Archive for the ‘Living abroad’ Category

hiroshima   10 comments

Wednesday, August 2:  At 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima.  “The explosion decimated 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of ‘a new and most cruel bomb'” (History.com: Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Ever since I read the book Hiroshima by John Hersey, I’ve wanted to visit Hiroshima. When I lived in Korea from March of 2010-March of 2011, I only had a short break for the Lunar New Year in February; I went to Kyoto because it was the easiest place to get to from Busan, S. Korea. My first choice was Hiroshima, but in the short time I had, it didn’t seem possible.  Now that I’ve been to Japan, I know it would have been possible, but those years were my first years of traveling solo, and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Kyoto was wonderful, so I had no regrets.

When I planned my one week trip through Japan, I thought I’d have at least 1 1/2 days in Hiroshima because I assumed I’d be able to leave my apartment early on August 1.  However, since my company scheduled my apartment inspection for close to 3 pm, I didn’t arrive in Hiroshima until 8:40 pm, leaving me only one day in the city.

This Wednesday morning, from the brunch room at the top of Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, I see a clean and beautiful city, sitting placidly in a bowl surrounded by mountains, with several rivers threading through. It’s impossible to imagine the devastation that occurred here nearly 72 years ago.  A beautiful blue-sky day beckons.

After breakfast, I head out directly to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, sitting just catty-corner from my hotel.

view from Sunroute Hiroshima

Before the A-bomb, and after the Meiji Restoration, the event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji, Hiroshima grew to be the largest city of the Chugoku Region and one of Japan’s leading military bases.  During the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) the Imperial Headquarters (primary command center) was established in Hiroshima, with Ujina Port utilized largely for military purposes.  Each time Japan took military action, troops gathered in Hiroshima for dispatch to battle.  Military facilities expanded year after year.

Hiroshima was also a leading education city, boasting the only Higher Normal School outside of Tokyo.  Moreover, manufacturing growth between the world wars developed it into an industrial city.

Why did the USA choose Hiroshima as its first target? According to a plaque at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: Evaluation of Targets: The Target Committee, comprising military personnel and scientists, evaluated potential targets from a military standpoint.  At the first meeting on April 27, 1945, criteria for target selection were developed, and 17 areas were selected for further study.  At the second meeting on May 11, 1945, after examining such issues as city size and topography that would magnify the effects of the blast, the committee shortened the list to four: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura.  They also agreed that psychological effects against Japan were of great importance.

It seems the city was chosen because it was a military as well as an industrial hub, and because it sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains which maximized damage from the blast.  It was very unlucky for the residents of Hiroshima, but, if there is a silver lining, at least the cultural treasures of Kyoto were not destroyed.

From Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, I have a clear view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome on the right bank.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park now occupies what was at one time the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district. The park was built on an open field that was created by the explosion. Every year on August 6, a Peace Memorial Ceremony is conducted by the Hiroshima Memorial Service Association, in addition to the Hiroshima Inter-Faith League and other religious groups.  The park is abuzz with activity today as people are setting up for the ceremony which will be held in four days. The ceremony is held to console the victims of the atomic bombs and to pray for lasting world peace.  A moment of silence is held at 8:15, the moment the bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

The Peace Memorial Park’s purpose is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to preserve evidence of nuclear horrors and to advocate world peace.

Sadly, today I find that the West wing of the The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is closed.  Only the newly renovated East Building is open today.

Inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I walk along a curved wall that displays floor-to-ceiling black & white photos of Hiroshima before the bomb.

Photos of Hiroshima before the Atomic bomb went off

Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall before the blast

The video below shows black & white photos of Hiroshima before the A-bomb as I walk along the curved wall.  I’m sorry it’s a little shaky.

A single bomb indiscriminately killed tens of thousands of people, profoundly disrupting and altering the lives of survivors.  Through belongings left by the victims, A-bombed artifacts, testimonies of A-bomb survivors and related materials, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum conveys to the world the horrors and inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and spreads the message of “No more Hiroshimas.”  (From a plaque at the museum)

The time Hiroshima was hit

the A-Bomb Dome after the bomb exploded

After the A-bomb, the central columns of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall Building remained intact, although the bomb exploded almost directly overhead.  In another room, I walk along another curved wall showing photos of the city after the bomb hit. This is so moving, it brings tears to my eyes.

aerial view of Hiroshima

In the center of the curved room is an aerial view of Hiroshima and a simulation of the bomb exploding.

aerial photo of Hiroshima

Below is my video of the aerial simulation of the blast.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (approx. 160 meters from the hypocenter) was completed in April of 1915 under the design and supervision of Czech architect Jan Letzel.  Noted for its unique green dome, it was primarily used for arts and educational exhibitions.

The atomic bomb exploded at an altitude of 600 meters, approximately 160 meters southeast of the Industrial Promotion Hall, instantly killing everyone inside the building, which was seriously damaged and completely burned out.

The East Building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum includes exhibits of belongings left by the atomic bomb victims, and photos and other materials that convey the horror of the atomic bombing. There are also video recordings of atomic bomb survivors’ testimonies and special exhibitions.

According to the introduction to the museum’s English guide: “The East Wing—the newest addition—explains the history of Hiroshima City before the bomb, development and decision to drop the bomb, the lives of Hiroshima citizens during World War II and after the bombing, and ends with information about the nuclear age and efforts for international peace. Included in this section is a model showing the damage done to the city. It has some important letters exchanged between scientists and top leaders of that era talking about atomic development and predicted result of its use” (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

Below are photos of some of the items in the museum with descriptions taken directly from the plaques.

Tricycle – 1,500 meters from the hypocenter: Sinichi Tetsutani (then, 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride this tricycle. That morning, he was riding it in front of his house.  Following a sudden flash, the heat rays burned Sinichi and his tricycle, leading to his death that night.  Thinking that little Sinichi would miss his home and could ride his favorite tricycle, his father Nobuo buried Sinichi’s body in the backyard of their house together with the tricycle.  In the summer of 1985, forty years later, Nobuo dug up Sinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave and donated the tricycle to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Sinichi Tetsutani’s tricycle

Sinichi Tetsutani and his sister (?)

watch

Human shadow etched in stone – 260 m from the hypocenter:  A person sitting on the steps to the bank waiting for it to open was exposed to the flash from the atomic bomb explosion.  Receiving the ray directly, the victim must have died on the spot from massive burns. The surface of the surrounding stone steps was turned whitish by the intense heat ray.  The place where the person was sitting became dark like a shadow.  Several bereaved families have suggested that one of their family members may have created this shadow.

Sadly, this is only a photo of the stone steps of the bank.  This was one of the main things I was interested in seeing when I came to Hiroshima; it must be in the closed West Wing, because it is nowhere to be found here.

Human shadow etched in stone

According to the introduction to the museum’s English guide, “The West Wing, which was part of the old museum, concentrates on the damage of the bomb. Sections include Material Witness, which shows clothing, watches, hair, and other personal effects worn by victims of the bomb; Damage by the Heat Rays, a section that looks at what happened to wood, stone, metal, glass, and flesh from the heat; Damage by the Blast, focusing on the destruction caused by the after shocks of the blast, and Damage by the Radiation which goes into details about the health effects suffered by humans” (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

It seems that the stone steps from the bank must have been in the West Wing during my visit.

burned clothing

The Holocaust at Hiroshima (Ceramic Wall Painting Replica): The renowned painter Ikuo Hirayama was exposed to the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945 while working as a mobilized student at the Army Weaponry Depot.  Seeking refuge after the bombing at his birth place to Setoda-cho, he stopped along the way at Mt. Ogonzan and gazed in astonishment for several hours as all of Hiroshima became engulfed in flames.

The painting expresses images of eternal peace and of Hiroshima, an immortal phoenix reborn from its own ashes.

The Holocaust at Hiroshima

Wedding Costumes: Ms. Toshiko Iida (then 25) was exposed to the A-bombing together with her daughter, Makiko (then, 4), her son Kunihiko (then, 3), her father Chiematsu Shinnaka, her mother Fumiko, and her younger sisters Hiroko and Michiko, when she was at her parents’ home in Kako-machi, nearly 1km from Ground Zero.  The house had collapsed, trapping all of them under the fallen structure. However, they managed to get out of there and ran barefooted in desperation.  When Toshiko and her two children were stranded around the Sumiyoshi Bridge, they were rescued by a ship of the Akatsuki Corps right before evening, and the ship carried them to Miyajima Island. Afterward, they moved to their relative’s home in Yamagata County.  Although Toshiko was nursed there, her hair fell out and her body including her lips turned bluish-black as a result of the effect of the radiation.  Her symptoms worsened, from fevers to bloody discharge and necrosis.  She finally died on September 4th, followed by Makiko on the 5th.

These are the costumes worn by Toshiko for her wedding ceremony.  Since they had been relocated from their original storage place together with other items on August 5th, the day before the atomic bombing, they remained safe.

Ms. Toshiko Iida’s wedding costumes

A Young Girl’s Death from Leukemia – Sadako Sasaki: Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the A-bomb at the age of two but escaped without apparent injury.  She grew into a strong and healthy girl.  Nine years later, in the fall of her sixth year in elementary school, she suddenly contracted leukemia and was hospitalized in February the following year. She folded paper cranes continuously hoping they would help her recover, but after an 8-month battle with the disease, she succumbed.  Sadako’s death triggered a movement to build a monument to all the children who perished due to the atomic bomb, and the Children’s Peace Monument was erected in Peace Memorial Park with donations received from all over Japan.  Sadako’s story has since traveled around the world.  Now countless paper cranes are sent to this monument every year.

Sadako Sasaki

The Children’s Peace Monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako’s untimely death compelled her classmates to call for the creation of a monument for all children who died due to the atomic bomb.  Built with contributions from more than 3,200 schools in Japan and donors in nine countries, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled on May 5, 1958.

At the top of the 9-meter monument, a bronze statue of a girl lifts a golden crane entrusted with dreams for a peaceful future.  Figures of a boy and a girl are located on the sides of the monument.

The inscription on the stone block under the monument reads, “This is our cry.  This is our prayer.  For building peace in this world.”

Children’s Peace Monument

Below are some of the countless folded paper cranes, symbols of world peace, at the Children’s Peace Monument.

Paper cranes

Paper cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument are sent here by children all over the world.

 

Near the center of the park is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph holding the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. The monument is aligned to frame the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome. The Memorial Cenotaph was one of the first memorial monuments built on the open field on August 6, 1952. The arch shape represents a shelter for the souls of the victims.

Memorial Cenotaph

The Peace Flame is another monument to the victims of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, but it has an additional symbolic purpose. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Peace Flame

The Bell of Peace was dedicated as a symbol of “Hiroshima Aspiration: Let all nuclear arms and wars be gone, and the nations live in true peace!  May it ring to all corners of the earth to meet the ear of every man, for in it throb and palpitate the hearts of its peace-loving donors.  So may you, too, friends, step forward, and toll this bell for peace.”  ~ Dedicated September 20th, 1964 by Hiroshima Higan-no-Kai.

Bell of Peace

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound:  Here are laid the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.  Being close to the hypocenter, numerous corpses were collected at this spot and cremated.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound

Paper cranes also hang around The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound.

In July 1955, as part of the 10th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, the present memorial mound was constructed with an underground cinerarium through the leadership of the City of Hiroshima.  The ashes of victims excavated around the city were placed here.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound

At the Cenotaph for Korean Victims: Among the 400,000 people who were killed or exposed to lethal post-explosion radiation, at least 45,000 were Korean, but the number is uncertain, because the population has been neglected as the minority. Additionally, 300,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki returned to Korea after liberation from Japanese colonialism. The monument, beautified with Korean national symbols, is intended to honor Korean victims and survivors of the atomic bomb and Japanese colonialism.  The monument’s inscription reads “The Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A[tomic]-Bomb. In memory of the souls of His Highness Prince Yi Wu and over 20000 other souls”, while the side-inscription reads “Souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles.”

Cenotaph for Korean Victims

In December 1996, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, soon commonly called the Genbaku (“A-Bomb”) Dome, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a reminder to the entire world of the horrors of the atomic bomb and a symbol of world peace.

The structure was scheduled to be demolished with the rest of the ruins, but most of the building was intact, including the the exposed metal dome framework at its apex, delaying the demolition plans. The Dome became a subject of controversy, with some locals wanting it torn down, while others wanted to preserve it as a memorial of the bombing and a symbol of peace.  Ultimately, when the reconstruction of Hiroshima began, the skeletal remains of the building were preserved (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial).

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

As I cross a bridge over the Motoyasu River from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, I can see the Atomic Bomb Dome on my left.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

The Red Bird Monument is a literary monument dedicated to Mickichi Suzuki, a distinguished novelist of the Meiji and Taisho Period, who was born in Hiroshima City. In 1918, he launched the children’s literature The Red Bird, which gave birth to the first songs and fairy tales for Japanese children.  The monument, built in 1964, serves as a symbol of Hiroshima’s recovery from the atomic bomb’s devastation and the hope for world peace.

Red Bird Monument

another monument

The Atomic Bomb Dome

Fountain near The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

A-bomb Survivor Groups: Despite the unspeakably grim living conditions in Hiroshima after the bombing, residents rose from the ashes to rebuild their lives and toiled to bring their city back.  Help came as well from elsewhere in Japan and from overseas. The road to recovery was strewn with obstacles, but the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law enacted in 1949 facilitated the gradual redevelopment of urban infrastructure.  Today, Hiroshima’s population has grown to more than one million.

Even as the city came back to life, many residents contended with severe physical and psychological problems caused by the bomb.  In 1957, the A-bomb Survivors Medical Care Law allowed the Japanese government to assist the A-bomb survivors.  This assistance has improved over the years.

Looking downriver at the A-Bomb Dome on the right

U.S. Investigation of A-bomb Illnesses: In November 1946, U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the creation of an organization to investigate the aftereffects of the atomic bomb.  In March 1947, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established in Hiroshima.  The Nagasaki ABCC was established the following year.  A-bomb survivors had high expectations, hoping that the ABCC would treat their illnesses, but the ABCC performed only examinations and research.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

Reading about the current situation regarding nuclear weapons is quite depressing.

Situations around the World regarding Nuclear Weapons: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which includes a ban on all types of nuclear tests involving a nuclear explosion, has still not received the necessary ratification by America, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Iran, and North Korea, and therefore cannot be put into effect.  In January and September of 2016, North Korea performed underground nuclear tests.

At present, international conferences are held once every two years to promote the implementation of the Treaty; however, there are no prospects for ratification by the necessary countries.

In October of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly First Committee adopted a resolution to begin negotiations towards enacting a nuclear weapons convention. The resolution, approved by 123 nations, discusses the catastrophic humanitarian effects brought about by the use of nuclear weapons and the danger caused by their existence. Negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention began in March of 2017.

However, this resolution is opposed not only by countries possessing nuclear weapons such as America and Russia, but also by countries such as Japan and Australia, and there are various issues remaining.

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My time in Hiroshima is short, but its impact is powerful.  We’re lucky that we’ve survived 72 years so far without another nuclear attack, but I fear for our world as long as powerful and crazy men continue to control nuclear arsenals the world over.  I can only hope that the world never sees another devastating attack like the ones at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the afternoon, I get on a boat near Peace Memorial Park, which takes me to the island of Miyajima.

final apartment inspection and departure to hiroshima: my one week holiday begins!   3 comments

Tuesday, August 1:  Today is my last day in my Fuchinobe Apartment. In the morning, I meet Graham for coffee and hand over my bicycle. Of course, because I give him my bike, I have to walk 20 minutes home in the rain while he rides the bike home.  I’m sad to let my trusty bicycle go, but at least I know it will have a good home. 🙂

A little before 2:50 p.m., a Westgate administrator knocks on the door for my apartment inspection; to be honest I’m a little put-off by her nosy questions and her overly thorough investigation of my apartment, almost as if she’s looking for an excuse not to return my deposit!  Of course, I have meticulously cleaned it up and don’t leave her any cause to find fault.

 

Tobi’s apartment inspection was right before mine and he said his was easy with no questions asked.  Is it because he is a man and the inspector is a Japanese young woman that he has no problems?  I can’t help but wonder.

After the inspection is over and I collect my $500 deposit, Tobi and I share a taxi to the Fuchinobe station in pouring rain. Soon we’re on the Yokohama Line. He’s on his way to Narita Airport.  I say my goodbyes to him at Shin-Yokohama, where I’ve arrived in plenty of time for my 4:49 p.m. Shinkansen.  It will take me about 3 1/2 hours to get to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen, with an arrival time of 8:26 p.m. I enjoy a small bottle of wine and a Bento box I bought at the station.  This is my first ride on the Shinkansen in my four months in Japan, so it’s very exciting to be speeding along at bullet speed through Japan’s cities and countryside.

From Hiroshima Station, I take bus #24 from 8:39-8:51, directly to Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima. I’m so tired when I get to the hotel that I crash almost immediately.

I had hoped to have one and a half days in Hiroshima, but since Westgate scheduled my apartment inspection for so late today, I will now only have one full day here. I hope to squeeze in Miyajima as well.  

My one week holiday has begun! 🙂

 

the july cocktail hour: farewell to sagamihara :-)   25 comments

Monday, July 31:  Cheers and welcome to my fourth and final cocktail hour here in Japan. We’re meeting at the local Family Mart again tonight. A few of us have already made a stop at Dai Trattoria (see below – at the end), so we’re slightly looped already.  I apologize for getting a head start without you.  Sadly, the second plastic chair here has broken; all that’s left is one plastic chair, a small lopsided stool, and a metal chair with the seat falling apart.  No matter.  We can simply stand and mingle; that makes for a better party anyway. 🙂

Please do tell me about your summer.  Have you traveled anywhere exciting over the summer months? Have you seen any good movies?  Watched any good TV shows or read any good books? Have you eaten fresh fruits and vegetables, or visited any pretty gardens?  Have you done anything exciting, or even anything quietly enjoyable?  I love how we can slow down in summer without making any excuses.  I don’t care for summer in general because of the heat and humidity, but I do like the laid-back vibe of a summer vacation.

I finished my semester teaching at the university.  On August 1, I’ll have my apartment inspection, get the 50,000 yen that was withheld from my last paycheck, and then I’ll be on the Shinkansen for Hiroshima.  I’ll travel around Japan for one week, then I’ll head back to the USA on August 8.

The biggest challenges I had to deal with my last month of teaching in Japan were: 1) marking 55 final essays; 2) dealing with the heat; 3) planning my one week trip around Japan from August 1-8; 4) trying to see all the things in the Tokyo  area I wanted to see before leaving Japan; and 5) wrapping up everything so I can leave Japan on August 8.

Here are some of the tidbits of my last month in Japan, as well as a few observations about Japanese culture.

Tuesday, July 4:  I love the Japanese postal system.  If the post office has a letter to deliver that needs a signature, or if they have a package to deliver, they leave a postal slip in your door slot and you can call them on an English-only number to arrange a time for them to try again.  They will schedule the delivery at a time that’s convenient for you.  They’ll deliver as late as 6-8 pm on a weeknight, or any time on Saturdays or Sundays, giving you a two-hour time slot.  The other thing they’ll do is come to your house to pick up a box you have to send.  Today, I arranged with the post office to pick up my first box to send back home by surface.  It’s outrageously expensive to send a package by air+sea, and even more expensive to send one by air, so I chose to send it by surface (11.5 kg) for 7,450 yen (~$68).  Add about $100 for air+sea and about $200 by air!  It’s so convenient, but then of course, the Japanese are all about convenience. 🙂

Wednesday, July 5: I have become quite a regular at Kenji’s fish restaurant, Kiyariya, which I pass as I walk my 30-minute walk home each night.  It’s not cheap, usually costing me about $16, but the food is so good that I’m happy to splurge at least once a week.  I love the eggplant dish soaked in oil with fresh grated radishes.  Tonight I get the grilled salmon and eggplant, accompanied by a cold beer. Every time I leave the restaurant, Natsumi, the server, or Kenji, the owner, walk out with me and say, “See you next week!”

Thursday, July 6: Thursday nights seem to be our nights for cocktail hours at the Family Mart.  Tonight Graham and I go; as always we enjoy ourselves over cold beer and talk of teaching and politics. 🙂  I love these nights because they’re easygoing, not at all pretentious, and cheap.  As we sit outside the Family Mart in our plastic chairs, students often walk past and stop for a chat.

Friday, July 7: My other regular place is the Indian restaurant Curry Naan, where I always enjoy vegetable curry, a HUGE naan, a salad, and cold beer that, when bought with the meal, costs only 100 yen (less than $1!). As always, Beatles music is playing on the sound system.  Tonight, it’s:

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner
But he knew it wouldn’t last
Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona
For some California grass

Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged

I enjoy my meal in the cool dark atmosphere while listening to “Eleanor Rigby,” “I am the Walrus,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Something,” “Help,” “Yesterday,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Lucy in the Sky with the Diamonds.”

Who would ever imagine an Indian restaurant in a Japanese city with a Japanese chef playing non-stop Beatles music?

Dinner at Curry Naan

Tuesday, July 11: One of the projects I assigned my students was to create inventions.  They were to come up with a product, create a poster, and then do a sales pitch in front of the class.  Below are the products they created, which I thought were quite fun and original. 🙂

Inventions

Click on any of the following pictures for a full-sized slide show.

 

All my students had to turn in their final essays (after one revision) by Friday, July 7.  I have had a rule while teaching in Japan that I would get all my work done, both marking and planning, during our 9-hour workdays.  I rarely take work home with me. I figure if I have to be in the office 9 hours every day, I should be able to manage my time effectively enough to do this.  As of Tuesday, July 11, I have finished marking class G essays (18).  I celebrate by having dinner at Kiyariya once again. 🙂

Wednesday, July 12: Most days, I eat lunch in the student cafeteria, where we can get cheap hot meals.  I tend to go for the soba topped with vegetable tempura for 290 yen ($2.63). The process is to go to a ticket machine where we pay for a ticket for whatever meal we want.  Then we take the ticket to the window, shown below, where we lay the ticket on the counter and wait to be served our steaming bowl of noodles. I always feel like I am in line for the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, although the ladies are always perfectly nice, unlike the actual Soup Nazi.  Usually I ask for “skoshi,” which apparently means a small amount of liquid (i.e., mostly noodles).  The ladies always know what we mean and serve us our soup accordingly.

Waiting in line for my soba with vegetable tempura

Thursday, July 13: Yet another fun Thursday happy hour at the Family Mart with Graham and Paul.

Monday, July 17: On this Monday night, which is actually a national holiday (we don’t get it off), Graham and Paul try to take me to their favorite izakaya, or Japanese gastropub.  Sadly, maybe because of the holiday, or maybe because it’s a Monday, the place is closed, so we go instead to Jonathan’s for dinner.  Jonathan’s is a lot like a Denny’s in the U.S.A.  As always, we have a fabulous time.

Tuesday, July 18: Today, I send a second box home to USA by surface.  I have to get a box from the post office, using the following Google translate message. This time it costs me 7,800 yen (~$71) for a 13kg box.

Google translation

Wednesday, July 19: My time in Japan is winding down.  I go to dinner at Kiyariya, where I enjoy grilled salmon, eggplant and beer.  I tell Kenji and Natsumi I’ll only be back in one more time.  Once again, Natsumi walks out with me and tells me they are going to miss me. 🙂

Thursday, July 20: Graham and Paul have to attend a meeting with Reiko, our curriculum adviser, about the fall semester.  The meeting goes on for quite a long time. Tobi and I wait and wait for them at the Family Mart; after a while, we give up waiting, leave, and end up having dinner at Curry Naan.  While waiting at the Family Mart, we wonder about this very strange poster on the Family Mart window.

strange sign at the Family Mart

One of my favorite snacks in Japan is onigiri; the snack is made from white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). My favorite onigiri are filled with salted salmon, shrimp or tuna with mayonnaise. Because of onigiri’s popularity in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors.  This is a picture of one of my favorites, shrimp with mayonnaise.

one of my favorite snacks – shrimp with mayonnaise

Friday, July 21:  On my last Friday when walking to the university, I finally stop to take a photo of these colorful houses I have passed every day. I’ve been thinking about doing this all semester, and I finally get around to it on my next to the last day of teaching.  I love the laundry hanging outside.

colorful houses I pass everyday on my way to work

Today, my “I” class wants to start taking pictures, even though it’s not even our last day.  In case you don’t remember, my “I” class is my most rambunctious and difficult to control class, the one that gives me too many challenges to count. Taken individually, they are each great, but as a group, they are out of control.

 

While Graham, Tobi and I are having lunch out at the picnic table, my two students Emiko and Rena, from my “I” class, stop by to join us and take some pictures.  These two girls were Graham’s students last year and mine this year.

 

Monday, July 24: Today is our last day of classes!  I am so excited that I never again have to walk 30 minutes to the university on steamy days, only to arrive at work to find there is little to no air-conditioning.  My classroom is always an oven upon my arrival. We have been told throughout the semester that the university must save money on energy costs since the tsunami and earthquake of 2011, which damaged the Fukushima Daiichi plant and caused a nuclear emergency. Thus, our office is always warm, and the university doesn’t turn on the air-conditioning in the classrooms until class begins.   We’re told they’re supposed to turn it on automatically at the minute class starts, and turn it off the minute class ends. However, they never do, and I always have to ask one of my students to call using the classroom phone.

For some reason the students find it really funny that I’m always hot and want the air conditioning on.  That despite them coming in dripping in sweat, fanning themselves frantically, and complaining about the heat.  As the person at the other end of the line is Japanese, I always ask my students to call.  However, we are told in one of our staff meetings that the administrative people have complained about students calling.  They say students call asking for the air-conditioning to be turned on, and then call again to ask for it to be turned off, all within the same classroom and period.  So, our program coordinator tells us we must call ourselves.  She tells us to say, “Air con mo skoshi suyoi shitte onagaishimus.” The problem with this is that the person on the other end starts rattling off some long sentences in Japanese, and I never know what they’re saying.  So I end up putting my students on the phone after all.  What a ridiculous rule!

Below are 6 of the 8 boys from Class “I” with me, pretending to make the ridiculous air-con call!

I class boys and me calling about the air conditioning

I gave each class a choice as to what we would do on our last day of class. My “I” class chose to play games and to bring their own snacks.  We played several rounds of crazy Pictionary, where team members chose mismatched slips of paper, such as “alligator — does jumping jacks.”  It’s fun, but after a while the students just want to take pictures, which they do.

 

My H class is always super organized and responsible, and they show their personality in our end-of-semester party.  They bring in a large pizza order, collect money, set up a group of tables and organize the chairs around it.  They are totally in charge, and I don’t have to lift a finger.  We all eat, laugh, and talk while they play their favorite music.  It’s my last class of the day and we have a great time.

 

My G class is my quiet class, and they plan their day in the typical “quiet” fashion that reveals their group personality. They order several pizzas which they place at the front of the class.  They also bring the movie, Frozen, which they watch quietly for the entire 90 minute class.

G class

Tuesday, July 25: On Tuesday, we go into the office to clean up all of our stuff.  After cleanup, some of us have lunch together at Jonathan’s: Rob, Tobi, Joe and me.  The others have to attend a meeting about next fall semester, but we don’t have to go as we won’t be returning to AGU.

Wednesday, July 26: On Wednesday morning I take a walk in the rain with Graham in the forest at Aihara.  In the evening, I enjoy my last meal at Kiyariya — eggplant, beer and barracuda.

 

Thursday, July 27: Today, we have individual meetings with our Program Coordinator and Curriculum Advisor near Ueno in Tokyo.  Here, we discuss the grades of individual students.  After our separate meetings, Paul and I walk to the tapas bar, Vinul’s.  On our way, we pass through Ueno Park, where we admire the lotuses blooming at Shinobazu Pond.

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

lotus flowers at Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park

We get a table outside at Vinul’s and snack on tapas and drink wine. Since Graham’s meeting follows ours, he joins us later.  We enjoy our fabulous farewell dinner.  Sadly, I won’t see Paul again, but I’ll see Graham on Tuesday, when I give him my bicycle.

Graham and Paul at Vinul’s

Graham, me and Paul at Vinul’s

walking to the station after Vinul’s

Monday, July 31:  One thing I haven’t written about was an encounter I had on May 6, when I went to a Meetup at the Knight’s Club in Sagamihara.  It was run by a Californian who has an English school upstairs and a bar downstairs.  There I met a fantastic Japanese lady, Reiko, who speaks perfect English and who has traveled all over the world.  She immediately added me on Facebook and we started chatting with each other.  We even spent a day shopping together on a rainy Sunday in late June.

My colleague Tobi is a single guy and I thought he and Reiko might enjoy meeting each other.  After many failed attempts to introduce them to each other, I finally gave up and just gave each of them each other’s contact information.  They finally started chatting and then met for dinner.

Tonight, I meet them at Dai Trattoria, where we enjoy a fun evening eating pizza, drinking wine, laughing and chatting.  Sadly, though I have pictures, they won’t allow me to post them. 😦

Later, Reiko takes one of the pictures she took of me and dolls me up with a silly photo app.  These are the photos she sends me.

 

Tomorrow, August 1, I’ll have my apartment inspection, leave the apartment for good, and take my first Shinkansen to Hiroshima.  I’m going to miss so much about Japan, but not my tiny rabbit hut and not my job.

Here are a few observations about Japan:

  1.  Japan has the best public transportation system I’ve ever encountered.  The trains are always on time, to the minute, so much so that you can set your clock by them.  I love how, in Tokyo, white-gloved train conductors stand on the platform, pointing left and right to check that the platform is clear as the train pulls into the station.  After the doors to the train close, they do the same routine again, followed by blowing a whistle to signal to the person driving the train.  It’s amazing to watch.
  2.  As much as I like the trains, however, I hate the crowded trains and will do almost anything to avoid them.  For example, there’s a Rapid Express Odakyu train from Machida to Shinjuku, which makes only a few stops as it makes its way to the center of Tokyo.  That train is so crowded that people almost always have to stand.  I try to avoid that train as it makes me claustrophobic.  Sometimes I pay extra for the Romancecar, which travels the same route, has reserved seats and makes no stops.  Or, I take the Yokohama Line to Nagatsuta Station, where I take the Tokyu-Den-entoshi Line to Shibuya.  I almost always get a seat on this line.
  3.  I love how Japan is so clean everywhere.  Rarely does one see a piece of trash on the street.  Everything is neat and orderly.  However, the one thing that baffles me is why there are no trash cans anywhere!  If I get a snack when I’m out and about, there is no place to throw the wrapping.  Or if I get a plastic bottle of water, there is no place to toss the bottle when I’m finished.  I must schlep my trash around with me all day.  I’ve resorted to tossing my trash in the tiny trash cans in the ladies’ restrooms.  When I told my students about my frustrations regarding this, they told me that the Japanese government worries about bombs being left in trash cans.  Thus they don’t put trash cans anywhere.  I don’t know if this is true, or if the government just doesn’t want to pay people to empty trash cans.  It’s very frustrating.
  4.  The bathrooms in Japan are fantastic.  Even public bathrooms are generally clean and well-maintained.  Rarely have I come to a dirty toilet or one without full rolls of toilet paper.  Many toilets are of the electronic variety — bidet toilets, commonly called washlets — in many places.  These offer warmed seats, as well as deodorizing and bidet washings.  Sometimes when you sit on a toilet, a sound system plays bird songs and flowing stream sounds, as if you’re out in nature.  Besides the cleanliness and fancy toilet gadgetry, the toilets are ubiquitous.  At every metro station, both inside and outside the gate, is a public toilet.  Also, 7-11s or Family Marts are on many street corners, where bathrooms are readily available for public use. Especially at tourist spots and temples, toilets are abundant.  Why is it that other countries, most notably the U.S.A., seem embarrassed to admit the need for human beings to use a toilet?? I know that on the Washington metro, there are no toilets inside or outside the gate of a station.  If a person has to go to the bathroom when riding the metro, he/she has to leave the station and find a Starbucks, a McDonald’s or some other kind of restaurant; since restaurants near the metro don’t want people using their toilets willy-nilly, they often require the patrons to buy something to get a code to open the bathroom door.  It’s utterly ridiculous not to openly recognize that human beings need to relieve themselves periodically!
  5.  I love how shopkeepers always greet people with a sing-song welcome and a bow.  The bowing continues in perpetuity, that is until the customer walks out the door of the shop.  It’s such respectful behavior toward one’s fellow human beings.  We certainly don’t have that level of kindness in the U.S. these days.
  6.  Here’s a sign I found on one of the trains in Japan: “Please move to the other side of the door immediately after alighting.”  I love it – “alighting.” 🙂
  7.  In every country where I’ve lived so far, it’s been a simple and straightforward thing to wire money home to my bank account in the U.S.A.  However, it’s quite an ordeal in Japan, at least at Japan Post, where I have my account.  They take forever to get the wire transfer set up, and then they tell you that they will need 6 or 7 days to complete the transfer.  This is unbelievable in a developed country like Japan.  I never had any problem transferring money in Oman or China (not considered developed countries), or even in Korea; in all of these countries the money was in my account within hours after I sent it.  I thought Japan Post was possibly exaggerating the time to protect themselves, but in fact, the process did take seven days!
  8.  I don’t like the workaholic nature of Japanese society.  Most people seem to commute long hours and work long hours, with little complaint.  I found my students don’t envision this life for themselves. I hated the expectations placed on us as teachers.  That’s why I was determined to keep a work-life balance, never taking work home with me.  Most of my colleagues worked during week, plus took work home with them.  I simply refused to do it, and I still managed to get all my work done.
  9. Though I generally managed to eat healthy while in Japan, I found the array of available unhealthy snacks confounding, and tempting.  I developed some bad snacking habits, especially with ice cream or pudding.  My students often acted like our classroom was a cafeteria.  They’d bring snacks, Bento boxes, ramen noodles, anything a person could eat, into the classroom, and ravenously gobble down their food throughout the class session.  I’ve never seen anything like it!

It was a short but fantastic experience living in Japan. I hope someday to return as a tourist, as there is so much to see and do.  I’m sure I barely touched the country and the culture in my four-month stay.  In addition to simply traveling around, I hope one day to do the 88-temple walk in Shikoku. 🙂

 

nikkō tamozawa imperial villa memorial park   10 comments

Sunday, July 30:  I am so tired and soggy from the rain in Nikkō that I’m tempted to forgo any more sights and simply return home.  However, I see on my map it’s not much of a detour to see the Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park, built in 1899 as a retreat for Emperor Taisho (Prince Yoshihito at the time).  It was also used by three emperors and three princes until 1947.

According to Japan-guide.com: Tamozawa Imperial Villa was built in Nikkō from parts of a residence that originally stood in Tokyo.  At a sprawling 4,500 square meters, the building has 106 rooms. The Villa harmonizes architecture from three eras: Edo (1603-1868), Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926).

hydrangea on the grounds of Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Before being moved to Nikkō, the building was originally the Tokyo residence of a branch of the Tokugawa family and was later temporarily used as the Imperial Palace.  In Nikkō, it was enlarged into a summer residence and retreat for the Imperial Family, but it suffered neglect after World War II.

The Imperial Family is a long line of emperors who ruled Japan, with limited or symbolic authority, for some 1500 years.  It is commonly accepted that they have all descended from the same family. The imperial crest is a 16-petaled chrysanthemum flower (Japan-guide.com: Emperor).

entrance to Tamozawa Imperial Villa

The villa was opened to the public in 2000, after extensive renovation works.

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa is one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan. The interior of the villa is an odd mix of Japanese and Western styles. Many floors are carpeted, and elaborate chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Yet the villa’s Japanese elements, such as sliding paper doors, painted screens, and tatami flooring are prominent as well, according to Japan-guide.com: Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

gardens on the interior

terrace

Although still impressive in size and grandeur, Tamozawa Imperial Villa currently occupies only one-third of its original area. It now functions as a museum and memorial park.

I love the painted screens that show romantic images of Japanese nature, nobility and landscape.  The painted paper sliding and cedar board doors of the Villa were transferred from the Edo-naka-yashiki residence of the Kishu Tokugawa family. At the villa, two pairs of decorated sliding doors were installed in the stair rooms on the northern side of the study area and 9 pairs of cedar board door paintings were placed on the first and second floors.  These wall paintings were works by the personal painters of the Kishu Tokugawa, as well as many other masters.  The subjects of the paintings vary widely.

painted screen

detail of painted screen

painted screen

The manicured Japanese style garden surrounding the villa is all green in late July, but its maple trees boast autumn colors in late October and early November.

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gnarled tree at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

view of the garden from inside Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

grounds at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

By 11:15, after exploring the nooks and crannies of Tamozawa Imperial Villa, I make my way back to the Turtle Inn to pick up my bags; I left them there to hold for me after I checked out this morning.

walkway back to the Turtle Inn

little bud

Goodbye Turtle Inn

I say goodbye to the Turtle Inn and its turtle army and I’m on my way back home by 11:30.  It’s a long haul to get back to Fuchinobe, and I admit I get a little lost in Tokyo on my way home.  But I make it safely and finish packing up my two large suitcases to have them picked up tomorrow to store in the airport for a week, until August 7.  I have to get my apartment thoroughly cleaned for the inspection on Tuesday, hand my bicycle over to Graham, and then I’ll be on my way to Hiroshima.

Total steps today: 12,418 (5.26 miles).

nikkō: kanman-ga-fuchi, bake jizo & jokoji temple   12 comments

Sunday, July 30: This morning I’m down in the breakfast room at the Turtle Inn by 8:00, gobbling down some bread and a huge plate of fruit.  Random strangers are seated sporadically throughout the dining area.

Dining room at the Turtle Inn

I’m also surrounded by an invasion of turtles, which must be either the inspiration for the hotel’s name, or the manifestation of it.

Turtle at the Turtle Inn

stacks of turtles

By 9:00, I’m walking along the Daiya River toward Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss and the famous Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo).  I’m following one of two historical walks from the Nikkō Historical Walking Map.  I did the Takino’o Path yesterday and today, I’m walking the Kanman Path.  The weather can’t seem decide if it’s going to rain or not; the sky is sporadically spitting, and then it’s not.  Either way, it’s dark and dreary, as my entire time in Nikkō has been.

Daiya River

I come to the Stone Park where there are some interesting stone formations and previews of the Jizo statues to come.

Stone Park entrance

moss-covered stone

The gate along the Kanman Path

Soon, I have my first glimpse of Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss.  This scenic area of the Daiya river was formed by the lava from an eruption of Mt. Nantai.  It is said that Priest Kokai named this abyss ‘Kanman’ because the murmuring of the stream sounds like a recitation of the last word of a sutra, “Kanman.”

first glimpse of Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

stone lantern

It isn’t long before I come to the Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo), a line of stone statues of Jizo, dressed in red bibs and caps.  Jizo is a bodhisattva (bosatsu in Japanese) who is the protector of children, expectant mothers and travelers. He is also the protector of deceased children, including miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants.  According to one folk tale, the dead children go to a kind of purgatory where they must pile stones into towers to make merit and be released. But demons scatter the stones, and the towers can never be completed. Jizo hides children in his robes to protect them from these demons and save them, according to ThoughtCo.: Jizo Bosatsu and his Role.

Here, there were once 100 stone statues of Jizo, including two big ones, called ‘Oya Jizo’ (Parent Jizo), before the flood in 1902. Today, there are 74 statues standing in a line.  The statues were carved by the disciples of Archbishop Tenkai (1536-1643).

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

At Narabi-Jizo, caps, bibs and sometimes toys are left by grieving parents who have lost a child.

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

The Reihi-kaku Divine Tower is a small building on a rock.  The original tower was built in 1654 by the priest Kokai as an oratory.  Priests lit a holy fire in this tower and prayed for world peace. However, the flood of 1902 washed this tower away, and the current building was rebuilt in 1971.

Reihi-kaku Divine Tower

Reihi-kaku Divine Tower

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Here is a YouTube video of a walk among the Jizo statues:

I turn around and retrace my steps, heading to Jokoji Temple, which became a family temple (Bodaiji) after moving to this area in 1640. This temple enshrined Amida Nyorai (General Savior of Mankind).

gate to Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

water pavilion at Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

At Jokoji Temple, there are many stone figures, but I don’t know the significance of them.

figures at Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

figures at Jokoji Temple

figure at Jokoji Temple

figure at Jokoji Temple

Kanman-Oya-Jizo-On-Kubi, the head of a parent Jizo, was washed away in the flood of 1902.  After the flood, local people discovered the head in a riverbed and enshrined it at Jokoji Temple.  Its facial features seem to have been washed away.

Kanman-Oya-Jizo-On-Kubi

Sugegasa Higiri Jizo is enshrined in this small wooden building. Jizo is wearing a Japanese hat (kasa) of sedge (suge). It is very rare for Jizo to have such a hat on his head. It is believed if you pray to this Jizo for something you want to be realized on a certain day, your wish will be granted. Many people come here to pray for their wishes.

Sugegasa Higiri Jizo

The cemetery at Jokoji Temple is atmospheric and seems to evaporate into the surrounding forest.

cemetery at Jokoji Temple

At Jokoji Temple, three Jizo sit in a simple wooden building.  The one in the center was built in 1550 and is said to be the oldest stone Buddha in Nikko. This Jizo is called Michibiki Jizo.  “Michibiki” means “to lead” or “to guide.” People believed that this Jizo would lead a dead person to Buddha’s world.  The other two Jizo were called “Mimi-dare Jizo;” it is believed these two Jizo can cure ear disease.

Michibiki Jizo

Michibiki Jizo in the center, and the two Mimi-dare Jizo

reclining moss-covered figure at Jokoji Temple

After leaving Jokoji Temple at 10:15 a.m., I make my way to Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park.  After that, I’ll have to be on my way home for my last two days in my Fuchinobe apartment before leaving on my one week holiday. 🙂

 

 

nikkō: rinnoji temple, shinkyo sacred bridge & yutaki falls   16 comments

Saturday, July 29:  After visiting the Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple, I retrace my steps to the temple I bypassed earlier this morning, Rinnoji Temple.  It is apparently Nikkō’s most important temple, founded by Shodo Shonin, the monk who introduced Buddhism to the area in the 8th century.  It’s now 11:00 a.m. and I’ve already visited three of the area’s shrines and temples; I’m happy to be making good time despite the rain.

On the way I pass the Sōrin-tō, a 15 meter-high bronze pillar that serves as a symbol of world peace and purifies the back demon gate of Nikkō Toshogu Shrine.  It contains 1,000 volumes of holy Buddhist sutras. Shogun Tokugawa Iyemitsu requested that Monk Jigen Daishi build the pillar in 1643.  Its design imitates the treasure tower at the temples on Mt. Hei (Heizan, Tendai sect headquarters).

The light today is just not working in my favor. 🙂

The sōrin-tō bronze pillar

I pay the fee and enter the Rinnoji temple’s main building, the Sanbutsudo, which houses fabulous gold lacquered, wooden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon (“Kannon with a thousand arms”) and Bato-Kannon (“Kannon with a horse head”). The three deities are regarded as Buddhist manifestations of Nikkō’s three mountain deities which are enshrined at Futarasan Shrine, according to japan-guide.com: Rinnoji Temple. These are amazing statues, but sadly, no photography is allowed.

The Sanbutsudo Hall is currently undergoing a major renovation, scheduled to last until March 2019. During this period, the temple hall is covered by a huge scaffolding structure with a picture of the temple on the front.

Rinnoji Temple under renovation

While standing in line, I run into Christine from Luxembourg, who I met last night when I first arrived in Nikkō. It turns out I will run into Christine quite a number of times on this trip, and surprisingly, even later on my trip to the south!  She and I walk around this temple together.  Unlike me, who woke at the crack of dawn and have already been to visit three shrines, including the largest, Toshogu, Christine has just woken up and gotten started, so she is heading to Toshogu after this.  We will have to part ways when we leave Rinnoji.

We are allowed to take one picture, shown below, but we’re not allowed to photograph the Buddha statues.

inside Rinnoji Temple

We walk up a series of stairs to see the ongoing renovation, under cover from the rain.  We are able to take some pictures of the work in progress on the roof.

Around the Rinnoji Temple are small shrines, ema, and Shoyoen, a small Japanese style garden.

After Christine and I split, I revisit the Shinkyo Sacred Bridge, which I saw last night in the dark.  I already wrote about the bridge here: travel and arrival in nikko.

Nikko World Heritage Site

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

The bridge is part of Futarasan Shrine, which I visited earlier; a small part of the shrine sits here beside the river.

Futarasan Shrine

Near the bridge is a statue of Itagaki Taisuke (1817-1919), a politician of the Meiji period. When the pro-shogunate troops occupied Nikko San’nai and tried to destroy temples and shrines, he saved the temples from destruction.

Statue of Itagaki Taisuke

I stop for a lunch of yuba ramen near the Shinkyo Bridge.  It’s rather tasteless compared to my yuba monk’s meal last night.  I finish lunch about 12:30.

Yuba ramen

Near the restaurant, I hop on a bus that makes its way up a mountain for nearly an hour to Yutaki Falls.  I had no idea the bus ride would take so long, but it makes a multitude of stops along the way.  I don’t get to the falls until about 2:00. My goal is to start at Yutaki Falls and then follow the Senjo-ga-hara Hiking Course.  I had read about this popular hiking course in a blog post. The trail passes the Chuzenji Lake in the Nikko National Park. The course supposedly takes 2 1/2-3 hours and is mostly on flat ground through woods and marshland.

Yutaki Falls is one of the three famous falls in Oku-Nikko. The other two are Kegon Falls and Ryuzu Falls. The 70-meter high, 25-meter wide waterfall sits at the southern end of Lake Yunoko.

Yutaki Falls

After watching the waterfall for a while, I embark on the walking trail.  I pass a fisherman near the waterfall and then head into the forest. It’s still raining steadily.

A fisherman at Yutaki Falls

the path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

I love this kind of forest where the trees are spaced out nicely and there is lush undergrowth. Luckily it’s not muddy because the path has a wooden walkway.

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

I’m the only fool walking through the forest on this rainy day.

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

mossy tree

It’s still raining so steadily that after a while, and after not seeing another human being, I start to regret that I embarked on this hike at this late hour of the day. I begin to worry that the walk might take me longer than 2 1/2-3 hours, and that it might get dark before I make it to the end of the hike at Shakunage-bashi bridge.

About 40 minutes after starting the hike, I see a sign for Kotaki Falls, only 5 meters high and not as famous as Yutaki Falls or Ryuzu Falls. I head to the falls.  There is still not a soul in sight.  I see from my map that there’s a parking lot at Kotaki Falls.  While I’ve been contemplating backtracking to Yutaki, instead I follow the sign to the parking lot.

Kotaki Falls

This forest is so green and lush!  Not to mention wet.

greenery

mossy tree

close up of mossy tree

sign to the parking lot

almost there!

relief in sight 🙂

I actually end up at the same parking lot where I started the hike, so I’ve come full circle.  In a little shop, I find a man grilling shioyaki.  I don’t partake but instead buy myself a drink and go out to wait for the bus in the rain.

Shioyaki

About halfway down the mountain, at one of the bus stops, Christine hops on the bus.  It cracks me up that we keep running into each other.  She has been to another waterfall and is on her way back down into the town. I tell her I’m stopping to have my yuba monk’s meal again, but she still doesn’t want to eat out.  No matter.  I stop again and have a beer and my delicious yuba monk’s meal.

Dinnertime!

It’s been a long rainy day, and I’ve been on the go since 7:30 a.m. Though it hasn’t been a cold rain, I still look forward to getting into the hot onsen and having an early night.  I still have more to squeeze in tomorrow before I head back home to Fuchinobe. Sadly, rain is forecast tomorrow too, but of course, I’m always hopeful the sun will win out.

Steps today: 18,648 (7.9 miles).

nikkō: futarasan shrine & rinnoji taiyuin mausoleum and temple   8 comments

Saturday, July 29: After leaving Toshogu Shrine, I trudge through the rain down a long path edged with stone lanterns. I’m heading to Futarasan Shrine, founded in 782 by Shodo Shonin, the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikkō.  The current building dates from 1619, making it the oldest shrine in Nikkō.

walkway to Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan (“two rough mountains”) Shrine is where the surrounding mountain deities are worshiped, and though not as fabulous in appearance as Toshogu, this atmospheric temple, set in the midst of towering Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar), is Nikkō’s spiritual heart.  The revered deities are related to Nikkō’s three most sacred mountains: Mount Nantai, Mount Nyoho and Mount Taro.  The Shinkyo Bridge is also part of this shrine.

torii to Futarasan Shrine

The worship of mountains is an ancient Shinto practice that was integrated into Buddhism when it entered the area in the eighth century. The mountains, considered both as frightening guardian spirits and providers of life due to their flowing rivers, have been worshiped in the islands since Neolithic times (Japan experience: Futarasan Shrine).

I’m afraid I don’t know the significance of the various figures of Futarasan Shrine, but some of them seem quite fierce.

lion at Futarasan Shrine

Haiden at Futarasan Shrine

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

Below is the Daikoku-den, with an interesting figure standing outside and beautifully decorated ceilings inside. While I’m inside, I suddenly can’t take pictures because my camera card is full.  When I put a new one into my camera, I can’t get it to work and I take it in and out and turn my camera off and on, to no avail.  After sulking about a bit, I decide to remove the battery and then put it back in.  Voila, that solves the problem.  It’s so annoying and frustrating to have problems with a camera while traveling.

Daikoku-den

figure at Daikoku-den

ceiling inside Daikoku-den

Many of the cedar trees have been chopped down and the trunks are preserved at this shrine.

cedar trunk

There are smaller shrine areas within Futarasan Shrine where people solemnly worship.  One area has a pond. Another has a boulder pile topped with small white pebbles.  Yet another has a pile of wooden hearts.  I don’t know the meaning of any of these little sacred spots.

Futarasan Shrine

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

I leave Futarasan and continue walking down another long path to Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple.  The mausoleum was built for Third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu. Taiyuin is the posthumous name of Iemitsu.  Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum was built in the same architectural technique and style as Toshogu Shrine, but on a smaller and more modest scale.  I enjoy this shrine more than Toshogu mainly because there are so few people here. 🙂

entrance to Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

stone lanterns at Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

water pavilion at Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

After leaving the water pavilion, I climb steps to the lavishly decorated Nitenmon Gate, guarded by two heavenly kings.

Nitenmon Gate

A drum tower stands to the left of the gate, and a belfry to the right.

Taiyuin

The Nitenmon Gate is gorgeous with its vivid colors and fanciful wood carvings.

details of Nitenmon Gate

details of Nitenmon Gate

details of Nitenmon Gate

Nitenmon Gate

The Karamon Gate stands in front of the praying hall (Haiden).  A pair of cranes and a white dragon embellish its transom. Karamon means Chinese and the gate is gilded with pure gold. Pigeons are carved on the decorative fence.

Karamon Gate

Karamon Gate’s decorative fence

Inside the Karamon is the Haiden, or Worship Hall, the main structure of Taiyuin. It is designated as a National Treasure.  The Honden, the Inner Shrine, is connected under the same roof to the Haiden, in the shape of an H.  Prayers to Iemitsu are offered here.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Next to the halls at an innermost area is Tokugawa Iemitsu’s mausoleum.  The design is influenced by Chinese Ming Dynasty architecture called Ryugu Zukuri.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum

details of Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

It’s time for me to make my way out of this shrine to my next destination, so I retrace my steps through the various gates.

Nitenmon Gate

Nitenmon Gate

I love studying the detailed carvings on the elaborate Nitenmon Gate.

 

I make my way past the belfry and the drum tower.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Next, I retrace my steps back down the hill past Futarasan Shrine and then past Toshogu Shrine to Rinnoji Temple, which appears to be going through a major renovation.

 

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