I've always been the kind of person who enjoys her own company. Usually I like to stay in and occupy myself studying, TV, artwork, etc. A homebody. However, my circumstances at present have allowed me to discover that, I like going out on my own too! Those circumstances being:
My host family doesn't eat lunch at home, so if I want to eat properly on the weekends/school holidays I have to leave the comfort of my futon. Even though I feel like this penguin whenever it's a day-off from school. . .
Doraemon the carton Robot Cat may have his dokodemo-doaa (anywhere door) to transport him wherever he likes, but I have the dokodemo bus pass! I can get anywhere I want within city limits by bus for the next 2 1/2 months.
While I have made some good friends here, they obviously aren't always available when I am. I also don't necessarily always share the same idea of what would make a good time.
Recently, I decided to make a day trip out of finding the Pokémon Center downtown. I wanted to find some gifts for my favorite Pokémon fans back at home, and I certainly had an adventure.
So - on this specific morning - I woke up, ate breakfast, and headed out to the bus stop. It was the weekend, therefore not all the bus routes were active. I had all day to find the Pokémon Center, so my plan was to catch the first bus out of the ones available going toward downtown and get off if something caught my eye.
And caught my eye it did! About 20 minutes into the bus ride, we passed under this gigantic gate. Immediately I pressed the stop button!
I stood there, speechless for a few moments. Then I remembered we had discussed this torii (Shinto gate) in history class earlier. This is one of the largest torii in existence and is a recreation of one from the Heian Period (794 to 1185). Other than that, there was another reason the professor mentioned this torii and I was searching my mind for it. Ah yes, that's right! The Heian Shrine is close by!
Heian Jingu is one of the newer shrines in this ancient city. Built the during the Meiji period (the late 19th and early 20th century), the shine's buildings are five eighths the scale of the first imperial palace in Kyoto. The spirit of the first emperor to rule in Kyoto - and the 50th of all Japanese history - is enshrined here.
Your first thought upon walking in is this is more Chinese than Japanese, isn't it? That makes more sense when you sit to ponder it. The Heian Period was when continental influence was at a peak. In fact Emperor Kammu (the one I mentioned earlier) modeled his city after the capital of China.
I sat here and watched as tourists and worshipers alike filed in and out of the grounds for about an hour. It's nice to just take a brake and ponder life in a beautiful place, isn't it? I think so at least.
This shrine is famous for it's yearly festival, Jidai Matsuri, the Festival of the Ages. Beginning at the imperial palace park, a parade of actors dressed as important figures in Kyoto's history makes it's way to this shrine. It's one of the city's three great festivals! (The others take place earlier in the year.)
Better yet, I just learned the festival will be this Monday! I'll be watching, of course!
I did make my way to the Pokémon Center eventually. But, what if I had been on a trip with someone else? They probably wouldn't have wanted to take this extended detour. I would have missed this opportunity to just explore.
So, I've come to the conclusion that sometimes the best travel companion is yourself. I have been going on several of these little adventures alone. To the Kamo River, to Heian Shrine, to a small garden park, and even down interesting looking roads. Most of them aren't anything to write home about - I go to see what is there and I just exist. I can't exactly write an entire post about all of them, but you can bet I'll write about the next memorable one I have.