TOURISTS

I thought these people were dressing up as part of the Forbidden City – as an attraction. Turns out that you can rent traditional garb to wear during your visit.

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This is a common thing in Japan also – where men and women will rent kimonos for the day and tour around the city. I tried to think what a Canadian equivalent would be – his and her Mountie uniforms?

AROUND PELELIU

A few random shots from our travels around the island.

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This bridge was bombed by the Americans during WWII. The remnants reminded me of a Tori gate. I am sure there is some form of irony there.

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An old concrete machine gun bunker.

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The old Japanese communications building. You are not allowed in, as the back collapsed during a hurricane in 2012.

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The memorial to the US 81st Infantry. It was a cemetery but years ago Congress went around the world and brought their war dead back to the US.

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The old runway that was so precious to McArthur. If you watch The Pacific (HBO) they show how this area was an open field with all vegetation bombed and burned to the ground. Nature has reclaimed the airfield.

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A plaque on a memorial from the Japanese people.

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I would agree and let us all hope and pray for those around the world who are suffering through war today.

KYOTO FIELDS, JAPAN

Part of having a guide is that he takes you into different places (if  she is good). Our guide took us out of the city of Kyoto to show us the countryside and the rice fields. It was a 15 minute detour, but worth it.

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I didn’t get a shot of their planting machines but they reminded me of a celery planting machine that relatives used on their farms in Canada.

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As mentioned, the hydrangeas were in full bloom. Not a white one in view.

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This pond is privately owned and once a year the farmer who owned it would drain it and “harvest” the fish.

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It is beautiful land. Which reminds me of a random observation on Kyoto. If you do travel there, you will find it a city of contrasts. The city itself is like many Japanese cities, clean but wall to wall people, large drab concrete residential buildings with shops jammed in-between. Rather uninspiring, until you turn a corner and come headlong into Japan’s historic buildings which are beautiful, unique and well crafted.

It seems to me that during their post war rush to modernization, their architects discarded the intricacies and beauty of Japanese style for function, people per square meter, concrete and efficiency. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination as one colleague imparted that when he was a child living in Tokyo, the city was rapidly industrializing and as polluted as Beijing until the government took drastic action (as the country became wealthier and was able to afford it).

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Too bad. Even concrete can be beautiful, with some thought. (Above: The entrance to Chion Temple)

BAMBOO FOREST, KYOTO

It is one of those must go places (they say). A simple bamboo forest where a single stock of bamboo can grow up to 1.3M overnight. Another ‘short’ visit location on our day tour of Kyoto. Our guide drove to the top, we walked down and back (perhaps 300m each way).

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Yes, it is beautiful. Serene.

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What I found most interesting was not the bamboo but this long, long line of ants walking along the bamboo fence. They went on and on and on .. until near the top of the hill the started to thin out, heading down the fence into the forest.

In this shot you can see them on the posts …

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A little clearer .. the march on and on.

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Thanks for dropping by.

THE MOSS TEMPLE, KYOTO

Off the beaten path is a small temple called the Moss Temple, or Gio-ji. It is lesser known than the famous and Y3,000 larger moss temple. The history of the temple is one of lost love:

A Shirabyoshi dancer Gio was loved by Taira-no-Kiyomori but was jilted when he was enslaved by the beauty of another Shirabyoshi, Hotoke-Gozen. Gio, her sister Ginyo and their mother Toji left Kiyomori and after all they entered a nunnery that was present day Gio-ji. Then, Hotoke-Gozen joined them as she knew that she would be eventually jilted also by heartless Kiyomori. It was when Gio was 21 years old and Hotoke-Gozen was 17. The four women lived here remainder of their life.

Best viewed during a wet period in time (dry seasons see the moss go brown) and down a remote road, the temple makes for interesting viewing.

Walking down the entrance path you are covered by a thick canopy of leaves.

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The moss is everywhere, growing on every roof and fence.

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Turning the corner you come upon an open area in front of the temple. It was a bit surreal, the glowing greens. Looked like a movie set (I don’t know why, but that is what popped into mind).

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If memory serves me, there are 19 different mosses. A few that are quite invasive and needed to be regularly culled back to ensure they do not take over the other mosses. Including this moss that was furry to the touch.

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Of course, hydrangea. At least I think it is a hydrangea ….

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Rounding the corner there is a cemetery and in the hundreds and hundreds of times Yoshida-san our guide has been here, something he had never seen. A lone monkey.

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Sad to say he was injured (bad left hand). He did sit and enjoy eating a few daisies though.

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Interesting place. Not busy, serene and the vibrancy of the mosses were visually stunning.

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Worth a visit.

DINNER WITH A GEISHA (Maiko) Part I in KYOTO

This is a very interesting post to write as it elicits mixed feelings.

Part of living in a different culture is that never ending quest to understand, learn and to grow while trying not to use your own cultural biases to judge. After all, perception is reality.

As I have often joked with friends back home, living in Japan is like living on Mars. It is just so fascinatingly different.

The Japanese think differently than North Americans, and different than Canadians. How can it not be the case? Canada is a country of every culture (Asian, European, African) where Japan is comprised of 98.5% Japanese and non-existent immigration. Canada is a country with only a few hundred years of history while Japan is one of the world’s oldest societies, with 3,000 years of history and a clear isolationist bent where foreigners were killed on sight until the late 1800s. Canadians are individuals, in a society where they cut their lives out of the unconquered wilderness with an understanding that merit leads to fortune while Japan is about the group good, where the notion of paying a high performer more than others in the team is at odds with their values.

At a very fundamental level, culture, history, education and values, Japan is different than most other countries in the world and the Geisha is one of those cases.

Prior to leaving for Kyoto, we watched Memoirs of a Geisha and I could not help but find it disturbing on many levels. Obviously the selling of young girls into a brothel and a Geisha house was disturbing as were many of the scenes, but this type of abuse is unfortunately, common around the world.

The uniquely Japanese part that was disturbing was the whole notion of the Geisha. Reading broadly, the information was varied. Prostitution is disputed and the truth hard to determine; in this post it is clearly stated it does not happen yet another quote says that in 1929 3/4 of geisha were prostitutes.  While there is an elegance to the appearance of a Geisha, the information on “what a Geisha is” left us wondering about the profession … Noble undertaking or a veneer hiding a seedy underside of sex for sale?

Nothing made us wonder more than this question: what does it mean that this profession is funded by older business men, where the Geisha’s sole purpose is to entertain them every evening? I find the feminism assertions hard to swallow and cannot think that it is good for marriages.

It is with those questions in mind that we did something that is not common for a gaijin.

We booked a dinner in a wonderful restaurant with a room by the garden, a Geisha and an English interpreter to learn.

We were not disappointed.

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NISHIIKI MARKET, KYOTO

After our first temple we headed to Nishiki market. A cab dropped us off at one entrance and we started down this very long covered walkway past hundreds of interesting stalls.

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Uniquely Japanese is a good way to describe it; pottery, restaurants, fish markets, vegetable stands and everything in-between.

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Lots and lots of pickled choices. The Japanese love to pickle things.

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I believe this is grilled eel. Had I not just eaten, I would have grabbed some. Love grilled eel.

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The young lady at the stand tried to sell me one of these .. only a couple hundred yen. Look closely, it is a small octopus with a quail egg stuffed where the head use to be. I regret not trying it. Had to chuckle at the little cartoon ad guy saying “It will eat” …  not sure what that means.

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At some point in the near future, our family will be buying special chopsticks. As of right now, we use them frequently but haven’t made the “special” purchase yet. Perhaps metallic is in order?

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This fellow was making the circular Japanese cakes. They are delicious.

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And last, check out this flower stall. My Uncle Frank would have loved the colors .. I know I did. So vibrant.

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Thanks for dropping by.