April 23: Last day

April 23

On the train to Tokyo, this time on the Nozomi Super Express. It makes only 3 stops in the 2.5 hour trip. I am sad about leaving. I don’t think there is anything more I want to do here, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge and I’m going back to too soft a life. Have to figure out more ways of making life difficult.

At the hotel in Kyoto they asked if I would return next year. I agreed, but I think the answer is no, at my age you never know what new aggravation each year will bring and not alone, not unless Eli or Charna will come with me.

I met a woman at the hotel who said she was a journalist. Maybe she freelances, I have doubts about what she really does. But the story she should write is about the hotel. It is clearly a part of the Kyoto community and also gives you, if you stay any length of time, a sense of belonging as well. The women at the front desk all knew me and wanted to know what I was doing each day. And everyone was always helpful. There were at least three concerts in the lobby, mostly attended by people from the neighborhood, although hotel guests were always invited. One of the meeting rooms became a bar each Thursday night and again was open to hotel guests and the community. And there were free Japanese lessons two evenings a week. I attended and didn’t learn much language but was able to get lots of questions answered. I am now friends on Facebook with the teacher, which is great.

Someone, I think Alice, asked about crowds here. People are generally quiet. Only very small children and teenagers seem to make any noise. There isn’t even much horn blowing. Traffic noises are only engines, tires and occasional emergency vehicles. People are encouraged not to talk on their phones in public and to keep them on vibrate. On the shinkansen there are rules about not letting the phone ring and going to the end of the cars to talk. That said, this isn’t a quiet place. When you walk on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood, as I did when I visited Tojiin, you notice the silence. There are constant recorded or mechanical noises. Public toilets and subway entrances announce their presence with a small dinging noise. Streets with stoplights tell you when to walk: one direction chirps, the other ding dongs. Buses and subways have constant recorded monologues, often in several languages, about the next stop, what you can do there such as transferring, what attractions are there, warnings about the doors closing, and on trains, which side the doors will open on. I almost have the Japanese memorized.

The stops on the shinkansen are announced with a little musical riff then the announcement is made in two languages. On the trains in Kyushu announcements were made in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English.

Crowds at the two markets I attended were difficult, but would not have been if I moved a little faster. Crowds in train and subway stations are more difficult but they come in waves and I generally was able to wait until they are gone.

I promised to tell you about my Buddhist amulet. Before dinner at the temple on Koyasan a monk came and put bracelets on our arms. The bracelet is supposed to ease our way through difficulties. Perhaps it works. I am intrigued because of its construction. It is beautifully made of multicolored cords and has three knots and no apparent beginning or end. There is something on the internet about Buddhist endless knots, which seem to be the same as Celtic endless knots. Of course, you can do things with drawings you can’t do with reality. When I get home I’ll do a more extensive search.

I shot more than 2000 pictures, maybe more than 2500. Most of those are garden pictures. I haven’t done many street pictures; too many of their streets look just like ours. I’m afraid I will disappoint you, Mage. Pictures of shops, funky architecture and strange things some women wear on their feet are subjects I didn’t take, although some of it was tempting. And the┬áspiky white thing around┬áthe tree stump you asked about indicates the stump, or more often a living tree or rock, is sacred. Japanese believe in kami, sacred spirits, thousands of them that can live anywhere, but often in those trees or rocks. I am ready to go along with them; especially on kami that live in trees.