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…

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. karen
    Jun 22, 2015 @ 07:50:29

    I’m enjoying your blog – it brings back memories of these places. I loved learning about the spiritual beliefs and practices of Japan. The temples are so unique and the gardens are beautiful.Looks like you’re having a great time.

    Reply

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