[livejournal.com profile] homasse and I went to Osaka's Den-Den Town. To our surprise, we found the streets completely full of cosplayers. I focused my camera... and the memory card died. So I didn't get that many shots. But I did get myself hugging Mr. Donut!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Identify who the characters are and what show or game they're from. I only recognized Naruto, Spiderman, and Pon De Ring.

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...into Fushimi Inari, a shrine for the God/Goddess of rice (and so material success) and fertility. And foxes.

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Due to popular demand, I am making my sale of some gorgeous jackets I picked up in Japan into an auction. The original post has been updated with bidding links.
To help finance the trip, I am selling some beautiful haori (kimono jackets, which do not have to be worn with a kimono) which I bought at a temple flea market in Kyoto and in Tokyo's Nippori fabric district.

Photos and details are here.
ETA: This is being decided by auction. The auction begins now. It will conclude on Friday, April 6, at 10:00 AM Pacific Time. Please get your bids in by then. This post has been updated with bidding links below the photos.

Sherwood Smith, who got to try some of them on, offers this testimonial (from memory): "The photos don't do justice to how beautiful they are. The fabrics are so silky and luxurious!"

To help fund my trip, I am selling some beautiful haori (kimono jackets) I bought in Japan. They can be worn with a kimono, or over pants or a skirt or dress.

Detailed photos below cut. $50 each unless otherwise noted. You pay postage, probably $5-$10. I will ship internationally, but shipping costs may be quite high.

Please comment to say which you would like. Ideally, note your first preference, second preference, and third preference. Please say so if you'd like more than one.

I will try to sort it out fairly so everyone gets one they want. If necessary, I may put some up for auction.

With two exceptions (noted with description), they are 30 inches long and 22 inches in shoulder width. Cloth is probably synthetic unless otherwise stated, but really nice, luxurious-feeling synthetic.

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Take a walk with me. And a ferry ride. And eat an innovative gourmet dinner...



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1. Hot canned coffee. Especially Suntory Boss latte (The Boss of Them All Since 1994.)

2. Vending machines providing stuff I actually want.

3. Convenience stores selling quite good food. Why can't we have Japan's 7-11 rather than our own purveyor of revolting foods?

4. Onigiri in convenience stores. Bentos in convenience stores. Desserts I enjoy eating in convenience stores.

5. Trains.

6. Subways.

7. Department stores. Especially, department store basements.

Things Cari Will Miss:

1. Calbee green pea sticks.

2. Kotatsu. (Tables with a blanket draped over and a heat source. You stick your feet under it.) When we were at Koya-san, she practically moved into ours.)

Things I Will Not Miss.

1. Public bathrooms in which the "privacy wall" totally fails to conceal men peeing. Yecch.

2. Missing my kitties.

3. Very hard futons.

4. Faux-roni, faux-rice, and faux-pebble pillows.

It is our last day. We will miss the sakura by two days. Alas.
Cari and I have been having a nice relaxing time in Tokyo. The weather has been sunny and fine, which was a relief after we nearly froze in Koya-san (story of that to come later.) We have yet to spot any sakura, but supposedly it begins blooming tomorrow, on our last day. We will go to a park and see if we can spy any.

When Bobby opened our rooms for us, he noted, with mild regret, that Cari's tatami mats were kind of dirty.

I said, "As a return customer, do I get the room with the clean mats?"

"We'll see," he said, moving to open my room. I was in luck.

Last night I dragged Cari to my favorite English used bookshop, which had moved from Ebisu to Gotanda, where I found my very own copy of Elizabeth Pope's very rare The Sherwood Ring. I had no idea what Gotanda was, other than a stop on the Yamanote line, but it turned out to be pretty hip. We found a sort of Whole Foods-ish gourmet European and American imports supermarket, complete with macrobiotic food and German chocolate, a bunch of garages that lift up your car on circular platforms, and a luxurious-looking Luxe hotel. We went into the lobby of the latter, and found no one at the counter and a bunch of photos of bedrooms on a computer screen. I thought it was a love hotel, but Cari says it's a regular international chain. Anyone know?

We went into a ramen place from which enticing odors wafted. The waitress poured us little cups of barley tea.

"May I have some water?" Cari asked.

The waitress looked totally blank.

"O-mizu o kudasai?" I asked.

She whisked off, and returned with two cups of water. A few minutes later, the ramen arrived. To my amusement and Cari's disgruntlement, the waitress presented Cari, and Cari alone, with a fork!

The ramen was not bad, but for that price, I've had better. As we were slowing down, a waiter appeared and refilled our tea glasses with tea, then picked up Cari's water glass and filled that with tea, too. Oops. I stopped him just as he was about to fill my water glass with tea. I don't know what he thought of two people at a teeny table requiring four separate cups of tea. Probably operating on auto-pilot. We stared at our three cups of barley tea, then paid the bill.

Today Cari and I wandered around Ueno, where we found a marvelous shop selling teapots, tea items, and tea. The gentleman who took my credit card asked me where I'd been in Japan, and I said Kyoto and Miyajima. He mentioned that there was a current TV drama set in Miyajima. Very excited, I asked him its name. I had seen posters in Miyajima, which featured handsome samurai, badass women, and a particularly handsome man walking on the ocean before the torii, holding a sword and a fan. I had hoped to watch it if it ever got subtitled in English, but couldn't read the name.

"Taira no Kiyomori," he said. Then he beckoned me behind the counter, and helpfully looked it up on the computer. Has anyone seen or heard of this? I would love to watch it.

I also went to Akihabara, where I happily geeked out and bought figurines and tchotchkes, like a keychain with JR train signs. I feel way out of touch with current anime - I recognized little but Madoka Magica (which I still haven't seen) and One Piece (which is the 9000-lb Godzilla that Bleach was the last time I was here. What is the anime or game with the bishounen dark-haired samurai and the bishounen pale blue-haired samurai?

In one store, which had the normal assortment of figurines and such, a cold case contained canned coffee with anime characters on the can, and whole fresh fish with anime characters on stickers over the saran wrap! It was labeled, "Love Sanma." (Sanma is a kind of fish - possibly mackerel.) Without a doubt, that was the weirdest promotional item I've ever seen. Even weirder than the maid cafe to which a girl dressed as a French maid handed me a flyer, which was the site of a Backstreet Boys video and which offered, "You can enjoy meal at the same table the backstreet boys used before."
I am writing this from the New Koyo, the cheapest hotel in Tokyo. (That is actually how it advertises itself.) It is an excellent deal, though the rooms are only large enough for a futon, a TV, a closet, and a suitcase. Bobby, the proprietor, is a very cool, friendly, funny guy who speaks perfect English and knows Tokyo the way only a man who has run a Tokyo backpackers' hotel for many years can know it. Today he has referred me to Fabric Street in Nippori, where I hope to find some inexpensive haori (beautiful kimono jackets, excellent for wear over pants on elegant occasions) to resell in the US and so help finance my trip. I have transferred trains at the Nippori station probably hundreds of times, but never actually got out there and poked around. Apparently it is the go-to place for cloth and inexpensive clothing in Tokyo.

I was disappointed, however, to learn that the New Koyo's hot tub has been closed down, possibly for reasons I don't want to know. In Kyoto six of the women, one of the men, and I went to an onsen (a public bath with a natural hot spring), Tenzan No Yu, which I think translates as something like Hot Water From The Mountain of Heaven. It was indeed a heavenly experience. It was a gray, cold, rainy day, and it was wonderful to spend hours immersed in hot water, in an indoor-outdoor area, in a communal women's space. (There's a men's section too, which I believe was identical.) There was a "gold bath" with no doubt healthy natural salt water tinted orange, and a blue-lit cold bath for post-sauna, a jacuzzi, many other giant hot baths with various mineral properties and heat levels, and an open lounge area where you could lie on benches or on flat slabs with warm water flowing down, letting the rain fall on your naked but very warm body. It was a very sensual, cozy experience.

It was definitely a neighborhood joint, filled with mostly forty-plus women, many of whom clearly knew each other. (As I said to another student later, "Hanging out with fifty naked women over the age of fifty - that's what I call a good time.") We got a couple double-takes from the clientele - I don't think tourists show up there often. (It was a recommendation from Taka.)

But once I wandered off from the group, I was befriended and shown around by a nice old lady who spoke no English, but with whom I managed to have a conversation on subjects mostly concerning heat, cold, and things found in public baths. She escorted me to the sauna, which was divided into two rooms. One was a steam room with a barrel of salt in the middle. You rub it all over your body, leaving your skin silky-smooth, then rinse off. The other was an oh my God-hot sauna, in which young women (dressed) poured water over hot rocks, then fanned us with giant red fans. There was a huge flat screen TV showing a cooking show. I had to leave when I began to feel like the steamed shrimp. The noodle dish I ordered soon after at the onsen restaurant turned out to be cold noodles, not hot as I'd expected, but that was probably just as well.
We have all left Shunkoin and Kyoto, either to return to Los Angeles or spend some time elsewhere in Japan. Another student, Cari, and I are now on Miyajima, an island off the coast of Hiroshima. It's only accessible by ferry, and in the morning people who live on the island take the ferry to work or high school. The island is larger than I expected, but most of it is mountainous and covered in virgin forest. I asked the lady who owns our hotel where the coin laundry was, and she said there wasn't one! Now that is a small town. (She kindly offered to throw some of my laundry in with hers.)

This is a five minute walk from our lovely traditional Japanese hotel: http://www.japan-guide.com/g2/3401_01.jpg

It's the torii (sacred gate) of Itsukushima Shrine. When we came in last evening, the tide was low, and we could walk across a wet beach strewn with shells and seaweed up to the torii. It stands supported by nothing but its own weight; the pillars rest on the beach but aren't embedded in it. The bases of the pillars are covered in barnacles and coins people have stuck in amongst the barnacles as offerings, and the sand around the torii is also covered in coins. (One yen and five yen - odd numbers are better. I forget why. Maybe because multiples of four are unlucky? (The word for 'four' sounds like the word for 'death.')

Completely tame "wild" deer hang around the pier, being petted by tourists, despite the signs warning that they eat paper and might gobble up a map or a thousand-yen note right out of your hand. I didn't see any deer eating paper, but I did see one staring wistfully at the doors of a restaurant. I grabbed for my camera to nab that hilarious shot. As I pressed the button, a hundred tourists' cameras clicked beside me.

Last night we had an amazing gourmet meal - part traditional Japanese, part Western fusion - served at the inn. I will probably do a photo-essay on it later for your delectation, and also one on the fabulous Japanese breakfast I had at the inn this morning. I had miso soup, rice, kabocha squash, smoked fish, pickles, greens, green tea, and udon with flat noodles rather than the usual thick spaghetti-like ones. Cari had a western breakfast of ham, toast, black tea, and scrambled eggs. We were both happy.

The wind was freezing coming off the beach this morning, so I retreated to the inside observation lounge in the inn, which has hot tea, comfy chairs, a view of the sea and a pagoda spire, and a library! Mostly in Japanese, but I note the temping "Miyajima Story" by Shizuteru Usui and "The Faun's Folly" by Sandra Heath. Randomly opening each, I find these lines:

"On the night that the Heike family met its end, I could see various evil spirits of the Heian era, such as a human being with a black cow's head and a one-eyed goblin, silently walking down the corridor, but were they the bitter feelings incorporated in the votive tablets?"

"It had been the very circumstance that might tempt a foolish faun into using forbidden powers."

I am typing this in the observation deck right now, on Cari's laptop. But peeking out the windows, it looks a bit less windy, so I shall venture out now.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 21st, 2012 07:46 pm)
Yesterday we got a wonderful presentation by the same Japanese Jungian analyst and psychiatrist who did the presentation on Japanese psychotherapy. This one was on sandtray, a form of psychotherapy in which the client puts little figurines in a box of sand to create landscapes, scenes, representations of their feelings and psyche, etc. Unfortunately, that is all I can tell you about it, as the rest involved a case study and so is confidential. But I enjoyed it a lot, and look forward to studying sandtray in the future. All else aside, what a great way to justify and continue my hobby of collecting little figurines!

http://www.westhartfordcounselingcenter.com/sandtray.html

That same morning I woke up at 5:45 AM in order to go to Toji flea market, a once-monthly market hosted by Toji Temple. It's a great scene, and if you get there early, the pickings are amazing. I got several beautiful kimono jackets for myself and as gifts. In other areas, people were selling octopus balls, and in yet another, Buddhist priests were stoking a ceremonial fire. (Taka told us afterward that the priests stand so close to the pillar of flame that their faces are red and swollen for several days afterward.) We madly scooped up our finds and rushed back to the temple for morning meditation, arriving one minute late, just as Taka was sitting down. Oops. That session I kept having to drag my attention back to my breathing, and away from images of kimono jackets printed with pines and cherry blossoms, cityscapes and samurai.

We did another mad rush later in the day, as we went to a shrine called Fushimi Inari in between meditation and the sandtray presentation. Fushimi Inari is a huge, beautiful shrine complex to Inari, the God/Goddess of rice (and so success in business, as rice is wealth.) It's full of fox statues and fox imagery, Inari's messengers, holding rice balls or the key to the rice granary or a sheaf of rice in their mouths. Foxes are supposed to love fried tofu, so people leave bits as offerings. The shrine is full of orange torii gates, which separate the human realm from the sacred realm of the spirits. The torii make long tunnels through the lush forests of trees and bamboo, splashes of bright orange amidst the many shades of green. It's one of the most atmospheric places I've been to on this trip so far - you really get a sense of the idea of Shintoism, that there are spirits in everything. Paths twist and turn through mossy banks and rotting logs stuck about with fungus like clam shells, and pass ancient stone statues, half-covered in moss, with offerings laid out of coins, sake jars, and flickering candles. Before the shrines, you clap, ring a bell, toss in a coin, and pray. Standing before the mossy stones and bright torii, I felt that someone was listening.
I went to a temple flea market, and bought several haori jackets, similar to this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-Black-SILK-Haori-Kimono-Coat-Jacket-Silver-Gold-Tree-Cosplay-/170804324982?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27c4bb2a76

and this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-Kimono-Cover-Haori-Jacket-Women-red-gradation-/120867889082?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c24499fba

I might be able to get some more, or let go of one or two that I bought, to help fundraise for the trip. Any potential interest, at prices of $40-50? No commitment unless you like my forthcoming (upon return pics) of the actual thing.

These are one size fits most. Not kimonos! They are just the jackets, at jacket-length. Please comment ASAP if you're interested, especially if you have a particular color or design you'd like. They're in very good condition, but mostly not silk.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 19th, 2012 04:33 pm)
It's been raining off and on. At the temple, which is full of pine trees, each needle pierces a water drop, which hangs from its tip like a jewel. Last night I came back late. The complex is lit, but the lights are far apart, and the shadows seemed piled up on the ground. The sky was covered in clouds, and reflected in the green water of a pond, the trees were black silhouettes against a dim, no-color sky.

Tonight, I saw the most amazing example of synchronicity.

The other day we went to the Colori Cafe, Kyoto's only lesbian cafe. It has a rainbow gay pride flag hanging outside, though not many people in Kyoto know what it symbolizes, and hosts "L Nights," where queer women come to party and watch "The L-Word." We met with the owner, Yossy, and two of her friends, an academic who did her thesis on queer film and a young woman who publishes a lesbian zine. Yossy closed down her cafe so we could take it over for a few hours. We all ordered drinks - I had a delicious green tea latte, and accidentally spilled another one all over one of the Antioch students - watched a documentary on Yossy and the Colori Cafe, and discussed the state of LGBTQ activism in Japan.

I really liked all three women, and it was a great conversation. They said that it's difficult to form a lesbian community, because everything is very closeted and underground. In Tokyo, there's a gay area (Ni-Chome) but that exists because Tokyo is so big, and it's only after hours - bars and restaurants and so forth. Yossy's cafe is the only one of its kind in Kyoto. The women started discussing a Kyoto lesbian bar they'd all heard of, but they'd all individually visited it and found it closed. "Maybe it was never open," one mused.

I was very moved by their courage and community. Also, they were all very cool people.

One of the Antioch people asked Yossy where she got her strength from, and she replied that she'd opened the Colori Cafe because she wanted to have friends, and now she had so many of them. Also, she added, "If I don't have fun, I don't want to do it."

I was reminded of Emma Goldman's remark, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Tonight, after a wonderful presentation and talk by a Japanese Jungian analyst, we all went to an izakaya (pub) for sake and dinner. Who should we see on the way but Yossy! Kyoto is a big city, and her cafe is way on the other side of town. And yet.

We asked her if she'd come have dinner with us, and she did! One of the other students, who is a foodie like me, and I split a large hot sake, stewed beef with green onions and mustard, potato salad (it's deliciously tangy and refreshing in Japan), and hot mashed potato cheese balls, octopus balls. We asked for the rare beef, but it was sold out. After we'd already eaten everything else, we were still waiting for the beef, having forgotten that it was unavailable. Then we remembered that it was sold out, and ordered pork with kimchi. We ate and drank and talked the night away. It was a magical evening - exactly the sort of thing you hope to have happen when you travel.

http://www.eatdrink-kyoto.com/colori-caffe-kyoto.php (Yossy's cafe.)
Before we meditate, Taka talks to us about Zen and Japanese culture and history. He measures the time with an incense stick: when it burns down, so much time has past. This is a very old, traditional method of timekeeping. If people start shifting around or falling asleep, he comes over, taps you on the shoulder with a stick, and then smacks you lightly on the pressure points on the back of the shoulder to wake you up and relieve muscle tension.

We meditate for 15 minutes, take a break, and then meditate for another 15 minutes. He says that consistent practice is much better than practicing for long stretches, and that the human brain can really only sustain complete concentration for about 15 minutes at a stretch. Of course, in monasteries and Zen retreats, they meditate for much longer. Monasteries are not well-heated, and they often meditate in the cold for ages. They got dinner, but held a warm rock to their bellies at night to fool their stomachs into feeling full. (This is where the name of the gourmet meal kaiseki comes from - kai, mid-section, seki, stone.)

He announced that he was going to give us the austerity experience once, so we could see the difference between that and what we're doing regularly. One rainy morning, we all bundled up, and he opened all the windows to the garden, told us that if we moved AT ALL, he would be round with the stick (not to beat us, just to give a little smack to our pressure points - it doesn't hurt), and we meditated for 35 minutes.

For about 15 minutes, it was actually wonderful. With the windows open, you could hear the rain and bird calls. The air felt crisp, not cold (though it was actually about 40 degrees), and I felt as if all my senses were spread out like a spiderweb - as if I could sense every warm body, every drop of rain.

Then it got so cold that he closed the windows. For the rest of the time, I was mostly obsessing about not moving. I guess he was right that humans can only concentrate for 15 minutes. Afterward, he said that he thought that people not in monastic training who go in for stuff like the Buddha gave up on, like sitting beneath trees for months and eating roots, meditating all day for weeks, meditating under a freezing waterfall, etc, are often either acting out of curiosity (what's it like?) or ego (I can meditate like a badass.) I see both those motivations operating in myself while I was sitting there in the cold, determined to keep still. But the first bit, while we were breathing the rainy garden air, was lovely.

I have been trying to practice non-attachment on this trip. That doesn't mean not having an identity, or not wanting anything. It means not getting attached to things going in a particular way - focusing more on the journey, and less on the destination. It has been helping my meditation a lot, I think, that I have been focusing just on sitting rather than on sitting with perfect concentration, etc. This is related to a type of Japanese therapy (Morita therapy) which is influenced by Zen and which we got a lecture on a couple days ago. It basically says that we can't and shouldn't try to control our flow of consciousness and our emotions, but we can control our behavior. You can't force yourself to be peaceful or undistracted. But you can easily make yourself sit down and pay attention to your breath.

In the convenience store, I grabbed a can of hot coffee (Japan has hot canned coffee and other hot canned drinks) and a hot dog. At least, I thought it was a hot dog. It looked exactly like a hot dog. But when I bit into it, I discovered that the "hot dog" was a fried fish stick, and the "ketchup" was tartar sauce. I was immediately disappointed that it wasn't a hot dog, the outcome I had expected. But considered as a fish stick... it was quite a good fish stick.
I am staying with five roommates. Three I knew already from classes, and two are new. We have two rooms separated by sliding doors, and our futons are laid out in a row. It's like a ten-day slumber party. The pillows are filled with a substance shaped like macaroni, but pliable. I think it's fake plastic macaroni, so we are calling them the fauxroni pillows. (Traditionally they are filled with beans or wheat husks or something non-faux.) They conform to your head and are surprisingly comfortable. All the same, I'm glad I brought a Pillow Pet as an alternative, in case I get sick of the fauxroni. The bathrooms are separate and have a one-foot opening at the top of the door, so they are the same temperature as the air. (Night temperature: 30 degrees.) Thankfully, the seats are heated.

Every morning we meet in a long, narrow meditation room, with windows showing an exquisite Zen garden carpeted with moss, with a little bamboo wall and a hobbit-sized arched entrance, stone lanterns, and pine trees. Crows and songbirds call from it. The caw of crows is a common sound in Japan, and one which always reminds me of it. They're bigger than American crows. Possibly they're ravens.

The room is all straight lines, wooden walls and sand-colored tatami mats edged in black. The idea is to provide as little stimulation as possible, to allow the mind to focus inward. There are pillows lined up along the walls, and a few stools and chairs. Taka sits at the head of the room, and gives a talk before and after meditation. On the first day he took us outside to see the main garden (not the one you see through the windows.) It's a raked gravel garden modeled after the geography of Ise Shrine, which is a major holy spot for Shintoism, Japan's other main religion. (Shintoism and Buddhism co-exist; most Japanese people practice both.) There is a mini shrine, and a rock representing the rock Amaterasu, the sun goddess, used to wall herself into a cave in an ancient Japanese legend. Taka pointed out that for every temple garden, while it may have holy significance and beauty, there was probably also a patron trying to make their mark. (In this case, it was a patron who was also connected with Ise.) Money for gardens doesn't drop down from the sky.

Taka said that the purpose of the garden isn't to be pretty, though it is; it's to rake. He produced a wooden rake, and we all took a turn raking the gravel. It's harder than one might imagine - not that strenuous, but hard to keep the smooth, continuous motion required to produce those perfectly straight and even lines. After we were done, and somewhat ruefully admired our wiggly handiwork, Taka took the rake and raked the last part of the garden like a grandmaster martial artist doing a kata. (Martial arts set form.)
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: Let me sum up)
( Mar. 15th, 2012 04:02 am)
When we finally managed to extract ourselves from the Matrix-like maze of Tokyo Station, everyone voted for doing something relatively peaceful. I suggested Yanaka, a quiet part of Tokyo with an old-school vibe and a cemetery where I hope the cherry trees might be blooming. No such luck with the sakura, but we walked around the cemetery and then next door to a beautiful temple with a flowering plum tree.

We then returned to Tokyo station, where I got a bento with fried chicken and "pick three types of rice," all hot. (The bento lady had my number at a glance. "Do you speak Japanese?" she asked in Japanese.

"A little bit," I said.

"This rice is a very traditional Japanese food," she said. Indicating the types: "Mixed vegetables. Chestnut. Beans. And sakura." I looked closely. Sure enough, one had bits of pink flower petals included. I got that, of course, plus chestnut (that one turned out to the best) and veggies.

We got on the very comfy bullet train, I ate the bento, and promptly fell asleep. At Kyoto station (yes, I woke up in time) we got directed downstairs, then upstairs, then back downstairs, then upstairs again. Eventually, we made it to the connecting train, and thence to Shunkoin.

The temple is part of a huge temple complex with 42 temples and as many beautiful Zen gardens, of cherry trees (completely bare now), gravel, and pines. It's very cold (30s and 40s) and periodically raining. I'll write more later about the temple and our Zen experience, but for now, I will close with a little trip I made today to a used English bookshop (recommended by Reverend Taka.)

It's Green e books, on the second floor up a steep flight of stairs. A sign outside explained that they did buy books, but only during business hours, and implored people not to leave boxes of books outside their door or throw them through bars of the gate.

A pamphlet for the bookshop was mostly in Japanese, with English limited to a quote by Bob Marley (When one door is closed, don't you know, another is open," and "Lady's Pleasure Party!! With OLIVIA," "Patchouli Astrology Retreat!!" and, simply and enigmatically, "CATBODY!!"

As befitted the pamphlet, the store had a somewhat New Agey slant, with the usual peculiar assortment of books. The travel section had "Tacos on the Tundra" shelved beside "Ten Great Walks in Jaipur," which seemed to me to sum everything up.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 14th, 2012 04:48 pm)
Hello, everyone. I am writing this email from Shunko-in, a Zen temple in Kyoto. I am staying there for ten days with thirteen students and three professors on a school trip from the Antioch clinical psychology program, studying meditation, mindfulness, and Japanese psychotherapy.

After an uneventful flight, we arrived at Haneda airport. I knew I was back in Japan at last when I went to the bathroom and found buttons on the toilet with little icons of butts and water sprays, labeled, "Equipment to cleansing the buttocks with warm water," "washing the rear," and "rear washing stopped."

Perhaps to make up for the uneventfulness of the flight, we then got stuck in Tokyo train station for over three hours, going around and around in circles trying to find where to do assorted essential yet boring tasks. One of the professors, Marli Kakishima, speaks Japanese. I speak a LITTLE Japanese. Several of the students have been assiduously studying from notebooks and Kindle apps, which include helpful notes like, "This is pronounced similarly to the English phrase, "Please don't touch my moustache." Needless to say, everyone who didn't previously know "dou itashimashte" now can't remember that, but has memorized "please don't touch my moustache."

Upon arriving at Tokyo, I had mentioned to Marli that I was looking forward to practicing my Japanese. Be careful what you wish for! After a desperate search for a restaurant (we had arrived at 5:00 AM, so not much was open), we finally found one, but Marli had to leave to run another errand. The menu was only in Japanese. That left me to attempt to translate the food inquiries of 14 people, each with their own allergies, aversions, and preferences, to a waiter who spoke only Japanese. Ordering took about 25 minutes, during which time I nearly had a nervous breakdown while making the 15th inquiry as to whether a certain dish had pork, fish, chicken, beef, wheat, or any of those in the broth as opposed to the stuff floating in the broth.

(When we arrived in Kyoto, Shunkoin's Reverend Taka offered to write out detailed explanations in Japanese of what people couldn't eat, explaining that vegetarianism as we understand it in the US is not really a concept in Japan, and people often don't think of ham and sausage as "meat," and will dutifully respond to vegetarian requests by handing you a plate of vegetables topped with sausages.)

The ramen, however, was delicious.

When we finally emerged from Tokyo station, we had a little time to explore Tokyo before heading to Kyoto. Everyone was pretty overwhelmed and exhausted.
.

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