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Ise: Days Eight & Nine

I'm definitely starting to get behind on these, and so I'm going to take the liberty of consolidating Monday and Tuesday's adventures into a single post.

Monday began with a lecture on the geography of the area outside the city, followed by an hour of study time—which was greatly appreciated. I was lucky enough to be able to check some very interesting books out of the Kogakkan Library last week, and it was wonderful to have the chance to sit down with them and make some notes for future reference. In the last six months or so, I've begun thinking about life after dissertation, and this trip to Ise has provided a lot of food for thought about where to go next with my research interests.

After lunch, we all piled onto our bus and headed off for Futami, site of the seaside shrine to the kami Okitami-no-ōmikami and the famed meota iwa—the wedded rocks. Our trip to Futami took the form of a lengthy walking tour of the village, with various stops dotted along our route to the Futami Okitami Shrine.

We began our tour at the Futami Study Center, which currently had an exhibition of dolls for the Hinamatsuri (Festival of the Dolls, or Girl's Day Festival)—an annual holiday in celebration of girls that is held on the 3rd of March. During the Hinamatsuri, families that have daughters decorate their homes with a dolls' set that is traditionally arranged in a predetermined manner. The dolls are laid out on five or seven shelves, with dolls of the emperor and empress on the top tier and assorted ladies-in-waiting, courtiers, servants, musicians, and accoutrements laid out on the shelves below. The Futami Study Center had a plethora of dolls on display in honor of this holiday, and everywhere we went in the town we saw signs of the celebration. Futami apparently takes the holiday very seriously and holds a month-long series of related events in honor of the special day. This year marked their tenth such month-long Girls' Day festival, and it was a sight to see.

After leaving the study center, we made our way to the scenic road that led to the Futami Okitami Shrine. This road lay alongside Ise Bay and was windy but beautiful. The day was bright and clear, and it was possible to see Mount Fuji across the water and distant land that lies opposite the Mie Prefecture shore. We were on a tight schedule as usual but managed to linger at the water for a while in spite of that.

We then made a stop at the Hinjitsukan, a late 19th century rest house for important visitors to the Futami Okitami Shrine. There we toured the exquisite building, finding traditional tatami rooms, displays of art objects and historical court attire, and yet more doll tableaux. Several of the arrangements in the Hinjitsukan were quite inventive. I particularly enjoyed the doll chorus with their black-robed conductor, and the dolls climbing a mock-Mount-Fuji were amusing as well. I also had a chance to photograph a full set of robes used to create the jūni hitoe (twelve-layer) court dress style, and that was pretty awesome too.

The Futami Okitami Shrine was very beautiful and wind-drenched. I bought some souvenirs for loved ones and made a small offering to Okitami-no-ōmikami, who is a god of the sea (and is thought to dwell within a set of rocks that lie beneath the water on the other side of the wedded rocks). I've always felt a certain tenuous emotional kinship with the ocean, and I like to propitiate its gods when I have the chance.

With the shrine visit behind us, we made our way to the plaza where our bus was waiting to take us back to the Kogakkan dormitory. I was still pretty tired after my massive Sunday tour of Ise City, so I took the opportunity to catch a twenty-minute catnap on the way back.

Tuesday, by contrast, was much more subdued. We started the day off with a morning study session, which was again appreciated (I had a great conversation with a colleague and got a lot done to boot), and then we had a series of fascinating lectures on religion, mythology, and bushidō. The lecture on mythology was particularly interesting to me, and I was delighted to hear about the professor's theories on vision and taboo, sin and shame, and the parallels between Japanese and Greek mythological tales. The quieter day was extremely well-timed, as I really needed the chance to cool down after the whirlwind pace that had been set by week one. Week two was off to a great start.

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