The past two months have been extremely busy for me with work, exploring, making new friends, and attempting to be an adult. I feel like I have a real good handle on my job now and feel a lot more confident when I’m teaching. With the kids classes, I realized that you just have to really let loose and as long as you’re having fun, then the kids will have fun too. This is especially true for my really young class (ages 1.5-4 years old). The parents are in the class with us too and as long as I can make their kids laugh, then I’m golden.
Recently I got to revisit one of my favorite places in all of Kyoto, Arashiyama. This is a section of Kyoto where the famous bamboo grove is (you know the one in Memoirs of a Geisha?). There’s also a beautiful river, plenty of temples, cute restaurants, and shops all in the area as well. The last time I was here was 2.5 years ago when I came to mediate at a temple with my Zen Buddhism class from Kansai Gaidai University (which I was really bad at by the way). It felt so good to be back and I actually remembered the area quite a bit. It was almost like I was having a deja vu moment.
One of my favorite things that I’ve done recently is attend the Tanabata festival, otherwise know as the star festival. It celebrates the meeting of two deities represented by the stars Vega and Altair. These lovers were always separated by the Milky Way and are only allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Because of this, Japanese people make wishes during this time in hope that they come true. They write down their wishes on colorful strips of paper and then tie them to bamboo plants. At the end of the festival, the wishes are either burned or sent floating along the river. I attended the festival at Shitennoji in Osaka and there were loads of food and drink vendors and people in yukatas. A yukata is sort of like a light summer kimono? It’s worn to festivals and I even bought one for myself before going. It’s really comfortable actually and it felt good to take part in the culture a bit further.
I also visited a world heritage site today, Himeji castle. Himeji is about 45 minutes from Kobe on the train so it was really easy to get to. It is one of the few castles in Japan that was never destroyed by war, fire, or natural disaster so it is viewed as a national treasure. The whole castle is white and has been kept in such nice condition. Upon entering the castle, you actually have to take your shoes off and carry them around in a plastic shopping bag that they provide. All of the floors were smooth hard wood floors which was really nice. There are extensive castle grounds around the castle that are extremely beautiful as well. It’s definitely worth the day trip if you’re in the kansai area!