Change of setting but still the same story. I know I’m no good at drawing fighting scenes, I promise I’ll practice more.
The Heian period was a time of peace. Nobody in the aristocracy would even think about fighting and the only armed danger that was really mentioned were pirates during sea travel. That is probably one reason why the people in power positions changed completely between the Heian period and the following Kamakura period (1185-1333) that introduced the very first Shôgun to Japan, Minamoto no Yoritomo. The Heian period ended with a 5 year war that was the beginning of the famous Samurai age.
One thing that I remember was discussed in class was the emergence of fighting Buddhist monks, gaining influence and using force to invade and plunder villages. Not the kind of Buddhist monks you usually hear about. I am afraid I don’t know much about them, but the thought of actual warrior monks seemed so intriguing that I decided to use that idea anyway.
The sign in the hall says seishin ittô (精神一到), by the way, a shortening of the expression seishin ittô nanigoto ka narazaran (精神一到何事かならざらん) which could be roughly translated as “where there’s a will there’s a way”. The little monk’s name en is written with the character for circle (円) that is nowadays used for the currency (Yen) as well. A lot of monks had that character in their name and I like it for its simplicity.
These last two weeks we were visited by my parents in law and my father, who kept us quite busy. It was their first time in Japan so it was very interesting for us to watch them take things in. They marveled at the IC-card system that gradually substitutes train tickets, at the tiny size of many Japanese shops and restaurants, the crowdedness of some famous tourist spots and the sheer uncountable number of cute mascots and franchise figures being available in all sizes as key and phone chains, magnets, figures or plushies. Of course we used the occasion to travel around Kansai and experience some unique events like the dance of the Seiryû (blue dragon) in the Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, a personal tour through the Ise shrine by two priests, with a cleansing and a Kagura dance, and a wedding ceremony my former host parents decided to throw for Ulfdiefee and me. We’re gonna use the next weeks to tell you about all of this and about our parents’ reactions to Japan, that might give you a heads up if you’re planning on visiting it for the first time.
It also happened to be the beginning of spring, undoubtedly the (almost) uncontested best time to visit this country that will very suddenly be covered in translucent white and pink cherry blossoms (Sakura), making for an unforgettable scenery. The air is getting warmer and smells of flowers and sunshine (unless you have pollen allergies, in which case you can buy cotton masks), the sun shines more brightly and there are hundreds of places in Kansai alone where you can go and enjoy the Sakura. (Is it obvious I love spring?) While famous spots such as the Himeji castle (that has just reopened on March 27th after years of reparations), the Osaka castle or some temple in Kyoto are certainly worth a visit, i have actually found the Nara park the most enjoyable. Nara is much smaller than Osaka which makes it a bit more relaxed and the park is so huge that even great masses of people will leave many quiet and laid back spots where you can stroll around and enjoy the Sakura. Then, of course, there are the deer Nara is famous for, tame does that will eat our of your hand and just stand around anywhere making for beautiful snap shots.
Now the Sakura is nearing its end already and classes are starting again. It promises to be a busy second term for me but I have signed up for a Kimono class that will begin next Saturday and to that I am looking forward already. Stay tuned for more tales!