Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fighting the Forces of Evil with Soy pt. 2

With the forces of evil vanquished from our home and good luck welcomed in it was time to head off to Kyoto. Last year we had the awesome opportunity of watching geisha perform their traditional dances. As much as we wanted to return and witness this rare spectacle again we knew we must view something new. After the cultural experience at the international center we headed off to find Rozan-ji, a small shrine near the former imperial palace. We decided to visit as an afterthought. Sort of a, “Well we better just max out the day. We are going to Kyoto anyway. Once in a lifetime opportunity after all.” rationalization. We worried that we might be too late because we overshot the shrine and had walked too far. We took a shortcut through a temple complex. Here we were three strangers in a strange temple sneaking through the alleys and paths of this place in search of a specific shrine. I must admit I was nervous that someone would come out of a building and discover us. Then I imagined we would be escorted back to where we entered and given the old heave-ho. We came out of the entrance to the temple and lo and behold to our left we could see the crowd that signaled our destination. Much like when looking for pirate treasure X marks the spot; in Japan X-tremely large gatherings of people marks the spot.

We strolled up to the gate leading into the shrine and mashed our way into the crowd. Last year we got to the shrine we visited nice and early. We found a wonderful spot to view the dancing geishas. This year we found ourselves at the back of the crowd on the outside of an open doorway. We could barely see into the shrine. We feared we might be unable to see the show. We had read that this would be a particularly entertaining event. There would be men dressed in giant oni costumes dancing on a stage. We would be seeing three demons dance while carrying weapons in their hands. The Black demon wielding a sword represented greed. The green devil brandishing an ax is the personification of anger. And the red oni with hammer and a flaming torch symbolized discontent.

It turned out that we were just in time. Soon after we arrived the crowd began to push its way farther into the interior of the shrine. I prepared the camera and Jenny popped Logan up onto her back so he could see over the crowd. We then heard the drums begin to beat and the music began to play. It was not long before the first of the giant oni came out to perform their dance. It looked like a giant stuffed toy. It was a cross between a toy and a poorly made theater fat suit. Hardly the horrid, frightening image I had in my mind. Still it was fun. When the oni had completed their dance then it was once again time for the beans to be thrown. About six or so people came out and began to throw beans.
I count myself lucky that we were not seriously injured. The projectiles launched at us were not the same as the beans Logan and I threw this morning. Now here were the magic missiles that I had been expecting. Every one that bounced off my coat or my unprotected head stung. These beans were covered in a thick sugar coating and colored pink and white. We tried to catch them as doing so is considered lucky, but every one that we caught slipped through the fingers of our gloves onto the wet ground.
We ended up purchasing a full bag of them. When we did have an opportunity to try them they were not what I expected. Judging by their size I was expecting something similar to an almond M&M. It had more in common, however, with a gobstopper. The sugar coating was hard as a rock and thick as… well let’s just figure it was all rock hard sugar candy. I am a bit worried about the luck we ushered into our lives. Once the oni did take the stage the batteries on my camera died and I had to scramble to replace them before it was all over. We finished with a walk through the imperial palace garden park on our way back to the subway. Then it was back to Kyoto Station were we grabbed a few of the only variety of beer we can not find here in Omihachiman, root beer, before we headed home.


Ryan said...

Over here in India we can not depend on luck... if we did the evil spirits would make certain that it was all bad.

*I remember the day that Nancy got pooped on by birds twice.

Kevin Myers said...

In some cultures having a bird poop on you is a sign of good luck. It is an omen that you will come in to money.