Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Museum. One House of Worship (Japan Day 1)

That is what my mother told me. She said it many times.

“One museum and one house of worship: that is my limit. After that, the little stone statues become a blur and I can’t remember any of them properly.”

I really wanted to show her whatever she wanted to see. But, I lived in Japan for many years. I really wanted to see my friends, some of whom are practically family. I have seen the famous places.

She would go on.

“I want to see what living in Japan is like. I want to visit your friends. I want to walk around regular places. Do you have any idea how many temples I have seen?”

My mother has traveled a lot. She likes meeting people. I tried to plan accordingly, but there are a few places I couldn’t help but take her. It wouldn’t be a proper tour without seeing a few famous places, right?

My mother only saw the most impressive places in Japan.

Our first full day on the ground was in Kyoto, visiting Kawa-san. After a relaxing Japanese-style breakfast and warming our toes by the hot coals under the table, Mrs. Kawa began to excuse herself to walk their dog.

“Do you mind if we join you?” I asked.

My mother and I had arrived in the dark the night before. She had seen the darkened courtyard of their 18th century home, and the traditional interior (better than any museum, trust me), but the neighborhood had been merely a blur out the car window.

The three of us, and the dog, exited the courtyard and began a tour of the rice paddies. (Kawa-san stayed behind). Kawa-san owns three rice paddies. The neighbors (busy with their farming) were pleased to pose for my mother’s pictures. We asked questions and enjoyed the scenery.

We then took a walk up the hill to the neighborhood temple. This one didn’t count as a ‘house of worship’, of course, because it was really just a simple walk around the neighborhood. We met the family who took care of the temple, and they offered us a bag of ginko nuts. My mother rearranged their two year old’s toy cars as the rest of us chatted. On our way back, we admired another neighbor’s garden and were rewarded with fresh mikans (tangerines). We also coincidentally ran into the Buddhist monk (father to the two year old) returning to the temple in traditional clothing.

We stopped for a picture, of course.

So, having been gone for only a short while to walk the dog, we returned to Kawa-san with an arm full of gifts and a camera full of pictures.

Kawa-san laughed with joy. He told us that having our picture taken with the monk was highly unusual and certainly would bring us good luck. Armed with fresh gingkos and mikans, it was tough to argue that we were lucky.

Our luck had only just begun, because Kawa-san decided that he would show us how to cook them. It is quite exciting to watch gingkos roasting. They pop out of the pan like stone popcorn.

We visited a few other local temples that day too. We played tennis by the river. We went out for a fabulous dinner.

We ended the day with a Japanese bath, warm toes, and a soft futon.

Did we see one museum and one house of worship?

No. We did a lot better than that.