Posts Tagged ‘ Japan ’

_Dancing Over Kyoto_ – A new, just published Ebook.

Friends and followers of this site know that this has been a work-in-progress for some time. A love letter, tribute, homage and tragicomedy.  Link to the Amazon purchase site below.

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Available at Amazon.com.  Dancing Over Kyoto:  A Memoir of Japan, China & India.

A Quick Break from Bad Blood Between China & Japan.

I preface this by saying that before anyone gives me a hard time for  “not understanding the complexities and historical dimensions” of the China-Japan feud (attempted invasions, actual invasions, shocking atrocities, arrogance, real or feigned rage over historical events), please, I do get that.  I just want to do my infinitesimal part in creating more positive vibes . . .

Kobo Daishi, a/k/a Kukai

First, let’s go back 1200 years . . .

Since Esoteric Buddhism was relatively unknown in Japan, Kobo Daishi knew he must go to China in order to gain a better understanding of the Esoteric teachings.  Fortunately, Kobo Daishi was able to join a Japanese envoy in 804 that was traveling by boat to Xi’an (the capital of China at the time) to visit the Tang Dynasty. After spending some time in China, Kobo Daishi was given the opportunity to learn the essence of the esoteric teachings under a priest Huiguo, an authority on Esoteric Buddhism. Master Huiguo then initiated him into the Esoteric Buddhism tradition. It was truly remarkable that Kobo Daishi was able to master the complex esoteric teachings and be selected to be the eighth patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism in such a short period of time.

In spite of Kobo Daishi’s initial 20 year directive to study Buddhism in China, he returned to Japan after only two years with the mission from Master Huiguo to spread the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism throughout Japan.

Kobo Daishi returned to Japan in the province of Tsukushi (Fukuoka Prefecture), with a great number of religious textbooks and artworks. However, having disobeyed the 20 year directive from the government, he was not allowed to enter the capital city. After several years had passed, Kobo Daishi was finally permitted to enter the capital city. Immediately after being welcomed back into the capital city he proclaimed his devotion to propagating of the supreme doctrine of Esoteric Buddhism.

Kobo Daishi is also known as the father of Japanese culture. He is renown for his talents as a teacher, engineer, inventor, poet, calligrapher and creating the first public school in Japan. . . .

Read more here on the history and influence of China in Japan through Kobo Daishi

Bad relations between China and Japan suck.  I mean, they really rot (the bad relations, not the countries).  Makes me, and American, cringe.  I like both countries.  A lot.  But they’re both freaking out over each other now.  Here’s a recent piece on the latest Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands kerfuffle.  And today I just read where China’s refused to grant visas to three Japanese members of the Taiwanese National Symphony Orchestra on the eve of the Orchestra touring Mainland China.  Gad.

So, while it will do absolutely no good, I still feel compelled to offer-up this, an American tribute to both China and Japan, to Japan and China.  It may be silly, it may be naive, it may be superficial, but it’s still a really hep song, and it demonstrates that in other parts of the world lots of people think both countries are really cool and celebrate them both.

Bodhisattva – Steely Dan (1973)

Bodhisattva
Would you take me by the hand
Bodhisattva
Would you take me by the hand
Can you show me
The shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china
Can you show me
Bodhisattva
Bodhisattva . . .

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China

Prayers at the Temple of the Jade Buddha. Anshan, China. July 2008.

Japan

Over 1200 years ago Kobo Daishi — yes, the same guy who would go to China — founded To-ji Temple in Kyoto . . .

Prayers at Toji Temple. Kyoto, Japan. May 2008.

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End-of-September Reprise(s)

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Kinosaki, or thereabouts. October 2001.

Here are 5 Front Page favorites from the past few months I want to highlight for the next several days.  Then I plan to get on with our “October Schedule.”  That will include a re-post of an Autumn favorite, an homage to all sorts of Food, ducking into a small Shinto Shrine I happened upon in Kyoto about 6 or 7 weeks ago (one that I’d passed by hundreds of times over the years; one that, to my shame, I never took the time to notice before), a trip to Kodai-ji Temple at night, and, of course, an updated Halloween-in-Japan Extravaganza.

But first, as our teachers used to say, let’s review:

1.  SIGNS.  Upon returning from Japan (business trip) last month I very much updated a post from last year.

2. KYOTO. WHERE THE RIVERS MEET.  The Kamo & the Takano. . .

Han-Eri Stencil for Kimono. Meiji or Taisho Era. A friend's gift. August 2011.

3.  KURAMA.  A pretty, quiet and historic little mountain town, just north of Kyoto.

4.  ZEN & SHINGON BUDDHISM AS PHOTO TECHNIQUE TOUCHSTONES.  That pretty much says it.

Inn entrance near Yasaka Shrine. Kyoto. Autumn 2003.

5.  ICHI-GO ICHI-E  ・ 一期一会.  One moment, One meeting.  Savoring what will not come again.

Priests at Kurodani Temple. November 2009.

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Additional:  I updated the photo gallery / essay “Shapes & Shadows,” too.

Tokyo (its environs, elsewhere) March 18 Update

The simplest front page post I think I’ve ever done.

I just want to guide people to my “go to” on-the-ground-in-Japan blog, Alabama native Chris Jones’ “Accidentally a Blog.”  Chris and his wife live in the outskirts of Tokyo.  His unvarnished reporting (neither sugar-coated nor panic-drenched) on what’s really going on in and around Tokyo is consistently better than any I’ve seen so far.

Next, here’s the link to go to NHK‘s (Japan’s BBC, or CBC) English language broadcast site.  Again, this is direct from Japan without the “Disaster Porn” that permeates virtually all Mainstream American Media reporting on the tragedies and challenges that have been ongoing in Japan for the past week.

On the Yamanote Line. Tokyo. May 2010.

Waiting for the train…

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I took this photo in 2003, returning from a day-long business trip (back in my antiquities importing days) outside of Kyoto.  This photo means a lot to me.  Sure, I like it’s composition and hope you do, too.  But it’s a moment in time that represents a several-year period of my life that was very meaningful for me.

Only 30 or so minutes ago a friend in Tokyo, Hiro-san, a bar owner, sent me an email that contained a link to a YouTube vid.  It seems his vodka bar has been featured in a television show.  Within the next couple of days I plan on dedicating a post to my friend’s small business and his good fortune, and I’ll will include the video.

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秋  。。。autumn (Updated for 2011)

秋は僕の一番好きな季節です。。。

Note:  In 2011 I updated this post with a few photos I took Kyoto in November 2009; taken a little over a month after I first posted this piece.  After you (hopefully) enjoy this photo essay, I hope you’ll click over to my 2012 Autumn album.


The Takase Canal. Kiyamachi, Kyoto. November ’09.

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Autumn’s my favorite season.  I suppose it comes from being a native of Virginia, growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., where during my childhood autumn seemed to last forever.  Cousins lived — and now raise their own families — in the Shenandoah Valley.  My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in West Virginia when I was very young, and then moved over to Shenandoah, Virginia.  The glorious leaves, the cool crisp days and chilly nights, football season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, apples and apple cider and a slow, sweet transition into the Christmas Season.  As a teenager and then as a college student I found autumn the most romantic time of the dating year and most of my fondest memories of that aspect of my life were played-out against the backdrop of autumn.

Kurama.  Just north of Kyoto.  October 2003.

Kurama. Just north of Kyoto. October 2003.

The first time I went to live in Japan, near Hirakata-shi and within about a half-hour of Kyoto, or Osaka, depending on which direction one takes the Keihan Line, was in August.  So I was able to experience the transition from summer into autumn in Japan.  Through two living experiences in Japan and a couple of dozen of 1- to 3-weeks trips there over the past 10 years, I count autumn as my favorite time in Japan, too.

Kyoto. 2003.

Autumn in Japan:   its heavy, oppressive, debilitating humidity takes a holiday, the Japanese maples (もみじ) transform into millions of delicate blazes of red and gold, lengthening shadows and deepening shades of red and orange, charcoal-sweet smell of roasted yams (still in the skin, of course) wafting about in both city and countryside.  “Sweater Weather.”  The sycamores that line Ni-jo Street in Kyoto, east of the Kamo River.  Comforting memories of dear people who’ve wafted like sweet smoke in and out of my life — or was I the shade that merged into and out of theirs’? — all make autumn in Japan particularly special for me.

I remember one cool autumn night in Kyoto, around 2003 when I and my traveling companion had just flown across the Pacific, gone through the Rites of Immigration, Customs and Baggage Claim at Kansai International Airport, taken the “Haruka” train from the airport to Kyoto Station, been picked up at the station by my Sensei, my Japanese language teacher from college, and taken to his and his wife’s home in North Kyoto.  We ate some, drank a little beer and sake and then turned in after a long, long, long day.  The last thing I remember hearing as I drifted off was the sound of a man singing, almost chanting, just outside the window, pushing his cart of roasted sweet potatoes through the narrow Kyoto streets, plodding on by with his voice rising and falling   —   “R o a s ted yaaaa…ms!  R o a s ted  yaaaa…ms”  (“yaaahhhhkeee   eeemohhhh,  yaaahhhkeee  eeemohhhh…“).  He sounded elderly.  Was he?   I think it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.

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G a l l e r y

Kiyomizu Dera.  November 2003.

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Canal from Lake Biwa. Kyoto. November 2009.

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Harvesting Rice. Near my house. Hirakata. Autumn 1984.

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Leaves in Stone Basin. Shoren-in. November 2009.

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At Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.

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Persimmons (柿). Kyoto, Okazaki, Market. November 2009.

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Ladder. Kurama. November 2003.

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Katano-san. Near my house. Autumn 1984.

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Friend at Eikan-do (永観堂) “Light Up.” Kyoto. November 2009.

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Along the road, near Chion-in. November 2009.

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Overcast day in Pontocho. Kyoto. November 2009.

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Wall at Shinnyodo Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.

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Kurodani-dera. Kyoto. November 2009.

More on Kurodani-dera here.

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LetsJapan Announces 2 Spring ’10 Trips to Japan

LetsJapan announces it will offer two guided tours of Japan in the Spring of 2010!

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NOTE:  Cherry Blossom Spring has been put off ’til 2011.  “Kyoto Sojourn” remains “on” for April 2010.  See below or click on the Kyoto Sojourn link in the preceding sentence or at the top of this page.

 

Cherry Blossom Spring  (coming in Spring 2011)

Our “Cherry Blossom Spring” trip will run from March 29-April 11, with 13 days and12 nights savoring the glories of Cherry Blossom time in Kyoto, Himeji, Nara and along the Sea of Japan.  The trip will be limited to 9 guests, departure from Birmingham, Alabama.

We are scheduled to spend 2 nights at a traditional inn in Kinosaki

We are scheduled to spend 2 nights at a traditional inn in Kinosaki

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Kyoto Sojourn

The “Kyoto Sojourn” trip will run from April 14-22, with 8 days and 7 nights in Japan’s ancient, wondrous capitol, Kyoto.  Day trips to Osaka and Nara and nearby hot springs will be included.  Kyoto Sojourn will be limited to 9 guests, departure from Birmingham, Alabama.

Stone Buddha at Kurodani Temple, Kyoto.  A favorite place of mine.

Stone Buddha at Kurodani Temple, Kyoto. A favorite place of mine.

For either/both trip itineraries or questions please contact:  letsjapan@yahoo.com