My body must be telling me something, today I woke at 8:30 and didn’t make it to my first destination until 11:00. Anyway, it’s a clear day, the temperature is about 19, but the Kyoto-ites are wlaking around in jackets and very very thick scarves….strange.
I’ve decided to start in the north today and take the subway to 北山 Kitayama (literally North Mountain) and vist the 上賀茂 Kamigamo and 下賀茂 Shimogamo shrines…their names literally mean Upper Kamo and Lower Kamo, and they are connected by the Kamo River. Both are, of course, UNESCO World Heritage sites
Once upon a time Princess Tamayori was bathing in the Kamo River and found a red arrow floating in the water; she took it home and miraculously became pregnant. Her son was called Kamo-wake-ikazuchi-no-kami and is the deity of Kamigamo shrine. The boy’s grandfather held a feast and asked all the known deities to attend; he asked the boy to raise a glass to his true father, but the boy said his father lives in the highest plain of Heaven, and the boy was revealed as a great god of thunder, lightening and rain. But even the shrines to such great gods often need restoration…It’s interesting that princesses find the most ingenious ways to get pregnant without the help of a husband…there is a similar Armenian legend, part of the epic cycle called “Daredevils of Sassoun” where a princess bathing in the waters of Lake Van drinks two handfuls of water and then gives birth to two sons, Sanasar and Balthazar, the start of four generations of great warriors of Sassoun. Sanasar is the granfather of “David of Sassoun” whose stuatues depicting him on a horse can be seen throughout Armenia.
At Kamigamo I particpated in a purification ritual, necessary before you can enter the interior…I am the only westerner and the entire ceremony is in Japanese. We weare white sashes and enter a chamber, the priest tells the history of the temple, amkes a joke that his English is not even good enough to ask directions from the station and then tells a funy story about someone buying something from Takashimaya…but didn’t catch why it was so funny. The purification consists of him chanting and then shaking something which looks like a cheerleaders white paper raffia pom-pom obver our heads. Now we can go inisde…the first thing I notice are two perfect cones made from sand…certainly this is not wabi-sabi anymore…
The Kamo-Aoi festival (May 15) is one of the three largest festivals in Japan..Aoi means hollyhock (the emblem of the Tokugawa family…though this festival is much much older).
The temple is also famous for its horse racing ritual…apparently the origin of all horse racing in Japan.
Lets now continue south along the river……a pleasant walking path is provided…at one point I see something that reminds of the goose with the golden eggI go passed the botanical gardens…they are charging an entrance fee…and I’ve started late today…I decide to keep the botanic gardens as a treat for the future…though some treees have lost their leaves many other trees are only just showing a change of colour…I think I may be a week early for the true autumn colours. Eventually I arrive at the lower Kamo shrine….the shrine itself is not that spectacular……but just south of the shrine and part of the heritage area is the Tadasu Forest…it seems totally out of place…but so deep and enchantingThe legends so that the god of this temple arrived ina sky boat which became a small island deep within the forest…it’s a bit difficult to make out in my photos but you might see a roughly boat-shaped mound in the photos above and belowSome of the trees need a bit of help staying up…and its a very popular spot for aspiring artists…I decided that I was near the fork in the river where the Kamo and the Takano rivers merge…I wondered if it was worth the walk to the fork…yes it was…there is delighful structure where they have put in stepping stones on either side, this photo is looking south from the neck of the Yand I was lucky to catch a group walking across the stepping stonesthey are going east, but I need to go west..so I also step out onto the opposite row of stepping stonesDo you see the turtles? Not a good idea to step on them…now I’m significantly taller then your average Japanese and the spacing of the stones was at the limit of my stride..they would have to jump from one stone to the next…
I stop for a late lunch before proceeding to my final stop for today…
The Imperial Palace Gardens
Now Lonely Planet suggests that the rigmarole of passports, security checks and getting permission to go inside the palace itself is not worth it…so I defer the palace interior to a future trip…but the Guide says the Gardens should not be missed…well honestly they were a bit too rectangular and same-same to me…but I guess everyone has different tastes…here is the rear entrance to the palaceand here is the front entrance
and here are some interesting bits of the gardensThis last building is described as the ruins of the Kujo Residence..the Kujo family were the retainers to the emperor..apparently all that is left is the “tea house”and the family cat…and maybe a few ducks.
The walk back to my hotel from the palace talks me through Gion—the nightlife district–though it feels quite different during the day…I’m still following the path of the river and in this part there is a sequence of post-modern art placed in the river itselfanyway its getting dark…and it might rain tonight