I went to the station first. I brought my backpack with me when I left the guesthouse, and I wanted to chuck it in a locker so that I wouldn't have to carry it around. Unfortunately, this meant I ended up at the second part of the festival without my telephoto lens, but at that point it was raining pretty hard, so I wasn't even sure the horseback archery was going to take place, and I ended up with some good shots anyways.
Also, considering I was about to end up taking a stupid, long-ass detour, I was kind of happy about that decision. Of course, if I'd had my backpack, I would have been following Google maps and probably wouldn't have ended up going the long way, but whatever. Bygones.
I was trying to visit two more temples before the festival - Hokoku-ji, which is known for its bamboo grove, and Sugimoto-dera, which has a very nice set of stairs that are covered in moss. When I was sitting in the McDonald's having breakfast by the station (don't judge), I looked at google maps, and it looked like Sugimoto-dera, whe closer of the two, should have been pretty easy to get to if I just continued along the road Hachiman-gu was on. My mistake was thinking it was closer than it actually was. I was also relying on signs, which had been incredibly helpful up to that point, but when I stopped seeing Sugimoto-dera and Hokoku-ji on them, I wondered if I'd gone too far, and then I saw a shrine down a street ahead, and decided to go there, because even if it was the wrong place, it should have had a map. Sure enough, when I got to Kamakura-gu, there was a map on a big board, and if I'd just stayed on the damn street I was on in the first place, I would have been admiring the moss already.
Instead, I found myself redirecting through a neighborhood to get there. It wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world, if my feet weren't totally wrecked and it wasn't raining. I went to Hokoku-ji first, because I realized there was a bus back to Hachiman-gu directly across from Sugimoto-dera, and it was nice...but I don't think I'd say it was a must-see temple. The bamboo grove in Arashiyama was better...but I have no regrets, since it was only a little past Sugimoto-dera anyway. I also just watched The Tale of Princess Kagura for the first time recently, so it was interesting to visit a bamboo grove so soon after.
I mentioned that my creative theme for the painting course that I'm taking is Japanese art and culture, so I got to use the trip as a bit of a scavenger hunt as well. I'm making pretty good progress on my first piece - dancers from the Harajuku Super Yosakoi a few weeks back - so I've been giving thought to my second work, and I'm pretty sure it's going to incorporate dragons. I found a few this weekend, although the fountain at Kiyomizu-dera is still my favorite.
But the point of Sugimoto-dera was to see its moss stairs. The Japanese have a thing for moss. I don't know if I would have agreed that it's beautiful a year ago - I hadn't really given any thought to it - but by this point in the game, I think they're on to something. I mean, it's basically brightly colored fur for rocks - how cool is that? I'm not entirely sure how these came to be covered in moss - usually well-trod paths should be free from moss - but now they're roped off to protect their beauty and the main prayer hall is accessed by a set of set of stairs running to the left of the mossy ones.
The main prayer hall has three beautiful sculptures of Kannon, one of Buddhism's female deities, and your admission price includes going into the hall - without shoes, of course, and photos aren't allowed. I stopped to rest my feet for a few minutes, but moved on fairly quickly. Without my phone I wasn't sure of the time, and I wanted to make sure I was back at Hachiman-gu in case the archery went ahead...and it turned out that it did.
And no, it's not just because this was part of a festival at a temple. I get off the subway for church as the same time as boys going to their high school for archery practice, and they all wear traditional dress, albeit not as fancy.