Day 13: Tenryuiji

Today we visited the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. I was saving this area specifically for May 18, as it is the day of the Mifune Boat Festival. There is no way I would make a special trip to the far western side of Kyoto just for that festival, but I wanted to visit some of the other things in the area so it seemed convenient to schedule it so it would coincide with the festival.

The Mifune Matsuri (matsuri= festival) is the recreation of a boat party held on the river about 1,000 years ago. It is hosted by a nearby shrine and opens with some rituals at that shrine, then the participants proceed to the river to paddle around in meandering circles while everyone stares at them. Supposedly about 100,000 people turn out to see this spectacle each year… I can’t really say I know why. Maybe it is because it sounds cooler than it actually is.

I last saw this festival 5 years ago, and was not able to catch the beginning of it. No luck with catching the beginning of it this year either, but we did see a procession of costumed participants parading down the street toward the boats. It took us all of 10 minutes to get bored with watching the boats, then we headed for a nearby restaurant.  We chose a riverfront restaurant so that we could still watch the boats… not that it got any more interesting.

For lunch we had some tradional-ish Japanese dishes and some shaved ice for dessert. I actually enjoyed my oden, although I am not sure I will every seek the dish out. It consisted of a hot broth with some various types of cooked tofu and some other unidentifiable things. Sean however didn’t seem to enjoy his as much. His food was basically the same thing except with plain tofu… he looked pretty sad at his bland dish so I shared with him. I don’t think either of us regret when we try weird things though… it is always worth the experience. And, if it turns out we don’t like our food choice, there is always something else to try right around the corner.

After lunch we briefly considered renting a row boat so we could get a better view of the festival… decided we didn’t care enough, and then walked the short distance to Tenryuji, which is a Zen temple established in 1339. Of course, as with most temples, it was burned and rebuilt. This one, a grand total of 8 times. The existing structures mostly date back to the mid-late 1800’s. The temple is small and not as big of a tourist trap as most seem to be. There are several small buildings, surrounded by gardens. Beyond the gardens are large groves of bamboo, for which the Arashiyama area is known.

I actually enjoy the peaceful nature of Tenryuji, but Sean was all grumpy and looked annoyed most of the time. He seemed to lighten up some once he took of the too-small sandals they handed out (you had to take off your shoes inside). For me, I had the opposite sandal problem and it was hard to keep them on my feet… I eventually abandoned mine as well.

After the temple we wandered around Arashiyama a little, stopping in a few shops and having some sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream before taking the electric train back to  central Kyoto. We had intended to go to the post office to mail some more post cards, but get this… the Sunday hours for the post office were listed as 0:00-9:00 and then 19:00-24:00. How weird is that? At least they actually are open late and on the weekends… but what odd hours! We decided we would just do it tomorrow… of course, that is exactly what we have said the last two days.

We then treated ourselves to a reserved seat on the fast train back to Osaka because we are tired of all the stops the cheap ticket has. Once back in Osaka we headed to Hep Five again for dinner and to hit the arcade. We had so much fun there last night that we wanted to do it again. Man, we better never go to Vegas… those fake gambling machines are addictive!

We took pictures of our dinner, but the lighting was awful. Ever since we first got here Sean has been dying to try these omelet things we see everywhere… They look pretty much exactly like the one we had on Day 7 at the okonomiyaki place, except they are filled with flavored rice and served in a bowl with various sauces and toppings. I have honestly not wanted to try them at all, but I wasn’t really hungry tonight so I gave in and agreed to have these for dinner. Sean got one with shrimp and “cream sauce” and I chose curry sauce with fried pork. Neither of them were very good.

We did finish the night on a good note though, we had some more crepes at the arcade. Sean got the same one I had last time… chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, banana slices, and whipped cream. I got a “hot apple pie” crepe that had hot custard, spiced apple slices, and graham cracker flakes. It was awesome! As we were heading back downstairs Sean decided to get a melon soda to wash it down and spotted a cool drink shop. After we saw some of the impressive things other customers had ordered we were a bit jealous. We took pictures of some of the things offered… we will definitely have to go back there sometime when we haven’t just eaten crepes!