The week started off at the Atsuta Matsuri festival. I tried fresh squid on a stick, perfectly seasoned noodles and chocolate covered bananas which was delicious. It would be a lie to say that I was able to fully enjoy the festival considering my absolute hatred of large crowds, and it was really crowded. Nevertheless, I also loved the decorations at the festival, with the lanterns and lighting it made it seem almost cozy despite its size. I was surprised with the size of the festival, it was massive!
The trip to Kyoto was jam-packed and it would be almost impossible to describe my favorite parts of each area we visited. Some personal highlights was the blood ceiling in the Fushimi castle. I thought it was almost surreal to imagine that soldiers from so many years back had bled on that exact ceiling. The handprints and blood stains were a little creepy, but it made the experience just that much more interesting.
Another place that I found particularly stunning was the Sanjūsangen-dō with the thousands statues of Kannon. I initially thought that all the statues were the same but upon further examination, I realized that every statue’s hands were unique to them. The statues of the 28 deities were also beautiful. I noted that they seemed extremely vicious and looked terrifying. When I imagine a deity I often picture something of a powerful but calm nature, no doubt influenced by statues I’ve visited in Europe. While I expected the same with deities here, it was almost the complete opposite.
The onsen was of course on of my favorite experiences. Sitting in a hot bathtub in the middle of a beautiful forest was about the most relaxing experience of the trip. I made note that the onsen also seemed almost ritual/spiritual. I’ve noticed that Japanese are often accustomed to certain cultural norms that require ritualistic aspects, such as the washing before and after the onsen. While it may also be for sanitary purposes, it also seemed like it was also done to enrich the experience.
Another experience that really stuck with me was visiting the teahouse in the old pleasure quarters. The second floor of the home was so incredibly detailed and beautifully designed. My favorite room was the room that was designated to the mother of pearl designs. For some reason that design really draws me in, I also noted it at museums, and I’ve never seen it before!
Lastly, the opportunity to see the Maiko dance was incredible. Her dancing was so different from what I expected, very simplistic and subtle. I loved the raw salmon that they gave us throughout the dinner and going to see the city at night seemed like the perfect ending to our Kyoto trip. I’m very appreciative of Professor Bates and everyone who has made this trip the experience of a lifetime!