Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Zenkoji Temple

Here are a few pictures of Zenkoji Temple in Nagano. There are two gates to enter into the temple. This is one side of the first gate:
The second gate is under construction, so it isn't visible to the public right now.

One temple had a museum in the basement. Some of the Buddha images on display show a remarkable similarity to Christian symbols. There were several that showed pictures of a man, woman and baby kneeling before an "angel". The only difference is that the "angel" was Buddha. There were also three paintings of a Buddha in a field of flowers. I was mesmerized by these. They were beautiful. I looked for the remainder of my trip hoping to find a poster or postcards or something with those pictures, but to no avail.

In the main temple, we went down stairs into a dark corridor. There is a brass door that you move and a string is supposed to be attached to the pinky of the Buddha. Once we moved the latch, Beth wanted to turn around and go back the way we came rather than going forward. Rather than be left in the dark alone, I turned around too. Not fun. Later, Beth confessed that she thought that there was a door that we had to open and that it wasn't. She thought we would be trapped down there. Ooh, that wouldn't have been fun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Moss Street Paint-In

Saturday Elizabeth and I went to the Moss Street Paint-In. We haven't been for several years. The art gallery had free admission to the Rodin exhibit. Wow, what an exhibit. I've always been fascinated by Rodin, seeing what he created and some of his thoughts on creation, I admire him even more. The two of us spent almost two hours in the gallery.

Because of the weather, there were fewer artists at the paint-in than there normally would have been. It is interesting attending an event like this with another artist, to see what captures another person's attention and why. Both of us are drawn to artists with a unique voice. We blew by all the Emily Carr look-a-likes, the water colours of flowers and more flowers (and more flowers). This might be why it is the first time I've ever made it to the very end.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Matsumoto Castle

Now that I'm home, I can post pictures of my trip. Our first weekend in Nagano, we went to Matsumoto Castle.

The castle was built during the Eisho Era in the 1500's. Additional parts were added to the castle in the Tensho Era (1590). The castle was slated for demolition in the late 1800's. At that time, it was believed that relics of the past should be destroyed. Ryozo Ichikawa and others purchased the castle in an attempt to save it, but their efforts were not enough. Fortunately, Unari Kobayashi, a school teacher, formed an organization to preserve the donjon tower.

This model displayed in the museum shows a bit of what the area around Matsumoto Castle would have looked like at one time. Now, the city of Matsumoto takes up much of the space. The castle itself is still surrounded by the large moat. The koi inside are enormous, and apparently the white ones are very rare.

On display inside the castle itself and in the museum attached to the castle are several examples of samurai armour. Hum, looks familiar. Got to say it was a bit strange to go around a corner and look Darth Vader in the face.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Earthquakes, Weddings and Monkeys

Wow, so much has happened since I was able to post last. Of course the biggest event was on Saturday when Kirk and Hitomi were married. Their wedding was beautiful. Hitomi wore a traditional kimono. The ceremony started with a Buddist chant--very moving. After the wedding, the reception and an after party. This is the first time that I've been at a wedding where the guests were served steak and lobster. Definitely a treat. The Japenese also believe in serving more food than anyone can possibly eat. There was yet more food at the after party.

Yesterday, Beth wanted to leave Kirk and Hitomi alone (go figure), so we wandered downtown. The temple here is celebrating an anniversary, so their was a parade, Geisha girls, and dragon dancing. At the temple gate, one Geisha turned just as I took a picture. Wow, was that a smile?

Today is our last day here. We enjoyed a very full day today starting with a traditional Japanese garden. We had just entered, when the whole room shook--a 5 point earthquake. This is one of the most beautiful gardens I've seen. Ah, to post pictures... From there, we went to an art gallery featuring one of the most famous artists in Japan and then visited some monkey baths. The monkey baths are set in the hills above Nagano. You drive up a long winding road only big enough for 1/2 a car (no wonder their vehicles are so small!) The hills are interesting. Some of the forest seems more like it has been planted than just grown as the trees are so uniform in spacing.

Right now, Beth, Hitomi and her friend Sarah from Denmark are enjoying a traditional Japanese bath. I wasn't too interested (public nakedness and all), so came to use the computer instead. It will be good to get home. This has been an interesting trip, but travelling with someone else has unique challenges and I'm ready for a rest. Oh right, I have to go back to work right after I get home. Oh well, maybe next week!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More Eastern Snippets

Our trip to the temple was very interesting. It is hard to tell where everything is, as it is all in Japanese. We walked in on someone praying in one temple and were chased out. Beth was convinced this was the temple and kept trying to go back in, and the fellow kept chasing her out. We walked further along and came to a gate the first gate. Lining the gate are vendors selling temple souvenere. The main gate is closed for repairs, so were unable to enter that way. Thank heavens for big red arrows!

There are three temples. We were able to see two of them. Unfortunately, by the time we finished our shopping it was a bit late to see the third. There is a sense of awe in the lesser of the two. The largest is so much a tourist location now that it is overshadowed. In the lower level of the temple, you walk in pitch black until you find a brass plate set in the wall. It has a hinge that is attached to the pinky of the Buddah. It is supposed to bring you what you wish for. Beth got frightened as she thought it opened a door, so insisted we turn around and go back. It was pitch black and I discovered an inordinate fear of the dark. I would have prefered to go on, but sure didn't want to get abandoned in the dark!

Yesterday we spent shopping with Kirk and Hitomi, partly for their wedding and partly just to shop. I found a wonderful cabinet that was actually free. It would work well for thread, so Kirk is going to wrap it up so I can bring it home with me. Good thing I only brougt one check on bag with me! Beth isn't doing much better, she bought a small suitcase for a granddaughter, so will have to bring a Hello Kitty suitcase as carryone. Oops, I think she already had two. Hum, I have two, promise.

In the evening, we went to a village outside of Nagano where Kirk used to teach. His english students had a potluck for us. We were served amazing food. I did find out that the giggling accompanying my use of chopsticks is pleasure. The Japanese laugh when you do something from their culture. Beth was given a kimono by one of the women. It is beautiful silk and very wonderful.

Today we learned traditional Japanese flower arranging. Greenery and flowers are placed in a flat dish filled with water. The flowers are held in place with a flat metal plate with prongs. It was very interesting. The teacher went around the room fixing our mistakes. The end result was very interesting and it is too bad that we had to leave them behind. After lunch, Hitomi gave Beth and I a bra fitting. She insisted that we each accept one. Fortunately, I found a shirt I liked as a shirt seemed less expensive and they are already doing so much for us.

Tomorrow, we will vist a forest with 300 year old Japenese cedar trees as well as a monkey bath. Today--more shopping. Shoes, I can do shoes.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Snippets from the East

On Saturday evening, we went to Hitomi's parent's home for dinner. They put on a lavish spread without a raw fish in sight. I seemed to amuse them greatly. Every time I would eat, Hitomi's mom and grandmother would giggle. I asked Hitomi if I was using the chopsticks wrong, but she said they were very impressed with how well I did. Didn't stop the giggles though.

After dinner, we went with Kirk to a small cafe where he often plays. The cafe is run by a Canadian woman from Toronto. It was an open mike evening, so musicians would play or sing as the mood took them. What an amazing group of talent.

Yesterday, we spent the day with Hitomi and her parents again. We went to Matsumoto Castle. This is the oldest standing castle in Japan. It is steeped in history (and stairs). From the outside, it appears to have only three floors, but their is a hidden floor where Samuri hid during conflict. They were able to marshall in secret against their enemies. I do believe that George Lucas had a tour through the castle at one time. On display is Darth Vadars outfit (Samuri armour that is the prototype for Darth's I'm sure!) We also went to a wonderful Japense restaurant where I tried a curry that was amazing.

Today, Beth and I are going to visit Zenkoji Temple. This is a short walk from where we are staying and is very famous.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hello from Japan

Our flight from Japan was on the inagural trip of a new Boeing 777. The plane had that new car smell for most of the trip. We were lucky enough to have our seats upgraded, so we had lots of leg room. It made for a much more comfortable flight. Because we sat right beside the emergency door, we could get up without have to crawl over anyone.
We are staying at the house of a friend of Kirk's (Beth's son). It is a very nice place in Nagano. The weather is incredibly hot and muggy. Beth and I have done some walking today. I didn't bring any money with me today, so will need to go back to check out the fabric store again (ah, how sad is that!). Apparently there is a store that sells used kimono's, but I think we managed to walk past it without noticing it. Much like Buenos Aires, the stores aren't obvious for what they are. We walked Buenos Aires, the stores aren't obvious for what they are. We walked to a cultural centre, but missed that was where we were until we went to walk further on and I looked up and saw the name on the front of the building. Thankfully, many buildings and streets also have English as well.
Nagano is about the same size as Victoria. I am an oddity here. As I sit at an internet cafe typing this, I'm being video'd. Oops, maybe I'm doing something wrong! Hope you don't get this in Japanese. Just dig out a dictionary if you do!