Jul 28, 2008

As we neared the temple, we left a built up area and began following the unpaved roads between some rice paddies. We found the temple, Shuroku Sai (shu = excellence or beauty, roku = foot of the mountain, and sai = room for study) at the base of a hill. In the picture the temple proper consists of the dark roofed buildings on the left. The buildings on the right with the lighter colored roofs are living quarters for the priest, his family, and any one else associated with the temple. Between the temple and the woods there is a large cemetary. Japanese cemetaries usually contain only grave stones and possibly boxes of ashes, but no bodies because people here are cremated.

We were amazed as we approached the temple itself. The stairs leading up to the main building were polished marble and the whole place just reeked of wealth, in great contrast to the Kumano Shrines which give off an aura of antiquity.

Inside this building there was a sound system playing music - some kind of cross between Buddhist chanting and popular music. I found it quite pleasing and could have easily meditated to it.

On the left side of the building, not quite visible in the above picture, there was this beautiful grotto. I would have like to sit and study it for a hour or so, but there was no place to sit. Maybe the music made it even more impressive than it actually was, but I truly liked it. The statues of the Buddhas and Bhodisatvas were both old and new, giving the place a timelessness that was entirely fitting.

Visiting the Kumano Sansha

After meeting at Sendai Station, Ian and I took a train to the Minani Sendai Station (minami=south) and then walked west along the southern levee of the Natori River. After about four kilometers we arrived one of the three Kumano Sansha shrines, literally the Three Bear Field shrines.

As we entered the grounds, we found something unusual. The bell that belongs to an adjacent Buddhist temple is actually located on the shrine grounds. In the picture the temple is off to the left (you can just see a corner of the red roof) and the shrine buildings were beside me on the right as I took the picture. There seemed to be nothing special about the bell or the building in which it is hanging, other than its location.

This is the actual shrine building. Ian is looking at the lion that protects the entrance from evil spirits or demons. After putting a 10 yen donation in the box between the two sections of red fencing, I pulled on one of the hanging ropes, ringing a bell to notify the god that I was there. I then clapped my hands twice and closed my eyes for a few moments of meditation, bowed and left the raised area.

I then snuck up so that I could see inside. There was very little light, not enough for a photo, but I could see that there was a very fancy candleabora, almost Jewish looking, and behind it a closed door that hid the object that the god resides in, probably a miror.

On the way out of the shrine grounds, I noticed that off to the side there was a set of engraved stones. According to the tall post on the left, this is the grave of the Old Woman of Natori who apparently figures in some Buddhist folk tales from the area. I have, however, not yet discovered who she is or the content of the stories. Finding out will be a project for after the Henro trip.

We next planned to visit the Kumano Nachi Jinja (I have no idea what Nachi means but Jinja is shrine), which is about 2 kilometers away on the top of a tall hill. However, I made a mistake and we missed our road and got lost. By the time we discovered this and had backtracked, we decided to go to the third of the Kumano Shrines instead - it was closer.

It turned out that this was actually two shrines on one lot: Kumano Shingusha and Kumano Jinja - both meaning Kumano Shrine.

This was extremely well laidout, containing a small pond with a building on an island. You can see them in the picture on the right. Although it was closed up, the far end of the building has moveable panels so that people can sit and enjoy the view, probably while drinking tea. Being a shrine, I would also bet that there are times when the people drink Japanese sake.

In the distance there is a red roof. It covers an outdoor corridor that connects the two main buildings. You can see the same roof it the picture below.

This is the main building of the whole complex and it is on the left side just out of the range of the above picture. Again I peeked inside and it appeared to be similar to the inside of the first temple, although the details were a little different.

After leaving here, we decided that our altered route was too short so we consulted our map for someplace to use as a goal. We found a Zen Buddhist temple that seemed to be the correct distance away and started walking towards it.

Jul 25, 2008

Tomone and my morning walk

Tomone and her grandfather, just after she had taken a bath and been fed. She is very well-behaved and only cries when something is wrong. She is becoming very active and this morning was able to spin around in her bed. She is also able to crawl up to your shoulder if you hold her chest to chest. Please notice the family resemblance - we are both almost bald.

Seriously in spite of having three Japanese grandparents, a Japanese father and a half Japanese mother, Tomone's skin is very light, pink rather than the darkish yellow of most Japanese babies.

This morning I walked for 10 km before breakfast. When I left the house, there was a light rain. After about an hour, the heavens opened and clouds started crying heavily. As I walked down a hill trying to find shallow spots in the inch or more of water flooding the street, I looked up and think that I saw Noah and his Ark float by.

Jul 24, 2008


I was awakened at about twelve thirty last night because the whole room was moving around. As I became conscious enough to understand that it was an earthquake, I heard a blast of air hit the side of the building, the sound bringing me completely awake. I assume that the blast was cause by a wave of air displaced by the moving ground.

We had no damage but north of here there apparently was quite a bit. There were over half a hundred people injured, must from broken glass.

We have had a string of severe quakes. As Jerry Lee Lewis sang back in 1957, "We ain't fakin'. Whole lot of shakin' goin' on."

Jul 22, 2008

Ooshu Sendo, the old road

I went out before breakfast this morning and walked 10 kilometers. Ian was busy at his university and could not come. I took a new route, starting out along a road that I have walked on before. Just a few hundred meters past a large shopping center, I found a sign indicating that a narrow road, almost a path, going up a steep hill was part of the Ooshu Sendo - the road that I mentioned the other day, the one that Basho used. I started up the hill and soon the pavement disappeared and I was on a dirt path that is probably still the way it was 200 years ago. The surface has been worn down well below the level of the surroundings but there are no other improvements. It is quite steep and definitely made for walking only. I suspect that next year in Shikoku we will travel on many stretches like this.
When I reached the top of the hill, I found that the Ooshu Sendo disappeared again. It stopped at the edge of a large kindergarten, one that is very popular because they have an English program for the kids. I went through the yard and discovered that I had to go almost all the way back down the hill, but this time on a paved driveway, to get back onto the street that I was planning to continue on.

Twenty minutes later I was almost back to the place where I had found the engraved stones the other day, but I felt nature calling and turned off the road onto a path into the woods. As I walked along, I found a beautiful river that, except for the dam, is probably still pretty much the same way it was when Basho walking along here, although the wall on the left bank is new.
One of the things that impressed me this morning was that I was never more than about two miles, as the bird flies, from my apartment, which is in the middle of a built up area with mostly multi-story apartments and quite a few stores. Yet, I found some truly natural settings where civilization hardly intruded.

Pictures of Tomone

Naomi took a couple of pictures of Tomone. She is now 22 days old.

Jul 20, 2008

Today Ian called at about 5 a.m. and said that he would not be able to walk today, so I decided that I would walk alone. I ended up walking a total of 20 kilometers, all in the area between my apartment and the Kita Sendai Station where I usually meet Ian. This first picture is of something that would be a bit shocking in the US. It is a toilet in the park that we walk in (we walk in the park, not the toilet). What is surprising is that it is coed. On the right is a huge urinal with constantly running water, basically it is just a wall with a platform to stand on. On the left, inside the door, is a traditional Japanese squatter facility (I supposed I should have photographed that, too) for women or for men. The point is that the women have to walk past the men to get to it.Now, on to more mundane things. The photo below is a group of stones, which are not grave stones, in spite of how they look. Each stone has the name of a Buddha or a Bhodisattva carved on it. The road, just out of the picture on the left, follows the path of the old road which went north from Sendai. Basho, the famous haiku poet, walked along this road during the trip on which he wrote his most famous works. These stones may well have been since the Edo period - some time I will have to go to the library and see if I can find out.

The stones in the previous picture are at a modern intersection, and I turned left and started up a hill. At the top of the slope I passed under the bridge that you can see in the next picture. On the other side, I went down into the next valley and turned right on a main road. At the first intersection I turned right again and started up a long, steep hill.
Eventually, after walking about a kilometer, I found myself on the bridge that I had previously walked under. I was standing on the sidewalk when I took the previous picture, and the stones were at the intersection at the bottom of the hill.
I continued walking and eventually passed this all black building. Actually it is the S.S. Ladies Clinic where Tomone was born. The inside is quite nice and the rooms for the mothers are more like hotel rooms, but the outside certainly looks like a fortress or a high security area.

Jul 17, 2008

Busy but not much happening

I have been very busy this week but there is little to write about here. Tomone, my new granddaughter is keeping us busy. She is a very well behaved baby and only cries to communicate, but she needs constant care and feeding. We have divided things up so that we are taking shifts. I will post some new pictures of her in a day or two.

It is the end of the semester. One of my universities finishes for the summer this week and the other two end within the next two weeks. This means that this is the time for testing and grading. I spent my free time yesterday grading exams and tonight I will get a group of papers to grade.

I was so busy that I was unable to go for my usual Tuesday morning walk with Ian, but we are planning on a Sunday walk. I will take and post pictures.

It is almost time to leave for school. I have one class beginning at 8:50 and then after the class I will meet Tomone's other grandmother who is visiting for the day. It will be her first look at the baby.

Jul 12, 2008

A walk in the fog

Ian and I took our usual Tuesday morning walking through the part today, even though it is a Saturday. When I got up at sunrise, it was raining and extremely foggy. While I was having breakfast a thunderstorm passed through and cleared out the rain but not the fog. By the time we got into the part at about 6:45, the sun was beginning to break through the clouds and we were presented with a truly beautiful series of scenes as we walked.

After we had completed one circuit around the park and had gone out to the convenience store for a sports drink, we discovered this view of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of compassiona and birth, rising out of the clouds across the valley. This was particularly symbolic because Kannon is the speaker, the giver of knowledge, in the sutra that we will chant at each of the 88 temples.

Jul 10, 2008

Busy day

Today was busy, but quiet. The sun finally came out this afternoon and the humidity dropped substantially. I spend the morning taking care of Tomone so the others could get some good sleep. Then in the afternoon worked on a test that I will be giving next week. My normal Thursday morning classes were not scheduled for this week but I have a class from 6 to 8:30 tonight. I am planning to walk home, about 10 km, to get in my day's exercise. Also I will be meeting my friend Keith to get the ticket that he bought for me. We are going to a soccer game on Sunday.

Jul 9, 2008

Rainy season blues

The rainy season is here in full force. The sun has gone on vacation so all we get is rain and fog. Because of the terrain, Sendai does not get as much rain as the surrounding areas, but we certainly get the fog. The humidity remains so close to 100% that the difference does not matter. Go outside and walk for a few minutes and your clothing becomes damp from the moisture in the air.

During the day it is fairly hot, but it cools off at night. Not that this helps, because the humidity stays high.

This year, of course, we have the baby to keep us amused, so it is emotionally much better than most years. Also, for me this is the time when classes are winding down and I am preparing exams and doing grading. One more thing is keeping up my spirits this year as compared to other years. My new telephone has built in audio and I have been downloading lectures about Buddhism - to get my mind in the right place for the trip next year.

There is one thing that actually keeps us going: the rainy season will be over in two or three more weeks and then we will have a few months of hot, sunny weather - and I will be on vacation.

Jul 7, 2008

A baby fib

A baby
Comes into our lives
Making everyone happier

Jul 2, 2008

The new baby

Tomone Yatsu, my granddaughter, at the age of three days

Looking at the strange new world

Jul 1, 2008

Around the Hood

First of all, Naomi, my daughter just gave birth to a baby girl. Mother and child both health and well. I will give pictures and more information later. I had uploaded these pictures before the phone call about Naomi came so I will show them to you as planned, especially considering that I have no more information. Masayo, my wife, and Hiro, Naomi's husband, are at the hospital but I have classes in a little while so I won't get to go until tomorrow or maybe even the next day.

Ian and I did our usual walk this morning and on the way home I took these pictures between the subway station and home. This first picture is from the new bridge and is looking toward Yaotome, where our nearest subway station is located. You can see part of it above the road. The dark band with light colored strips above and below it. As the trains go toward the left, toward Sendai, the tracks go underground before the next station.

This next picture shows the bridge itself. Just to the left of the apartment building, you can see the local Buddhist temple. It is Jodo Shinshu, or the Pure Land Sect. They have the only bell in the area and we can sometimes hear it.

The bridge itself has been completed for more than a month but they are still working on the surrounding area. I have really enjoyed watching how they have functioned and am curious about how the path along the top of the levee is going to be redone.

This picture is from the bridge looking east. We live in the large apartment building on the right, just to the left of the power pylon. Actually it is three buildings and we live in the middle one. We live on the second floor on the left side, next to the space between the buildings. The apartments on the on the left are new and belong to the 'rich guy'. On the left side of this building, if you look closely you can see a triangular-shaped roof. That is our local Shinto Shrine.

This is view from the other end of the bridge. Our building, now on the left, is the stepped building. Actually, this is two building and ours in on the left. It has two light colored areas on each floor, while the right hand building has dark areas only. The reason is that our building, although, put up by the same company, is of better quality. The building on the right has only one elevator shaft so there are walkways all the way across the front of each floor. Our building has two elevator shafts, so that only two apartments have to share an elevator even though each floor has four apartments.

The river, by the way, is full of fish, and there are lots of birds around. It is very pleasant to walk along the bank.