After New Year's, shrines and temples are very busy as people buy charms and make prayers for the new year:
About 98 million people visit major shrines such as this one, Yasaka. Inside that gate I couldn't take a step.
Many buy hamaya, arrows blessed to protect the home. Others get omamori, the cloth amulets with different charms sewn inside and indicated on the outside. I've been building quite a collection of those - since every one is unique to the temple or shrine where it's made, with a different design, I can't resist getting one as a memento.
This, the Ryozen Kannon, is a memorial for World War II. I liked they gave me a stick of lit incense to put in front.
It was built in 1633 without use of nails.
In the old days, if you jumped off your wish would be granted. I don't know why it's prohibited now, 85% lived.
Behind the main temple is Jishu Shrine, for any sort of romance or child-bearing prayers. There's a whole wall of foreign names and a "Thanks!" with a birthdate.
The omamori I bought there is appropriately red and has the kanji "koi" or love stitched into it in gold thread. K-sensei sighed when she saw it. "I could use one of those."
I patted his belly. Who could resist?
And that was as much as I saw of Kyoto. I couldn't go to Nijo Castle, home of the famous nightingale floors that chirp no matter how lightly you step on them, because it was closed for the holiday the entire time. I ran out of time to go to Ginkakuji but it's under construction until 2010 anyways. One place that was on my "definitely" list was Otagi Nenbutsuji - you know how I love tiny adorably weird statues - but my guidebook said "Take bus 72" and as far as I can tell Kyoto doesn't have a bus 72. So I was a little disappointed that I missed those places, but it will give me something to do if I'm able to come again.
The next day I wandered around Osaka until it was time to catch the bus. I went to Ryokuchi Park because it has an open air museum of old farmhouses and I am a geek, but they were closed. So I sat in the park for a while and it was very peaceful and bright, someone even playing saxophone in the distance. I went to Dotonbori and people-watched. I'd been told I absolutely must eat takoyaki, or octopus dumplings, in Osaka, so I tried them and they weren't as weird as I'd feared since there's only one small piece of tako in each. Very hot, though.
And then I came to Tokyo, and then I came home. I've been anticipating this trip for months, so now I need to think of something else to plan and look forward to.