Friday, October 21, 2011

Jingū Marutamachi


Jingū Marutamachi is located right before the last stop on the Keihan line in the Kyoto direction, Demachiyanagi. Although the station is comparatively not very small (and the local, sub-express, and express trains all stop there), there is really not much within the station itself, not even a food stand or convenience store. After exiting the gate after arriving at Jingū Marutamachi, the main thing that catches your attention is the signs for the various historical sites in the area. Although there are many historical sites in this area, I chose to focus on the station's namesake, the Heian Shrine (Heian Jingū).

Park across from the shrine.
Jingū Marutamachi is the closest stop on the Keihan line to the Heian Shrine, but to get there, you have to walk along the station's other namesake, Marutamachi Street, first. After walking around fifteen minutes in the direction of the shrine, I found several other areas of importance in the area. Most of the road has the usual restaurants, cafes, and shops (although this one in particular caught my eye, as I know of another Blue Parrot back near my school in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) as well as the city hall for the area. In addition, one of Kyoto University's dormitories is located less than five minutes from the station's exit, so the area immediately around the station seems to be home to some college students as well.
Closer to the shrine are more tourist-oriented shops and food stands, but the whole area itself struck me as more residential (or at least, less crowded) than Kiyomizu Temple or some of the other well-known temples and shrines in Kyoto. Directly across from the shrine entrance is a small park, which seems more catered to the people who live in the area rather than tourists as well. While I was at the park, there was a large group of Japanese college students playing tag around the park while mothers and daughters ate lunch together while sitting on the benches under the trees.  There was also a young girl learning to ride a bike with her father and brother, which once again reinforced the idea that the area is not so much for tourists as it is for those who actually live in the vicinity of the shrine. In addition, right near this park is the largest torii in Japan, which sits over the street across from the shrine itself.

Part of the Heian Shrine's gardens.
The Heian Shrine itself is quite large, and its large expanse of white gravel contrasts greatly with the bright red architecture of the shrine. In addition to the shrine itself are the shrine's gardens, which all focus around a large pond within the gardens. One woman I spoke to in the shrine suggested that I come back again later in the fall as well as in the spring to really see a better variance in the plant life in the gardens--when I was there there was only one tree with a hint of orange, so a return trip certainly is necessary!

A final note about the shrine is that it is the site of the Jidai Matsuri, which actually happens tomorrow!

Finally, right next to the station exit itself is a bridge, beneath which seems to be a popular hang out spot for couples, friends, and just those who want to ride their bikes along the river. While Jingū Marutamachi is quite a distance from Hirakata, the various shrines and museums right near this station certainly make it an area worth visiting.

Marutamachi Bridge.

View from Marutamachi Bridge.

Friday, October 7, 2011

portrait of a japanese person

Like a lot of the foreign students at Kansai Gaidai, I've met a lot of Japanese students in the CIE lounge ever since I first came to the campus.  The problem is that because we keep meeting so many people, it's hard to have conversations with other people besides short, simple small talk unless you can find a common interest.  That being said, I have made a lot of Japanese friends with similar interests as me who I've had the chance to meet up with outside of Kansai Gaidai, one of those people being my friend Asuka.

I first met Asuka when she and her friend, Ayaka, started up a conversation with me and my friends from my home university, Gettysburg College.  When we said we went to school in Pennsylvania, they didn't seem to know a whole lot about the area, but when we mentioned that we went to Gettysburg College, it turned out that they both were friends with a guy named Gus, who had graduated from Gettysburg College this past spring.  Not only did we know him, but one of my friends and I had recently been in the same Japanese history class as him!  It was such a coincidence that we all happened to know someone from my home university, even though we had met at different times and in different places.  Having this in common really helped to bring us together--to think, if we hadn't mentioned our university then, we might not have ever realized this!

Asuka is a third-year student at Kansai Gaidai, and she studied abroad at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, so her English is already really good--we can all gossip and have girl talk together without much of a language barrier! Asuka is always smiling and laughing and can always lift our moods when we talk with her after our classes.

Since we first met, Asuka, my friends, and I have hung out around campus and have had lunch together several times, but we've also met outside of Kansai Gaidai as well.  For instance, last Friday we all went to Hirakata Station for dinner and karaoke to celebrate the fact that it was finally Friday. (Asuka is also amazing at karaoke!! She put us all to shame with her amazing voice!)

Even though I've met a lot of people since I came to Kansai Gaidai, Asuka is one person who I've really had a chance to get to know better, and I hope we will be able to get to know each other even more during my time abroad here.