June 21, 2015

Trip to Dazaifu (Japan) with classmates Part 1

I went to Dazaifu with two other classmates for a 1 day homestay event, where we could visit the family of a Japanese girl of our university.  It should give us a view of how a Japanese family lives. I was excited because foreigners usually do not easily get invited to the home of a Japanese person unless they really like you. On the way from my dormitory in Fukuoka to Dazaifu, we bought a decorated cake to thank the Japanese family for letting us stay at their house. However, first we were guided through the traditional area of Dazaifu.
When we arrived in Dazaifu the Japanese girl was waiting for us and guided us through a street with souvenir shops up till the shrine of Dazaifu. I really liked the area of the shrine; it was a very clean area with cherry blossom trees and koi carps swimming in a pond. The shrine is dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara Michizane, a scholar and politician of the Heian Period. At the shrine you can buy an amulet (Omamori) which should provide luck or protection. The Japanese girl told me she bought an amulet and keeps it with her at all times to provide her luck in her studies. I thought that was a nice idea but for me the amulets only look nice and they were quite expensive too.
Dazaifu Tenman-gū/Shrine
After visiting the shrine, we went to an event that also took place on that day, the Kyokusui-no-en Festival. It was really crowded and difficult to find a seat for the ceremony but luckily there were spots here and there. There was an awkward moment where Japanese people secretly took pictures of another student that came with us because she has blonde hair and blue eyes. I guess they rarely see people with those features, but I still think it’s weird too take pictures. Anyway during the festival there was traditional music and dance. Also, participants wore ceremonial kimono and someone was reading poems out loud which I unfortunately did not understand. The participants looked like they came straight out of an old Japanese Samurai/Romance movie taking place in ancient times. I really liked how graceful a lady playing the princess walked to her seat; also it must be difficult to walk in a layered kimono.
The Kyokusui-no-en ceremony with archers, princesses, and old wise men!

On this day I also saw various bonsai trees and visited a traditional Japanese museum that has dolls, masks, clothes etc. This is the place to go when you want to see as much of the Japanese traditions as possible. I will visit this place once more to check the other areas for which I did not have the time to visit because there should be smaller shrines and a beautiful Zen garden. Read my next blog post Trip to Dazaifu with classmates Part 2, where I and my classmates visited the house of the Japanese family.

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