Friday, August 29, 2008

Tallulah-Palooza Friday

Let's revisit Tallulah Mae and the daily ritual of the dishwasher. Here she waits for cups and glasses--she's had the plates. (This is really a breakfast thing--she knows there are always two coffee cups and one juice glass.)


Annndddd...the patented head-twisting-tongue-contorting-glass-licking move. I'd give that a solid 10.0! Go, Team Tallulah!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Interrupted Travelogue: Elvis (Sort of) Sighting

So as we drove behind this guy, I heard music. Elvis music, to be precise; he had a little boom box attached to his vehicle. And then we pulled up next to him. Check it out: Maybe Elvis is alive and living in San Diego?

When he saw us looking, he put his hand up to obscure his face so that we couldn't photograph him. Hmm ...

Check out his awesome vehicle. Do you see the TCB there under the photo of Elvis in his Army uniform? Extra credit points if you know what "TCB" means--leave me a comment if you do.

Love it!!!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kyoto, Day Two: Afternoon

After our amazing morning, we took the train out a bit to Fushimi, where we visited the Fushimi Inari-Taisha (shrine), which was founded in the eighth century. This is the largest of more than 30,000 shrines dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity. Foxes (kitsune) are said to be the messengers of Inari, and there were many many MANY representations of foxes here. (The key in the fox's mouth below is said to be the key to a granary.)

At this shrine there are also many many vermillion torii--5,000, allegedly...
I love all of the incense lined up ... and of course, I love all of the lanterns.

Then we went to Nishiki Market, seen above, where many interesting things were being sold: flowers...


... and interesting-looking foodstuffs.

So Today Is (Vivi's) Birthday...

"So today is your birthday, that's what I've been told.
What a wonderful birthday, you're one more year old.
On a cake there'll be candles, all lighted for you.
And the whole world is singing, 'Happy birthday to you.'"

Happy, happy birthday, Vivi-san--to the best mommy in the whole wide world, with lots of love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kyoto, Day Two: Gion Matsuri

Japan is a country of festivals, and in Kyoto, the Gion Matsuri is one of the most famous (read more about it here and here). The procession of 32 festival carts (two types, hoko and yama) has been deemed an National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property (a mouthful!). We knew that we could visit the festival carts on display while we were in Kyoto (though we wouldn't get to see the parade), so we set off walking to find where they were parked. As we walked (and walked), all of a sudden we saw people running, many carrying video cameras and cameras, and we heard police whistles and saw traffic on one side of the street being stopped. Then we saw a procession coming towards us, led by the men above.

Then came these guys ... note the bus going by in the opposite lane!
And then this boy (look just under the umbrella)...
And another boy riding on a horse. As far as I can ascertain, the boy walking might be a page boy who accompanies the child on horseback--I believe he is the so-called sacred or "celestial" child--as he rides in the procession. This boy cuts the ribbon to begin the procession and rides on the lead float, the Naginata Hoko.
The small procession included these ladies. I love that they're carrying their purses.
And then we saw our first float: this is a hoko float, which has four massive wheels and is pulled during the procession by 30 to 40 men; a number of people can ride on hoko. You can see that they reach up almost 5 stories. (The yama floats are quite a bit smaller and are carried on long poles by 15 to 25 men.)
This is the hoko that we went up in ... I was so thrilled! I knew we'd get to see the floats, but I had no idea that we could climb up inside.
There are rather steep ladders that you climb up and down (cute little girl in her pretty pink kimono descending on the right).
You can see that it was quite crowded inside the floats; lots of folks in traditional dress, taking photos of their families.

And finally, a detail from one of the floats.

I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to see these remarkable objects. Not only are they amazing and beautiful, but they are part of a centuries-old tradition (like many things in Japan, I might add): the festival dates back to the ninth century, and the current incarnation (more or less) dates to the sixteenth century. I felt honored, actually... arigato, Kyoto.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tallulah-Palooza Friday

Miss Mae, looking pensive...



And looking woebegone (and adorable, as usual)...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kyoto: Ryokan Shiraume

In Kyoto, we stayed in the Gion, in a ryokan--a Japanese inn--called Ryokan Shiraume ("White Plum Inn"). This is the entrance: the little bridge spans a canal. Our hostess, Tomoko, a former JAL flight attendant, was unbelievably charming. She told us that in the Gion, only women are allowed to own businesses (interesting, no?)
Before dinner, we took a traditional bath (a bath for just the two of us), with the hottest water I've ever sunk into. Ahhh...

As we walked up, two elderly ladies were rubbing this statue for good luck; they also admonished me, in Japanese, for not having my arms and shoulders covered from the sun (sweet!). The entrance...and then below that, the alcove in our room.
The garden just outside our room was lovely, and you could hear the soft sounds of the canal water flowing by. Apparently there is a resident family of ferrets, which we didn't see, unfortunately. We did see a cat, which Tomoko said belongs to the geisha who lives nearby: a geisha cat!

Some charmingly rustic sandals to wear while in the garden:


At Shiraume we had a kaiseki ryori meal, the gorgeously elaborate many-course meal that Kyoto is known for. Each course is related to those around it, and the meal is highly seasonal (only certain foods served in the summer, etc.). It was quite an experience; I wish I'd photographed it! On the other hand, I was able to savor it rather than document it...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kyoto, Day One: Part Three

After we left Yasakajinja, we wandered around in an oh-so-charming residential/commercial area called Sannenzaka, full of cobbled streets. Kyoto is known for long, narrow lots, with "townhouses" on them called machiya, and there are lovely gates everywhere. As can be seen here, "stepping stones play an important role in a symbolic bridging between the interior and exterior space of a house (KyotoMachiya.com)."

I love this basket for the newspaper (and perhaps mail?)... Many houses had statues of various household gods:
This is a statue of a tanuki, a raccoon dog; they are, among many other things, associated with sake, thus the little glass of sake in front of him. The more the merrier!
This is Yasaka Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Kyoto ...
There were many jinrikisha (rickshaws); this fellow is taking a break. And riding in some of the rickshaws? These lovely women--geisha (called geiko in Kyoto) or maiko (apprentice geisha). If you've read Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, you owe it to yourself to read Geisha, a really fascinating nonfiction book about geisha culture, written by Liza Dalby: here is her website, which I also recommend.

And still more ... in Kyoto, there is a booming industry in businesses where anyone can dress up as a geisha and have their photos taken, and even walk around the city for a bit, so it's a little hard to know who is authentic and who isn't...but I choose to think that this beautiful gaggle was the real deal. Just lovely...