostly green tea & items made from tea, such as odango, candy, & senbei (rice-based crackers). I recognised some of the shops from our last visit, including one where I’d had my first experience really trying to communicate with people in Japanese (& not doing very well). This time was different. I could ask questions about the teas, how long the sweets would last, respond to questions about where I live, how old Brendan is (many wanted to know if he was on school break, which he is). It definitely felt like a pilgrimage, coming back & actually chatting with the people I’d wanted so badly to speak to last time...
We stopped at the same sweets shop as our last visit- right across the bridge & down the road from the Ujigami. The anmitsu & odango was as lovely as we remembered. I did some shopping for gifts at their shop as well :) Then, reinforced with yummy food, we made our way back to the Ujigami Shrine. Both Ujigami & Byoudoin are the oldest shrines in Japan, being nearly 2000 years old. They are far enough outside Kyoto to have escaped the many fires that have leveled Kyoto over the centuries. Charlie has a special affinity for the Ujigami because it’s dedicated to the moon, & rabbits (the Japanese see a rabbit making mochi on the moon, rather than a man in the moon :), & Charlie’s birth year according to the Chinese zodiac is the year of the rabbit. So he wanted to buy a lot of omamori there for friends at home. Then we crossed back across the Uji river on a smaller, very historic old bridge to head back to the train station, having exhausted ourselves with all the walking around.
Out train trip home was more eventful than we ever could have anticipated. Once we were seated, some ladies sitting nearby asked us where we were from, & when it was obvious that we could converse (at least a little) in Japanese, a lively conversation ensued, with various other passengers joining in. The ladies were charmed by Brendan & wanted him to talk to them, too :) One was fascinated by his nose & he very kindly let her touch it :) We gave them postcards from our home town & they gave us postcards from the Byoudoin. One lady gave Brendan a beautiful, laminated photo of her grandsons in kimono for the “schichi-go-san” holiday (where children 7, 5, & 3 years old dress up & go to shrines to be blessed). I gave them some lip balms I’d made at home, & we all ended up taking photos of each other. One gentleman wanted Charlie’s address & email :) We decided that we must have gotten on the party train, it was so lively & fun! I was completely blitzed by the time we transferred trains & said goodbye to our friends. My brain was fried from simultaneously trying to say things correctly in Japanese & listening & understanding what was said, but it was an amazing experience!!
On the way home from the station we stopped at a store for lunch & dinner food, & have rested, read, & played games the rest of the day. What an amazing day! I can’t believe how much fun it’s been- & how wonderfully people respond to us- when we did our best to speak to them in their own language.