Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the soggy life and times: a very late and somewhat sparse post from Kyoto

Was looking back at posts I meant to publish previously, and lo and behold, I came upon one written before I apparently became too busy and grumpy in Kyoto to blog more, entitled the "soggy life and times." I deleted the bits about flooding, as I feel most people probably know what's up regarding the Missouri River at this point, but I did pick out some fun pictures.

First: some work! I made a large 1:30 scale model of a portion of a courtyard in a temple near Nagoya which my office was redesigning to have better circulation and better views onto their garden.

It was an endeavor.

It was uber uber humid in Kyoto . . . I kept all my food in my fridge because I was nervous about the possibility of bugs, and after unintentionally leaving a package of soba out for a night it did this:

I didn't always do the best job getting around to all see all the cultural and historic stuff. One weekend the only place I managed to go was the Nishijin Textile Center, which was maybe a mile walk from where I lived. I took several illicit photos of kimono in their museum. Ahem.
Also while at Nishijin I spent quite some time looking at the Jacquard looms that are still used to weave very, very fine obi. I had a fifteen-minute conversation with the woman who was demonstrating the loom in a rather awkward combination of Japanese and English, but hey, whatever works. (I just had the realization that all the facts she imparted to me were written in the SKETCHBOOK I LOST IN PARIS. Ugh.) This particular obi featured silk of seven or eight different colors, with I think a 500-card pattern. (Before the days of the Jacquard punchcard loom, this kind of pattern was achieved by having a second person sitting on top of the loom to lift the appropriate warp threads. Now THERE'S a hilariously fun job.) Again, I'm going from memory, but I think she said this obi would take two weeks to complete.

She used a little mirror set underneath her hands to check her work. This obi had gold threadwork, which was mounted on strips of paper that were similar to what is used for money.

Tofuku-ji is a temple that is rather famous for its gardens, to my understanding. It was south of where I lived, far enough that I actually took the subway instead of trying to walk (though I think I might have walked back?)

Most of the historic places I visited while in Kyoto required that you take your shoes off before entering the building. This continues to make me very happy. Nothing like ancient floorboards under your toes.

Not sure that it's too clear from these photos, but these gardens were laid out such that there was one on each face of the main building, which I think was the abbot's residence (the word "Hondou" comes to mind.) Most of these pictures were facing toward the biggest one, though.

Damn damn double damn. This was in the sketchbook I lost in Paris. Argh. At least I have a photo of it. I can't recall exactly but I'm pretty sure this rock arrangement is supposed to represent a constellation.

Moss garden at Tofuku-ji! Also the ubiquitous azaleas.

Beautiful carving on a door as I was leaving Tofuku-ji.

I visited the Fushimi Inari shrine the same day, which is open all the time and didn't cost (which I, being neurotic about being able to afford Fontainebleau, definitely noticed at the time.) If you've watched Memoirs of a Geisha, then you are familiar with Fushimi Inari -- it appears in the beautiful scene where she is running through a series of red prayer gates, or torii. There are several thousand of them that go up the mountain; businesses pay several thousand dollars to have their name put on a gate, and it's (perhaps obviously) far more expensive to erect a large gate than a small one. There are, of course, several hundred steps to be climbed, which I think is a rather common feature of Japanese shrines. It's very meditative.

These young women were ahead of me for most of the first leg up the mountain, and it was hard to resist taking a photo.

This is the big shrine at the base of the mountain.

Towards the bottom of the mountain the gates are so dense as to make a red-lit tunnel.

For whatever reason, foxes are the important spiritual animal at Fushimi Inari, so these little wish boards are shaped like fox heads.

After being crappy and cloudy all day, the sun finally came out. It rained excessively, in my humble opinion, for most of the time I was in Kyoto. Ah, well.

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