Kyoto over O-bon

16 08 2009

O-bon is a Buddhist festival celebrated to remember your ancestors. In Osaka the O-bon meant holidays and many of the restaurants were closed and we had trouble finding anywhere to eat 😦 In Kyoto however, not so many places took holidays but there are some interesting celebrations. Giant fires in the shape of kanji are lit on the mountains around Kyoto to show the spirits where to go (it is believed they visit this world during O-bon).

Today we caught the local Randen train to Arashiyama, the hilly region to the north west of Kyoto. We visited Tenyru-ji and walked through the very peaceful gardens they had. Then we went out the north exit and strolled through the bamboo grove. There were lots of elderly walkers (maybe part of a hiking club?) in a big group all walking up and down the mountain. The bamboo grove itself was quite large but maybe not so similar to the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movie. There are in fact bamboo groves in the Ginkaku-ji gardens and they looked just as good.

After the bamboo grove we walked down the hill, over the river with the fishing boats (used for cormorant fishing) and the up a hill to the Monkey Park. It was a bit of a walk to the top of the hill were the monkeys were and you can only feed the monkeys through bars. Since it was summer, there were lots of little baby monkeys born recently in spring and they were cute.

Taking the train back to Atsu’s house we had some of his delicious forest rice for lunch, relaxed for a bit then caught the JR train to Kyoto eki and then south to Inari eki. All three of us visited Fushimi Inari shrine, famous for its red torii. The red torii stretch on and on for 4 km or so, we reckoned, so we only walked a short stretch. Many of them had inscriptions – they had been donated by companies in the hope that they would have success and prosperity.

It was getting time for dinner so we heading back on the train, stopping in at the supermarket on the way. We made vegan okonmiyaki for dinner, with entree of salsa and avocado dip with corn chips, and chocolate self-saucing pudding for dessert.

At 8pm we stood out on the balcony and were able to see 2 giant fires lit on the mountain sides around Atsu’s apartment. From one side we saw a giant torii (shrine gate) and from the other side we saw the daimon-ji (kanji for big, dai). The fires only lasted for about 15 minutes then died out. It was great to be able to see them from the apartment.