Hell week in university is finally over (I had several big tests this week) and now I can finally start writing again! Anyway, day 12 was the day I felt I experienced all the seasons at once. It was a really wonderful day that started out with a lot of anxiety. This was the day we had to present a topic in class entirely in japanese. It was graded and several of our buddy san were also invited to give feedback.
My presentation was one of the first ones, and in the end it went pretty well. My classmate was going through his presentation when suddenly, another one of my classmates screamed (like a serious, loud scream). My classmates started running towards the window (the poor guy giving the presentation had no idea what to do) and yelling “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!”
The screaming may seem a bit excessive, but it was the first time some of my classmates had ever seen snow. And besides, it’s not often that we get to see snow (I was really close to running out of the school to see it). The buddies were really confused at first, and the whole situation was really funny with my classmates yelling “Hajimete! Hajimete mita! (It’s the first time I’ve seen it)”. The snowing ended after about 5 minutes, as it doesn’t really snow in Kyoto, especially not in December. But we couldn’t have been happier in those 5 minutes.
After school, we went for another event organised by the university at the Kyoto museum for World Peace. The museum is actually part of the university and is a walkable distance away. We were allowed to view the exhibits for free, but there is a small entrance fee for the public.
As expected the museum was really depressing (it’s mostly about WWII), but i feel it’s really important to remind ourselves of the atrocities humans are capable of. Anyway I needed to clear my mind so my friends and I decided to go to Kitano Tenmangu, a shrine nearby that was selling dried plums for the new year.
And so we started making our way there. Along the way, there was a much smaller shrine called Hirano shrine that we came across. My friend wanted to check it out (I wasn’t particularly interested in it but I didn’t mind) so we entered it. I should listen to my friends more often because this was an awesome decision!
A rather uninteresting entrance
There were absolutely no people in the shrine, but inside awaited a wonderful surprise-sakura trees! I know what you’re thinking- what does it matter, sakura don’t bloom in winter, it’s just a bunch of bald trees. That’s exactly what I was expecting when my friend told me it was a “sakura shrine”, but nope, there were sakura!
I still didn’t fully believe it, so we confirmed it with one of the priests there. He told us it was actually a variety that bloomed twice a year, in spring as usual and around October to December. So if you plan to visit around this time, definitely check out this shrine! You can experience the one thing that Japan is best known for, at a time where there are no crowds at all. The trees are a bit sparse and it does not compare to full experience you get in spring (obviously), but it’s still pretty cool!
Besides that, the shrine was really pretty, I really recommend it even without the sakura. Small, but picturesque. And, big bonus-no people.
Next was Kitano Tenmangu, what we had initially come for, but almost forgot about in all our excitement. There we saw many autumn trees that had not yet withered. I had read online that in December most of the autumn trees would have already withered, but to my surprise, there were many trees that had kept their autumn colours until late December. In fact, the first week of December the colours were in full swing (this is for Kyoto).
There are also many plum trees and pine trees in Kitano Tenmangu, and the shrine holds flea markets on the 25th of each month. Many pray in this shrine for good grades during exams, so being a student I had to visit (and buy some plums). There is also a lucky cow statue (I mean why not).
I later found out that there is a less well known geiko and maiko district nearby this area. This is a great alternative to Gion, considering that Gion is way too over crowded. Anyway, it was getting dark so we decided to head back to the dorm and find a place to eat nearby. In the end we settled for some delicious yakitori!
Man that yakitori was so, so good. The meat was juicy, and the grilled onigiri we had was really good too. A great meal to end a great day that I actually didn’t have much planned for. I walked 13941 steps.