April 22: Last day in Kyoto

This morning I found the following poem on my Facebook page, posted by Ukiyo-e & sumi-e, which usually posts Japanese paintings and woodblock prints. Tomorrow morning I leave Kyoto and travel on to Pittsburgh.
“How many mountains, how many rivers
Are still to be crossed before I gain
The land where loneliness comes to an end?
Today, as ever, I travel on.” – Wakayama Bokusui (1885-1928).
[Trans. by Miyamori Asataro. From “Hiroshigue’s Tokaido in Prints and Poetry”, 1957).

I seriously considered returning to Samboin, the garden where I couldn’t photograph, but was daunted by the thought of climbing those two terrible steps where I needed so much help. I wandered back to the shopping area stopping at a shop that sold lovely bamboo objects, several fabric shops and another paper store where I bought a small roll of paper, about 10 inches high and 5 yards long. Maybe I can make a book with it. There was all kinds of wonderful paper, but again, nothing that tempted me to struggle getting it home.

Spent the entire day walking around, again more walking than I wanted to do. Tomorrow I’ll be on the train most of the day, so I can rest then.

I bought a few other small gifts. I find it difficult to bring back souvenirs. So-called traditional Japanese crafts are too expensive; the cheaper stuff is terrible junk. There isn’t much here you can’t buy at home.

The last place I wandered into was a shop that sold canes, an amazing range of canes from colorful sticks with ordinary handles and fancy handles with plain sticks, including metal animal  heads, handles and sticks with lots of bling, and a really great one with a light on the handle. If it wasn’t 30000 yen, I would have bought it on the spot. I’ve been using Arvin’s cane and I enjoy the fact it was his and I can use it. The proprietor of the shop told me it was a tall man’s cane. Arvin was 6 feet. I didn’t know canes came in so many different sizes.

I am sad to leave. I have enjoyed the entire six weeks. But I will be happy to see my family and friends.

March 24: All at sea


This is not going to be a nice review. For a much more positive portrait of this place, go here.

I never wrote up yesterday so I’ll save it for tomorrow’s train ride and deal with today while it’s still fresh in my mind. Yesterday was two good gardens will be mostly pictures.

Today I took a trip to Naoshima a nearby island, requiring two short train trips and a ferry. Read about the town and some of its industry here. The town bus, costing 100 Yen, met the ferry and took us to the ticket center and waiting area for Chichu museum where a long line was waiting. Before I go on, I have to say I hate waiting in line. Standing is not good for my legs or my soul and I work to avoid it; meaning I don’t often stand in any lines. But I got in this one and listened uncomprehending to a young man giving a long speech in Japanese. When the line moved and I finally got to him his nametag said bilingual guide and he told me, in English, he was giving me a slip of paper with a time on it, 45 minutes ahead, and at that time, and for the following 30 minutes, I would be allowed to buy a ticket to enter the museum.

Some of you who read my blog also read Ronni Bennett’s wonderful blog where she invokes crabby old lady. I am not so polite: today I was bitchy old lady. And that was only the beginning.

IMG_4179I waited the 45 minutes, grumbling under my breath, and finally paid my 2000 Yen (about $22) and walked over to the museum, where after climbing a steep incline and then taking an elevator, I was informed I would have to wait again to get into the Monet room. The museum, designed by Tadeo Ando, is large with lots of empty reinforced concrete corridors and entirely underground but all the work is illuminated with natural light, allowing you to see it under different lighting, according to the brochure. Maybe when the clouds move fast, but I can’t imagine standing around waiting, no seats, and all those people in line behind you. This museum has work by only three artists: James Turrell, Walter de Maria and Monet. So I stand in line, take my shoes off and put on slippers then finally get in to see the five Monet water lilies. How many water lilies did he paint? I’ve seen them in Paris, Chicago, New York and even Pittsburgh has one. These were not the best water lilies I ever saw, but they were certainly the most carefully displayed.

So, what next? I could go and stand in line to see the Turrell. I don’t know anything about his work, but the thought of one more line did me in. I went to the de Maria where there was no line and then, carefully filling in their satisfaction survey, I left. The best part of the museum, for me, was a kind of Monet garden along the path leading to the museum. These pictures are from the garden.
There are two more museums at only 1000 Yen each, but I skipped them and walked around outdoor sculpture by Nikki Saint Phalle along the beach. No waiting.


I got back on the bus, which was waiting for me for a change, and went to the art houses. This is a group of widely spaced houses that had been abandoned or falling down and were renovated (?) and made into works of art. After paying another 1000 Yen I was told I would have to get a ticket and then there would be an hour and a half wait to see another Ando/Turrell creation. And I had to walk to said creation in order to get the ticket. Can you see the steam coming off the top of my head?
I got the ticket which was actually for 3 o’clock, two hours later, then walked around to see the other houses.


The idea is fascinating, in principle. One of the museums in Pittsburgh does something similar and I think more interesting. This house, which had been a dental clinic, was given an intriguing floor and housed this funky almost Statue of Liberty I wasn’t supposed to photograph. Couldn’t resist.


I never saw the Ando/Turrell masterpiece. About 2 pm, having walked or stood from about 9:30, I got on the bus, went back to the port and made the ferry/train trip. Now I’m doing laundry. The moment of truth, or dirt, had come.

Nikki St Phalle Cat

Nikki St Phalle Cat

Me, in one of the pieces on the beach

Me, in one of the pieces on the beach

Next Flight

The flight to Chicago was uneventful. Returning to Chicago is always filled with nostalgia for me, and this time, a little shock. The airport in Pittsburgh is, unfortunately, a very quiet place, a little backwater. The organized chaos of O’Hare took me by surprise.

My first feeling I no longer knew how to proceed at O’Hare was quickly dispelled as I realized I had arrived at Terminal 2 and had to proceed through an inside revolving door to Terminal 3 to get my bag. It’s been that way for years. Originally a military airbase, called Orchard Field, I think O’Hare had only 2 terminals when it first opened as a civilian airport. It was quite small and served as a kind of satellite to Midway, which was the original Chicago airport. My first flight, in 1953, was out of Midway in a propeller plane. While I was in college I would sometimes drive out to Midway with a date and we would we would park along a fence and watch the planes take off, and amongst other things, sit and eat doughnut holes, sold at an outlet store for some doughnut manufacturer I no longer remember that was on the way..

Over the years O’Hare grew to 4 terminals with a Hilton Hotel in the center. They enlarged it further by putting a tunnel under the hotel and more areas for passengers to meet or depart from ground transportation. This is the part that’s been really confusing to me, but this time I finally figured it out.

I usually try to fly into Midway when I come to the city so I’ve had limited experience with O’Hare in recent years. So this was kind of fun.

The hotel shuttle returned me to O’Hare and I took the blue line train to downtown Chicago and met the grandchildren, who are no longer children, along with one of my dearest friends and we all had dinner. This morning I again took the shuttle back to the airport and now I’m sitting on the plane watching the flight path on the little video. I had enough frequent flier miles to go business class both ways and it’s great. I love all the space.

One more paragraph and I’m going to sleep. Finally got to the hotel and I can’t keep my eyes open. Good night.

On my way; First stop Chicago

I can’t believe the time has finally come. I’ve been planning for months. Now I’m at the airport wondering what I’ve forgotten. This has been a strange week. I feel like time  compressed and stretched as I accomplished each mustdo task. First there was my income tax, which loomed heavily even though I didn’t earn enough money to pay the Feds anything. I use the word earned loosely. It’s my money that’s supposed to do the earning: it’s not doing much. I still owed the state so I have to fill out the returns. Once that was finished I was able to relax a little and the time seemed to stretch. 

I thought I was finished packing yesterday but when I moved the suitcase to the front door I realized I couldn’t handle it. So after a welcome home (to her) and farewell (to me) dinner with a friend I drove out to the shopping mall and bought a smaller case. I was able to get most everything in it and it’s much more manageable. 

This morning I finished cleaning out the frig and took out all the garbage. Now I’m about to board the plane. To be continued…

Countdown: 12 days to go

Phipps garden in Pittsburgh

Phipps garden in Pittsburgh

All of my hotel arrangements are made. First I fly to Chicago where I stay overnight, have dinner with a friend, the next morning see my sister-in-law, then get on the plane to Tokyo where I arrive the next day. I made two revisions to my original plans, (there will probably be more). In the middle of my stay in Kyoto I will leave the hotel and stay one night in a monastery on Mt. Koya and my last night in Japan will be in Narita, close to the airport. Otherwise all of my hotel reservations are complete: 3 weeks on the road, or should I say rail with my railpass, and 3 weeks in Kyoto. I worked out rough plans for the gardens I want to visit at each stop in the first three weeks. I still have to work out Kyoto, but that can be dealt with when I get there.

Now I am looking at luggage. When I went before I schlepped a huge 29″ rolling duffel and a small carry-on. No more. This time I want a slightly larger carry-on and a very small overnighter. I can ship my luggage to the hotel (they have such great service) so I plan to carry 2 or 3 days change of underwear in the overnighter and meet my suitcase 2 hotels down. I also plan to do laundry once a week. Most of the hotels seem to have facilities. Earlier this month I spent a weekend in Chicago and the overnighter was adequate for the three nights.

January thaw

Nine mile run, January thaw

Nine mile run, January thaw

With the temperature in the 60’s today I was drawn back to Nine Mile Run. I was hoping to take a good long walk but there was still lots of snow on the trail so I didn’t go further than the wooden path. I am still cautious about falling; even with my walking stick I didn’t feel secure.

IMG_3758Mostly I went to take pictures. When I posted the picture that appears in my new year post I remembered I had taken one more that seems to have disappeared. Looking at the previous day’s pictures I knew some of them were missing also. I don’t know whether I did something wrong (always a possibility), the camera wasn’t working right, or something was wrong with the memory card. The only thing I can check is the memory card, so I bought a new one and that’s what I am using. I plan to take many more pictures in the next few weeks. I don’t want to find out I’ve lost any of my Japanese photos.

Changing habits

Taiz0-in, one of my favorite gardens

Taiz0-in, one of my favorite gardens

I live about a half mile from the wonderful Carnegie Library. To drive, you have to go about a mile, parking is expensive and usually not available, so needless to say, I walk. I usually wear my purse with the shoulder strap across my chest and sometimes after I walk the half mile and have started back, I have a backache. Yesterday, I took my phone, some money and my library card and left the purse at home. No backache! Today I ordered a belly bag, practicing for Japan. I don’t know how it will look sitting on my already ample belly, but if it enables me to keep walking, who cares.

Trip planning: I am stuck in Tokyo. I would like my next stop to be Hakone, where there is both an indoor and outdoor museum. Atami, which is supposed to have a great museum, is also nearby. Hotels in the area are very expensive. All of this can be done as day trips from Tokyo, so the question is, do I stay for another two days in the hotel I have already booked in eastern Tokyo or do I move to western Tokyo? If I wasn’t on a budget, all of this would be much easier, but much less challenging.

Nine mile run, after a bad week.

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The bad week was mine. I started coughing on Tuesday evening and spent the rest of the week in bed, sleeping or reading. Finished two novels. I usually don’t have patience for that much novel reading, so it was OK.

This morning I woke up feeling relatively well, got dressed and with our newly normal December weather in the fifties, went over to Nine Mile Run. This is Zelda’s pet project and the reason I’ve become involved in the sewage wars. I decided I ought to see what got me going on all of this. Nine Mile Run is wonderful. Without my hearing aids the highway ceases to bother me, but it’s harder to hear the frogs. I took 42 pictures and plan to go back for more, particularly when it rains and I am feeling well.

Last Sunday I hosted the semi-annual party of the book collective (we make books  ladies). The highlight of the meeting is always an exchange of books. Since it was my latest obsession I made a book about sewage. It was a big hit. Turns out one of the women is married to someone who is working on the sewage problem. I’ve only begun thinking about all of this, but I have the feeling there are too many groups involved and no one is really doing anything. Too much politics, too much ego, too much vested interest. We need a strong, fearless leader, who probably doesn’t exist in Pittsburgh.


School again

My Osher classes began immediately after I returned from Chicago. Actually the Monday classes, Conversational Spanish, beginning class again, and something about Hamlet on film, began the week before to make up for Labor Day. As I went through the week I realized I had signed up for too many classes. I didn’t have time to do the reading or other homework. On Tuesday afternoon I audit another Japanese Art History seminar. This time it is about architecture. I’m not finding it so interesting, but I’ll hang in there. I’m bound to get something out of it.

I dropped my Wednesday class. It was supposed to be about three books of the Bible: Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. I sat through two weeks of Job and realized he was not giving me any new insight or new thoughts. Instead, I’ve been reading JB, the Archibald MacLeish take on Job. Much more interesting.

Thursday is another writing class: writing elements of your life story. I was off to a good start with the first assignment, but failed this week. I spent too much time listening to all the political stuff. It’s been a fascinating week, politically.

The Friday class is the most entertaining. Before I tell about it, I have to tell you I dropped the second Monday class, the one about Hamlet. I sat through half of the second class and found I couldn’t understand the Shakespearean speech and the British accents. It would be good if the instructor used the subtitles that are probably on the DVD, but I had too many classes anyway, so it was a good excuse to just walk out.

Back to Friday: Jewish Art in Paris (nineteenth and early twentieth century). Today was the third of four classes. I will be sorry when the series is finished. The lecturer is very knowledgeable in both the art and in Judaism, and tells her stories almost as if she had been there. She has been talking about Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine, Chana Orloff, Max Jacob, Pissaro, Lipchitz and several others. She has stories about all of their lives, their loves, their paintings (and sculpture), where the paintings are today, and in many instances, how much they sold for. Each lecture is filled with snippets of gossip, insights about the paintings, and photographs and some paintings I had never seen before. In addition, the lecturer is a picture herself. I can only guess her age; one side or the other of 70. She is beautiful; white carefully styled hair, flashy but fashionable clothing, (first week, white leather, second week, a kind of gold beige suit, today a sweater with a portrait of one of the artist’s subjects), amazing jewelry. She stands in high heels for an hour and a half, talking mostly from well integrated memory, but with notes available used only to verify dollar (franc) amounts and occasional dates. The high heels make me ache, but mostly she keeps me so involved I don’t think about it. A lovely way to spend a Friday morning.

On the way home

I am in a motel in the middle of Indiana; alone for the first time in two weeks.  It feels strange, but I’m enjoying it. I always have mixed feelings about being with other people; I love it, but I also love being alone.

I spent my first week in Chicago at Sandy’s home and visited with most of my family and friends. All week I had the feeling my father was waiting to see me. This morning, I again spent time with family; feeling as I left that I was going to see my dad. Strange how I almost feel like I am revisiting my childhood each time I return. Here I am, the matriarch of the family and I return to childhood.

None of this happens when I am in Pittsburgh. There I am just another old lady, attending classes and still trying to organize my workspace.