Marine Day

The kids had the day off school, since “Marine Day” is a national holiday in Japan. The holiday celebrates Japan’s unique ties to the sea and marks the occasion when Emperor Meiji, the first emperor to be seen in public, returned from his travels by boat to Hokkaido, the northernmost of the four main islands of Japan. This was, at that time, the farthest that an emperor had traveled from the main island of Honshu. Nami, a sister from church, had suggested spending the day in Kyoto together. I was torn between wanting to spend time with the family and feeling like I should go to work, since Kiyoe had returned from her trip and would now be available to discuss our results. In the end, I figured that Marine Day only came once a year, while my research would always be there- so I was off to Kyoto for the second time in as many weeks! The girls wanted to go to The Museum of Kyoto to see a special exhibit on tiaras, but the boys and I decided to head to the old Imperial Palace to hopefully get a tour within the compound. I had discovered that two tours a day were given at 10 am and 2 pm, but that one had to arrive early for a place in the tour. Unfortunately, we found out when we arrived that no tours took place on Marine Day, so we had to be content to wander the grounds as I had done the previous week.

We actually had some pleasant, unplanned moments on the palace grounds. First, we ran into a man who was playing a traditional Japanese flute, who talked to us and then played “Amazing Grace” on his instrument for us. Then, we found a shrine on an island in a pond and watched families feeding the fish and ducks from the shore. A little boy there gave us some of his bread to throw in the water. After an hour or so, we started wandering in the direction of the museum. We stopped at a café on the way there and had a snack before finally meeting up with the girls near the museum. After we were reunited, we walked down Shijo Dori, one of the busiest streets in Kyoto, and found Saizariya, an Italian chain, to have lunch in. We then took a bus across town to the Silver Pavilion.

The Silver Pavilion, despite its name, is not silver at all. It was built to compliment the Golden Pavilion, but the Shogun who supervised its construction ran into some financial problems after coating the latter with gold, so the former was never finished. It is still considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Japan in its simplicity and lack of material splendor. The grounds around the pavilion, which is built onto a mountainside, are completely covered in moss, in addition to the trees which are scattered throughout. We walked the grounds on a circular path and had just come to a building containing a store and a tea house, when it started to pour rain. We waited for as long as we could under the shelter of the building and, as soon as we thought the rain had let up a little, we ventured out again.

We bought two umbrellas as well as a rain poncho, which Brennan wore, at a shop that was located along the hilly approach to the pavilion, and then caught a bus back toward the center of town. There, we walked through Gion, where a month-long festival was being held, and bought some ice cream from a store there. I had green tea flavor, Brennan had vanilla swirled with green tea, while Trudy and Justin, after tasting the green tea cone, stuck with vanilla. We met up with Kira at this time, who was headed home to America in another week as soon as school ended. Our walk through the rain eventually took us down Pontocho Dori and then along the banks of the Kumo River. At this point, Brennan said he had had enough sightseeing and was ready to go home. The girls wanted to stay for at least another 90 minutes, when the festival floats would be brought out and the maiko-san (geishas-in-training) would be dancing. Justin and I then offered to return home with Brennan to let Trudy enjoy her remaining time in Kyoto with just the girls.

We took the train home and decided to get okonomiyaki for dinner near the station. We, of course, couldn’t tell what the varieties were, so we went purely on looks. There was a big grill in the middle of our table at the restaurant, onto which we received three separate portions of grilled food, which contained things like soba noodles, octopus, green onions, and eggs, among the components which we could identify. It was a fun experience with plenty of good food, which we even brought home leftovers of!

We relaxed at home and watched T.V. Apparently, there had been a large earthquake 450 miles away in Niigata during the time we had wandered the Imperial Palace grounds, but we had not felt it. Trudy arrived home around 9 pm. The maiko had not danced, on account of the rain, but she had seen the floats as well as more people than she had seen in one place for as long as she could remember. We all went to bed fairly early, to recover from our busy three-day weekend and to prepare for another week at work and school.

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