Sunday, March 2, 2008
Mochi Macho Man (part 1)
Any day where I get to watch folks lift giant cakes of pounded rice is a good day in my book. We learned about a festival south of Kyoto City where people would be proving their strength by lifting very large rice cakes called mochi. We figured that it would be like a traditional Japanese strong man competition. This would be fun. I loved watching those strong man contests on ESPN when we had cable. I would waste away a Saturday afternoon watching guys who were big enough to equal three or four of me lifting and carrying rocks, pulling semis, and throwing logs. I was now about to see the Japanese equivalent.
Our destination was Daigo-Ji to the south of Kyoto. The first stop was Yamashina station where we boarded the subway heading south. We traveled four stations to the south and we got off the train at Daigo station. I suppose this is where we made our first mistake, if we can call it such. Waiting outside the station was a bus bound for the temple, but we opted not to ride. The weather was really quite pleasant which made for a perfect day for a walk. The temple was only supposed to be a fifteen-minute walk from the station. We consulted the book and then checked our compass to get our bearing and we set off. We walked and walked, the area was more urban than we had expected. We were walking through a newer section of city. We had passed new apartment buildings, car dealerships and a very nice ramen restaurant we decided might make a nice place to eat dinner. Of course we grew uneasy about our course and decided to check the map and compass once again to make sure we were traveling in the proper direction. Lo and behold we found that we were off course. We decided to correct our bearing. We needed to make a right turn and head more east. The first street that headed off in an easterly direction was a dead end so we kept walking. We took a right turn at the next street and we began to walk through a residential neighborhood.
We actually had fun this time; here we were “lost” in a city halfway around the world from our home. We knew where we were, more or less, and we knew where we were bound, more or less. All we had to do was to find the crowd and we would be all set. We rambled along the streets enjoying the bright sun that warmed us to the point we shed our coats. We kept adjusting our course, always heading in the direction we felt that we needed to go. We kept our eyes open for the signs that our destination was drawing nearer, mainly busses carrying loads of people and crowds of people moving like a herd along the sidewalk. I saw the first clue that we were close when I saw a little girl. There clutched in her little fist was a plastic stick with a balloon suspended by a rubber band dangling from the end. This was the sort of toy she could only get from a festival. A festival like the one we were trying to find. We turned down the street they were leaving and headed toward the colorful banners in the distance. There they were right in front of us, all the people that signaled that we had arrived at our destination.