Belated overview of the last week-and-a-half

Sorry not to post for a while. Not long after I started this blog, I entered a very hectic work week, part of which saw me on an overnight trip (Skills Development Conference for Iwate’s ALTs) and staying in a dormitory with limited internet access. Then my summer holidays were this week, so I’m currently in Kyoto.

Last weekend was a long weekend, so I had trouble getting a hotel for the full nine days, and so I took a chance with a ryokan I found on Booking.com by the name of Ryokan Hinomoto. They also didn’t have internet access, and circumstances forced me to have to change rooms in there twice. I moved to the Shijo-Karasuma Toyoko Inn on Monday and am there now. But as it turned out this week most of my friends were free in the evenings but not the afternoons, so in the afternoons I went sightseeing alone, then went out for dinner with friends in the evenings (twice in Osaka), and when I got back I tended to sleep rather than post here.

Brief outline of my activities in Kinki since last Saturday:

Saturday, 21-09-2013: Traveled to Asuka Village in Nara Prefecture to see the oldest Daibutsu statue in Japan (飛鳥大仏), on the way visiting the Soga no Iruka grave (蘇我入鹿首塚), and then stopping by the Manyo Culture Museum (奈良県立万葉文化館). I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nara’s prefectural museums are free entry for foreigners. Then I went to the Moon-Viewing Party (月を観る会), which is apparently held annually in Asuka Village, and heard lectures on the moon and the homophonous tsuki tree (槻) as themes in Man’yōshū poems and other classical literary works. (As for what tsuki is in English, apparently it’s the old name for the keyaki tree [欅], which in English is primarily known by it’s Japanese name…) This day I was overwhelmed with the majesty and age of what is in a way the oldest part of Japan. The sights of the old temple ruins, of Mount Kagu, and of the great Buddha statue were enough to move me almost to tears.

Sunday, 22-9-2013: Walked around Kyoto, met my friend N in the evening for drinks in and Irish pub in Gion. Good times all round.

Monday, 23-9-2013: Changed hotels, visited the Museum of Kyoto (京都文化博物館), which was massive, then went for a walk around the Imperial Palace Garden (京都御苑), visited the site where Murasaki Shikibu supposedly wrote The Tale of Genji. Unfortunately the Kyoto City Historical Archives (京都市歴史資料館) were closed.

Tuesday, 24-9-2013: Re-visited the Archives, which was interesting. Went to Kyoto University (京都大学) to retrieve documents related to grad school. The entrance exam looks very intimidating, so I need to brush up my ability to read not only classical Japanese grammar (古文) but also kanbun (漢文) and calligraphic script (草書体). Lot of work ahead of me. While drinking tea and waiting for the School of Letters office to open after lunch, a man approached me and asked me about the difference between the English words “atmosphere” and “ambiance”. We had an interesting chat and I gave him my e-mail. In the evening I had dinner in a Spanish restaurant in Osaka with my friend M. I realized sangria is quite tasty, but this particular restaurants “vegetable sangria” was not. (>_<)

Wednesday, 25-9-2013: Went to Osaka to meet my friend A in the afternoon. Before meeting her I tried to get the equivalent documents as mentioned above in Kyoto U from Osaka University, but it turns out their main campus is not where the literature school is, so after much to-ing and fro-ing I found it. They have a system in which prospective students contact a professor who interests them and studies under them as a kenshūsei for 6 months before starting grad school proper. It seems very interesting, but I’m not sure if any of their professors’ research interests match my own. From 17:30 I went for okonomiyaki with A from 17:30, and then afterwards to the Starbucks in Nanba, which had a surprisingly extensive library. I must go back there again …

Thursday, 26-9-2013 (today): I went back to Osaka to finish my grad school inquiries in Kwansei Gakuin University and Kansai University. Kwansei’s campus was gorgeous, but very closed off and over a kilometre uphill from the train station. Kansai was also difficult to navigate, as it is the first place I have been where neither the literature school nor the grad-school office were able to answer my questions, and I had to go to the entrance exam center. But when I got there they were very helpful. Still, I think of all the places I have been in the last few days, Kyoto University would be my first choice. I realized this week just how much I have missed this town. 😀

Now, I’m going out to get more okonomiyaki with my friend I. I’ll give more detailed descriptions of the above later, hopefully.

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