Category Archives: Kyoto

Living in Iwakura

I don’t think I’ve written much about the place I’m staying at the moment, so before I go any further I’ll tell you a bit about Iwakura! Well it’s on the Northern Edge of Kyoto, surrounded by mountains and forrest. It may seem a little far out from the city on a map, but really the subway only takes about 20 minutes to get way downtown to Kyoto Station, and the area is so calm and scenic and peaceful I really couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, especially as a student! It’s far enough away from the city to avoid too much distraction, and the dorm I’m living in is conveniently located only a 10-minute walk away from my university. It has all the essentials, such as convenience stores, grocery stores, parks, home-ware and gardening shops, bakeries, cafes, restaurants (there’s a great Indian curry place near the subway station!), and many more places worth noting.
Here are some photos around Iwakura!

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Just outside the dormitory

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The Eiden line line train runs straight past the dorms and the school.Iwakura_20130410_01057

This little guy and others like him guard the streets. I call them “The Iwakura Watch”.
Iwakura_20130410_013615 Iwakura_20130410_014518 Iwakura_20130410_015321Iwakura_20130410_015422 Iwakura_20130410_015623These were from back in early April during hanami (cherry blossom season). This is the river that runs down to the Kokusaikaikan subway station. I walk or ride my bike past it almost everyday. Such a lovely spot. The crickets have begun chirping at night now too! I feel like I’m living in an anime… The area reminds me of some of the scenes in Niea_7.Iwakura_20130410_016726I’m not a creep I swear! These kids were just too darn adorable!
Iwakura_20130410_017430 Some flowers I found in a parking lot… of all places…Iwakura_20130410_017931 The main business area of the town. It’s always a little busier around here, and there are plenty of restaurants!Iwakura_20130410_018332Iwakura_20130410_018533 Iwakura_20130410_019036

Hey there Iwakura Rangers! Protecting the streets as usual I see!

Iwakura itself is really lovely, but the dorm I’m staying in is a completely different story…
I don’t have enough time or patience right now to explain in detail how horrendous the university dorms are, so I’ll save that for another post. But just to give you an idea… here are some photos I took of one of the windows in the kitchen…

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Yup. Most of those back specks are bugs… You don’t even want to see the floor…

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And my creepy hallway on the 5th floor.
Just last night I discovered a mukade (centipede) just near that vacuum cleaner. Lucky this was only a small one (about 12cm), but I hear they can grow to about 30cm! And it isn’t even summer yet! Time to tape the windows people!

Believe it or not it gets much worse than that my friends.
If you’re planning to study at Seika in the future, I would definitely recommend finding your own accommodation if you’re staying for longer than one semester. Four to six months is about all I would be able to take of this place, possibly a year if I really had to… but it would not be pleasant…
On the plus side though, it’s a great way to meet people, especially if you don’t speak much Japanese. There are always plenty of other exchange students around, and often they put you all on the same floor together (at least they did for me!). It’s like a constant party up here on the 5th floor! I think within the first 3 days we were already getting noise complaints… Oops.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Will update again soon with images from the Aoi Matsuri and a trip I had to Kiyomizudera with three friends from my class. Plus I went to a student-run fashion/music parade, and went back to Osaka a couple of times. Plus I’m going to Tokyo tomorrow… BUSY BUSY!!! Still need to get my Nara films developed as well… damn…
Alright better get to work!
I’ll leave you with some outfit snaps of Emma, Wing and I from our Osaka trip.

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We are oh-so pastel!

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Toji Market Day

Almost a month ago now a couple of friends and I went to the Toji Temple Markets. This flee market is held only once a month, on the Toji Temple grounds in Kyoto, on the 21st of each month. Lucky for us, this time it fell on a Sunday, so we didn’t have any university commitments to attend to! やった!

So I bundled up my trusty film camera, dropped a couple of colour rolls into my bag, and off we went!

toji009editUnfortunately it was a bit of an overcast day, and at times it did rain a little, so some of the images are a little grim-looking. But this may have been a good thing, as it kept some of the crowds away! (Also, please ignore the dust on the photos. They were just quick scans)

If you are ever in Kyoto at this time of the month, and would like to visit the markets, I would definitely suggest coming early in the morning! Especially if the market is on a weekend. We got there around 9 or 10am, and by the time we left around 1pm, the crowds were so dense we could barely move, and the atmosphere in general became far less pleasant. (Geez some of these Japanese grandmothers are fierce!)

Anyways, here are some of the lovely foods and goodies we found there.

toji006editDried Strawberries (I got some crystallised ginger from one of these shops. So good!)

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Hand-printed bags (I really wish I’d bought one!)

toji010editClay Animal flower-stands

toji016edit Fat Cat Hangerstoji019edit An array of Japanese antiques, statues and ceramics! Beautiful!toji023edit Traditional Maskstoji030editBeautiful fabrics toji013editAnd of course delicious-looking food! toji035edit toji037editThis place was my favourite. The line was quite long, but they looked so darn good I just had to have one! And they were only 100 yen each!!
Sandwiched between the two pancakes was sweet red bean paste with a small piece of chestnut. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I absolutely love Japanese sweets! So this was a definite highlight for me. A Japanese man even walked past us and tried to explain that these are “very rare” (said in Japanese). I’m assuming this little shop must be quite famous among the locals, as it was the only place with a line!

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There was also a small area at one of the wooden temples where we could pray. People were throwing coins into a wooden box before praying, then before they descended the steps, many people would try to rub the smoke from these incense sticks into their hair, clothes and skin. It was very peculiar to watch. When I asked my Japanese friend why they were doing this, she said “it is good for your head”. She then proceeded to waft the smoke over her, telling me it would be good for her studies. It seemed a little strange, but wanting to experience as much of the culture as possible, I gave it a go too! (Actually it smelt quite nice)

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After battling the crowds for a few hours we finally came to the end of the market. A lot of it was just food and Japanese candies, but if you look hard enough you can find some real gems at these markets! There are heaps of second-hand yukatas and kimonos for only 1000 yen (about $10 AUD), which would be great for anyone looking for gifts, or even for crafters looking for cheap good-quality fabric. I definitely recommend it!

My Trusty Travel Tool

I must apologise to those of you following my blog for my absence these past two weeks. My darling macbook had a little bit of a fit and stopped working on me for a few days (which I suspect may have had something to do with an influx of travel photographs. Oops.)

Anyways, I appear to be up and running again for the moment! I have a bunch of events and projects ready to post about. It’s simply a matter of finding time to write them. I have my first body of work due for Printmaking tomorrow so I’ve been a bit busy trying to pull the whole thing together (the story of which deserves it’s own post).

The final work will be up on my other blog hopefully sometime this week if you’re interested:
http://caseycrockfordphotography.wordpress.com/

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of my trusty pink bike, and a little info on how bikes work in this strange country…

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I bought this pastel-pink beauty at the local hardware store for 8900 yen, plus another 500 yen for registration. The system here with bikes is so different to Australia, and possibly every other country in the world! They are treated more like cars in that they have a kind of license plate in the form of a sticker that you can use to track your bike when it’s stolen or (in my case) abducted by the local police for illegal parking.
If you get caught in this situation in Japan look for a nearby sign from where your bike was taken, with directions to the nearest impound. You bring along your bike key and your ID, and pay about 2300 yen to get it unchained from its sad bike-prison. You also have to fill a form with your name, number, address, etc… This proved a touch difficult for us foreigners, but we managed.
If you want to avoid this, I suggest not parking around train stations between 8am and 6pm, especially on weekends! There is often cheap pay-bicycle-parking at these locations, or you can alternatively find a nearby supermarket or fast-food joint with a carpark and try your luck there. Most Japanese bikes have an inbuilt wheel lock, but to be extra safe I’d buy another loop lock and chain it to a post. According to the Japanese people I’ve spoken to, this tends to deter the police and potential thieves (not that there is much crime in Japan to begin with.)

For a society that uses bikes as such a key form of transport, the road-rules surrounding them are surprisingly vague… and are rarely enforced. It seems bikes count both as pedestrians and vehicles here, riding freely on both the footpaths and roads. I still don’t understand who has right of way at an intersection, so I tend to only cycle on the quieter streets now. Some rules such as not being allowed to cycle with an umbrella or headphones or intoxicated all seem to be ignored, and even more shockingly no one wears helmets! Children under a certain age are required to by law, but after that age you can cycle as fast as you like with as little protection as you want. It’s a little scary if you ask me… but at least I won’t have to worry about helmet hair!

Kyoto City – a place where humans and nature collide

One thing that strikes me every time I come to Japan is the way the people here have managed to maintain a strong appreciation for nature and tradition, while living in such a fast-paced modern society. It’s something a lot of foreigners notice while traveling through Japan, and is perhaps at it’s most noticeable in Kyoto – the previous capital city, which has become a tourist hot-spot in recent years for it’s beauty and rich history.
This small city is filled with temples, shrines, vending machines, computers, trains, bamboo forrests, earthquakes, bikes, pachinko parlours, etc… You may be walking through a busy street downtown and suddenly find yourself inside a temple with incense and praying visitors. It can be quite surreal standing in front of a place like this, knowing that on your way out you’ll most likely be greeted by a vending machine, eagerly awaiting its’ next customer.

Now this all sounds a little sad, and I thought so too in the beginning. But in the three weeks I’ve been here I’ve been noticing just how carefully these things are navigated and arranged, and just how much the Japanese enjoy keeping a little touch of nature and tradition in their lives. For example, when you go to a temple, normally the vending machines are tucked away in their own separate buildings, or are only viewable on the way out, so as not to ruin the atmosphere. I’ve also noticed a lot of flower shops around the place, and small apartments covered from head-to-toe in pot-plants.

For my first project here in Japan, I’ve been documenting these small understated places and moments. Here are a few I’ve got so far:

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Note: These are all digital shots, but I’m waiting on the film versions to be developed. Hopefully they work out!

Let me know what you think! Suggestions are always appreciated.