Teaching In Socks

January 23, 2009, 4:08 pm
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100% less saddle-sore

100% less saddle-sore

Sure, the rich kids got ponies, but the really rich kids got their own bullet trains.

a Christmas Torii
December 4, 2008, 2:37 pm
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torii, torii, torii

torii, torii, torii

I spent the last weekend in Kyoto, praying to various pagan deities, taking in the charismatic tail end of Autumn’s arbor-explosion and finishing my Christmas shopping. One of the dieties must have been listening, because the weather was phenomenal–a little cool, and optimum for putting your hands in your pockets and scowling like young Bob Dylan, and my present hunting was consistently fortuitous.

Unlike my last tiem in Kytot, this trip had a more eccentric feel to it. Upon arrival I immediately took a train to the  the Fushimi Inari shrine, two stops on the local line from Kyoto Station.

I have wanted ot go to this shrine for a while. It’s a small, but relatively famous shrine known for having a substantial number of Torii–the large orange gates you often seen at shrines, that line hiking trails inot the mountains. Churches and Cathedrals are nice, but this layout seems a but more elegant and impressive to me. Also, the cornucopia and ferquency of these Torii makes the whole “Gates” project in Central Park a few years ago look rather amateur.The God Inari uses foxes as his messengers, so there were also a lot of badass Fox statues which really any modern installation art project, let alone the Gates, could use more of.

As I entered the shrine, young British girl in front of me undertook the task of counting all of the torii as she passed them.  I walked patiently behind her until she got to “67” then I squeezed my way past her family to move ahead the trail at a more reasonable pace.  After I stopped a particular shrine for a while, I started back on the trail to find myself behind this girl and her fmaily yet again. I was greeted by the sound of her choice, “ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one thousand one hundred”. I forgot how ignorantly perservering young children are. As I attempted to move past this entrourage a second time an American father with his son passed the family in the oppostie direction and coyly mentioned, “you know I think there’s some more ahead for her to count. The British parents ignored him. I guess it was hard to have a sense of humor when there was still another six or seven kilometers of torii to be counted.

Fox gods at work in Arashiyama

Fox gods at work in Arashiyama

I also took my first ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train) on the way home. From Ako to Kyoto it’s a bit of an extravagance: twice the price, but only thirty minutes quicker. Therefore, I coneventiantly rationalized the extra cost on the basis that I didn’t want to see my friends and family over the break and not be able to brag about riding a bullet train (yes, I’m that petty)  and I also didn’t want to ruin a good trip fighting for a seat amongst the plebes. On my last trip to Kyoto, I had to stand for a large portion of the ride home, and the woman in the seat next to me decided to eat something that smelled absolutely rancid in the middle of a crowded train. The Shinkansen seperates the wheat form the chaf, and assigns seats, because you can’t be standing when traveling at bullet-like speeds, that’s juts madness. While not riding on the fastest line of Bullet trains, the ride was as smooth as butter we were home within two episodes of Fawlty Towers.

The only let down is that finishing my Christmas shopping in record time is not as a great a relief as I imagined it would be. Instead of feeling a weight off my shoulders, I’m just imagining that I haven’t bought enough or have forgotten something. This in spite of the fact that I went crazy this year and made a bleeping excel spreadsheet this year to sort it out. I might as well do a TPS report for Santa while I’m at it. Oh well, getting all this on a plane should be a good story.