Monday, January 5

Kyoto for Omisoka, Vol. 2: Chionin and Heian Jingu

After leaving Yasaka Jinja, we wandered around Gion a bit in search of maiko-chan.

To our dismay, the streets of Gion at that time were dark and quiet, with only a few establishments open for business. Needless to say, no maiko were to be found.


Winter Sakura
Made from mochi (sticky rice "cake"), these "sakura" or hana mochi are hung as decorations for the New Year and reminders of the spring to come.

Kagami mochi
Perhaps the most representative image of the New Year.
At a small shrine in Gion.

Geiko and maiko are given these balls to carry to Yasaka Jinja, where they do Okera-mairi.
The only fukudama we got to see that night were ones hanging in shops like this.
No maiko-chan.

Toshi-koshi Soba
Enjoying hot soba on a cold winter's night.

Very expensive chimaki (sweet mochi in a cone shape, wrapped in bamboo leaves. Also eaten for Kodomo no Hi. De lish us.)

Okera at Chionin
A woman keeps her okerabi going while waiting to be allowed in to Chionin Temple.

Matsu Matsu
Waiting under the pine trees at Chionin.

It was a very long, very crowded line.

Our visit to Chionin was very cool, seeing the monks ring the bell, hearing its deep donging sound. It was also a little scary, being pushed mainly by older folks interested in moving along. And a little annoying listening to the American tourists complaining.
But the whole package was a thrill.

Joya no Kane
The monks ring the bonsho, sacred bell, one of 108 times. See my video for live action and more explanation.

Yasaka Jinja Mae
When we came back from Chionin, this crowd awaited us in front of Yasaka Jinja, prompting a swift flight to Heian Jingu.

According to my camera, this picture was taken exactly at 12:00.

Reading Mikuji
As we entered Heian Jingu, there was a crunchy, tinny din sounding all around. At first I thought it was from all the footsteps on the gravelly ground, but I soon realized that it was the many revelers shaking out the first fortunes of the New Year.

Waiting in Line
Not so much a line as a crowd gradually being funneled onto a stairway up to the shrine stage where visitors tossed donations and made their first prayers of the year: bow twice, clap twice, pray, bow once. It took us about half an hour to 45 minutes to make our way up. There are no photos from the stage, as they were prohibited.

And thus our New Year's Eve came to an end. We very gratefully took a taxi ride home, had some hot tea and brown sugar mochi and fell into bed.

Next: Oshogatsu and Hatsumode.


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