I learned one of my most relevant Japanese phrases the other day: “夏ばて” (natsu bate), it means “summer melting.” This pretty accurately describes my most common state of being in recent times. With the temperature set at a solid 35 degrees, my Canadian heat tolerance is far past its limits. It was under these conditions on a 35+ day that I went on a day trip to Kyoto with my English club.
The students spent weeks preparing an English tour of one of Kyoto’s most famous places, Kiyomizu Temple. Then, they gave me a tour! The truth is, I’ve been to Kiyomizu temple once before, when two Japanese friends toured my husband and I around Kyoto. But as my students had their hearts set on giving me a tour of this particular temple, I couldn’t bear to tell them the truth, and thankfully they didn’t ask. In any case, it was a much better way to spend the workday than melting away in my office, and I learned some interesting stuff from them! Unfortunately, because I’m not allowed to put pictures of students on the internet, that rules out most of my awesome pictures, but here are a few student-free photos, and some tidbits I learned from their tour:
One of the interesting things I learned from my students’ tour is that, back in the day, people used to jump off the balcony from Kiyomizu Temple, a good 13 metres up, in order to have their wishes granted. Basically, if you survive the fall, your wish will come true. Apparently, 85 percent of people survived. Whether or not their wishes came true is unconfirmed… but the practice is now forbidden. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “take the plunge!”
Asides from risking your life to jump 13 metres onto concrete, there are many other ways you can make “wishes” at Kiyomizu. By far my students’ favourite area was the “Jishu Shrine,” the shrine for lovers or lover-wannabees.
Asides from all the “good luck” stations, another interesting feature of Kiyomizu was the Jizo babies: these are stone baby statues, often covered by red clothing, that represent the souls of lost unborn children – whether miscarried or aborted. Parents who have lost their children before birth can come here and choose a Jizo that they think looks like their child, and pray or pay their respects.
After Kiyomizu, we completed our trip by wandering the nearby streets. We came upon a girl dressed as “Maiko,” like a Geisha in appearance only. The students were so enthralled the poor Maiko girl had to pose with everyone, including me, and I’m not sure if the expression on her face is her attempt at Geisha-like serenity, or complete displeasure at the situation she found herself in: probably a bit of both.
Finally, we ducked into a tea shop to recover from the summer melting over some kinako (roasted soy beans) shaved ice. There is a specific name for this particular kinako/shaved ice/ice cream/mochi combination which I cannot remember, sorry.
After that, we strolled around a bit more, and then headed home. All things considered, possibly the best “workday” I’ve had in Japan so far! If only field trips like this could happen more often, summer melting wouldn’t seem half as bad.