Kiyomizu Temple Light-up

April 17, 2008

Cherry blossom viewing season is just about over. In central Kyoto the peak was actually almost two weeks ago, but in Japan there are literally hundreds of varieties of cherry trees, so there are still some late bloomers. These pictures were taken two weeks ago in my (utterly successful) effort to turn my frown upside down. Here’s the story: I had a rare Wednesday night off, and I was really excited to go to the Aikido Kyoto practice in Hirakata, which is located in northern Osaka Prefecture, a little over an hour’s commute away. I boarded the Keihan Line commuter express train with plenty of time to spare, put on some Marvin Gaye and stuck my nose in a Japanese textbook for the forty minute train ride…. After a while I resurfaced and felt that I’d been on the train for what seemed to be a little too long. Sure enough I’d missed my stop and, because it was a commuter express, I’d have to wait until it went all the way into Osaka proper before I could back track to the right stop. At Kyobashi I dashed to the opposite platform and caught the next K-express bound for Kyoto, and, though a little peeved for missing my stop, I still would make it just in time for class. But wait. When I inspect the system map after boarding the train I had in fact not missed my stop because my stop didn’t exist between 5pm and 7pm on the K-express. This meant I was stuck on the train which went non-stop from Osaka to southern Kyoto….OK, this made me upset, but I was still determined to go, even though I would probably miss a third of the class. So I got off at the first stop after Kyobashi and boarded the local train going in the Osaka direction. All’s well, or so I thought, until the train stopped at the very next station and the conductor told me that this was the train’s final stop. The next train would be along in 15. Due to some afternoon clouds I was carrying my umbrella along with me, and I was so infuriated at this point that I took my frustration out on the poor thing and smashed it on a hand rail when no one was looking as I stormed out of the station, which happened to be one of the rare train stations in Kyoto that doesn’t have a causeway connecting the two platforms. So, I was stuck having to pay an extra fare just to get back to the station I left from without ever going anywhere. After two hours and seven trains I was back at Gojo Station, pissed off and determined to turn things around. The search light pointed to the sky in the west reminded me that Kiyomizu Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage sight and a candidate for the “new” seven wonders of the world, was having a light-up for the spring cherry blossom season. I went. It was awesome. The topper was that there happened to be a free classical performance by a wind ensemble from Switzerland taking place. Oddly enough, most of the tourists there didn’t pay any mind to the incredible performance being held, so I managed to get in pretty close to the stage and really enjoy the music, which was greatly enhanced by the setting. Basically, what was one of the most frustrating times I’ve had in recent memory and one of the best experiences I’ve had since living in Kyoto all happened in one evening. Here’s some pictures of the temple:

What made for a real cultural mash-up and a surprising delight was the music I happened to be listening to while wandering around. Growing up in Texas in a Hispanic neighborhood I was constantly exposed to Tejano music, but not until recently have I become open minded enough enjoy it, and in a recent bout of homesickness and sentimentality I started downloading what I could find. The real jewel is the group ‘Los Tigres del Norte’, who are possibly the kings of Norteno music. Anyway, this is what I was listening to while I was taking these pictures. One of my favorites by this group is called ‘Somos mas americanos’, which has a chorus that translates as “we are more American than any son of the Anglo-Saxon” Here’s a video someone made for youtube with English translations

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