Spiders (Kidsmoke)

6 02 2009

Night falls on the Setsubun festival at Yoshida Shrine.

Night falls on the Setsubun festival at Yoshida Shrine.

Hola amigos, I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya’, but I’ve been pretty busy this week. I’ll try and chronicle my adventures of the next few posts, but in short I’ve gone to Ohara (a small village outside of Kyoto) to participate in Setsubun with a Japanese elementary class, learned RSS and created a blog for the KCJS program (and, because WordPress doesn’t support certain types of video embedding, recreating it on Blogger), hung out at the Setsubun festivities at Yoshida shrine in front of my apartment, had my first bike crash, gone to Osaka, discussed 70’s and 80’s era New York punk music in Japanese (under duress, unfortunately) eaten the biggest friggin’ nan I’ve ever seen, and gone to all-you-can-eat Korean barbeque and consumed enough to want to explode. Unfortunately, the last two were both today, so before I go into a coma I’ll try and recap as much as possible.

The view of Ohara from a moving van.

The view of Ohara from a moving van.

On Tuesday my Japanese class went on a field trip to Ohara, a small town about twenty minutes outside of Kyoto. We met up with several teachers at a Japanese elementary school, and later the pupils under their care. Eventually our slightly odd looking group proceeded to the local shrine to participate in the Setsubun festivities.

A view of the shrine grounds.

A view of the shrine grounds.

The explanation was entirely in Japanese, so I unfortunately didn’t understand as much of it as I wanted to, but I believe the occasion is centered upon the changing of the seasons as a time to bid farewell to the misfortunes of the previous season and wish for luck in the one to come. Once all four seasonal transitions were separated, but now only the first day of Spring on the lunar calendar is celebrated, which has come to be the main form of Setsubun. One of the more entertaining aspects that has emerged is the numerous customs associated with beans. There’s a belief that eating a number of beans equal to your age will grant you health and good fortune for the coming year. Additionally, a sort of bean-tossing game is played, supposedly to symbolize casting bad luck out toward the “demons” on the outside. To that end, I and my fellow KCJS students joined the elementary school children in throwing beans out over the second group of students for them to catch and eat later.

Can you spot the foreigner in this picture?

A Challenge: Can you spot the foreigner in this picture?

Out of things to throw, one little girl perhaps takes the game too far.

Out of things to throw, one little girl perhaps takes the game too far.

Later we ate mochi (a sort of rice cake) and some very salty tea that supposedly had flakes of gold taken from the nearby mines. Ohara was an interesting change from Kyoto in that it is much closer to typical rural life in Japan, while still being relatively developed. It was rather beautiful, and I think I’ll miss it.

An above view of Ohara- I wish I had gotten some better pictures now.

An above view of Ohara- I wish I had gotten some better pictures now.

The job I have with KCJS has been going smoothly, though I find that combined with the homework I have for my Japanese and translation classes I have increasingly less and less free time (relatively; I still have for more than I had back at Penn). I’ve had to learn a few more computer tricks, like creating an RSS feed and how to embed music into WordPress (I’ll try and remember to do that sometime). The money from that job will hopefully pay for what I spent on the Setsubun festival and my new bike, which I crashed recently. For whatever reason I have the devil’s own luck when it comes to bike crashes, so I emerged from my relatively high velocity meeting with the sidewalk without even a cut or much soreness. I’m a little warier now, but you can’t really say you’ve broken in a bike until you’ve crashed it at least once.

My sweet bike. Also, my lunch in the basket. This type of bike with its distinctive basket is called a Mamachari, as it's commonly associated with housewives, though in areas like around Kyoto University it's more common to see students on them.

My sweet bike. Also, my lunch in the basket. This type of bike with its distinctive basket is called a Mamachari, as it's commonly associated with housewives, though in areas like around Kyoto University it's more common to see students on them.

The sweet embrace of a meat-sleep awaits me, so I’ll end the post here. Next time: Osaka. All-you-can-eat. Nihilism. Giant bread. Maid cafes. Not necessarily in that order. Be there.

Music I’m Listening to Now: M. Ward, “Epistemology” (From M. Ward’s new album Hold Time, the entirety of which is currently streaming here.)

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