Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Hakuho performing yokozuna ceremony
Next it was time for the makuuchi division matches. The rules are simple. The aim is to get your opponent either outside of the ring OR to touch any of the body parts (except for feet obviously) onto the floor inside the ring. The build up lasts longer than the actual battle but its just great!
....and the guy with the black mawashi wins!
Didn't have a clue where the scoring board was until we saw this tiny ancient looking hung up in the corner, yep this is the score board. The red dots are who won the match. Yep it took us a while especially nursing a hangover when everything takes just that little bit longer ; )
We did wonder how those mawashi stay on the wrestlers. The knot doesn't even look that tight at the back and sometimes they have so much front bottom fat hanging out that its amazing nothing else escapes...Oh and the non Japanese wrestlers were so hairy! Hairy backs, hair chests, hairy legs, yuk. Here is my fave wrestler, Baruto who is in the third highest rank, towering over the other wrestlers. He doesn't look like he belongs does he?
For anyone who has no idea what a capsule hotel is, its basically a type of hotel in Japan with extremely small rooms (aka capsules). They're usually men only but some have a ladies floor. They were initially designed for men too inebriated to travel home or to embarrassed to face their spouses. The best thing is that they're super cheap, like around £20 per night. Some people in Japan even rent them on a monthly basis as they're so cheap.
Once we entered our capsule (http://www.asahiplaza.co.jp/) we put our "outdoor" shoes into lockers and checked in no probs. I had initially expected some kind of unmanned reception with vending machines that spit out your keys (this is the case for some capsules) but there were actually humans there to check us in, wow! Locker keys in hand we went down to our ladies floor which we accessed via a key. Once inside, we went to find our capsules, all very exciting!
Mine was at the top so I had a little ladder to help me get in.Once I crawled inside it really wasn't that small, I could sit up easily and mine had a built in TV inside, pretty darn cosy if you ask me! No doors of course, just a screen that you pull down for privacy.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
So on Saturday morning at 6.50am we took the gruelling but cheap 5 hour bus bound for Osaka from Kanazawa (its the old age, I used to be able to handle long bus trips!) In fact it ended up being 7 hours as the traffic was so bad going into Osaka. From Osaka we caught the train and thought it was odd that the scenerey wasn't getting any more mountainous and pretty. It took us over an hour to realise that in fact we were en route to Kansai aiport, DOH! Mild panic setting in as the temple was serving dinner at 5.30pm and they wouldn't wait for anyone, it was now 4pm....
About 4 more train changes, a ropeway tram (see above) and a final bus we ended up in Koyasan, 11 1/2 hours later. Yep, we could have flown to London in that time!
The minute the bus entered the towering entrance gates and this huge stone Buddha appeared from nowhere in the trees we knew it was going to be worth the effort. Just some quick history for you about Koyasan, in 806 a monk named Kukai had travelled to China to study Buddhism. Some years later he returned and established a Shingon monastery on Koyasan, which then grew over the centuries. Kukai has become one of Japan's most famous religious figures and is revered as a Bodhisaattva, scholar and inventor of the Japanese kana.
Nowadays, the Shingon school of Buddhism has 10 million members and presides over nearly 4000 temples all over Japan. Today Koyasan enables tourists to stay alongside monks, eat their characteristic vegetarian cuisine (shojin-ryori), observe their prayer ceremonies and learn meditation techniques. We were to do all but the last.
Reception room at Shojosh-in temple, our home for a night
They gave Raquel our list of "rules", meal times, morning prayers time 6.30 and bath times (only between certain times in the evening and not available in the morning).
With no time to settle we went straight down for dinner (luckily they had agreed to still serve us despite being late) The food was so tasty. I honestly thought that we might go hungry what with the monks eating simple diet but no, we had 3 trays of food each! The monk who had been manning reception was now our waiter and was scurrying in and out with the food and hot green tea.
For the next hour we gorged on tempura veggies, pickles, fried tofu, daikon radish, rice, rolled omlette, ginger soup, miso, pickled chinese cabbage, fruit, it went on and on.... see above.
After dinner we drank a few glasses of wine in our room under the kotatsu (heated blanket surrounding a table) had a good ol chin wag and eventually passed out wondering what was in store for the next morning's service.
6.15am on the dot, a loud bell was rung a few times indicidating it was time to get up. We headed down to the prayer room a bit dreary eyed. Well, what an enchanting experience. Listening to the monks chant rythmically almost puts you into a trance like state and certainly took me back to my zazen experience in November.
After morning prayer which finished by 7am we had a huge breakfast and headed out to see Oku-No-In, a cemetary where Kukai rests in eternal meditation and the most sacred site at Koysan. Anyone who is anyone in Japan is buried here including former feudal lords, politicians and soldiers who served in WW2 are all buried in this huge cemetary (200,000 graves to be exact).
I'm no fan of graveyards here but there isn't a creepy tombstone in sight, just a quaint path that leads you through the cedar forest over quaint bridges, past monuments and towards Toro-Do (Lantern Hall) and Kukai's mausoleum.
En route we passed so many people cladded in white jackets and holding walking sticks. I initially thought they were tour guides (big faux pas jessie!) They were in fact "spiritual tourists" starting or ending their pilgrimages to the "88 sacred places of Shikoku", an impressive 1,100km trail.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Running out of time and there's still so much I want to do whilst living in Kanazawa. The longer I'm here the less daunting it all seems to be (i.e I'm even calling people up and speaking in my broken Japanese, something I never thought possible when I arrived a year ago!)
You then carefully mould the edges of the outer layer around the inner and make a ball. Then you roll it in your hands until it forms an egg shape. To finish it you make two cross marks across the top with your wagashi utensils, see my video!
It looked near impossible to make but was actually not too hard. The secret was in getting a damp handkerchief, wrapping the wagashi inside, twisting it hard and then finaly pinching it with 2 fingertips....
The last looked like something I used to produce from my mop top hair shop when I was young (god remember those?) This time the wagashi mix goes through the sieve provided, watch us doing it in video below!
After, you must pick up the wagashi shreds using only chopsticks and cover the inner ball of azuki. OK this was a bit tough as I have zero patience and it just doesn't stick that well.
Once you've picked every shred of wagashi mix your'e done! The waitresses then give you a cute little box (recycled I hope) for your 3 pieces of art form (and they include an extra wrapped one in there) Here are my final masterpieces ; )
I might even try to make my own daifuku (a type of wagashi which I just LOVE!) if I have time this weekend (a nice leaving present for my teachers)
At the Ishikawa Gifts and Souvenir centre you can also decorate traditional Japanese dolls as well as paint on glass.
The sweet making cost ¥1200 and is available from 10am to 1pm on weekends and national holidays only.
*To be honest I'm not sure a reservation is really needed as there weren't that many people there. Turn up and I'm sure they can fit you in.
Map is at http://www.hot-ishikawa.jp/f-lang/english/kanazawa-area/shopping-detail.html (third picture down, there's also a map in English of how to get there)
Warning, don't scoff all your wagashi sweets in one. I did....