Friday, January 1, 2010


If you're in a hurry basically the following happened:

I came. I saw. I went home. 

But if you have time to read my rants, here's what happened:

The day before yesterday. Onta told me I need to go out, and I concur. I googled what people would do at new year's eve. Turns out that people either go to Shito shrine, or Buddhist temple. Out of the various places mentioned in the articles, I can only found one in the map. Yasaka shrine, at the end of 4th avenue, around the area called Gion.

Yesterday noon. I looked it up some more. Being lazy that I am, my google maps research told me that the last train available from 4th avenue to my dorm is exactly at midnight. During the remainder of the day I tried to study, but it really was feckless. 

The new year's eve. After much deliberation, I decided to go out and see the atmosphere. To really understand what transpired then, you need to know that the village where I live is served by two lines of trains from two different railway companies: JR and Keihan. As it happened, JR station is closer by around 300m than Keihan station to my dorm. So I took the JR line to Kyoto Station. At the Kyoto station, this was usually one of the busiest place in Kyoto with so many people, but at 9pm, this place was oddly deserted. I checked out the schedule, and it confirmed that the last train from Kyoto station to Obaku, the nearest station to my dorm is at 23.59. So I stepped outside to see that even the Kyoto Tower is closed. I decided to walk from Kyoto Station (which was close to 9th avenue) to 4th avenue. 

So I walked. And I walked. And the roads are practically deserted along the way to the 4th avenue. No traffic jam as there was basically no vehicle on the road. And I saw places I have yet to see before and made a pact to myself to get around this place again sometime. And at 5th avenue, it started snowing. But just so you know, this paragraph actually has nothing to do with the narrative that I wanted to tell, which is at the next paragraph. Oh, by the way, no pictures here. I was too lazy to bring my camera. And it's not like I have company.

I arrived at Yasaka Shrine a few minutes before 11, and the place was already packed. At the entrance, there were so many stalls and booths selling various foods (takoyaki, yakisoba, apple caramel, even frankfurter), oracles, and some sort of string--for lack of better word--to let you bring an ember home. And boy, there was a lot of people. 

I was, again, alone. Illiterate of japanese culture, both in its traditional and the more popular one. So I was just following along, and suddenly I was in the middle of a massive queues. I waited and waited, feeling really out of place, shortly after 11pm I get out of the queue and decided to start walking to the nearest station. As I get out of the exit, I saw that the whole 5 lanes of 4th avenue has been closed for vehicles and there was people, throng of thousands of people on the street. Which means that I actually was in a good position of the queue. 

But I was thinking that if I missed my last train to my dorm, it will leave me almost 20 km away from home and no place to stay for the night. And there I was, heading home, going against the direction of thousands of people.

The nearest station is Gion station on the 4th avenue (Gion Shijo station) of the Keihan line. So I waited for my train home, and at the platform, I saw the announcement that Keihan's operation hour was reversed during the holiday. Instead of having the first train at 5am and the last train at 12pm, their schedule now listed the first train at 7pm and the last train at 10am. But I was already on the platform. and now did not really see the point of returning to the shrine. And so i decided to go home. 

Home, no sound of a single firecracker, no sight of any fireworks, away from the throngs of people, undisturbed by blaring trumpets, retreating from the cold wind to the warmth of the bed. Let the day pass and we can start anew. 

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