Saturday, September 1, 2001

July-August 2001 Japan Trip

On Thursday, July 26, Barbara and I flew to Japan's Kansai Airport via Los Angeles. Crossing the International Date Line, we arrived at about 6:00 p.m. The Iwaki family met our flight and drove us to their home in Kawanishi in northwestern Kansai.

On the way they stopped at a restaurant named Gyōza no Ōshō (餃子の王将), where Barbara and I had yakisoba. (It was delicious!) We met the father Masaaki, Yasuko his wife, daughter Emi, 17-year-old son Shō, and 14-year-old son Kei. The family was extremely gracious to us.

Suffering from jet lag, we went directly to sleep on futons in the living room.

Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium, and Okamachi, July 28

After breakfast, Yasuko drove us to Osaka Castle, the Osaka Aquarium, and to the Okamachi Branch.

Masaaki and Yasuko Iwaki with Barbara and Weldon at Osaka Castle
Ticket to the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyūkan)

In the evening we went to a fireside at Okamachi Ward (in Osaka), where I showed slides of some pages in my web site. Then we returned to the Iwaki home in Kawanishi.

Nishikyōgoku, Kinkakuji, and an Openhouse, July 29

Yasuko drove us to Nishikyōgoku early to attend church. We were able to meet Nick there. Then she drove us to Kyoto to see Kinkakuji and several other places.

Yasuko, Ellsworth Chōrō, Barbara, Weldon, Nick at Kinkakuji, Kyoto
Barbara and Weldon at Kinkakuji, Kyoto
We returned to the Iwaki home and attended an openhouse for a multi-generational family that had built a new house where their old one had been (while living there the entire time). It was a very nick house!

Kyoto, July 30

Today was a busy day in Kyoto with the Iwakis. They drove us to visit:

  • Shugakuin Rikyu (Imperial Villa)
  • Heian Jingu
  • Kyoto Crafts Center
  • Sento Imperial Palace
  • Sanju-sanen-do (where there were are than 1001 statues of Kannon)
  • Kiyomizu-dera
We went to a traditional ryokan to sleep.

Bridge at Shugakuin Imperial Villa (The Photo's date stamp is U.S.A. time)
Weldon and Barbara at Heian Jingu, Kyoto
Our gracious hosts, the Iwakis, at Sento Imperial Palace
A few of the 1001 statues of Kannon in the Sanju-Sangen-do
The final site of the day was Kiyomizu-dera ("Pure water temple")
Barbara loved this koma-inu at Kiyomizu-dera
We spent the night at a Ryokan in Kyoto. The futons took up the entire tatami-mat floor

More Kyoto, July 31

We were wide awake at 4:30 a.m. We phoned the hotel in Nagoya to make reservations for tomorrow night

The Iwakis met us again and took us to the following places:

  • The five-storied pagoda
  • The Gosho—Kyoto Imperial Palace
  • Katsura Rikyu—the Imperial Villa
  • Daitokuji
    • Daisen-in
    • Zuiho-in
  • Kyoto Handicraft Center
We had dinner at Gustos, followed by a visit to English class. We slept at the Iwakis' home

Barbara and Weldon at Kyoto's Gojunoto (五重塔 = Five-stored Pagoda)

Kyoto Imperial Palace (御所 = Gosho = "Honorable Place")

The Kyoto Imperial Palace has been the residence of all emperors except the present one (Emperor Akihito). It is rare for Japanese nationals to get permission to visit the Imperial Palace. This was the Iwakis' first visit—they were able to get permission to visit only because they had foreign guests.

Barbara and Weldon at the Imperial Palace, Kyoto
The Iwakis, our gracious hosts for the trip
The Shodaibu-no-ma (諸大夫の間) hall was a waiting room for official visitors
The Seiryō-den (清涼殿 = "pure refreshing palace) was the Emperor's private residence.
This is the central hall of the Seiryō-den with the imperial seat where the emperor worked and ate
The tour guides were incredible—absolutely proper in white shirt, tie, dark suit in sweltering heat and humidity
The pond-garden in front of the Gosho was open to visitors

Katsura Imperial Villa

Our next stop was Katsura Rikyu. (I had visited the villa during my 1968–71 stay in Japan.)

Daitoku-ji (大徳寺)

Daitoku-ji—"Temple of Great Virtue"—is a Buddhist temple that, one of fourteen autonomous branches of the Rinzai School of Japanese Zen. The complex covers 57 acres in Kyoto. We visited two sub-temples: Daisen-in and Zuiho-in.

Daisen-in (大仙院) is a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji, a temple of the Rinzai school of Zen in Buddhism, one of the five most important Zen temples of Kyoto.

Soen Ozaki, the head priest at Daisen-in, is a well-known author and philosopher
Weldon and Barbara at the Daisen-in rock garden
The Zuihō-in (瑞峯院) monastery was founded by a Buddhist priest/warlord who later converted to Christianity.

Barbara and Weldon by a rock garden in the Zuihō-in (part of Daitoku-ji), Kyoto
In Zuihō-in's back garden, the stones are lined up unobtrusively to form a cross
Zuihō-in's "Mary Lantern." The platform the lantern sits on forms a cross with the vertical lantern and its post. At the base, half covered in the sand, is a carving of St. Mary

Himeji to Nagoya, August 1

We awoke early in Kawanishi. Yasuko drove us to Himeji to see the gardens and castle there.

Himeji Castle is purportedly the largest and only castle to have survived undamaged. (Other castles are reconstructions.)

Barbara and Weldon at Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan
Yasuko dropped us at Himeji Station. We had hoped to be able to use our JR [Japan Rail] Passes to ride all the way to Nagoya, but we had to pay to go to Sannomiya (Kobe), where we caught an express train to Kyoto. We met Nick in Kyoto, then the three of us (Barbara, Nick, and I) took the Hikari bullet train from Kyoto to Nagoya. Nick caught the subway to the mission home, and Barbara and I stayed overnight at the Nagoya Associa Hotel.

Visit to a Lighthouse, August 2

We had visited our first lighthouse in Massachusetts in 1999. Barbara wanted to visit a lighthouse in Japan.

We left the hotel in Nagoya at about 9:00 a.m, took an express train to to Tōba (鳥羽), then a slower train to Ugata (鵜方), then a bus to the Daiōzaki Lighthouse (大王崎灯台).

Barbara with the Daiōzaki Lighthouse in the distance
Cobblestone streets leading to the lighthouse
Daiōzaki Lighthouse from "land side"
Barbara at the entrance to the lighthouse

Top of the lighthouse
The lighthouse controls
Barbara on the balcony at the top of the lighthouse—undeterred by her acrophobia
We returned to the Nagoya Associa Hotel for the night.

Nagoya to Tokyo—with Nick, August 3

At 8:00 a.m. Barbara and I left the Associa Nagoya Terminal Hotel and went to the Nagoya mission home. We met President Whitesides, then left for Tokyo with Nick on the Shinkansen, locating Ikebukuro, where the Sunshine City Prince Hotel is located. Our room wasn't ready, so we visited the Tokyo Temple. We met several Toyonaka and Okamachi members that had been to the fireside last Saturday. Then we headed back to Ikebukuro, had some katsu-curry, then to the hotel and bed.

Barbara, Nick, and Weldon at the Nagoya Mission Home, August 3, 2001
Weldon, Nick, and Barbara at the Tokyo Temple, August 3, 2001

Poking around Tokyo, August 4

Today we visited the Akihabara (electronics) district (geek heaven!) and the Ginza, mostly window shopping and tasting food. We ended up buying a Japanese computer keyboard, the Japanese version of Final Fantasy X, etc. We also went to Shinjuku and enjoyed the Kinokuni-ya Bookstore.

Nick playing a video game at the Sony showroom in the Ginza, Tokyo, August 4
Back at the hotel, we looked out the window and saw the annual neighborhood Obon (お盆) festival taking place 20 stories below. Although we were tired, we went down the elevator to see the dancing firsthand. (The Obon festival honors one's ancestors.) It was taking place on the roof of a 3-story building right next to the Sunshine Hotel.

Sunshine City Obon Odori: Groups of lead dancers took turns on the central platform.
Drummers, ethnic flute, and solo singers provided the music.
Everyone followed the hand motions of the lead dancers.
Most people dancing wore yukatas, but not everyone
It was the 24th year that Sunshine City had sponsored this neighborhood Obon odori
And then ... Barbara joined in. One lady gave Barbara a scarf, and another a fan. They pulled Barbara into the dance.

Blond-haired Barbara, joining the dancing
During dances, Barbara copied their motions; in between dances, they talked.
For the last dance, a woman named Midori took Barbara up onto the stage
Some of the spectators came up to say "good-bye" to Barbara. Then, exhausted, we went back up to our hotel room on the 20th floor and went to bed.

Church, then Nikko, August 5

The three of us attended church at the Tokyo English-speaking Ward. Then we took the Shinkansen to Nikkō (日光). The city of Nikko is at the entrance to Nikko National Park, most famous for Toshogu, Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. (Tokugawa died in 1616.)

At the end of the day we returned to our hotel in Sunshine City.

Here are a few things we saw in Nikko:

One of many ubiquitous koma-inus standing guard throughout the park. This one is in back of the front gate to the park
Sacred stable showing monkey panels. Second panel to the left of the door is the famous picture of "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil."

Barbara and Weldon at the second gate, Nikko

Entrance to burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu

More Tokyo, then back to Nagoya, August 6

Today we checked out of the Sunshine City Prince Hotel, then (briefly leaving our suitcases at the hotel), visited the Maruzen Bookstore, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, and visited a few more places in Sunshine City. One of my favorite places was the Hyaku-en (100 yen) Store—like America's dollar stores.

We caught a train to Tokyo Station, then the Shinkansen back to Nagoya.

We stayed at the Nagoya Associa Hotel one final night.

Nick and Weldon at the Tokyo Hard Rock Cafe
Weldon and Barbara at the Tokyo Hard Rock Cafe

Back to the U.S.A, August 7 (42-hour day!)

Today we took the Shinkansen from Nagoya tot he Shin-Osaka Station, then JR and Hankyū railroads to Okamachi to retrieve 7 suitcases that we needed to take to the U.S.

The three of us and the suitcases made for a very full taxi to Kansai Airport, where we checked our luggage, had lunch, then rode the train to the gate for JAL 60.

The flight left at 5:30 p.m., then—crossing the International Date Line and instantly gaining the 24 hours we had lost coming to Japan—landed in Los Angeles at about 11:00 a.m. the same day (6 1/2 hours before it left Japan). After going through immigration and customs, we waited for our flight home.

Who should we run into at LAX but our across-the-back-fence neighbors the Roberts! They flew home on the same flight we did!

Ramona and Brent Roberts life across our backyard fence. By now you should recognize Nick.
Nick, John, Weldon, Barbara, Missy—home again
We arrived home at about 9:30 p.m. I hit the sack at about 2:00 a.m. Fun trip!