serendippity doo dah

Long-range plans are not my forté. Sometimes,they are neccesary, but in general, I prefer to make it up as I go along, follow my instincts, and see what might appear.  Sometimes this results in a clash with my scientific husband who is a more linear thinker.  He has called my seemingly random excursions, “aimless wandering.”  That’s the whole point, but I think you have to be wired a certain way to enjoy it.  It has been known to drive him crazy, but today, happily,  we were on the same wave length.

This kind of travel is serendipitty doo dah for me.   This is a look I seem to get when visiting a temple.  I am calling it my quasi-spiritual look.

What can be more fun than coming upon some wonderful place that is unexpected?  Seeing a flower for the first time or the final time in the season?  Taking in the complexity of the stone work pathways. Looking at the details and beauty of a bamboo fence. Listening to the sweet sounds of birds, so high in the ancient trees, I can never spot them. It’s eye and ear candy, pure and simple.

 

As far as temples go, I hear tourists saying they’re “templed out.”  As far as I’m concerned, temples can be like people, they have a lot of similar characteristics that are arranged differently.  No two are ever just alike. But you can’t be rushed in meeting them. Each entrance, gateway, walkway, garden, bell tower, hondo, etc. are different. Do I have a fave?  Not really.

Today, we traveled a few miles north of central Kyoto to visit a trio of small temples in the foothills.  The Japanese maples are just beginning their autumn displays at this slightly higher altitude.  Bus loads of  tourists will descend in a week or two, I imagine, when the colors are more vivid and cause the viewer to gasp in disbelief.  Today, all was calm and peaceful.  Probably the calm before the storm.  It allowed me take in details that in more crowded circumstances could be overlooked.

Today the quiet on the temple grounds felt heavy and dense.  Today, I noticed for the first time that there can be different qualities to quiet.

By the time we toured all three temples we were ready to eat lunchee. (adopted Japanese word.) There were no immediate restaurants, so we began to walk along the narrow country road towards what we thought might be the nearest town.  We didn’t have to go far before coming to a small restaurant with no English spoken and no English  menu.  If you show a willingness to “work” with the staff, it’s been our experience that you will always get something to eat.  Today, it was okonomyaki  Just the best, simple and delicious.

 

A Foreign Eye on Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri

Who doesn’t love a parade?

Kyoto has three important matsuri during the year. JIdai matsuri is one of them.  I’ve seen the other two, one in spring and one in the suffocating hot summer.   I had not heard of the Jidai matsuri until a few days ago when a Japanese friend of mine confided that this was her favorite festival of the year.  Given all that takes place here, that’s saying a lot.  I decided to check it out.

The main attraction is the parade of over 2,000 people, all of whom are dressed in meticulously crafted costumes that represent each era of Kyoto’s 1,100-year history. The parade follows a reverse chronological order, starting with the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and working backwards to the Imperial Court of Emperor Kanmu’s reign, and includes members depicting famous historical samurai or politicians, as well as members of the merchant and commoner classes.

From an outsider’s point of view, I viewed the procession largely as a fashion show.  I quickly lost interest in the boring narrative related to us by a Japanese woman reading.about the procession from a book in English.  After a half an hour of trying to make sense of her narrative, I pulled the earpiece out and watched the procession in blessed silence, moved by the historical legacy of this city and the role it played as Japan’s capital for a thousand years!

I cannot relate to you who’s who or which historical period they represent. I hope you don’t care.  There were a lot of warriors.There were lots of dressed up horses too.  There were striking Shinto elements as well.  There were dozens of men in the emperor’s retinue. Many looked tired of walking.

Much of Kyoto’s earlier history was about one war after another. Bloody times.  (and don’t their shoes look surprisingly flimsy?) Life for commoners was challenging and short. Life for the aristocracy brought with it great privilege but seldom peace, except in certain periods.

The straw outcropping on this warrior’s back is a raincoat.
armed for battle
Maybe not fleet of foot, but don’t underestimate his marksmanship ability on his steed.
This warrior needs his own role in the next Star Wars sequel, I believe.
exuding confidence

I hope you enjoy the images and the pageantry I witnessed.  All costumes are guaranteed to be authentic reproductions, right down to a specialist who just does the hair of the participants!  I was amazed at the bright colors and patterns of the attire.  Of course, this procession celebrated the who’s who of Kyoto over hundreds of years.  The aristocracy and members of the court as well as the priests and warriors dressed to impress, no doubt!

I was grateful that the timing of this Kyoto visit coincided with this matsuri.  It’s one of life’s experiences that I was delighted to witness, but feel no need to witness again!

the beginning of polka dot love?  Shinto priest, I believe.
young princess? Would this dress be for going to a birthday party?
empress or favorite concubine? I doubt that the empress would be walking.
Women from neighboring countryside of Ohara who would come to Kyoto to sell their produce.
Look at these colors! The artisans worked long and hard to produce these textiles!

Making Myself Proud

 

Judging by the pride I felt, you might have thought I’d just recited the US Constitution by heart in five different languages.  As it was, I spoke one short sentence in Japanese to a woman who works in our apartment building in Kyoto. I’d been practicing the phrase for weeks.  I wanted to be able to express my pleasure in seeing an acquaintance or friend upon return to Japan.

Since my visit last spring I have become a relatively serious student of the Japanese language.  Relative to my earlier lazy dazy style, when I’d pick up a word or two per visit. When my 10 yr old granddaughter began to study the language weekly, my competitive nature took hold and I quickly decided that if she could do it, so could I. So we now share a teacher, if not the same class.  I’m enjoying it and there’s no pressure if I haven’t studied.

Obviously some phrases I’m learning seem more useful than others to me.  I’ll never have to learn to say please hand me the wrench. I’m concentrating on what I am likely to use.    I couldn’t wait to try out this one phrase in particular. Mata aete urushi desu!  or in English, So nice to see you again!

I reviewed it several times and tried it out on my teacher in Santa Barbara when she came to my door a few weeks ago.  She always acts delighted if we learn anything, and this was no exception. I reviewed it several times on my way to our apartment in Kyoto knowing the time for its use was approaching.  Sure enough, I quickly encountered the woman I was previously only able to say good morning to.   I was now able to express my pleasure at seeing her again. When I greeted her  she looked shocked, then delighted and bowed deeply!  I then asked her if she was well?  Genki desu ka? (I’d known that one.) Jai, genki, she happily told me.  Watashi mo, I easily told her. Me too! That was a new one for me. I was thrilled with myself.

My small talk now consisted of more than one sentence.  Feeling brave and building upon my success, I then saw the manager of the building, a serious man who always seems to want to avoid me because he speaks very little English.  It might be for other reasons, but I’ve convinced myself it’s because of the language barrier. Boldly I called out to him.  Sumi masen!  Excuse me.  He had no choice but to look in my direction.  I said the same four word sentence to him I’d used a few minutes ago.  His face brightened immediately and he broke into a huge smile that I honestly did not think he was capable of.

Seeing his smile,  I think I must have smiled just as broadly. Deciding not to push my luck, I moved on saying, Ja mata (see you later) , hoping he never asks me anything more in Japanese until my next visit when I might be more capable.

There’s Still Time

I wanted to love it, and I occasionally did almost enjoy it.  It had its moments.  Just not enough of them.  It was a blockbuster digital art show presented by the Mori Art Museum called Tokyo Lab Boundless.  It is state of the art of digital technology.  Tickets were scarce, but I got one.  I waited in line to enter as my anticipation built, while knowing instinctually that I might not like the manipulated world that awaited us.

How to describe the encounter?  It was an encounter, because the visual overload was close to overwhelming. Visualize many large overlapping spaces contained within a huge hangar. Within the hangar are rooms with different visual displays, mostly relating to nature.  Rooms ultimately morph into other rooms and the spaces purposely become “boundless,” constantly moving, shifting and reappearing. Hints of eternity?

Envision being in a space where every surface is covered with some of the following in a digital rendering; flowers of all kinds and shapes, a waterfall room where people lounged on a large rock as a digital waterfall cascaded over them.  Butterflies flitted and birds flew, thousands of straight strings of l.e.d. lights  changing colors were the Ultimate Christmas Display in my opinion, alluring and transfixing. At the top of a long flight of stairs waited a room with hundreds of suspended  lantern lamps changing colors as well.

Most of the projections were symbols of the natural world. The images covered every surface including ceilings, floors and visitors.  MIrrors added to the illusion of infinite space.IMG_1092

The spaces were crowded. Optimally, I would have liked being the only visitor. Disorientation was part of the experience, but after a while, looking for a way out of this manipulated world became a distraction as well.  There were moments when I thought “how cool, or how beautiful” but they did not outweigh the discomfort I felt at this whole idea.

With our planet in the throes of seemingly unstoppable and accelerated climate change, was this display the way of the future?  An idealized manipulated version of what was the natural world? Is this what will remain when nature collapses?  Just memories lacking the realness of texture of scent of birth and decay?

Was I the only one to interpret the dark side of this extravaganza?  Maybe to most visitors, this would be a more than acceptable substitute for the real thing.  Just as some climate deniers are suggesting we could all move to another planet?

Suddenly I wanted to be released.  Not so easy to find an exit though the endless rooms. I had to first find a worker who slipped me out of an unmarked back door, after I was insistent about wanting to leave.

Relief!  Light!  A genuine, living, glorious flower presented itself.  There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time.

Opening to a Different World

My pores are opening to my new world.  I’m a little like a bi-valve when I fly.  Part of me shuts down/closes and waits patiently to arrive on another shore.  If there are periods of turbulence, I shut myself off even more.

closed bivalve

My flight to Japan was truly fine, considering the distance traveled.  I did not have a window seat and my window seat mate upon being seated immediately closed the window shade and put on his tv monitor, thereby  shutting off any connection with night/day/clouds or light for the duration of flight (11+ hours).  I hunkered down, swallowed a sleeping pill, and waited, sleeping a bit.

nose

Emerging on the other side of the Pacific, I had no trouble talking myself into a taxi ride to Tokyo.  A man approached me, speaking a little English. I know I had that just-flew-across-the-ocean dazed-look that made me an easy target.  He offered to take me to Tokyo,   “Do you have a taxi?” I queried suspiciously.  He pointed to his nose!  That’s a gesture I’m unfamiliar with, but, for some strange reason,  it was enough for me to decide to follow him.  He took my luggage, pointed to a bench and just said “wait.”

As I waited for him, I thought about my really unjustified trust in this man. I was too tired to find another more obvious method of transportation.  Before long, he drove up to me in a large van with enough room for at least 12 passengers.  Or would they be 12 kidnappers who would hold me for ransom while leaving me locked up in small cell, torturing me intermittently?  Once more, I asked the man, is this a taxi?  He pointed to his nose once again. I wasn’t making a lot of headway, but I decided to get in.  I did try to check out one of the doors in case I needed to get out quickly.   It was dark and I couldn’t see a door handle.  I decided that he’d probably locked it from the front anyway. Now that my breathing was a bit stronger, I might actually be able to run 2 or 3 feet and get a head start in a pursuit, in case I had to make a run for it.

bridge-city-highway-japan-asia-kagoshima-kyushu-island-japanese-road-EJ0EWX

I felt a bit of relief when he followed a sign towards Tokyo.  At least he wasn’t taking me in the opposite direction to some vacant concrete deserted building (Like I saw in Homeland) .  We rode along for miles, silently and uneventfully.  I tried to assure myself that my mind was a victim of all the awful news I’d been taking in recently.  After all, I told myself, I’m in JAPAN, a country know for being one of the safest in the world.  Or so I proudly told someone just yesterday.  Was I going to have to eat my words?   I remained vigilant, watching for signs, whenever the road offered options, that we continued to head in the right direction.  So far so good, maybe it wouldn’t be a vacant concrete building, but a place in central Tokyo?

Then I thought of a new question for my driver.  Do you know where the hotel is?  “I know, I know, nice hotel,” he responded.  I wasn’t sure if I believed him since the hotel is a new one.  I realized that question really didn’t accomplish much.  But at least he knew he was being watched.

We followed a sign towards Ginza, the part of the city I needed to go to.  Yes!  Relax, Dianne. Then just as the plane ride had ended, this car ride ended with us directly and safely in front of the hotel.  Thank you Lord.  No need for any heroics tonight.  My defenses relaxed as I entered the comfortable world of the Japanese hotel. I felt relieved and happy as I deposited my baggage and went out for a leisurely stroll, with no need to run from anyone.

A few pics taken:  and a p.s.  in the light of day, I figured out that pointing to one’s nose, must mean, it’s mine!

IMG_0809
street dude
IMG_0808
NIssan showroom

so slick