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.

 

 

 

 

What Goes UP, Must….

 

The hike from Kurama to Kibune is described in some guidebooks as “easy.” In a few others as “steep.”  There were just enough “easy “descriptions to tip the scales for me, thinking “I can do this!”

Time: 2 to 3 hours
Distance: 3.9km
Difficulty: easy
Start point: Kurama Station on the Eizan Train Line
Finish point: Kibune-guchi Station on the Eizan Train Line

Kurama and Kibune are two picturesque little villages in the Kitayama Mountains, a 30-minute scenic train trip out of Kyoto. On this hike, you walk from Kurama to Kibune via Kurama-dera Temple, a temple located atop the mountain between the two villages. If you want to get out of the city for a while and enjoy some beautiful hiking in the woods, this is the perfect trip.

The ease of getting to/from the hike is one of its main attractions. To get to the start of the hike, take the Eizan Line train that leaves from Demachiyanagi Station in Kyoto (which is, in turn, at the northern end of the Keihan Line, the line that runs along the Kamo-gawa River in Kyoto). Be sure to get on a Kurama-bound train and ride it all the way to the last stop, Kurama. At the end of the hike, you’ll board the same train line at Kibune-guchi Station and take it back to Demachiyanagi Station. Easy, peasy. Inside Kyoto

I did do it, but counted down the last five final steps as if I were on my way to the execution chamber.  In this case though, it meant I’d survived, hadn’t twisted my ankle, and would survive for another day.  My thighs told me, on a steep downhill step, that they were no longer willing or able to promise me any support.  The walking stick, given to me by a kind hiker who obviously decided I needed it more than she did,  was a life saver going downhill, but my shoulder pain from leaning on the stick, told me it wouldn’t do much more.

We passed many people on the trail, all doing better than I did, of course.  One jovial blonde woman, who looked as if she could take on Mt. Everest, cheerfully admitted to me she was from Austria.

This time we researched our route thoroughly before setting out.  We did not get lost, nor could we have.  We just had to walk up up up and then down down down, the uneven stone steps through the mountains to get to Kuruma.

Autumn has not arrived here.  The weather is now warm and humid enough to break a sweat quite easily.

We entered a green world. A typhoon had passed through not long ago, uprooting giant cypress trees like matchsticks.  The ground was littered with the aftermath.  The trail had been cleared.  Most of the wildflowers were done blooming, but the air was fresh and hopes high as we started out. New growth, post typhoon , was firmly established.

fungi on downed tree

The operative word here was s l o w l y.  I know if I take it easy, pause to recover my breath, I can do it.  People with young children passed us by.  Family groups with grandparents along passed us by.  Teen aged young men flew past us, their feet barely touching the ground, and their attitude declaring they were indestructible.    Women would look at me and ask if I was ok?  I couldn’t tell if they had kindness or pity in their eyes.  Maybe a bit of both. I reassured several fellow hikers that I was OK.  “Daijobu!” (OK)I called out to them.  “Gambatte!” (take heart.)  they said to me in return.

The Crest!

I felt immediately relieved when we reached the crest.  Danny reminded me that it’s generally more difficult going downhill than up.  Correct again.

Would I do it again?  Probably.  I did feel a bit of pride at having completed the hike.  I refused an out to dinner request from my husband, just too  damn tired. I wanted nothing more than to lay down.  KIndly, he made a quick run to the food basement of our nearby dep’t store and returned with warm and very tasty gyoza, shu mai, pork buns, and a yummy strawberry pudding.  I wolfed it down, then at 7:30 pm went to bed for the night.

 

When Traveling, Go With the Flow

You can set out with the best of intentions, while in Japan, thinking you know what you’re about to do.  Many times it works out that way, but often, things don’t go exactly the way you expected them.  I’ve learned to roll with the misunderstandings, because if you don’t it’s your loss.  There’s almost always something that redeems a plan gone wrong.

Waiting!

Kyoto celebrates its traditions.  The temples and shrines (over 2000 of them)have hundreds of special events throughout the year, some major, not-to-be-missed and others not so important or not so interesting to a foreigner. I usually attend one or two of the more interesting events while here.

Side view of Kitano shrine

Yesterday I read about the Zuiki Festival (matsuri) happening at and around the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.  It has been happening for over 1000 years to give gratitude for a successful harvest.  It goes on for several days.  When reading the schedule, I did not realize that most times given were approximate!  Not a minor detail when making plans. As you might expect, we got off to the festival just behind the beat.  It took us most of the afternoon to catch up.

It was a case of learning that we’d just missed the parade and it had moved on to other neighborhoods and shrines.  So began the chase. My husband Danny, was determined to catch up and intersect the celebrants who walk through local neighborhoods. We taxied to another shrine only to be told it had all ended there a little while earlier.  We were told to head to the railway station, but never found the station. Between our limited Japanese and others’ limited English I am sure something might have gotten lost in translation. Or, in the case of many when giving directions, they don’t know what they’re talking about, but don’t want to look uninformed!

Kitano shrine guardian dogs

Deciding that we should head back to our first stop at Kitano shrine, we taxied some more only to find we were hours too early for the procession to return.  Our thirsty eyes landed on an air conditioned Portuguese bakery/coffee shop and eagerly went in for cakee set time.  Iced tea and Portuguese pastry  cooled us down., Slightly restored,  my husband found someone who gave him new directions to find the parade. I suggested we walk through the shrine garden, small but attractive.  We passed many people who were waiting as we were, but no one was able to tell us when the procession might pass by.

The Main Float! vegetarian.
For good luck, the dragon will bite your finger.

We did intersect with one beautiful float decorated for the fall harvest, pulled by many tired young men who had to rally themselves to pull it up a small incline.  We then sat down in a little square, joining a few dozen locals who were waiting too. Suddenly Dan spotted signs of actiivity and I was motioned to join him across the intersection.  At last!

Sleepwalking?

It was a tired, and a bit bedraggled group we found, but interesting nevertheless.  Those on horseback were as erect as ever, those walking were wearing out.  The young children , attired in resplendent period costumes, were charming.  They still had a long ways to go.  I guess you have to build up the endurance necessary for these parades, not only to participate in them, but to find them as well!

Sweet Memories of New England Summers

For my mother, summer could never last long enough. Each summer she made a grim pronouncement that summer was half over once the 4th of July came and went. I argued with her to no avail. She actually experienced dread as the too short summer season in New England moved inevitably forward. She really should have lived in California. Continue reading “Sweet Memories of New England Summers”

Going Home!?

It was was dark outside.  All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a  visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side.  Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy.  The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.

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The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm.  The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered.  The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.

I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness.  I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”