Saturday, July 14, 2018

January in Japan - second half of tour

Since it was six months ago, I'll share directly from my journal.
 Tuesday, 1-23-18
 I met a young woman from Oregon at breakfast.  She is here, and in China, studying ancient math.

We're beyond the halfway point of the tour now.  Continuing to have magical experiences every day.

We started today with a lovely batik workshop - tracing designs with wax onto Tshirts.  I chose a fish pattern.  The work space was small, so our group divided in half for today's adventures. 

In this workspace were lovely rolls for printing patterns on yukata (summer kimono) fabrics.  We were told that unfortunately, fewer and fewer are wearing kimono.

The master had us dip our shirts into indigo dye, then the shirts were hung to oxidize.  Next he boiled them in soapy water, and transferred them to the scrubbing team!  I missed the drying part, because I was shopping, but then they neatly folded and packaged our shirts for us.  This is a family operation, and the lady to the right of the master is his mother!

We then visited shrines, gardens, a Zen rock garden, the Gion geisha district, and a silk weaving studio, where fabrics are woven for kimono, obi (belts) and Noh costumes.
First, the weaving studio:
Unfortunately, they didn't allow photographs inside the weaving workspace, but we got to get up close to see artisans at work.

 Here we are visiting Kinkakuji Temple, known as the Golden Pavillion.  This is only half of our tour group.  

I have captured nearly 4000 images now!  I'm charging batteries every day. 

The (15) rocks in the Zen garden reminded me of scenes in the Japanese countryside, Thanksgiving, and a mama gorilla.

  There was a water feature there with Kanji symbols from an ancient coin - which mean, "I choose to be content."  Lovely thought. 

This is a very serene and spiritual place.  Even the walk back to the bus was calming.

Next, as evening fell, we went to the Gion district and hoped to find ladies studying to become geisha!  Here's a look:

We happened across this exhibit, which we were unable to visit, but were happy to find anyway:

Restaurant workers were washing the street to let people know that they were getting ready to open for business.
People were shopping.
I enjoyed seeing these silk banners in many places.  Later in the trip, I was able to purchase a set to bring home with me.

People here have such beautiful attitudes.  They aim for perfect service and attention to their tasks.  90% is not good enough.  They practice respectfulness always.  They do allow smoking in restaurants.  But there is honesty, patience, and safety here.  And happiness.  It's lovely.

A few tidbits from our guide:  Japan has survived Tsunami, fire, earthquake, and bombardment.  they are always rebuilding. 
Art flourishes when there is no war.
When you are 15 years of age, you decide your future career.  You will do one thing and master it.

  This has been a fantastic experience, and I am LOVING the opportunity to spend some time here.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Gardens, Onions, Kobe beef, and getting LOST

                  Our bags are packed again to travel to Kyoto today. Monday 1-22-18

                    I snapped a few photos at the hotel and as we were leaving.

We started the day with a stroll around Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu.  It is a magical place.  We were fortunate to have it almost all to ourselves.  There was a light rain off and on, otherwise  perfect lighting for photos.  The gardens were meticulously cared for.  We were met by this station for dusting off your shoes.

                         A few other images near the entrance to the Gardens:

There were a few interesting buildings, but we only had time to wander the gardens. 

Follow me there:

It was fascinating to see the way the gardeners supported the heavy branches.  And although we were in a big city, it felt more like fairyland.

Above is my friend Martha, enjoying the sound of the gentle rain dropping on the pond.  I'll let these images speak for themselves.

                             I wanted you to see the size of the bark on this huge pine tree!

This is Janet.  We were grateful for her yellow hat, which made it easier for us not to get separated from the group.  
Grabbed a few last images as I was running for the bus.

So, we're back on the bus, riding, riding, and it's raining harder.  We finally stopped at an interesting place with a BIG bridge, swirling water, and a touristy store that specializes in ONIONS!
And it's COLD!!!

Not a great look for me.

But I had to try it.

We continued on our way to a wonderful restaurant in Kobe, where we climbed to the fourth floor and enjoyed an elegant Kobe beef luncheon.  It was awesome and delicious!

Someone said this portrait looked like me.  Much better than the onion wig, I think. 

          Our server was not happy, but he did a fantastic job grilling our lunch!

And then, we were back out in the rain.  We were given an hour and a half to shop. 

           I ventured down a covered shopping area in Chinatown,  that went on and on and on.

We were due back at the bus (in front of Starbucks) at 4:00.  At 3:30, I decided to head back.  However, I had already seen all the shops in the covered area, so I decided to take what I thought was a parallel route out on the street.  As 4:00 got closer and closer, I realized that I had somehow gotten turned around and pretty well lost.  In a very
big city.  In the cold and rain.  Where I couldn't speak Japanese.   I began trying to ask for help.  I asked young people where Starbucks was.  I went into stores and asked for directions.  I began to panic, as we had been told that the buses can't stay parked on the street for very long or they will be ticketed.  Nobody seemed to understand what I was asking, or knew how to help.  I finally started saying, " I am in trouble here!  I need to get back to my bus!" They just smiled at me.  At ten after 4, someone suggested that I go to the light and turn right.  I went to the light, and looked left instead, and saw two buses.  I walked that way, and very gratefully spotted two of our tour guides, who had been looking for me.  It took me a while to calm down, as I was pretty upset about holding everyone up.    After that, I always made sure I knew where I was and how to get back. 

It was another mostly wonderful day, but by 9pm I was ready for bed.  Stress makes one exhausted!