Monday, November 30, 2009

Japan - the 21st century

Nov. 20, 2009
6 AM
Writing with a hazy sunrise view of Mt. Fuji on our port side - worth the early morning wake-up indeed. With two hours left to travel up the waterway to the port in Yokohama, there are already signs of industry all around, both on the shore and at sea. Half the population of the US crammed into a country the size of California, and much of that mountains. And I've been thinking California has too many people! But even with all those smokestacks and port cranes in the way, Fuji's a beautiful sight. Reminds me of Mt. Rainier.
Japan, which I think of as hyper-modern, heartily embracing the future of civilization, or, at least, one version of that future. We'll see how that impression is confirmed or not.

Later the same day

Experiencing a new culture and country is so much more fun if you have an "in" - Kevin and I go WAY back (I think he graduated from Evergreen around '86), and he's lived in Japan for about 20 years now, marrying a lovely woman named Ayumi about four years ago. The two of them bought a house in Chigasaki, located not far south of Yokohama on the coast, in a popular surfing area - Ayumi surfs!

Kathleen and I are having SO much fun already. After meeting up with Kevin in Yokohama, we took the train directly to Kamakura. The first order of business was lunch in a tiny restaurant recommended by Ayumi, after which, suitably fortified, we headed to one of the city's many Shinto shrines and then the Hase-Dera Temple. Things we're learning - Shinto has shrines, Buddha has temples. Sake is blessed in Shinto shrines. The impressive large wooden structures are built with no nails. You can buy little white strips of paper with fortunes on them - if you get a bad fortune (which happens often, I hear), you can tie it up and hope the gods see fit to change it.
If you get a good fortune, you can keep it if you like. There are also wooden pieces for sale on which you can write your own wish and tie it up at the temple. We saw one specifically directed to SAS - that was sweet!

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