Posts Tagged ‘ Keihan Line ’

Happy Thanksgiving ( ハピーサンクスギビング )

—   Updated with new photos and a Kanji Lesson   —

Looking towards Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009. My first Thanksgiving in Japan was in 1984. That tale’s told just below . . .

Thanksgiving’s coming up in the U.S.  Back in 1984, I and my friend Lori, from Mystic, Connecticut, took the Keihan Line from Hirakata-shi into Kyoto.  About a thirty-minute trip.  We walked over to Meidi-ya, near where San-jo intersects Kawaramachi.  Meidi-ya was the “international grocery store” nearest to us and where we went to stock-up on “exotic” American food for Thanksgiving:  canned green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for a green bean casserole; a whole chicken (turkeys were hard to find in Japan back then and, besides, the Nakamura’s, her homestay family’s, oven where we planned on doing the roasting cooking, was too small to handle a turkey); Idaho potatoes and gravy mix (we were not inclined to make it from scratch); dressing; cranberry sauce; and other odds and ends.

Harvesting rice in my neighborhood. Tsuda, Japan. Mid October 1984.

We brought the booty back to the Nakamura’s and over the next day or so prepared a very reasonable and respectable facsimile of a traditional American Thanksgiving Feast.  I think Lori made something like pumpkin pie, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me.  Being a Southerner, I made sweet tea.  With it being a special occasion, large bottles of Kirin beer and sake were on hand, too.  And rice.  Japanese rice, of course.  And as it was a special occasion, shoji were slid-back and three generations of Nakamuras and Lori and I ate seated around the low tables; my first (and so far only) Thanksgiving Dinner on the floor (a very comfortable tatami floor, mind you).

Meidi-ya Internation Grocery Store. Kyoto. November 10, 2009.

The Nakamura’s appeared genuinely touched and thought Thanksgiving was a very good and appropriate kind of holiday, worthy of celebration in Japan (no Pilgrim stories, but much to be thankful for with Japan and the Japanese going through good and awful times, sometimes owing to nature and sometimes owing to the choices of humans).  Lori and I had a blast, as 21-year-olds playing cook and hosts for Thanksgiving in Japan.

And Meidi-ya’s still there in Kyoto.  The same store in the same location.  And it still carries exotic Campbell’s soup.

Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. Nov 2009.

Autumn Leaves,” from The Japan Times

A mosaic carpet of autumn foliage tinted in shades of green, yellow, orange, and red is currently rolling southward through the archipelago of Japan. 紅葉 (kōyō, crimson/leaves), the Japanese word for “autumn leaves,” only hints at the splendor of this multihued natural phenomenon.

Beeches, birches, persimmons, larches and ginkgos all produce beautiful colors, but the King of Kōyō “the tree to see,” is the Japanese maple (momiji; like kōyō, it is written with the kanji compound 紅葉). The crimson, lacy-leafed momiji — whether sunlit or artificially illuminated at night — is so impressive that the Japanese refer to autumn leaf-viewing in general as momijigari (紅葉狩り, Japanese maple/hunting).

The second kanji in 紅葉, 葉 (ha, yō), has the core meaning “leaf.” Mastering the shape of 葉 is a snap if you divide it into its three top-to-bottom components — 艹 (plant-life), 世 (generation) and 木 (tree) — and memorize the phrase, “Leaves are successive generations of plant life on a tree.” (Thirty years was the norm for a generation in ancient China, which explains why you can see three “10s” (十) in 世).

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Looking down the Takase Canal. San-jo (Third Street) , Kyoto. 2009.  The Takase continues down to Shi-jo (Fourth Street).  Turn right where the Takase  passes under Shi-jo and walk just a few yards west until you’re at Meidi-ya.


Looking North Up Kawabata-dori. Kyoto, November 2009.


Autumn Colors along the Kamo River. Kyoto, November 2009.

For summertime scenes and colors along the Kamo River,see this post.

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I’m going to take about a 2-week hiatus from  Back in early December.   I’ll continue to monitor comments, of course.  Happy Thanksgiving.  ハピーサンクスギビング


秋  。。。autumn (Updated for 2011)


Note:  In 2011 I updated this post with a few photos I took Kyoto in November 2009; taken a little over a month after I first posted this piece.  After you (hopefully) enjoy this photo essay, I hope you’ll click over to my 2012 Autumn album.

The Takase Canal. Kiyamachi, Kyoto. November ’09.

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Autumn’s my favorite season.  I suppose it comes from being a native of Virginia, growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., where during my childhood autumn seemed to last forever.  Cousins lived — and now raise their own families — in the Shenandoah Valley.  My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in West Virginia when I was very young, and then moved over to Shenandoah, Virginia.  The glorious leaves, the cool crisp days and chilly nights, football season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, apples and apple cider and a slow, sweet transition into the Christmas Season.  As a teenager and then as a college student I found autumn the most romantic time of the dating year and most of my fondest memories of that aspect of my life were played-out against the backdrop of autumn.

Kurama.  Just north of Kyoto.  October 2003.

Kurama. Just north of Kyoto. October 2003.

The first time I went to live in Japan, near Hirakata-shi and within about a half-hour of Kyoto, or Osaka, depending on which direction one takes the Keihan Line, was in August.  So I was able to experience the transition from summer into autumn in Japan.  Through two living experiences in Japan and a couple of dozen of 1- to 3-weeks trips there over the past 10 years, I count autumn as my favorite time in Japan, too.

Kyoto. 2003.

Autumn in Japan:   its heavy, oppressive, debilitating humidity takes a holiday, the Japanese maples (もみじ) transform into millions of delicate blazes of red and gold, lengthening shadows and deepening shades of red and orange, charcoal-sweet smell of roasted yams (still in the skin, of course) wafting about in both city and countryside.  “Sweater Weather.”  The sycamores that line Ni-jo Street in Kyoto, east of the Kamo River.  Comforting memories of dear people who’ve wafted like sweet smoke in and out of my life — or was I the shade that merged into and out of theirs’? — all make autumn in Japan particularly special for me.

I remember one cool autumn night in Kyoto, around 2003 when I and my traveling companion had just flown across the Pacific, gone through the Rites of Immigration, Customs and Baggage Claim at Kansai International Airport, taken the “Haruka” train from the airport to Kyoto Station, been picked up at the station by my Sensei, my Japanese language teacher from college, and taken to his and his wife’s home in North Kyoto.  We ate some, drank a little beer and sake and then turned in after a long, long, long day.  The last thing I remember hearing as I drifted off was the sound of a man singing, almost chanting, just outside the window, pushing his cart of roasted sweet potatoes through the narrow Kyoto streets, plodding on by with his voice rising and falling   —   “R o a s ted yaaaa…ms!  R o a s ted  yaaaa…ms”  (“yaaahhhhkeee   eeemohhhh,  yaaahhhkeee  eeemohhhh…“).  He sounded elderly.  Was he?   I think it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.

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G a l l e r y

Kiyomizu Dera.  November 2003.



Canal from Lake Biwa. Kyoto. November 2009.


Harvesting Rice. Near my house. Hirakata. Autumn 1984.


Leaves in Stone Basin. Shoren-in. November 2009.


At Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Persimmons (柿). Kyoto, Okazaki, Market. November 2009.


Ladder. Kurama. November 2003.


Katano-san. Near my house. Autumn 1984.


Friend at Eikan-do (永観堂) “Light Up.” Kyoto. November 2009.


Along the road, near Chion-in. November 2009.


Overcast day in Pontocho. Kyoto. November 2009.


Wall at Shinnyodo Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Kurodani-dera. Kyoto. November 2009.

More on Kurodani-dera here.