Day 6 – Japan

This morning we packed up and took the subway train to the station to catch the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. We have really enjoyed Tokyo!

some of our group with Eva-San at the train station

some of our group with Eva-San at the train station


The public transportation system in Tokyo was crowded even though it was a Saturday morning. The atmosphere and bustle reminds me of the stations in Chicago.
The bullet train train is quite a comfortable way to travel. There are overhead bins for any larger items you’re traveling with. There’s plenty of leg room and the seats recline quite a bit. Everything is clean and well-kept. Our ride today was about two and a half hours.
bullet train entering the station

bullet train entering the station

Worker on the bullet train. She looks so neat in her uniform suit and cap.

Worker on the bullet train. She looks so neat in her uniform suit and cap.

This is the western bathroom on the bullet train. I love the idea of the child's seat attached to the wall! I've seen this in other public restrooms here. What a great way to keep your kid safe and prevent them touching anything while you use the facilities.

This is the western bathroom on the bullet train. I love the idea of the child’s seat attached to the wall! I’ve seen this in other public restrooms here. What a great way to keep your kid safe and prevent them touching anything while you use the facilities.


Our first stop was Obakusan Mampukuji, a Buddhist temple. It’s the head temple in Japan of the Obaska sect of Zen Buddhism, and the teaching monastery for the sect’s student monks. There are 23 buildings on the property, each with a specific use.
gate to the temple

gate to the temple

Our new guide, Juneko-San. Her name means "pure one."

Our new guide, Juneko-San. Her name means “pure one.”

admission chart for the shrine

admission chart for the shrine

The lotus flower is very important in Japan and in Buddhism. It grows in murky water and has tangled roots, but the flower is beautiful. Man can have troubled and messy life and surroundings but still achieve enlightenment.

The lotus flower is very important in Japan and in Buddhism. It grows in murky water and has tangled roots, but the flower is beautiful. Man can have troubled and messy life and surroundings but still achieve enlightenment.

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These temple bells are rung all over Japan on New Years Day. Someone strikes each bell 108 times with a wooden mallet. This is to purify peoples of their sins of the past year.

These temple bells are rung all over Japan on New Years Day. Someone strikes each bell 108 times with a wooden mallet. This is to purify peoples of their sins of the past year.

Make a donation of 500 yen (about $4.20) and write your prayer or petition on a strip of paper, put it in the bag, and hang it.

Make a donation of 500 yen (about $4.20) and write your prayer or petition on a strip of paper, put it in the bag, and hang it.

These intimidating looking guys are guardians to protect Buddha and his followers.

These intimidating looking guys are guardians to protect Buddha and his followers.

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altar with Buddha center

altar with Buddha center

This is main worship building of the temple. Monks gather here and kneel on the circular mats every morning for a 5 A.M. service.

This is main worship building of the temple. Monks gather here and kneel on the circular mats every morning for a 5 A.M. service.

This fish is metal and it is struck every hour on the hour as a way to keep track of time.

This fish is metal and it is struck every hour on the hour as a way to keep track of time.

a monk inscribing a temple book I purchased

a monk inscribing a temple book I purchased

Next stop was Ryodoin Temple and museum. The approach to the temple is beautiful, and the garden is designated a National Historic Site. The museum has Buddhist statues from the 11th century. The temple celebrates the Pure Land (Jodo) sect of Buddhism. There were many awesome statues in the museum. There is a very reverent feel to the temple and museum, and people are not allowed to take pictures.

approaching Byodoin Temple

approaching Byodoin Temple


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After the temple and museum visits, we went to check into the Ryokan Kousen in Nara. The purpose of staying here is to give us an experience of staying in a very traditional Japanese setting. It was quite a unique experience. imageimage
When we arrived, it was a stark change from the super modern highrise accommodations we enjoyed in Tokyo. The building is on a steeply inclined road, and is quite narrow and four stories tall. Inside the lobby there are low ceilings and small scale, low furniture. The stairs from one floor to the next are winding and metal. Our room was very small and covered in traditional floor mats. You remove your shoes right at the door and exchange them for slippers. The only furniture in the room was a table about a foot off the ground and two legless chairs. Sleeping accommodations were two mats on the floor, each with a comforter and one tiny, hard pillow.
our sleeping arrangement at Ryokan Kousen

our sleeping arrangement at Ryokan Kousen

Table and "chairs" in our room. I'm taking this as I sit on the sleeping mat on the floor.

Table and “chairs” in our room. I’m taking this as I sit on the sleeping mat on the floor.


We were also provided with kimonos to wear to supper. The kimonos were considered “house” kimonos and were not as decorated as many we see people wearing outside. We got to the dining room and removed our slippers to go in to eat. The food was beautifully presented and a traditional Japanese meal.
Everyone in the group wore a traditional house kimono to dinner. Manuela, me, and Laura

Everyone in the group wore a traditional house kimono to dinner. Manuela, me, and Laura

traditional Japanese dinner at Ryokan Kousen

traditional Japanese dinner at Ryokan Kousen

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When we are served a Japanese meal, I’m always impressed by the artistry of it. The presentation of the food is so meticulous and there are so many different pieces of dinnerware involved. Now for the parts I struggle with: I don’t know what so many things are, so much of it isn’t cooked, the texture is often rubbery or gelatinous, and there is an overwhelming fish taste to many dishes. We take turns at the table to see who will be willing to taste different things and share results. 😊 And some things are surprising. For instance, there were two cubes of clear jelly-like things with gold brown powder sprinkled on them in a dish. That look didn’t appeal to me. As it turns out, it was a dessert item and was sweet and tasty. It was dessert jelly made from seaweed.
After dinner everyone was invited to participate in a communal bath. Well, those of you who know me in the slightest know that I am quite modest. This act isn’t seen as immodest in Asian countries, but it is just more than I can get my mind around. Several of the ladies did participate, and I applaud them for being willing to experience things that aren’t our cultural norm. I investigated before anyone went in so I was able to take some pictures.
curtain to the ladies' communal bath at Ryokan Kousen

curtain to the ladies’ communal bath at Ryokan Kousen

Inner chamber of communal baths. You bathe sitting on one of the stools and rinse off the soap. Then you get in the soaking tub.

Inner chamber of communal baths. You bathe sitting on one of the stools and rinse off the soap. Then you get in the soaking tub.

So, umm, you just sit in this big tub chatting with whatever other naked people are there..... The water reaches about shoulder height and is very hot. I thought there might be, but there aren't any jets

So, umm, you just sit in this big tub chatting with whatever other naked people are there….. The water reaches about shoulder height and is very hot. I thought there might be, but there aren’t any jets


A few random thoughts/sights from the day or the trip thus far:
Along the highway and rail tracks, there are many rice fields.

Along the highway and rail tracks, there are many rice fields.

This is what vending machines look like in Japan. There are many different items available.

This is what vending machines look like in Japan. There are many different items available.

In most establishments in Japan, when you check out, trays are used for the money. They put the empty tray there and total your purchases and tell you the amount due. You put it in the tray and they pick it up. They put your change in the tray and pass it back.

In most establishments in Japan, when you check out, trays are used for the money. They put the empty tray there and total your purchases and tell you the amount due. You put it in the tray and they pick it up. They put your change in the tray and pass it back.

These colorful Japanese wrapping clothes are sold many places. See the upper part of the picture to see how they are used. When we ate lunch at the school, boys had brought their lunch from home and the containers were wrapped together in one of these and tied like this.

These colorful Japanese wrapping clothes are sold many places. See the upper part of the picture to see how they are used. When we ate lunch at the school, boys had brought their lunch from home and the containers were wrapped together in one of these and tied like this.

Swirl ice cream - vanilla and green tea. It was good!

Swirl ice cream – vanilla and green tea. It was good!

Cat cafes can be seen in a number of places in Japan. You can get coffee or tea, use WiFi, and enjoy the company of feline friends. :-)

Cat cafes can be seen in a number of places in Japan. You can get coffee or tea, use WiFi, and enjoy the company of feline friends. 🙂

These signs were on the desk at Ryokan Kousen. The reason will be obvious in tomorrow's post...

These signs were on the desk at Ryokan Kousen. The reason will be obvious in tomorrow’s post…

Day 5 – Japan

This morning an outing was planned to the Tsukiji Fish Market. There are multiple auctions held there for businesses every morning. Spectators can go to the tuna auctions that start at 5:30. To do that, some in our group met at 2:45 AM in the hotel lobby. They walked to the market, got in line, and waited for about two hours to get in as the number of spectators is limited to 120. The auction lasted about 15 minutes and was very lively. None of our group went, but I elected to watch the video. 🙂
After breakfast our entire group went back to the fish market to look around. It opens at nine and at that time sells only to businesses until about noon when anyone can buy. It was enormous! There were many rows of booths and literally tons of things from the sea. I saw fish, squid, octopus, sea urchins?, clams, oysters, and things I could not identify. It smelled fishy, but it wasn’t unbearable. The vendors were bustling and we did our best to stay out of the way. To the side of it is another building where vendors sell produce in bulk. It smelled much better. About 18,000 people work there and they arrive shortly after midnight to prepare for the auctions. This is the last year the fish market will be at this location. The government owns the land and they are relocating the market to make the land available to build a facility that will be used for the upcoming Olympic Games.
Next we went to see the Yasukuni Shrine and museum. Although it’s a shrine, it wasn’t built to honor a deity or prestigious person. It was built to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for their emperor/country. As you enter the gate there are many cases of floral arrangements on the left. Each is made in the ikebana style. There must be three elements – one for earth, one for human, and one for heaven. The arrangement must also be asymmetrical and contain a triangle in the design. To the left was a structure containing prayers papers. People are not allowed to take a picture of the temple after they enter the gate. Many people approached the worship altar while we were there. A person walks up, puts yen in the donation box, bows deeply, holds his arms far apart and brings his hands together to clap two loud claps, and then bows his head to worship. The claps are to get the attention of heaven. After worship is finished, he claps two times again, bows, and then leaves. I saw quite a few people do this while we were there. The Yasukuni museum was very interesting. It chronicles all of the military events in Japan’s history so it, of course, included World War II. It felt odd to be reading about that war from the perspective of the country that was the enemy of my country at that time. I didn’t totally agree with some of the wording in the exhibits, but I guess that’s to be expected. It was a very interesting experience.
Next we went to the Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji Temple The huge, elaborate gate at the opening of the property is called Kaminarimon. The structure has the god of Thunder on the left and the god of wind on the right. Right after you enter, there’s a road for pedestrians leading to the temple. It is filled on both sides with booths of merchants selling everything imaginable. There’s an opening at the end of the road just before the temple. There is a wooden structure/cart with a top, and it’s filled with some type of sand and incense. It generates a lot of smoke. You are supposed to go to it and use your hands to wave/draw the smoke onto yourself for good fortune. The temple itself was built to honor Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It is a favorite of women because it is perceived as being female although gods are typically not gender specific. Everything in the temple was colorful and beautiful. To the right of the room there was a structure containing many drawers. It reminded me of old school card catalogs at the library. There was a steady stream of people paying for Omikuji, to know what the future holds for them. I’ve included some pictures. The bus then dropped off about half of us at Kabuki-za Theatre where we bought tickets to see “Makumi.” The actors were in kimonos and had heavy white face paint and exaggerated makeup. Like Shakespearean plays years ago, all actors in Kabuki are male so female roles are played by men. It was something that I’m glad I experienced, but we of course didn’t understand a single word that was spoken. We were given a synopsis of the story in English, but there was little action and almost exclusively dialogue so we really couldn’t follow anything. Another way it was like plays during Shakespeare’s time is that members of the audience call out actors’ names, call out compliments and suggestions. They just shout these out while the play is going on.
After the play we walked back to the hotel and turned in for the night. Our last day in Tokyo was lovely. 🙂

Man at work in Tsukiji Fish Market

Man at work in Tsukiji Fish Market

Some goods for sale in the vegetable side of the market.

Some goods for sale in the vegetable side of the market.

me and a couple of less fortunate visitors to the fish market

me and a couple of less fortunate visitors to the fish [caption id="attachment_746" align="alignright" width="300"]getting fish ready for sale getting fish ready for sale

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more fish for sale

more fish for sale

clams anyone?

clams anyone?

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octopus for sale!

octopus for sale!

I'm not sure - sea urchins?

I’m not sure – sea urchins?

Squid

Squid

Entrance to Yasukuni Shrine. Rather than a shrine to an important person or a deity, this shrine is to honor all those who died in military service to Japan.

Entrance to Yasukuni Shrine. Rather than a shrine to an important person or a deity, this shrine is to honor all those who died in military service to Japan.

You write your prayers on one of these papers and attach to the string.

You write your prayers on one of these papers and attach to the string.

There is a display of floral arrangements at the shrine. They are called ikebana because of a prescribed style. They must have three elements that represent earth, humans, and heaven. They must be asymmetrical in general, but also have a triangle in the design.

There is a display of floral arrangements at the shrine. They are called ikebana because of a prescribed style. They must have three elements that represent earth, humans, and heaven. They must be asymmetrical in general, but also have a triangle in the design.

Statue to honor boys/young men who accepted military missions from which they were not expected to return. (Think kamikaze pilots in WWII.)

Statue to honor boys/young men who accepted military missions from which they were not expected to return. (Think kamikaze pilots in WWII.)

Yasukuni shrine

Yasukuni shrine

First course of lunch at Aoi Marushin

First course of lunch at Aoi Marushin

entrance to Nakamise shopping area

entrance to Nakamise shopping area

Entrance to Kaminarimon Gate. That's the God of Thunder above me.

Entrance to Kaminarimon Gate. That’s the God of Thunder above me.

Street scene in shopping area

Street scene in shopping area

the tallest pagoda in Japan

the tallest pagoda in Japan

You are to stop at this structure and wave your hands toward you to draw smoke onto yourself. It is to bring blessings and happiness.

You are to stop at this structure and wave your hands toward you to draw smoke onto yourself. It is to bring blessings and happiness.

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Steps to enter Asakusa Temple, built to honor Kannon, the goddess of mercy. One of the most popular shrines in Japan.

Steps to enter Asakusa Temple, built to honor Kannon, the goddess of mercy. One of the most popular shrines in Japan.

lighting a candle for prayers and petitions

lighting a candle for prayers and petitions

Asakusa shrine

Asakusa shrine

people getting fortune papers (Omikuji)

people getting fortune papers (Omikuji)

placard of directions and advice for fortune papers

placard of directions and advice for fortune papers

Waiting for the verdict!

Waiting for the verdict!

posing with Buddha

posing with Buddha

These school children on a field trip to the shrine are wearing hats to help them stand out. It's really crowded In this whole area.

These school children on a field trip to the shrine are wearing hats to help them stand out. It’s really crowded In this whole area.

entrance to Kabuki-za theater

entrance to Kabuki-za theater

Kabuki-za theater. We saw a stage performance of "Makumi"

Kabuki-za theater. We saw a stage performance of “Makumi”

three young ladies at the Asakusa Shrine

three young ladies at the Asakusa Shrine

Day 4 – Japan

Today was museum day for us in Tokyo. Our local guide, Eva Yagino, does a great job of giving us historical information about what we see as we travel in the bus. Her knowledge about the history of her country is impressive.
First, we went to Edo Tokyo Museum. There are many full size replicas in this museum, and that really helps you to visualize what life was like in the periods covered. She guided us throughout the museum and gave interesting information on many exhibits and then gave us some free time to explore.
Next, we went to Tokyo Nationak Museum. After entering the complex, we had lunch at Yurinoki restaurant. It was really good, and I was able to eat a pretty good number of things in the meal. As always, presentation was lovely and service was excellent. This museum is fabulous. We were given time to explore exhibits of our choosing, and there were many things that I just didn’t have the time to see. I’ve included pictures of some of the things I found most interesting.
Next, we went to the National Museum of Nature and Science. We were given a tour by Tomoko Murotani who talked to us about earthquakes and volcanos in Japan. She used several 3-D displays in the museum to show us what is going on here below the earth’s surface. Wow. The amount of seismic activity and volcanic activity in this country is mind boggling. Suddenly hurricanes don’t seem so horrible. At least we have decent notice that they’re coming. She also showed us early models of seismographs and discussed Japan’s efforts to try to measure and detect underground events. It was fascinating.
When we returned from our museum visits, we had the rest of the evening to go to a restaurant of our choice and relax.

Pavilion where Sumo wrestlers practice and compete

Pavilion where Sumo wrestlers practice and compete

These umbrella holders are common outside of large buildings here. You leave your wet umbrella and take the key tag with you and retrieve it when you leave. Great idea to deal with wet umbrellas!

These umbrella holders are common outside of large buildings here. You leave your wet umbrella and take the key tag with you and retrieve it when you leave. Great idea to deal with wet umbrellas!image

Genealogy chart of Tokugawa shogun family. He had one wife but nearly a dozen "ladies in waiting." Male children that he fathered with any of them were listed in the chart.

Genealogy chart of Tokugawa shogun family. He had one wife but nearly a dozen “ladies in waiting.” Male children that he fathered with any of them were listed in the chart.

Full scale display at Edo Tokyo Museum

Full scale display at Edo Tokyo Museum

Model of a palanquin that was used to carry high ranking people

Model of a palanquin that was used to carry high ranking people

This was carried by one of the firemen at the head of the brigade. It was surprisingly heavy.

This was carried by one of the firemen at the head of the brigade. It was surprisingly heavy.

Full size model of a float used in the Kanda Festival. The person is on the top platform.

Full size model of a float used in the Kanda Festival. The person is on the top platform.

Model of Sukeroku and two attendants. You can't see it well in the picture, but her shoes are blocks of wood almost a foot tall.

Model of Sukeroku and two attendants. You can’t see it well in the picture, but her shoes are blocks of wood almost a foot tall.

Model of a balloon bomb. From November 1944 through April 1945, Japan sent about 9,000 of these trying to cause damage to the U.S. Only about 300 reached the U.S. Six people in Oregon were killed by one. I had never heard of these.

Model of a balloon bomb. From November 1944 through April 1945, Japan sent about 9,000 of these trying to cause damage to the U.S. Only about 300 reached the U.S. Six people in Oregon were killed by one. I had never heard of these.

Yummy dessert at Yurinoki restaurant in the Tokyo Natuonal Museum.

Yummy dessert at Yurinoki restaurant in the Tokyo Natuonal Museum.

Kimonos for children

Kimonos for children

Statue of Buddha, hand signs mean "Don't worry. I will teach you."

Statue of Buddha, hand signs mean “Don’t worry. I will teach you.”

Warrior armour

Warrior armour

posing with the mascot for Tokyo National Museum

posing with the mascot for Tokyo National Museum

Really cool display showing earthquakes in Japan and their distance from the earth's surface.  Bigger balls are more powerful quakes.

Really cool display showing earthquakes in Japan and their distance from the earth’s surface. Bigger balls are more powerful quakes.

Showing seismic activity in Japan in one month. Three plates meet under Japan and that means lots of underground pressure and instability. Also, Japan has 110 active volcanos, or 10% of the number in the world.

Showing seismic activity in Japan in one month. Three plates meet under Japan and that means lots of underground pressure and instability. Also, Japan has 110 active volcanos, or 10% of the number in the world.

a Foucault Pendulum, whose movement is caused by the rotation of the earth

a Foucault Pendulum, whose movement is caused by the rotation of the earth

street scene in Tokyo

street scene in Tokyo

window display of beautiful kimonos in a department store

window display of beautiful kimonos in a department store

Day 3 – Japan

This morning we went to Tohoku Gakuin School to visit with staff and students. It is a private school for boys in junior high and high school that was founded by an Episcopalian missionary 129 years ago. There are about 1,600 students there, and about 60% of them bicycle to school daily. The bike parking area had hundreds and hundreds of bikes.
When we entered the school, we stopped in the foyer to take off our shoes and put on slippers. We went to a very nice conference room and met with the principal and assistant principal. After they spoke, we each introduced ourselves (in Japanese of course) and then we gave them gifts we had brought from our schools. We then broke into small groups and observed two different classrooms. I observed an English class and an Algebra II class. Both classes had about 40 students, and though the rooms were clean and neat, they were both fairly crowded. In Japan, teachers have workspaces outside of the classroom. The classrooms are not personalized in any way. The school schedules the classes, and teachers and students meet for class in the room assigned. Teachers carry the things they need for the class in a small basket. I was really impressed with the English class. The students were learning grammar and verb tense structures that are no longer taught in our schools.
After the observations, we ate lunch with a selected group of students. Each table had four boys and two teachers from our group. The boys’ English was certainly better than our Japanese, but conversation was halting and difficult. The boys were very polite, but they were reluctant to try to speak much.
After lunch, we were taken on a tour of the school. It’s a huge school with awesome amenities. The architecture is modern, and there are many windows. There is a huge gymnasium, but there are also many other very large rooms for judo, kendo (fencing), and gymnastics. There are separate rooms for each department of the school for department meetings. I can’t imagine how it would feel to work in such a nice facility.
After the visit, we went back to the Sendai station and got on the Komachi bullet train to return to Tokyo. After checking back in to the Royal Park Shiodome Hotel, we went to eat another Izakaya style dinner at Satodori Sankei Pedi restaurant. As I have grown accustomed to, we stopped after entering the building to surrender our shoes. This restaurant’s specialty is chicken which, for me, was a welcome change from fish. I ate more than I have for dinner lately, but there were some things I passed on. The first dish looked to me like raw chicken. I was told that the chickens were specially raised and that the meat had been marinated and very lightly smoked. But I’m not an adventurous eater, and I couldn’t bring myself to try it! Several other courses included cooked chicken and I really enjoyed it. Tofu is a common item in these dinners, and I try it when it’s served, but I don’t really care for it. The presentation of the food was really nice. Although I’m getting used to taking my shoes off to eat, it’s still weird to see the servers come in to the table wearing socks. And in these restaurants, guests are seated on the floor so the servers have to get on their knees to put things on the table. That must be difficult!

Street scene in Sendai

Street scene in Sendai

vending machines for water, drinks, and snacks are on the sidewalks throughout Sendai

vending machines for water, drinks, and snacks are on the sidewalks throughout Sendai

EvaSan showing us the Japanese words for (top to bottom) principal, assistant orincipal, and teacher.

EvaSan showing us the Japanese words for (top to bottom) principal, assistant orincipal, and teacher.

Slippers we wore during our school visit

Slippers we wore during our school visit

My first encounter with a squat toilet! Luckily, the school bathroom had two Standard toilets as well.

My first encounter with a squat toilet! Luckily, the school bathroom had two Standard toilets as well.

As I understand it, you place your feet on either side of it...

As I understand it, you place your feet on either side of it…

Every morning at the school begins with services here. They call it a chapel, but it's huge.

Every morning at the school begins with services here. They call it a chapel, but it’s huge.

Our guide showing us the reading for the morning (from the book of Matthew) and the hymn selection. Notice the beautiful stained glass behind him.

Our guide showing us the reading for the morning (from the book of Matthew) and the hymn selection. Notice the beautiful stained glass behind him.

School's motto set in tile. All of the school's walls were concrete, I suppose to withstand earthquakes. The school buildings sustained very little damage during the 2011 terrible earthquake although it created many cracks and gaps in the ground that had to be fixed.

School’s motto set in tile. All of the school’s walls were concrete, I suppose to withstand earthquakes. The school buildings sustained very little damage during the 2011 terrible earthquake although it created many cracks and gaps in the ground that had to be fixed.

The judo room

The judo room

Room for gymnastics training

Room for gymnastics training

Library

Library

View of front of school's campus. The white structure on the left is the gym. It's gigantic and contains four full size basketball courts.

View of front of school’s campus. The white structure on the left is the gym. It’s gigantic and contains four full size basketball courts.

First course of chicken at tonight's Izakaya meal.

First course of chicken at tonight’s Izakaya meal.

Day 2(cont’d) – Japan

After lunch we went for a tour of an area hardest hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. It was a very moving experience.
We first went to the Hare Valley community care center for the elderly. An organization called Peace Winds Japan is working in the area to help with temporary housing and with services for the elderly. The senior center has been made from connecting painted shipping containers together around a open area courtyard. The center provides a gathering place for seniors who work on weaving intricately designed baskets to sell to help raise money for restoration efforts. When we left, two people from the organization accompanied us to show us around the area. It’s so very sad to see what happened here. The area was devastated first by the earthquake (magnitude around 9) and then by the tsunami which got to around 60 feet high. The people had less than an hour’s notice that the tsunami was coming, and no one correctly estimated the size of it. In this town over 800 people died or are missing. In Japan overall, dead and missing are around 20,000. The man with us had many personal stories to share with us. We saw some buildings that were twisted and destroyed that haven’t been demolished yet. We saw a junior high school that had water about 9 feet deep, but the kids and adults survived by going to a higher floor. It reminded me of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina but with loss of property and lives on a much greater scale. Since almost everything is gone in this area, they are hauling in dirt and fill to try to raise the ground level by over 10 meters before they begin rebuilding structures.  We did see some temporary housing being used for some of the remaining residents.

Afterwards, we checked in to Hotel Monterey Sendai. It’s a beautiful old building that’s in Tudor style. We had dinner at Tofuro, again in Izakaya style. It has been really odd to take off my shoes and go padding around a restaurant in my bare feet! The food was again very different from anything I’ve seen. I tasted some of it, and couldn’t summon the courage to taste some of it. 😳 There were nightshirts lying in the beds for the use of guests. I slept in it because I’ve never slept in anything starched and ironed before! 

Sendai is a beautiful city. Both this city and Tokyo are amazingly clean and neat. We have found people to be friendly everywhere we’ve gone thus far.

Samurai armour - Sendai City Museum

Samurai armour – Sendai City Museum

Rice fields are a common site along the highway.

Rice fields are a common site along the highway.

Entrance to a bathroom where you remove your shoes and put on special slippers for the bathroom.

Entrance to a bathroom where you remove your shoes and put on special slippers for the bathroom.

Bathroom slippers are a little large, but I guess that's to be expected since it's one size for all women and men.

Bathroom slippers are a little large, but I guess that’s to be expected since it’s one size for all women and men.

People at the senior center weaving baskets from paper.

People at the senior center weaving baskets from paper.

Senior center made from shipping containers.

Senior center made from shipping containers.

Wreckage from the tsunami. Everyone in this building perished.

Wreckage from the tsunami. Everyone in this building perished.

Flowers and Jizo placed at the building as a memorial to those who died.

Flowers and Jizo placed at the building as a memorial to those who died.

Messages to the those who died are written on these boards and placed at the site.

Messages to the those who died are written on these boards and placed at the site.

Wreckage and debris from ongoing work. Plans are to raise the ground level by 10 meters.

Wreckage and debris from ongoing work. Plans are to raise the ground level by 10 meters.

Lucien pointing out the watermark from the tsunami on the pillar of this junior high school building.

Lucien pointing out the watermark from the tsunami on the pillar of this junior high school building.

On March 11, 2011, the clock was stopped by the tsunami at 2:46.

On March 11, 2011, the clock was stopped by the tsunami at 2:46.

a popular beer in Japan

a popular beer in Japan

One of the dinner courses this evening

One of the dinner courses this evening

Close up!

Close up!

Bed and starched night shirt for guests of Hotel Monterey Sendai

Bed and starched night shirt for guests of Hotel Monterey Sendai

Day 2 – Japan

I’m still feeling some jet lag. Woke up several times during the night feeling very disoriented about time.

We used public transportation to get to a station to ride on the super-express Yamabiko bullet train. The bullet train is impressive – very fast and very smooth. There was a group of men standing on the platform at the stop for Fukushima. It’s a government campaign to encourage tourism for the area. You may recall it from the news; it’s the area where the nuclear reactor leaked after the earthquake in March of 2011.

First we went to a shrine and mausoleum for the first feudal lord of the region. The buildings were beautiful, very ornate and colorful. We had to walk up many steps to get to the buildings, and at the start of the stairs there was a large container of bamboo canes so that you could borrow one to help yourself up the steps. At the top of the steps there was a wooden structure with water and several ladles resting on slats across the top. You wash your hands, then ladle some of the water into your hand, and put it in your mouth. Then you hold it a few seconds before spitting it out. This is done to purify yourself and receive a blessing before entering the main part of the shrine. Once you pass through the next gate, there are about 20 more steps to get to the top. The steps are each very high; this was designed to foster humility in people approaching the main building. Hydrangeas and azaleas were blooming and gardens of this place were all beautiful.
Next we went to a restaurant at Aoba Castle. We had a choice of grilled beef tongue (their specialty) or noodles and sushi. In keeping with the meals I have had in Japan this far, the presentation was lovely. To no one’s surprise, I did not select the beef tongue; I had a lovely lunch of noodles. 🙂
After lunch we went by bus to Minamisanriku Portal Center. image

Random group of pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk. Notice the man with the mask.

Random group of pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk. Notice the man with the mask.

Bamboo poles to help you manage the many stairs to Zuihoden Mausoleum and Shrine.

Bamboo poles to help you manage the many stairs to Zuihoden Mausoleum and Shrine.

View from bottom of the steps

View from bottom of the steps

Purification and blessing before entering the main gate.

Purification and blessing before entering the main gate.

Front of the mausoleum. Notice the gloves!

Front of the mausoleum. Notice the gloves!

Better picture of the front of the mausoleum

Better picture of the front of the mausoleum

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Jizo

Jizo

The beef tongue meal. They used the little grill to cook the meat at the table.

The beef tongue meal. They used the little grill to cook the meat at the table.

My noodle and sushi meal. In the summertime, noodles are served cold. They are only served hot during the winter.

My noodle and sushi meal. In the summertime, noodles are served cold. They are only served hot during the winter.

Colorful decorations being hung for an upcoming festival. I thought they looked like piñatas.

Colorful decorations being hung for an upcoming festival. I thought they looked like piñatas.

Day 1 (cont’d)

Dinner last night at Washoku En was quite an experience. The restaurant was on the 42nd floor of a high rise in downtown Tokyo. The view was spectacular. Shortly after you entered the restaurant, there were cases of cubbyholes where you stopped to take off your shoes. We were in a separate dining room and seated at two long tables. The floors were made of mats and there were small cushions on the mats at each place setting. You could either kneel on the mat, or sit on it. There was a well under the table so you could sit on the cushion and put your legs under the table. That is what most of us elected to do. The meal was “Izakaya” style and was eight courses, each served separately.

1st course - appetizers

1st course – appetizers

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