How I Love Japan (Part Five)

I had read the book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, which helped me appreciate this site all the more. Still, my heart leaps at all things natural more than the man-made.

For example, this bamboo forest, along with the cedar forest in Nikko, takes my breath away.

Or, this shot of the Pacific Ocean as we drove south down the Izu Peninsula. (It’s obvious that the same ocean my friend Lesley sees in Oregon is the one I’m looking at in Japan, but that amazes me.)

I learned that there are two kinds of gardens. One is a strolling garden, usually with a water feature, through which one walks to enjoy the view. The other is a dry garden, in which one must use one’s imagination to interpret the rocks. Ryoan-ji Temple has such a garden which is famous.

This is only one end of it, as it is quite large. The garden has 15 rocks, none of which are able to be seen all at the same time. If you could see every one of the 15 rocks, you would have reached the stage of enlightenment. (I assume that is because you would have to be looking down on them from above.) I, myself, could count only 12 as I studied it from one side.

As we wandered through the Japanese gardens, my husband took many pictures as he hopes to duplicate some of their features in ours. This is a rain chain, a beautiful way to keep the rain falling from one’s roof instead of gutters.

I leave you with a smiling Buddha because he is so happy with his bird. He reminds me of my beloved friend, Jean, who is a bird whisperer.

How I Love Japan (Part Four)

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Let’s talk about bullet trains first.

They are really fast. When I first took the picture above, I wasn’t even trying to capture a photo of a train. I was taking a picture of the track when all of a sudden one popped into view.

They aren’t that hard to navigate, and they are always on time. In fact, we joked that if you were standing in line at 2:31 for a 2:30 train, you’d probably missed it.

Here’s another thing you may not know. When the conductor, or whatever he is called in Japanese, comes through the train and reaches the end of the car, he turns and bows before entering the next car. And no one in the train is even watching! (Except me.) He bows, and turns, and goes on his way, while passengers read their papers, or eat their crustless sandwiches, or look out the window. They aren’t talking. They aren’t disrupting everyone around them with a phone conversation no one wants to hear. But, they are taking the conductor’s behavior for granted.

Another thing that seems to be taken for granted, (but maybe not) is the beauty. Everywhere I looked, there was something beautiful. It could be a tiny garden, or more often than not a floral arrangement. I leave you with a few of my favorites:

How I Love Japan (Part Three)

After we left Nikko, we went down the coast of the Izu Peninsula next to the Atlantic Ocean. I picked up a few pinecones to put in my pocket, a reminder that even halfway across the world, much remains the same.

We had the opportunity to stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel complete with tatami mat rooms, futons, and hot springs. One baths first, then submerges oneself into the naturally hot spring which is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I could only stay in about ten minutes, but it was so lovely to sit in the hot water surrounded by woods.

But, the second night was the most difficult one for me of all the trip. We were served another traditional Japanese dinner in eight courses, each dish more exquisite than the next. There were garnishes of chrysanthemum leaves vinaigrette, and other assorted plants and animals of which I could not be sure. I was told something was a scallop, but when I put it in my mouth, and with mounting nausea swallowed it, I discovered it was a raw Anglerfish liver.

I do not like my food uncooked. I am embarrassingly American at times.

There was a stop at Banjo Falls…

and the Black Ships museum, reminding us of Commodore Matthew Perry who brought his nine black ships to Shimoda to “request” that Japan leave her isolationist position and open the ports to the U. S. Fortunately, this is now seen as a good thing. What impressed me the most is that these documents were written in the 1850s. (Other museums had documents dating to the 1500’s. What Microsoft Word document is going to have that kind of lasting significance?)

Finally, we took the shinkansen (bullet train). I have never been on a ride as smooth or efficient as this. We absolutely glided to Kyoto in less than two hours. It wasn’t scary in the least.

How I Love Japan (Part Two)

20181016_000323We only saw the briefest glimpse of Tokyo, considering how big it is, before it was time to move on to Nikko. The first thing to delight me was the origami hanging in the train station. As I said on Instagram, what train station doesn’t need origami?!

20181015_2103342But, Nikko! Oh, my! I tired of the shrines (which we went to see) before I did the trees. Never have I been surrounded by such a majestic forest, not even in the Redwoods of California.

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There was the Shinkyo Bridge:

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and a shrine which made me cry, as it was for all the babies who had been lost to their mothers. The mothers knit little red hats, and put bibs on these stones, and the rows went on and on as far as my eye could see in any direction.

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I loved Nikko, which is where we spent day 2.

How I Love Japan (Part One)

We left for Japan, my husband and I, on October 11. I looked at this plane, JAL, and I could hardly imagine the next 13 and a half hours in which we would be inside, flying to Tokyo. (Fortunately, I had Haruki Murakami’s latest book, Killing Commendatore, with me.)

When we arrived in Tokyo, we were taken 60 kilometers from Narita Airport to Tokyo, where we were staying at the Asakusa View Hotel. The above picture is the view outside of our room’s window, giving us the skyline of the east side of Tokyo. The needle-like structure is the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest tower in the world.

We immediately went out to discover our surroundings. I had to snap a picture of a convenience store, especially after reading Convenience Store Woman last month. We were told that there are approximately 60,000 convenience stores in Japan; people need them to be close by with their small refrigerators at home.

I photographed drink machines, as I have constantly read of characters in modern Japanese literature buying a can of coffee from one. Indeed, there is a myriad of beverages from which to choose.

One of Japan’s most popular beers is Asahi, and this building is the headquarters. Can you see how the tall golden building was meant to represent a tall glass of beer with the foam on top? But, the golden tadpole puzzled me, until I learned it is the Flame of Passion (for beer) which was meant to stand upright. Sadly, it blocked the residents’ view of the apartment building behind it, and was consequently forced to lay on its side. Now it has become more famous than it would have been if it had kept its original position because it looks so…odd.

The top photo is the Senso-ji Temple, guarded by a thunder god to keep the evil spirits away. Which the vermillion color is also supposed to do.

Before leaving Tokyo, we visited the Hamarikyu gardens where we took a stroll through “the playgrounds of Japan’s old shoguns”. The contrast between the skyscrapers of today, and the teahouse of the Edo period, amazes me.

Tomorrow, I will share pictures of day 2.