Well I haven't updated this thing for 5 days so I guess I owe you all:
1 - an apology
2 - some photos
I have a computer (in fact, a floor of this hotel) to myself and it closes in 2 hours time so I can upload lots of pictures for you guys to take a look at, plus explanation (and some of them need it). I won't go into extensive detail about everything I've seen over the last 5 or so days, either, because that'd most likely be pretty boring. Instead, I'll just give photos with some related words, in rough chronological order.
Let's start with last Sunday in Kyoto, in fact. I mentioned the kids dancing in front of the city hall, to 50s rock and roll. Here you go:
Next a photo of that tiny shrine in the hills near Nanzen-in that I mentioned last time. Not visible: waterfall or even tinier shrine up in the rocks. But this gives you an idea of it.
The next one is of the entrance to a shrine in the Gion area of Kyoto. The real name evades me but it's known locally as 'Gion-san', and is considered the area's local guardian shrine. This is where Gion residents come on New Year's Eve to pray for good luck in the upcoming year.
This next photo is a slice of photo album, picture-perfect Japan. I can't remember quite where it was, and I certainly don't know it's name (I don't think it was even in the Lonely Planet book) but I think this provided some of my favourite photos so far. Oh, that's a real heron (or whatever it is) perched on top of the shrine itself.
Here is a horrible photo of me gurning in the pouring rain (I was soaked through, or at least my lower half was) in front of the ENORMOUS torii gate leading to Kyoto's Heian-jingu shrine, just to prove I am actually here and not writing this from my bedroom in the UK.
My final entry, as it were, is of a festival I attended yesterday. I only knew about this thanks to one of my new friends here, who recommended I went. It turns out that this is a 'gaijin holy grail' - something all foreigners in Japan hear whispers of, but which relatively few actually end up managing to see. I got to see it. The subject of the festival is the fertility of the land for the year's upcoming harvest.
The day starts with food (crepes, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sausages, chicken skewers, etc) and relaxed beers (with no raging drunks, I might add) while seated in the premium milk crate seating area.
Come 2pm (it was actually late though, surely a first in Japan!) the crowd gathers to view the parade. The Japanese can be suprisingly aggressive, and suprisingly tall, when they really want to see something.
The parade arrives, centered around the portable shrine. This is the portable shrine. No, I am not kidding, and yes, that is exactly what you think it is.
Japan, you may have some crazy stuff, but I'm going to have to work mighty hard to top this one.
Anyway, I am currently in Nagoya, thanks to the Nozomi super-express Shinkansen (bullet train) which took 44 minutes to do what took me over 2 hours on regular trains yesterday. Nagoya reminds me of Kobe despite being much bigger (the fourth largest city in Japan, I believe), which is a good thing.
More photos tomorrow, possibly, but before tomorrow I need to sleep. Goodnight everyone.