Oct 31, 2010

Trip to Osaka 05

Here is picture of the face on that strange sculpture that I showed you yesterday.This is the other plenary speaker, Chuck Sandy, as he was preparing the electronics for his presentation. I try to make my presentations as non-electronic as possible, so the only thing that I used as a mike. Thus, I had no set up to do.
This is a picture of Chuck and I before the presentations began.
The man on the left, is Bob Sanderson, the President of the Osaka Chapter of JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) and the MC for the conference. This was during his introduction of me. He asked me a number of questions about my background because most of the audience were unfamiliar with me.

Oct 30, 2010

Trip to Osaka 04

I turned into the campus and started looking for the location of the conference. I followed these to people for a ways, but they were going to some other event.I wandered through the campus. I tried to be systematic in my search pattern but the campus was large and complex. I met a number of people and asked about the conference but none of them knew. I did find this rather interesting clock tower.
Finally, I met a guard who pointed me in the right direction. I also met a woman who was going to attend the conference, too. She recognized me from the photo that they had used in the advertising. We found the large building that the guard had said was the location, but there was no one there. The door was unlocked so we went in and finally found a sign that said we were going to be in the basement. At the bottom of the stairs we discovered this very strange sculpture. The right hand end under the vertical portion had a human face. I could not figure out what the rest of it represented but it was impressive, sitting there in the landing.

Oct 29, 2010

Trip to Osaka 03

The next morning I got up early as usual. Looking out my hotel window I could see the station. The two story building on the left is a bicycle park. The actual entrance is in the middle.
I asked at the desk where I could find the university. The male clerk panicked but a young woman in back came out and said I should just follow her. She led me out the door and then we took two left turns. At an intersection, she pointed down a side street and said the university was straight ahead. I thanked her and she returned to the hotel. As you can see in the picture, I could not see the campus, but I started walking. She had said it was only about three minutes.

After about two minutes I saw a building with the school name written across the top (the brown building in the middle).
Passing one more building, I came to the campus and was truly surprised. I was standing at the edge of a huge lawn, something that is very unusual for universities located in cities.

Oct 28, 2010

Trip to Osaka 02

On the same floor as the entry wickets, there is a large waiting area with comfortable seats. In the back ground on the right you can see a coffee shop and on the left are electronic signs show arrival and departure times. Behind the signs are the restrooms and a room for changing diapers.

Since I was just about on time, only five minutes early, I went straight up to the platform and found the location where my car would be when my train arrived. I did not even have time to put my bag down before the train pulled in.

At Tokyo, I had to change trains. Actually the trains were from different companies. A while back, they privatized the Shinkansen, breaking it up into a number of separate companies. Each of the lines leaving Tokyo now belong to a different company.

The scenery on the trip is pleasant, but I was reading on my new Kindle so I did not take any pictures, except the following. Ever since I first came to Japan, I have been unable to take pictures of Mt Fuji, or fujisan as it is called in Japanese. The reason is that the weather changes according to whether or not I have a camera. If I leave my camera at home, it is always sunny and Mt Fuji is beautiful. If I have a camera, the mountain is always clouded over. This day was sort of in between. I could see the top, sort of, but the bottom was hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. Way back in 1970, I spend three day in a hotel at the base of the north side of Mt Fuji. During that time I did not see the mountain, even once. Somewhere I have some photos that show only the vaguest outline of the peak, and nothing else.
Before leaving Sendai, I had gone to the website for my hotel and downloaded a map, which I printed out and took with me. After a six hour trip, I finally got to Shin Osaka station, found the correct exit (no easy task) and walked the two blocks to the hotel. I entered and approached the front desk, telling the clerk that I had a reservation. After searching her computer, she crossed the room and searched a printout. Then she came over to me and said that there was no reservation. I said that someone else had made it for me. She asked if I knew the exact name of the hotel and I replied, "The Kishibe Station Hotel". She said that that was the problem. I was in the Osaka Station Hotel. The Kishibe Station Hotel belonged to the same group but was three stations away from there. I looked at my map again and sure enough, in spite of the fact that I had downloaded it from the Kishibe Station Hotel site, it was a map to the Osaka Station Hotel. I said thank you and left. After thinking a minute, I decided to go straight to the restaurant where the people from the conference were having a pre-conference supper. Since I was a bit early, I stopped in a coffee shop to wait for 6:30 when people were supposed to show up. It was a wonderful meal. The photo below shows the end of it, after everything was eaten. However, the story of the hotel is not quite over. After everything was finished, one of the organizers took myself and the other keynote speaker to our hotel. We checked in at about 11 p.m. On the front desk counter, I found business cards for the Kishibe Station Hotel and to my complete surprise the map on the back was the same map that I had downloaded - it showed how to get to the Osaka Station Hotel. I was never able to find anyone who could explain this. The clerk said did not think it was unusual because the two hotels are part of the same chain. Weird!.

Oct 27, 2010

Trip to Osaka

On October 16, 17, and 18, I took a trip to Osaka, where I was a keynote speaker at a small conference on learning foreign languages. Today and for the next few days I will be concerned with this trip.

Since the trip takes almost six hours from my home to Osaka station and I had to be there at 6:30 for a pre-conference dinner, I left home just before 10 a.m. I took the subway to Sendai station, where I bought a lunch, called an ekiben (eki means station and ben means lunch), at this shop inside the station. Ekiben are considered to be a treat by many people and there are even TV programs where the cast travel around Japan sampling what is available at each station. I bought one that contained chicken and vegetables. Ekiben always come with disposable chopsticks, a toothpick, and a wet paper towel. Mine was very good.
After buying my ticket and going to Starbucks, where I bought the largest size Americano to drink on the train, I went to the main entrance to the Shinkansen.

They had these things, I do not know what else to call them, hanging from the ceiling in front of the wickets. The sign says "Welcome to Sendai, Miyagi".
At the wickets, I placed my Sendai to Tokyo express ticket and my Sendai to Osaka basic ticket into the slot. They popped up at the other end of the wicket as the doors open. Inside the Shinkansen station there is a large store that sells magazines, drinks, snacks, newspapers, and other stuff that people want for their trip. Since I already had coffee, I did not buy anything, but I did stop to look, just to kill a little time since I was early.

Oct 26, 2010

ou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 21

I started out of the valley, passing the stele and other things I had seen on the way in.
On the way in, the scenery changed from buildings to greenery. Obviously the reverse would happen on the way out and here is the first structure I had seen in quite a while.

I was now back to 21st century Japan. The building on the left is some sort of small factory that processes metal. The fence on the right keeps us out of a used car lot.
I returned home by the same route that I had come on. This is the intersection where I crossed the bypass, Route 4. It was a good trip and the only thing that would have made it better would have been some sun to improve the color in the photographs.

Oct 24, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 20

In the last picture yesterday, you could see a large statue presiding over rows of grave markers. Here is a closeup of some of them. Most of them are so old that the carving has worn off. The middle one, however, seems to be newer and the statue is still visible. I assume that it is a Buddha figure or a Bodhisattva.
Directly under the statue is a plaque dedicated to the "Three Worlds": past, present and future. Again someone has placed fresh flowers in the vases. I wonder it this was done by visitors or the resident priests. I really have no idea. Maybe both do it. Also, notice the nice little statue on the right.
This is a closeup of the flowers. There are some unusual blossoms mixed in with plants that seem to grow wild around here - maybe they escaped from gardens, but the grow along paths and riversides.
I have now arrived back at the entrance to the valley. The road to the left of the utility pole is the only exit.

Oct 23, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 19

This is totally unconnected to what I have been writing about recently and will continue to write about below, but it is interesting and says a lot about Japanese society. An Australian poet, who is a good friend, is visiting Sendai and I met him for lunch yesterday. We ended up at an Italian restaurant, ordering a pizza and a couple of other dishes. The pizzas came in two sizes and we asked the waitress how big they were. We settled on a large size rather than a half size. We chatted a while and the other two dishes came. While we were eating them, a waiter, not our original waitress, brought the pizza. It was delicious but was quite small. We both have been in restaurants where the pizzas were that tiny, so we did not complain. However, after we had finished, our waitress came over again with a large pizza. She said that they had made a mistake and would we please take this new pizza. The one that we had finished was to be complementary. Both of us thought that in either the US or Australia, few restaurants would voluntarily bring a replacement and that many would argue if you complained. I should point out that you do not tip in Japan and if you try the person will give you the money back in most cases.

Returning to the graveyard at the Dou'unji Temple, I found this statue of a Bodhisattva and a group of grave markers.
This sign board had a nice poem: Buddha's children remember their parents, know their ancestors, and know the Buddha.
In the middle of an open area, this Bodhisattva stood alone but not forgotten. Someone had recently placed fresh flowers in the vase.
Leaving the graveyard, I entered the parking lot and took a closer look at the statue and grave markers that I had seen when I entered the grounds.

Oct 22, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 18

One thing that I find interesting about this sort of place is how the Japanese can can focus on one area to the exclusion of the surround areas. Next to the display I showed you yesterday, you can see a completely dead tree (I guess that is appropriate for a graveyard) and some piled up stones and other construction materials. In Japan you will frequently see something of incredible beauty in the middle of an area that looks like a dump.
I walked up into the area on the ridge line where I had been seeing the grave markers. Notice that there is another ridge line in the distance and it is even higher. Actually that marks the outside edge of the temple grounds. You can see a couple of private houses. They are the beginning of a large housing development that now surrounds the temple grounds.
This is the way a typical Japanese graveyard looks. Remember that there are no bodies here so the individual sites can be quite small.
Progressing a little bit further up the hill and into the depths of the graveyard, I found a very helpful sign. It reminded me of all of the various pictures we get of what happens to people after they die. We might say that the sign has died. It certainly meets the Buddhist criteria of everything arising and they fading away.

Oct 21, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 17

On my left as I walked along the road, I could see a row of gravestones half hidden in the trees.On my right was a little valley with a drainage ditch running through the lowest part.
As I emerged into the large flat center of the temple grounds, the meditation caves were now straight ahead of me, I found a small collection of gravestones, statues, and stelae. These were obviously meaningful to someone since there were fresh flowers and some sake.
What looked like a phallic symbol turned out to be a headless statue on closer inspection. You can see the hands together in a prayer-like pose and the edge of a robe. The two cups on the right hand grave contained what looked like tea. One thing to remember is that people are cremated in Japan so all you need is an engraved stone to have a grave.

Oct 19, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 16

Well, I am back from a successful trip to Osaka. The conference went well and my presentation was thought provoking and stirred up a lot of discussion - just what I wanted. Now, today it is back to the usual routine. I have two classes this afternoon and they are both having tests.

Returning to my trip to Dou'unji, we were last in the vicinity of the main hall. The first picture today is the main hall as it is seen from the official entrance road. The road I followed on the way in was actually the road to the priest's housing. I approached the main hall from the rear.

Although short, this road was a very pleasant walk. At some time in the past, they cut out a section of a hill so that the road is less steep than it might be. I wonder if the road was made for the main hall or if the main hall was placed at the end of the road. The answer is not at all apparent from looking at the site.
After taking the last picture, I turned around and took this picture of the section of road I had just walked on. The main hall is a couple of hundred meters off in the distance and a bit to the left.
I found this stone stele but could not read any of the characters because they were so worn by the elements.

Oct 15, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 15

First, I need to say that it is now Friday morning and I have a busy day scheduled. My wife and I have our semi-annual physical checkups scheduled for this morning. These will probably take about an hour and a half. After that we can finally have breakfast (I am really hungry at the moment) and will then do a little shopping. Our doctor's office is about 6 kilometers from my condo, so travel time will be around two hours total -walking and bus. Then we will go into downtown Sendai where I will buy train tickets for Osaka. Early tomorrow morning I will take the Shinkansen to Osaka, a 5+ hour trip. I am going to be a plenary speaker at a conference on Sunday. My title is "Just because all the students are learning doesn't mean that you are teaching". There will be a pre-conference dinner on Saturday evening and a post-conference dinner on Sunday night. I will return to Sendai on Monday. Therefore, the next post on this blog will not be until late Monday night or Tuesday morning before I leave for class.

Returning to the Dou'unji Temple, the following picture is the bell tower with the main hall behind it.
The next picture shows the bell and the log that is used to ring it. This is the typical way that bells are rung. The log is hung from the ceiling on two ropes so that it can easily swing back and forth horizontally. The bell ringer swings the log to and fro a couple of times and then releases it so that it hits the bell. When the bell is rung, the momentum transferred from the log causes it swing, sometimes quite a bit. If the bell is to be rung more than once, you have to be careful of the timing. Unless the bell is hit as it is moving toward the log, the sound can be muffled and hardly worth the effort.
This is another view of the arched bridge and the priest's quarters.
I found this beside the bell tower and I am not sure exactly what it is. I think it is a private graveyard. Of course, bodies are cremated here so there are no bodies but the stones seem to have family names carved on them.

Oct 14, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 14

This is a closer view of the main hall. The hill-top meditation hall can be seen in the upper right of the picture. This is a Zen temple so it does not have all the places for burning incense, for leaving burning candles, and for leaving gifts of coins that are found in the Shingon temples that I visited during the Henro pilgrimage.This is a small shrine that is on your right when facing the main hall. Notice the rope hanging down from the center of the roof. Pulling on this rings a bell, the sound of which notifies whoever or whatever is interested that you are their and are doing to do some sort of devotion. I believe that these bells are primarily the result of Shinto influence, but I certainly would not argue the point if someone wanted to correct me.
A close-up of one of the 'lions' guarding the shrine to prevent any evil from entering. As you can see in the above picture, there is one on each side of the shrine.
The main hall is on the right and behind it is the housing for the resident priest. The bell tower is partially visible through the leaves on the left. Also in front of the priest's house, you see a bit of a bridge with red railings. This bridge is in the traditional oriental style. The road surface is curved, actually part of a circle.