Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In closing

The people is what the country is all about in my opinion.
Here is a collection of a few of their faces living out their individual lives. I will never ever forget their friendliness and  hospitality - from the waiter who walked me out to the sidewalk with a present of a tea mug, to the laughing children in the parks and the wedding being photographed in the gardens.

Buddhist temple to modern sculpture

Kosanji Temple is dazzling and took more than 30 years to build in honor of the priest's mother. 

On the hill above the temple is Miraishin no Oka, The Heights of Eternal Hope for the Future, the one message Japan sends out to the world. 

Safety issues in Japan

I visited the Ikuo Hirayama Museum of Art on Ikuchijima Island, which displays  the art of the famous Japanese artist, Ikuo Hirayama. His lush watercolors are peace-themed.

While walking to the building,  I noticed bikes unlocked. That is pretty much what I observed all over Japan from big cities to rural areas. People respect the property of others. 

Island tripping on a Sunday

Everywhere I ate in Japan, each meal used numerous small dishes. In this particular one presented by the hostess, the bowls came out from the stacking drawers of the box. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Island touring in Japan- Miyajima

Oysters are the speciality on the island, and I'll take them grilled, fried or raw. 
Shinto shrine

Hiroshima in photos

Children's Peace Memorial

School children add a paper crane chain to the memorial based in the story, "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" 

A survivor of the A Bomb talks about what she remembers and was told by her family as a six-year old. 
The only remaining structure.
The bridge was the target of the A Bomb, but it missed by 200 feet and hit the building instead.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hiroshima, a worthy visit

I came to Hiroshima with a nervousness about being in the actual place where the A-bomb  hit. Pictures coming  to complete this POST.

Soon after I leave Japan, President Obama will be here and it means a lot to the Japanese people, and to the rest of the world. It has been over 70 years...The city - 80% totaled - is rebuilt and spacious.

As I stood in the park looking at the one remaining building left as a symbol of the city's wipe-out and to the actual target - the bridge 200 feet away - tears welled. My history books growing up were filled with how World War II ended abruptly and why bombing Japan was deemed necessary. I don't debate the reason. 

There were many Japanese children here with their teachers studying the facts of the event, and I wonder what they were being told. Maybe it was me - a couple other Americans said they felt the same - but I  sensed there was a restlessness in the air when I came face-to-face with those children. From every other discussion I have had in Japan, peace for the future is the most desired lesson to be taken away. 

Over at the Children's Peace Memorial there is a statue of Sadako, the girl who started making paper cranes in her hospital bed praying for her life, soon became her challenge for the children all over Japan to make 1000 origami ones for peace and good health. A school was having a ceremony, children were reciting speeches and a couple representatives placed a new colorful paper chain of cranes along with the others. If you have never read, "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,"  I highly suggest this thoughtful children's book. 

An hour was spent with a survivor - a woman age six at the time - and she told through a translator about what she remembered and heard from her family. I've heard similar emotional experiences from Holocaust survivors. We tend to focus on the epic moments in history, and not the actual people who suffered sickness, death and hunger as a result. 

The museum has displays of remains of the devastation, and like walking through the 9/11 Memorial in NYC, there was hardly a sound among the crowd. I looked. I took it in. 

All in all, I went to bed exhausted. Never will I forget...

Pictures coming soon. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The sound of traditional music

I was treated to a private home concert with experienced masters playing ancient Japanese instruments. 

The real housewives of Japan

I had the opportunity to meet with two housewives in Kameoka, a small city outside Koyoto, and here in an old home where a samurai onced lived, I learned about their daily life.

SInce their husbands work long hours - the fathers see their children mostly on weekends - the mothers take care of daily routines, and can't work outside of the home easily saddled with so much responsibility. It is uncommon to have both working outside the home.

The ladies did a sushi demonstration and then I took my turn at preparing it, rolling the sticky rice into balls and adding salmon, cucumbers and egg. I devoured mine, too, before lunch served by the housewives.
Apron on, and ready to make sushi

My creation

My teacher

A canned laugh

I can't resist...

There are always small everyday things that are different when you travel in another country.

The toilet seats in Japan are HEATED. 

A retreat from traveling

 400-year old Senjoji Temple is nestled high in the mountains outside of Koyoto, and is as serene a place to practice the art of meditation with a Zen Buddhist priest as anywhere in the entire world. Only the occasional crow flying overhead disturbs one's concentration, and even that is part of living in harmony with nature. 

Zen Buddhists take part in a Japanese tea ceremony, sado, where the monk creates a beverage of powered tea, called matcha, covers it with hot water and whips it with a bamboo whisk until it foams.

Now in order to participate in these special moments, I had to walk up a steep, moss-lined path  - it took careful maneuvering - for over a mile one way to reach this solitary vista. For miles and miles there was a green forest of trees blanketing the land that the birds call home. Water rushed from the hills in dowward waterfalls and that was the uncomplicated music of the temple. 

Although I have Zen Buddhist friends and studied Comparative Religions,  it was special sharing viewpoints with a Zen Buddhist monk in Japan.

Was it worth it? In every way I left energized, centered  and I truly felt a special communion with my own God -  still speaking everywhere all the time. 

While on the slow walk back down to the road, I thought about the morning over and over.  It is one that I will never forget, and I am grateful that my physical health allowed me to travel to Japan.

I was met by the priest  and his "companion" at the bottom of the hill on the paved road, one which he walks daily. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Love rules!

There is a great deal of superstition in Japanese culture that fuses in with worshipping the gods. At temples and shrines people leave good luck charms with an offering. The young girl below is wishing for the best in love, and she floats her paper in water waiting to see what words will appear magically. Looking good for her I would say, or maybe she was embarrassed that I was taking her picture? 

An afternoon in Fushimi-Inari

Time for sak√© a Japanese alcoholic drink made from fermented rice, traditionally drunk warm in small porcelain cups.

A merchant's home