Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destination in Japan and probably one of the best places to get a cultural taste of Japan.
My first time going to Japan was in 2014 and it was through a student exchange program that my school offered. For 2 weeks I stayed with a homestay family and attended a sister school located in the Hyogo prefecture.
Luckily for us, it was a long weekend when we arrived in Japan. I think it was some kind of Autumn public holiday. Anyways… this meant that instead of going to school, we had a free day with out host family. Most of my classmates went to Universal Studios with their host families but my host family thought it would be nicer to take me to Kyoto instead.
Our first destination was the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji 金閣寺)
This is probably one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto. It is a Zen temple which stands out because of the top two floors covered in gold leaf. There are also many other beautiful scenery surrounding the pavilion. Definitely a must visit attraction to see the cultural side of Japan and also a photo-worthy stop.
Our next stop was at another shrine called Imamiya Shrine（今宮神社）. Unlike the Golden Pavilion, this place didn’t have a particular famous attraction. However, it does have a reputation for prayers for good health and recovery from illnesses. When I got there, my host family showed me a few etiquettes involved when visiting a shrine. So i thought I’d just share with you guys a few of the stuff that i learnt.
In the photo above, the small basin fill with water is called a chozuya（手水舎）. You would usually see one of these at a shrine. Its purpose is to purify yourself before you approach the main shrine.
- Fill the ladle with water and then use it to rinse both of your hands.
- Pour some into your cupped hand to clean your mouth.
- Hold the ladle vertically to allow the remaining water to drip and then put it back.
Next is to pay your respect at the shrine
- Bow slightly
- Toss a coin into the box
- Use the rope to ring the bell three times (to tell the gods you have arrived)
- Bow deeply twice (90 degrees)
- Clap your hands twice
- Pay your respects
- Bow deeply once
The fellow rock sitting on the silk pillow is Ahokashi-san, Imamiya Shrine’s wish-fulfilling stone.
- Tap the stone three times
- Lift it up with both hands
- Make your pray
- After you pray, rub the stone three times
- Lift it up again with both hands
It is said that if it feels lighter the second time you lift up the stone, then your wish will come true.
Finally, after paying your respects, you can purchase a omikuji （おみくじ）for 100yen. Omikuji is a fortune-telling strip of paper. You can choose to either keep them or tie them on the rope. I got “small blessing” for mine. I also chose to keep my one as a souvenir since it was my very first omikuji.
You can also buy lucky charms or amulets called omamori（お守り）at booths.
There are also many other different fortune telling items/process but I will go through them when I come across it.
Now for my favourite part of the whole trip. ABURIMOCHI!!
Outside of the shrine’s east gate, there are two famous shops known for its aburimochi. Aburimochi are roasted mochi (rice cakes) skewers covered with kinako power and white miso sauce. If you do visit this Imamiya Shrine, this treat is definitely a must try. For sure one of my favourite sweets in Japan!
Anyway… that’s it for the first post of my 2014 experience in Japan. Stay tuned for more posts on Japan very soon!