Friday, November 18, 2011

Japan in under 7 days

Day Six  Wednesday, NOV 16,   2011
Being immersed in Japanese culture, even for so short a time,  was like meeting an old friend and starting up a warm friendship right where we left off 30 something years ago. This was not the starry eyed admiration of a 23 year old who was so disappointed in her US plastic-TV 'culture'  Back then and even now I feel this exchange mirrors my deepest misgivings about our young 'culture'-

Reporter: "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?"
Gandhi: "I think it would be a very good idea."   Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

Now, I know the US has some fine traditions and that Japanese culture also has a dark side. Still, there are so many norms of civil society in Japan and so many Japanese people are so very kind and is remarkable. Some concrete examples I noticed:  Water in the subway, to drink and to fill bottles. Water in fountains at public parks - with faucets that stay on unless turned off. Think about it -where in the US do we still have that? Lights in a subway station with chain pulls that are easily reached by any passerby. Public places in airports and train stations are clean, bright and comfortable.  Tourist places and train stations are filled with people to help you find your way.

I got up, had one last breakfast with Bruce and Mitsue, who have cooked for me and taken care of my every comfort. As much as I missed my family, I was sad to leave because I had felt so at home in Japan and we never see enough of our dear friends who work so hard and live so far away. I said goodbye to Bruce who went off to work first and then answered some emails. Mitsue left an hour or so later and I  had a few free hours on a lovely sunny day to wander and shop for souvenirs.  I went to the mall that was attached to the amusement park and bought some random things and then hurried home to see if all my stuff could be packed into one bag. Took some doing but I did it. I locked up and hopped into a cab that I directed to the correct Ueno station for the train to Narita. Phew. What a trip.

at the onsen, eating a multi-course dinner
Day Five  Tuesday, NOV 15,  2011
First thing this am, we tried to get Mituse's iPad working to download movies. She showed me a delightful story of a tandem telling of "Jack in The Beanstalk" by a two year old and his aunt. Then it was time to hit the road to meet Bruce at Seisen University in Gotanda area of Tokyo. We took three trains and walked a ways too. Poor Mitsue had to do all that and more to get to her work. Seisen Univesrity is a small and beautiful Catholic college. Also an all girls college, the main building is from the 1850s and  the grounds are lush with trees and vegetation - right in the center of Tokyo. Everyone at Seisen was extraordinarily friendly and engaging. Bruce considers himself very lucky.

Day Four  Monday, NOV 14,  2011

Got up really early - around 6AM and walked from Yugawara, Ohnoya onsen,  to the main street and back - almost in time for breakfast.  meet with Kris Kondo, an old friend from Boston/Kaji Aso Studio days. She had so many gifts for me! See them in the slide show below; jewelry, poetry, painted rocks, robes! An amazing treasure trove.

Day Three  Sunday, NOV 13,  2011

We took a taxi to the next talk, which felt as if it was just down the street. has published Mitsue's book and CD. they gathered together nearly 60 teachers of English who were as lively and engaged a group of educators as I have ever met. We had a blast working together. And then it was time for a trip to the Ohnoya onsen and an overnight at a traditional tatami-floored, shoji-doored ryokan. This  feature of Japanese life had been the highlight of my first trip to Japan and I was not disappointed my second time around.  The small town of Yuguwara ( I think I am not remembering the name correctly, will have to check this)  was very charming, more beautiful than 'cute' and we walked around alot. At the inn we exchanged modern western clothes for Japanese yukata and ate and slept on the sweet smelling tatami floor. I was told we even had a small earthquake to round out the authentic cultural experience. I slept right through it because at dinner the sake flowed and the fish dishes just kept on coming. Heavenly!

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