One Journey Ends, Another Begins

I awakened from my sleeping pill slumber as we were an hour out of LA.  Relief that the long flight was nearly over flooded my consciousness. Awareness dawned that I hadn’t eaten dinner or breakfast, falling asleep early in the flight and blessedly remaining asleep for most of it. Gratitude.  I’d eaten more than enough while in Japan to tide me over. I was returning to the land of my birth, the seemingly now crazy, angry and often chaotic place that I hardly recognize is my real home.  I am returning home to take the next steps in my new role as retiree.  I like it!

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After stumbling in and out of bed for two days, waking to help celebrate my granddaughter’ s 7th birthday, and then losing myself in slumber again, today I seem to have my wits about me. Small blessing!  Life can resume.

The Basquiat Show at the Mori Art Museum

Kyoto has truly become a second home to me.  Familiarity has bred comfort in this case.  I no longer walk around like other tourists I see, looking as if I’d landed on the moon unprepared. In fact, I generally now know where I’m going, secure in the fact that I’m not going to fall off the edge of the earth. Secure in the fact that people are kind in Kyoto and if a problem occurs, they’re only too happy to help me.  musing:  I wonder if Kyotoites identify me as simply “other” or as “other” with a quality of belonging somehow to their culture rather than just a passing tourist.

The Fun Loving Cats of Japan

Not as much seems surprising anymore. When I first came to Japan I couldn’t take more than three steps without stopping to gape at something that I’d never see at home. No longer.  I’ve upped the ante I guess and become more discriminating. The cutsey stuff has become cliché.  The bakeries and food quality remain at the top rung of the ladder. As do the temples and nature. The fear of being rejected when making a dinner reservation  has dimmed.  Of course the fact that my husband does this, is quite helpful.  Nothing much from fear of the unknown deters me anymore, except large crowds.

The Splendid Gardens of Kyoto

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We have a marital division of labor that works pretty well.  I run the washing machine and my husband does the scheduling, which I’ve not done well at (to put it mildly).  I find the intriguing places and events to track down, he finds the way to get us there. Generally good-naturedly.

The Spiritual Edge

So now I’m back, newly retired.  I’m loving the new found freedom to make it up as I go along.  I’m also loving that it’s a sure thing I’ll be back in Japan come Spring!

Japanese Landscape Dreams

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a sure sign of fall, berries demanding attention.
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After he rains, water is flowing in the run off ditches alongside the temple walls.

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osmanthus, should be scratch n sniff!

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fungi on downed tree

In review, I’m posting a few of my favorite things from this trip.  Thanks for coming along for the ride with me.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go Strollin’

After several days of intermittent rain that I used as an excuse to stay put, I was more than ready to hit the garden/temple trail again once things dried out.  There are so many amazing places here that I haven.t yet seen.  All it takes is a short bit of research to pick a new place to explore.  Each place somehow manages to be unique.

This will be a simple blog.  I took lots of photos , so I’m going to let them do the work of conveying the beauty of these ancient retreats. Come on along.

I stayed in a relatively small area of the small sub temples that are a part of the mother temple, Nanzen-ji. There are few crowds here.  We’re taking our sweet time. Inhale deeply.

Nature is enjoying its last fling before it succumbs to winter dormancy and the need to rest.  There are signs that the party is coming to a slow end, but now, as it prepares for its final awe- inspiring, forget-me-not display, it is still lush, vibrant and energetic.

I still have difficulty imagining a culture giving such importance to its gardens.  Many of these gardens began life making the aristocrats happy  and I suppose proud in their beautiful villas.  Now we all have access. It is easy to see the importance of nature in the culture.  These sites are now protected and cherished. I tend to forget they’re a part of Kyoto when I’m in the crowded center of the city that accommodates businesses and residences and not that much open space.  But when you want a quick time trip, just head for the periphery of town, close to the rising mountains.

Much of the rock symbolism is lost on me, but it’s ok because I don’t relate to the ancient stories and myths behind the symbols.  If you want or need to go deeper, there’s plenty of written material to explain it.

Alice’s hole?
Let’s walk on water.
autumn berries. No, I don’t know their name.
natural stone basin as water feature
pond refections.
water lilys enjoying the day. Flowers all done. too bad, one of my faves.
Tenjuan Temple dry garden
Imposing Nanzenji gate house.
Ceramic cup I desired but didn’t buy because no credit cards allowed and I didn’t have the cash. And, I didn’t really need it.  It was a gorgeous reminder of sakura.  I would have treasured it.
Kyoto made ceramics at temple exhibit. Unexpected and beautiful .
kyoto ceramics.

I was surprised by a Kyoto ceramics association show on the temple grounds. highly decorative items.  No amateurs in this group!
The ever alluring and show-catching koi
what a running-a-bit-wild garden!

 

a sure sign of fall, berries demanding attention.

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Water is flowing steadily from all the recent rain in the run -off ditches alongside the temple walls.It’s part of the soundtrack here. Last mage,  Exhale.

Market Fun

I have been a fan of flea markets since adulthood provided me with an income and desire to check them out.  I learned my way around them in New England, where their presence is a regular weekend activity in rural Mass.  The Mother of all Flea Markets is the Brimfield, Mass. extravaganza that can really test your “eye” and your endurance.  I regret it’s now too far away from home base for me to participate.

Flea Market Strategy

I don’t look for museum pieces, which I’d probably only recognize by the price tag, but often for quirky, playful or historic items that I’ll enjoy looking at or using.  I’ve always liked old textiles as long as they’re in decent un-smelly condition. Same goes for paper ephemera.  I start to sneeze /wheeze when close to anything that has mold spores.

Japan has its fair share of good markets.  There are two in Kyoto each month on the 21st and the 25th. Each is on the grounds of a temple or shrine, which always improves the experience. I try to make sure I’ll make at least one of the markets each time I visit Kyoto. They’re large, but not overwhelming.  There’s some junk, but the quality of the merchandise is decent and in many cases high.  My transactions with the dealers are limited to paying them and saying thank you.  Always thank you! Continue reading “Market Fun”

Countryside Intoxication

It took me a few minutes to identify the intoxicating scent that was, frankly, intoxicating.  It was tea olive, or osmanthus, first encountered when we lived in Athens, Georgia.  It took me several days to figure out where it was coming from, because it’s an unremarkable shrub with a tiny flower with an extremely powerful fragrance.  The unexpected fall sweetness seems to say pay attention, soon the landscape will wither and you won’t be la dee da-ing through it.  You’re here for a special and brief time.

I rediscovered osmanthus while I was in Japan many autumns ago.  Here it was again, almost shouting that spring will come again and life is very sweet.

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Yesterday, we strolled a small part of the oldest road in Japan.  Suddenly my nose was twitching again.  I soon discovered osmanthus, doing its thing, once again.  Now that I know what to look for, it wasn’t long before I found the source of the fragrance.  Bring it on!  Japan’s shrub has a yellow-orange flower rather than the white ones I originally discovered in Georgia.  The shrubs are more pervasive here as well, so that the scent can surround and seem to follow you.

Finding the trail, enjoying the scent.

After three hours of train rides and walks we finally found what we were looking for: The Yamanobe no michi trail !  Once again we had misjudged the amount of time it would take for us to find it.  I never could have found it on my own. My husband is generally undaunted by such challenges.

The online description was accurate in that the trail seemed far removed from the 21st century, but getting to it, was a bit complicated. Once we found it, the setting was dreamy, complete with scented air.

The rice harvest is now about half complete. Being out in the country in autumn, we were surrounded by rice fields and many persimmon orchards.  The recent rains have made the countryside lush and very green.

 

The entrance gate to Chokakuji Temple, established 824AD

We investigated the  ancient Chokakuji Temple just off the trail. The pathway up to the temple was lined with late blooming wild flowers.  A smiling monk ushered us into the small temple garden, and I gasped at the profusion and abundance in this small enchanting space.  It was unlike any other temple garden I’ve seen.  Deliberate design or a result of some neglect, I’m not sure, but you had to praise Mother Earth for her lush abundance, breathe deeply and attempt to take it all in.

Nature left to its own devices is  breathtaking in its vitality!

 

 

As usual, I slow to a snail’s pace when an environment in Japan catches my attention.  My husband breezes through these spaces at a more vigorous space, urging me to hurry up, because we “don’t have much time.”  I vacillate between wanting to tell him to get lost and awareness that he speaks the truth!  I reluctantly pick up the pace.

The countryside idyll

The trail leading from the temple became a dirt path flanked by rice fields and pomegranie orchards.  I pictured myself living in this gentle paradise, probably in an old farmhouse, brought up to date, of course.  My reverie was interrupted as the path incline grew steeper.  I reminded myself that approaching age 80 with chronic asthma meant that some daydreams were just plain ridiculous.  My immediate goal was to get to the top of the moderate sized hill, so I could then easily coast down the other side.

Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?

We woke up yesterday to a sunny day, low humidity, and no plans for the day.  I probably have as many books about Japanese/Kyoto travel as any self respecting hotel concierge.  It took little time for my husband and me to settle on a destination that was doable for a day. We chose the ancient Enryakuji temple, at the summit of Mt. Hiei.

Our Japanese friends consider us adventurous, or so they tell us.  I think compared to the average tourist, we head out on our own, without a lot of drama. Last year, when we rented a car for a road trip, they all just thought we were nuts. Continue reading “Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?”