Today is Monday and as I write, I am sitting on the Bullet Train heading back to Osaka. We had a wonderful weekend in Hiroshima with Stan’s relatives. In fact, we spent the entire day with them yesterday (Sunday). Everywhere we went we were showered with gifts, food, tea and politeness. They take the idea of hosting very seriously and truly out-did themselves this weekend. Finding ways to communicate with them was a challenge for me. Aside from talking with my hands (which I do anyway), playing charades, and Stan translating back-and-forth, I’ve been using my iPhone translator app a lot. It isn’t always accurate (which makes for some funny misinterpretations) but it gets the job done. LOL.
One tradition that touches me is that the family always shows up at the train station, gifts in hand to see us off. (Yikes! More gifts?! There is no more room in my suitcase!) They dress up (coat and tie) and actually purchase a ticket so they can walk us all the way to the platform! They wait for the train to arrive and walk us right up to the door. After we board and find our seats, they position themselves where they can see us and waive and bow until the train has pulled away from the platform. Isn’t that sweet? Who does that anymore?
In contrast, when one of my friends needs a ride to the airport, I suggest they get a shuttle!! ha! ha! And if I DO take them to the airport, I slow the car down long enough for them to grab their bags and hit the ground running! ha! ha! (I can hear my mother saying, “Shame on you!” right now.)
I’m just kidding, mom.
But seriously, Japanese people are so polite, and in many ways, still so traditional. We could all take a lesson.
Picking back up on Monday evening from my hotel room, I just want to mention that when we arrived at our hotel in Osaka today, we were told by the front desk that we had a package waiting for us. Guess what? Stan’s cousins (they live here) dropped off presents . . . for ME!
For goodness sake!
Needless to say, one of the things on our agenda was to go shopping and be prepared to do a little gift giving of our own when we see them tomorrow.
The rest of the evening consisted of a wonderful pedicure for me (delightful) and our traditional dinner at Hard Rock Cafe. We always visit one wherever we go, and if I don’t have a T-shirt from that city, I get one.
Note: I wish Stan had recorded a video of the check out process at the nail salon. The manicurist knelt at the low table in the waiting area and waited for me to put my shoes on, she presented a tray for me to place my money, she ran back to the counter to make change and then helped me on with my jacket. She walked us to the door thanking us the whole way and bowed several times at the door as we left. She remained at the door until we turned the corner and when I glanced back she bowed again. I resisted the urge to run back and give her a hug.
I had an early wake-up call this morning and although I did not want to get up, I certainly didn’t want to miss our day-trip to Kyoto. Â I had the opportunity to visit Kyoto in 2013 and loved it. I was looking forward to returning with Stan’s cousins.
An interesting fact about Kyoto:
Kyoto was at the top of the atomic bomb target list but was removed by the personal intervention of Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. Stimson wanted to save this cultural center which he knew from his honeymoon and later, diplomatic visits.
The first part of our trip took us to the district of Gion, one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in Japan. Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last one hundred years, it is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. I read somewhere that many of the teachers at Gion’s geisha vocational school are designated as Living National Treasures, a distinction given to people who Japan believes are “keepers of important intangible cultural properties and who preserve the time-honored traditions of the past.” The streets of Gion are lined with old-style Japanese tea houses with traditional sliding doors, wooden fences and Japanese lanterns. It is so quaint.
At the end of the main street, we came upon the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, Kenin-ji. Stepping through the doors, visitors are immediately transported into a quiet, peaceful, relaxed atmosphere. We all had to take our shoes off and walk around in our socks. The temple is quiet. Shhhhh. Even though people were walking around and conversing softly the sound seemed to get absorbed somehow. Everything is open in such a way that inside and outside seem to merge. The gardens were tranquil in their simplicity. One of the core principles of Zen Buddhism is meditation and everything within the temple is designed to facilitate that.
Before I left L.A., my pastor talked to me about the importance of taking the time to enter into union with God through Christ and becoming AWARE of His presence. He reminded me of the verse in Psalms 46 that says, “Be still and know, recognize and understand that I am God.” In our fast-paced, distracted, disconnected society we have lost the ability to quiet ourselves and hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. After my experience today, Psalm 27:4 is my new prayer for this season:
One thing have I asked of the Lord – that one thing will I seek, inquire for, and insistently require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to mediate, consider, and inquire in His temple.
(I didn’t take many photos of the temple because I had a camera malfunction. Stan finally got the problem resolved but by then the group was ready to move on and I didn’t want to hold everyone up while I took photos.)
After the temple, we took a lunch break. We dined at a wonderful little place where the chef was happy to accommodate my food restrictions. I saw these lovely ladies on the way to lunch. They look like walking flower blossoms.
Among the traditional streets in Gion is Hanami Lane. Remember hanami from my previous posts? We ended up at a popular spot for flower viewing. Beautiful! After that, we walked around the shops and enjoyed the scenery.
|This couple was taking wedding photos! I got in on the action!
|This cutie was serving dumplings and my heart loved her instantly.
|Million dollar smile!
The day concluded with dinner at Mitsuru and Yukiko’s favorite restaurant and a walk along the river to the train station. What a wonderful day.
|Eating Japanese style; shoes off, low tables and kneeling pads.
|Uh, I’m going to need help with the groceries.