Another day off, this time an intended holiday that even us AKPers were granted off. I’ll discuss what it was later. Okaa-san and I were supposed to go on a hike to and past Fushimi Inari Jinja with her friends from Osaka, but the inclement weather cancelled those plans to free me up for today’s adventure. The big event of the day was a return to Nishiki Market, only this time Lizzie and Steph joined in on the fun. I’d had a small breakfast with okaa-san and they hadn’t eaten at all yet, so we were up to trying a fair number of the goodies at-market. Okaa-san was also there at Lizzie’s request, which was super fun! So here’s what we did.
Food. So. Much. Food. We had a lot of free samples, ranging from senbei (rice crackers) to pickled things to yummy hot spices to sesame treats to (any type of) fruit honey to fish bones. Mhmmm, all good stuff. I had some of Lizzie’s pike tempura, duck on a stick, fish bones, matcha-hojicha ice cream, yuzu ice cream, a tako croquet, a lot of oishii honey samples, and we all had chocolate croquets which were *bombin*.
Here’s some other stuff they had – hover for descriptions.
After Nishiki we headed to a department store for a pit-stop at the basement, which is where the food wonderland is. We bought some anko and white anko pancake treats, whose creation process I got to watch as okaa-san paid, it was so precise and quick yet pretty and just plain swank. We also got a big pack of them to be given as a gift, and then left to deliver said gift.
To get there we entered Yasaka Jinja, and on the way we walked through the Gion District, aka where all the geiko (geisha) and maiko (geishas-in-training) are, and some even live. Very cool and very full of ritzy restaurants. Then we entered the shrine from the back, which immediately brought with it a quiet sense of peace and ‘traditional Japan’. I can’t describe it any other way; the streets, the ryokan, the sense of serenity and tucked-awayness that it held was fantastic and something I’d had yet to experience amidst the bustle of most of Kyoto. There we found the ryokan okaa-san had bought the gift for, and we entered briefly for the exchange. There she introduced me as her homestay student, and with no obligation, no cause, the lovely owner lady disappeared momentarily then returned with a towel for me. A beautiful white towel with pretty elephants patterned in greens and blues; she’d made it herself. It’s for the bath, to wipe of your hands and face she said. And now it’s mine. I was flabbergasted. The amount of kindness people here possess is astounding – I hope to be able to find the inn again and gift her something half as lovely in return.
Ohaka Mairi is a custom in which loved ones visit the graves of their ancestors, in a show of respect. Okaa-san and I went after the market, stopping before hand to pick up two bundles of flowers and for her to write out her family name, date and some other info I couldn’t decipher on a strip of refined bark. Then we grabbed a bucket and a shrine water ladle. After we climbed way high up into the cemetery okaa-san filled the pail most of the way up before we continued our ascent. Then we made it to her parent’s grave and things started happening. First she picked off big pieces of debris, like leaf wads and large sticks. Then using the shrine ladle she dumped water over the grave to clean it off, continuing until the stone was clean. Then she placed the flowers on either side of the stone (there were specific holders), set the bark strip against the stone (there was a bar to hold it in place), and picked off one of the leaves to place in a specific indent in the grave, presumably as an offering. There was also an incense candle but she forgot a lighter, so that was left as-is. Then we descended back down as the rain began to pour, so I guess it was okay that we had no lighter.
They also had a protest for peace going down in and around the jinja – they were ruining our flow walking home, but props to them.
Afterwards we returned home and just hung out for a while. We had sukiyaki for dinner, which is a huge pan of awesome on the table and you just pick out what you want from it. You take it and leave it in raw egg (which is fine since they don’t mess with their eggs here like they do in the US). Super good. Here’s some Chiro-chan and Miao-chan pics to finish off the post 😉