Japan 2014, Part 6.

Fun Japan tidbit: Outside many establishments is a sculpture of a happy smiling bear-type creature. When I got back I mentioned to my friend Moss (who has been to Japan before) that I saw this bear all over the place and I didn’t know his significance. She said, “His name is Tanuki and he brings good fortune and money. Did you notice his balls?” I was like, nooooooo, was I supposed to notice his balls? She said the larger his balls, the more fiscal goodness. I took a photo of one while I was there and when I went back and looked at the shot, indeed he was rockin’ some mega-nards. I was more focused on his man-boobs and that creepy belly button, and in doing so I had completely ignored his whole undercarriage situation.

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So when you go to Japan, be sure to check out the testicles on the bear sculptures outside various businesses. I can’t really believe I just typed that sentence.

I read in my Frommer’s guide book that on the 15th of each month there is a fair in the large temple courtyard of Chion-ji Temple. The Moomins and I happened to be in Kyoto on the fifteenth, so we went. I’m so glad we did go because it wasn’t touristy at all. It was all Japanese people selling things they made to other Japanese people. My only complaint is that it was RAINING. Not raining, RAINING. We got soaked to the skin and I got mud all over my shoes and socks. But The Moomins and I are tough cookies and we didn’t let a torrential downpour prevent us from having a jolly good time. If all these people could drag their wares out and be pleasant and sociable, so could we.

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Look, someone brought their beautiful bonsai trees and plant clippings! I tell you, if I lived there my house would be filled with all manner of plants and trees. It would be like a teeny-tiny arboretum. I got so excited by the plant life.

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I ended spending a healthy chunk of money at this thing. First of all, it was huge. It filled every available inch of space around the temple. Secondly, the prices were completely reasonable. And thirdly, it was all hand-crafts often being sold by the person who made them, which I am a big proponent of. I love meeting the artist. There was an elderly woman selling her temari balls. Everyone remember what a temari ball is? If not, here’s the blog entry I have referencing them.

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2014/01/08/japan-is-going-to-take-all-my-money-and-im-okay-with-it/

So Nice Lady was under a booth made of tarps selling this temari balls and other fabric pieces she had made. I had seen some other balls elsewhere for $84.00 each and figured I’d wait until I found some that were maybe slightly less expensive. She was selling hers for $5.00 and $10.00 and that was an amazing price, so I snapped up four of them. You can see my entire stash of temari balls in this photo I took of all my Japan swag when I got back. The temari balls are on the left.

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Nice Lady was so happy that I bought a whole bunch of her temari balls that she threw in little pincushions nestled in walnut shells are you kidding me that is the cutest thing ever Japan you are trying to kill me.

There was a potter there across from one of the pickle vendors (pickled vegetables are a big damn deal in Japan, they take great pride in it and it’s served at almost every meal) who made delicate little sake cups, and he had a sign I liked.

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True, true. We ended up buying several of his cups. Not because of the sign, they are nice cups, but the sign didn’t hurt.

It the middle of all this was a temple having services. It was a beautiful temple as many of them are, but it had these unique things sitting on pillows. I didn’t know what they were for, but each one was carved differently.

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Later a group of monks or priests came in and chanted in front of a few of these things while banging on them rhythmically. This is one of the problems with traveling on your own in Japan. There are no signs in English and many people don’t speak English, so you miss out on a lot of information. When I was on the tour, any time I had a question like, “Who are those men and why are they hitting those maracas?” I could turn to my guide and she explained it all to me. This was only one of a hundred times I felt like I needed to know more stuff and was at a loss. I don’t really recommend going to Japan all on your lonesome. You can do it, of course, but you’ll miss out. Either hook up with a tour or get a personal guide, a college student or something, to take you around and explain things to you.

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In case you want to go to this fair, some of things being sold that I remember (I’m sure there’s a bunch I’ve forgotten), all handmade: foods, pottery, hair adornments, jewelry, toys, dolls, woodwork, stickers and stationary, furniture, and purses. Here’s a flickr cluster of Chion-Ji pics. Fair ones are near the bottom.

http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/chionji/Recent

While we’re on the topic of temples, one of things I saw was a water dragon at the entrances to most shrines / temples. With cups on sticks in front of them.

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I later learned what to do with them. Before you pray to Buddha, you clean and purify yourself. What that means is you pick up a cup of water and pour it into your left hand to clean it, then your right hand, and then you pour water into your left hand, rinse your mouth, and spit into a trough on the side. That way none of you touches the cup and contaminates it for others.

Final thing at the temple fair: a woman, a real in-the-flesh crazy cat lady, brought her cat to the fair. In the pouring rain. Why would you do that? That cat’s expression says it all. I know cats can’t change their facial expression. but humor me this once.

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Lady, you need to sleep with one eye open because that cat is going to kill you in your sleep for sure.

Next entry – Nara and the Golden Pavilion.

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