Thursday, July 1, 2010

Temples, Shrines, and Cemeteries, Oh My!

Proof of my THIRD time eating natto (a Japanese food made from fermented beans that the Japanese are supposedly crazy about … and foreigners absolutely despise). I usually like bean-based dishes so maybe that explains my tolerance for natto, although I admit it’s not something I would consider going crazy over.

Onuma trip last weekend was certainly memorable, as I tried out an onsen for the first time (a public hot bath notoriously famous for practicing the Japanese way of going in stark naked). The HIF students were a little clueless at first (at one point, Ning was like, “Um, do we take off all our clothes now?”), but it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be. I also tried Hokkaido's famous いかすみ ice cream (squid ink) at Onuma Park. Despite its inky taste and the fact that it was the same shade as cement, it was delicious!!

Stopped by a gift shop after the shrine. So 上手!

In the past couple of days, I’ve also been hopping around a lot of neat places in Hakodate. Yesterday, Ning, Jade, and I visited a nearby Shinto shrine after class and struck up a conversation with a local who was also visiting the shrine, asking him about the proper way to enter a shrine, his work in Hakodate, etc. Three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have dared to approach a Japanese person, but improved speaking skills and a desire to improve even more is certainly making a difference.

The grounds of the shrine. According to Ning, the slips of paper are fortunes that people hang up after receiving them.

Today, we also visited a Buddhist temple as part of an HIF excursion. Somehow, part of our group wandered off into the cemetery area, so we waited for them while everyone else left. It turned out be a good thing, as our guides asked us if we also wanted to visit Koryu-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hakodate, which was right around the corner. Unfortunately, most of my pictures inside the temple were blurry because of the light, but even then, they wouldn’t have been able to capture the elaborate statues adorning the shrine and the soothing scent of incense that's always wafting in a temple. 

The shrine room of the first temple.

Somewhat disturbing, but I would love to be able to translate these kinds of things in the future...

The Buddhist Paradise, elaborate as always. I managed to squeak out, "This is the place people go to when they die, right?" and the priest got super excited, ranting about the role of the Amida Buddha at one's deathbed. Unfortunately, he thought I was Chinese, but props for my freshman seminar on Buddhism that I took this spring. 

Decorated statues at the temple cemetery for infants that died prematurely.

Gate to Koryu-ji

We also continued our wandering into the Foreigners’ Cemetery and through a tiny fisherman’s neighborhood that’s actually my favorite running route in Hakodate so far. 

Apparently, the newspaper seller wasn't famous enough to have his name remembered.

In addition to the Foreigners' Cemetery, Hakodate also has a Chinese cemetery and a Russian cemetery. Needless to say, the 花屋s nearby are rolling in the dough.

Props to Connolly-san for taking such an awesome picture.

Morning run today on the other side of Hakodate had also been beautiful, even on a foggy day. I passed by a lot of elderly people sitting by themselves the beach, immersed in thought to the gentle sound of waves and the bellows of fishing boats in the distance. Life seems much slower in Hakodate than in America, and I wish that I too could have as much time to ponder over the day’s events… 

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