[PLEASE NOTE: To get HWS student Colin Desko’s perspective on this experience, please click the link to the left entitled ‘The Lost Traveler’].

And so ends this, quite frankly, fairly magical trip. I suppose I should sum up my thoughts about it all, and I am willing to do so as long as all concerned realize that what follows comes from the mind of a person who has little actual in-depth experience with ‘Japonica’. I am merely giving my first impressions here, and though first impressions have their obvious flaws, they shouldn’t be completely dismissed, either. I have seen and experienced a great deal, and one immediate thought that comes to mind is pretty obvious: Wow, Japan and the US are culturally quite distinct. It’s not that we’re utterly alien to each other, it’s just that our individual cultural twists have headed us in different directions (and as any mathematician or physicist can tell you, over time a tiny vector divergence can become much much bigger). Japan is more dependent upon the ocean than we are, so its food and the culture surrounding its food is different; Japan is more communally focused than we are (we are raging individualists by comparison), so their personal and social goals are different; there is an attention to detail, an insistence that everything has its beauty (and that this beauty must be appreciated), and at the same time a love of the simple, efficient, natural, and minimal, that blends together to create an identifiably Japanese aesthetic. The US ‘aesthetic’, by comparison, tends to emphasize size, glitz and complexity. The Japanese have a respect for the past built into their philosophical framework (Shinto, for example, focuses on ancestors) that acts somewhat as an anchor on their equally-as-developed love for new technology and gadgetry, whereas the US is almost entirely future- and technology-focused; Japan’s population is jammed onto an island that is largely mountainous, thereby causing the population centers to cluster around the coasts, which creates space constraints the US simply does not have (yet).

Combine the space constraints and their minimalist, naturalist, efficiency-oriented aesthetic with a more communally-focused social expectation and a dash of technology, toss in a few ancient Temples adjacent to districts devoted to computerized knick-knacks (especially wind-up sushi) and you get a Japanese city. Earthquakes are optional.

(And, incidentally, there was an earthquake while we were in Tokyo. On Sunday, June 13th, c. 12:40 pm, an earthquake (apparently c. 5.0 – 5.5 on the Richter scale, or so I heard) hit Tokyo. I did not notice it, as I was busy with a Tea Ceremony at Hama Rikyu Teien. But it happened).

But to return to my musing: Japan is pretty clearly undergoing the same sorts of tumultuous shifts we all are. Along with the rest of the world, their economy has taken a down-turn, and I’m sure this is causing a lot of people to take new stock in what they value. And in spite of what appears to be a more ‘traditional’ philosophical focus in their culture, the Japanese we encountered also felt that more and more Japanese were drifting away from an appreciation of traditional Japanese culture (e.g., the Kabuki performance we saw was geared towards ‘beginners’, the Shamisen performance we saw with Matt Rollo included, well, Matt Rollo, a Canadian. His duet partner is a traditional Shamisen teacher who has made it her goal to teach only non-Japanese as a bid to make sure Shamisen does not disappear from the alleged ‘neglect’ it suffers within Japanese culture). So, Japan, like any other country, is full of internal contradictions.

And, yes, the Japanese are renowned hosts for very good reason. As foreign guests we were the recipients of outstanding hospitality. Some other subtle details we noticed as we experienced this hospitality were: At breakfast, the buffet was ‘manned’ by a group of people who were constantly keeping everything refreshed. Likewise, the hotel desk had a whole group of people, presumably so that even as they attended to immediate hotel business, someone would still be available to help out should a guest appear. Everywhere we went there were ‘multiple individuals at hand’ where we (in the US) would use one person or no-one. On top of this, there was no tipping and – apparently – an arcane taxation system. We pondered what this meant in terms of employment and unemployment, public services, etc., and what the standard of living might be in Japan (despite Japan’s reputation for technology and shopping, the average Japanese person we met seemed to ‘possess’ far less than the average American seems to).

But this insistence that all business sites have ‘multiple’ helpers had a more practical result, too: We always knew exactly what we were expected to do, and there was always someone available to try to help with any questions or problems. And help they did: if you had a question or a request, your interlocutor would not stop trying to help you until your need was met. Literally, people would physically lead you to your train, or wander the streets with you until a certain store or item was found, or in one case, I watched a Shinto nun (?) ransack her office trying to find an English brochure that one of my colleagues requested. The nun not only took her whole office apart, but called in several other nuns and monks to help. We tried to tell them it was all right, not to worry, but they would hear none of it, they kept on looking. And when, 20 minutes later, they concluded they had no more English brochures, they came out to apologize profusely. This cultural trait is both nice and, upon reflection, perhaps a little disturbing (should you ponder its potential misty origins — perhaps, once upon a time, it was dangerous not to try?).

As a Classicist, I definitely appreciated the culture’s routine blend of ancient and modern, as well as the frequent punning that seemed to crop up in their language — especially in relation to the Chinese origins of Japanese writing. It seems as if every significant site or concept has multiple ways of being expressed, since the same writing system has different pronunciations (depending upon whether a Chinese or Japanese reader is involved). It seems as if there is always a series of ‘layered’ folk etymologies or puns associated with the different readings. And I was given much to think about when it came to my brief exposure to Kabuki. Having seen how effective Kabuki’s traditional (and none-too-technological) techniques can be, I am now especially suspicious about how an ancient Greek tragedy (or comedy) might have worked and how much we are truly missing (and keep in mind, I always knew we were missing a great deal). I am also increasingly intrigued by the professionalism associated with onnagata, the male actors of female Kabuki characters. I wonder if there is any evidence for that sort of specialization in ancient Greece? We know so little about the actors in Greek tragedy; still, given what little evidence we do have, if we look at it ‘differently’, i.e., seek out patterns of who played what for whom, maybe we could find something. (To be fair, others who specialize in Greek Tragedy may already have done this (though I don’t recall hearing about this sort of work). My own specialization in Tragedy has more to do with language and imagery than the practicalities of stage production).

And though I never really got a chance to pursue any sort of extended interviews regarding the modern Japanese approach towards their martial arts and their martial heritage, what little I did see suggested that, like many modern people in the US or Europe, the majority of Japanese have limited interaction with this part of their past (although the Japanese more obviously respect those who excel at the martial arts than we do. In my experience, you can get quite a mixed reaction in the US to the announcement of an interest in ancient martial practice. Although recently I have been seeing more and more enthusiasm for such announcements, there is definitely still a mixed reaction amongst a lot of US folks, who sometimes view the martial arts as ‘violence’, ‘a silly hobby with no ties to the intellect’, ‘militaristic’, or ‘something that men do, not women’).

So, these are my thoughts. They are NOT to be taken as ‘expert’, just impressionistic. Also, nothing I have said is intended as a positive or a negative for either Japan or the US, I’m just trying to be descriptive. (Although I readily confess, as an antiquities professor, I do think the US needs a serious lecture or two about heeding lessons learned from the past).

Oh yeah, and, apparently, I’m wildly allergic to Ginkgo trees. Who would have known? I mean, I THOUGHT it was impossible to be allergic to Ginkgo trees. So, my histamine system cannot tolerate the reproductive activity of prehistoric flora. Why am I not surprised?

I would like to conclude with a picture, one that demonstrates how Japan can be simultaneously exhilarating and confusing (in a good way). Please ponder the picture closely. I would say ‘Quiz Tomorrow’, but this is my final entry (at least relating to the trip itself. I will continue to add bits here and there as necessary, depending upon responses I may get). So, no quiz tomorrow. Just enjoy, and use it as your beacon, your reason why you simply must visit Japan. Ciao for now…………..Leah.

Nothing shouts 'Welcome to Japan' like a 7-Eleven Convenience store cooler!


After our lovely tour of the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architecture Museum, we returned to the hotel to enact our ‘plot’ of a Thank You to Mr. Tanaka, whose generosity obviously knows no bounds. Since we figured Mr. Tanaka had, well, everything, we figured we would write him a note of thanks, not only expressing gratitude for his hospitality, but also assuring him that his goal of creating bridges between Japan and the rest of the world was an unqualified success (from our perspective); that we had all been profoundly moved by our experiences in Japan, and that we would never forget Japan or his kindness. We also gave him a photograph of the Faculty representatives from the 2010 International Week.

A gaggle of grateful Faculty (Technos International Week 2010)

From there we went to our farewell dinner with the Technos Faculty and Staff where, needless to say, we had another amazing Japanese feast. A boisterous time was had by all (and, incidentally, the faculty on this trip decided that few people we met in Japan could rival Mitsunari Sakomoto’s ‘Kampai!’ when it came time to toast each other. The man positively draws the energy for his shout from his hara). It was an interesting gathering, we all knew each other a little better so the conversations had a little more depth, but mostly it was a bittersweet affair: We were so grateful for all we had experienced, but we were also ready to return to our lives at home; we felt as if we were only just getting to know the Faculty and Staff at Technos, and we were discovering how much we liked them, but it was time to leave; and we all made arrangements to meet again at various times and in various ways. This sort of conversation eventually began to dominate the meal as it came to a close.

Several faculty left from dinner with Matt Rollo to sing karaoke, and I saw the results the next day (some faculty were less kempt than others, and for some reason, they seemed to dislike the light, loud noises, or food). I wimped out on that one; it sounds like it was a great deal of fun, but it also sounds as if it required types of stamina I simply do not possess. But you get the idea: We all got along really well, which was a very good thing.

The next day (Day 13) we checked out of the hotel and roamed about for a few hours before going to Technos for a farewell party. Several of us went to Fuchu, the section of Tokyo one stop away from us on the subway. Fuchu is a beautiful area to wander. But it is also the site of one of Japan’s ‘top 5 most important’ Shinto Shrines (which we did not know until we stumbled upon it. Its importance was confirmed by the knowledgeable members of our group, so, lucky moment there!).

Okunitama-jinja Shrine, Fuchu, dedicated to the major Shinto god Okuninushi, guardian of the Musashi region.

After wandering about for a bit we headed to Technos campus where the students gave us a phenomenal send-off party. The proceedings began with a thank you speech by Mr. Tanaka, who personally gave each of the visiting students a Technos certificate (the visiting students had to attend classes, etc.). Then each of the visiting students was given a little time to talk about what they had learned during their stay. After this, the visiting faculty had Annette Sachtleben from AUT represent them in a speech of thanks. Then, we had a ‘show’, beginning with a short Animé clip (made by the Technos students and voiced over by the visiting students in Japanese, so pat yourselves on the backs, guys!). Then, some students from the English program at Technos put on a dance show. Three young men did some rather acrobatic break dancing, then a full squad of young women did a high-energy group dance (reminiscent of cheer-leading squads in the US, but not quite the same, obviously) to a very high energy tune. We were later informed that the dance style they presented to us is very Japanese, but I was not given a name (and trying to look it up on the Internet has brought me to some unsavory spots, so I’m not trying to find it again for a while). At any rate, we were all speechless after that performance, it seemed well beyond amateur and into the near- (if not outright) professional zone of performance. All we could say is, those English students could dance.

After the dance show, some students came out to sing ‘We Are the World’ (Karaoke style, of course) to the audience (they tried to get the audience to join them, which some did). As this song ended, we were introduced to a table covered in Japanese snack items (the sorts of snacks that all Japanese had as kids that they knew we were unlikely to have been exposed to). It was a very sweet farewell, both literally and figuratively. Everyone then went outside into the rain to have a group photograph (I kept insisting to my colleagues that it was pathetic fallacy as Japan mourned our departure. Then again, it is the rainy season, so it could be said the place had been weeping from the moment we arrived, so we won’t visit our figura literaria for very long). We then got onto our bus for the Narita Port Hotel, with a brief stop in Ueno for dinner, before we checked in to prepare for our flights out of Japan the next day.

Moving from Jindai-ji, we headed to the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architecture Museum in Koganei Park. Most of the buildings are from the Meiji period (c. 1868 – 1912), but there is the occasional building from an earlier or slightly later period. This park is literally what it sounds like: A large park filled with buildings. All of the buildings in question are authentic, as in, once the building was deemed of historic significance, it was literally transferred to the park (from wherever it may have been originally), rebuilt and filled with appropriate items. So, if a stationery shop were transferred (and there was one from the Meiji period in Tokyo), it was filled with what a stationery shop would have had in the era in which the shop was open. The park contains farm houses, the home of Prime Minister Takahashi Korekiyo (Prime Minister from 1921-22), a home from the Matsui family (Japan’s equivalent to the USA’s ‘Rockefeller’ family), a photography shop, some period trams, and even a reconstructed city street (a street in Tokyo during the Meiji period). And as I mentioned in the last post, you do get to walk into the buildings to see the interiors. In the case of the Prime Minister’s home and the Matsui home, both homes were donated along with much of their original decoration and furnishing, so you actually get to see what their homes would have looked like when they were used as homes. This park is quite large and it was pretty hot out, so should you ever get a chance to visit this intriguing site, be prepared for a tiring (but worthwhile) trek.

The entrance (and Visitor's Center) to the Open Air Museum (once the 'Kokaden Palace' before being gifted to the Museum).

The former residence of Takahashi Korekiyo, Prime Minister of Japan from 1921-22. His house blends Eastern and Western styles (in particular, the size of the house and its rooms qualifies as Western more than Eastern).

Takahashi Korekiyo's home: A typical room in the Tokyo region is the size of 6 tatami mats (Tokyo tatami are roughly 2 x 6 ft. each) arranged in an 'auspicious' pattern (roughly squarish, and creating a room roughly 8 x 8 ft. Please don't check my math). This room is much larger than that.

Takahashi Korekiyo's residence.

Takahashi Korekiyo's residence.

Takahashi Korekiyo's residence.

Takahashi Korekiyo's residence.

A Meiji period farmhouse (from a wealthy farm, the Tenmyo Family).

The Tenmyo farmhouse's back gate.

The Tenmyo farmhouse interior (and hearth).

A 'typical' Tokyo street during the Meiji period.

A Meiji period florist's shop (Hanaichi Flower Shop) and adjoining alleyway.

A Meiji period parasol maker's shop (Kawano Oil-Paper Umbrella Wholesale Store).

A Meiji period public bath house (Kodakara-yu).

Bath house interior: The women's side.

Bath house interior: The men's side (with Mt. Fuji. How, um, predictable?).

Bath house interior: Floor shot (complete with little girl traipsing along).

A Meiji period sake bar (Bar 'Kagiya'). (Now we're talkin').

Sake bar interior.

Sake bar interior.

The Matsui family residence.

The Matsui residence.

Matsui interior: Bedroom with adjoining bathroom (Western style).

Matsui interior: Dining Room (with opening to Salon on left).

Matsui interior: Hallway outside of Dining Room (leading to Salon, on left, and corner sun room at the hall's end on right).

Matsui interior: Salon (with opening to Dining Room on left).

Matsui interior: Corner room (a sun room?).

Matsui interior: Corner room (sun room?).

Matsui interior: Rock garden.

Another Meiji period farmhouse (The Tsunashima Family).

The Tsunashima farmhouse roof from inside.

This morning we drove by car to the Tokyo suburb of Chofu where you can find the sanctuary of Jindai-ji. Built c. 733 CE, Jindai-ji houses a bronze statue of the Buddha Shaka Nyorai (it’s a temple of the Tendai sect), and is the second oldest temple in Tokyo (after Senso-ji in Asakusa, which was built c. 645 CE). This area is literally a time capsule, a village in the midst of a tiny, preserved forest or park. You would never know this area was in Tokyo, nor, if you are in the sanctuary, do you sense Tokyo surrounding you. It’s really beautiful and quite remarkable. Following our visit to the temple, we were taken to a pottery shop (within the sanctuary) where we were allowed to paint our own piece then have it fired in the kiln to take home. (I made a fabulous mug). We also had lunch at Jindai-ji, which is famous for its soba noodles (and, again, though I never considered myself a fan of soba, once more I had an outstanding soba-based meal. Clearly, it’s not soba that I dislike, just poorly made soba). I read this sanctuary is also famous for its beer, though we did not get a chance to try that (which is not a complaint, mind you, just an advisory for anyone who may want to know). After we ate lunch and recovered our kilned masterpieces, we went to the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei Park, a simply stunning concept, in which a large space was reserved for significant buildings to be transferred to the site and placed there for guests to see (both inside and out). It’s a large space, but we managed to visit quite a few of the structures, which ranged from period houses or farmhouses (one of which was the home to a Prime Minister, and another of which was home to the Japanese equivalent of our ‘Rockefellers’, the Matsui family), to the recreation of a Tokyo street during the Meiji period (at the end of the 19th century). Needless to say, this park/museum was astounding.

The Jindai-ji sanctuary is amazing, plain and simple. It’s beautiful and serene. And the Temple itself is a stunning example of master woodworking. Of all the Temples I saw during this trip, the woodwork on this temple struck me as being especially noteworthy. Perhaps it is because Jindai-ji’s woodwork was not painted (I readily confess to preferring the natural color of wood over any paint job, no matter how beautiful). Whatever the reason, I felt the carving on this temple was particularly well done. But we had another surprise in store when we entered Jindai-ji – the monk gave us permission to photograph the altar and sacred space. In my limited experience, this was unusual and I am guessing that our good fortune had to do with Mr. Tanaka’s influence. So, I do have some detailed photos of the space inside Jindai-ji, thanks to the monks there and to Mr. Tanaka. (I have chosen to post only a few of the photos I took (out of respect), but I will make the rest available to participants of Technos International Week and HWS faculty and staff).

After our visit to the Temple proper we went to a pottery shop and demonstrated why it is never a good idea to ask faculty to choose and paint a design on a piece of pottery. (Oh, wait, did I say that out loud? What I meant was: We were hardly obsessive at all. Really). But in all seriousness, we had a great time playing with paint and enamel, and one of our number made us very proud as he painted a design on a bowl that caught the eye of the experts in the shop (Steve Nelson from Hope College – a man who obviously earned his MFA honestly). From there we went to a soba shop for lunch (where I had an excellent bowl of hot soba with tempura), before departing Jindai-ji sanctuary. Next stop, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei Park, but that description will appear in ‘Day 12 (pt. 2)’.

The cobbled main avenue of the Jindai-ji sanctuary.

We enter the grounds of Jindai-ji.


A close up of the woodcarving over Jindai-ji's front entrance.

Another close up of the wood carving...

...and another...

...and another.

A rare glimpse of a Buddhist altar and its surroundings. (Thank you to the monks of Jindai-ji and (presumably) Mr. Tanaka).

The drum and gong of Jindai-ji's altar room.

The front courtyard of Jindai-ji (as seen from its altar room).

The corner soba-shop at which we will dine for lunch.

The water-wheel outside the window of our soba lunch spot.

Following our visit to Hase-dera, we walked to the final site of our day trip, Kotoku-in Temple, home to the Daibutsu (‘Giant Buddha’), a 13 meter tall, hollow statue (made of bronze sheets riveted together). The Daibutsu was finished in 1252 and represents Amida Nyorai (the Buddha-to-be of ‘Western Paradise’, or ‘Buddha of Infinite Light/Life’). It was built to compete with a giant Buddha statue in Nara. Now, I did not see the giant Buddha in Nara, but I assured our guide that the Daibutsu in Kamakura was almost certainly way cooler than the statue in Nara. Otherwise, to be honest, while we were at Kotoku-in, the Temple itself did not attract our attention. It was ‘all Buddha all the time’, bay-bee. We even went inside the Buddha (which you can do for 20 yen). And, unsurprisingly, it is very hot inside a bronze Buddha on a sweltering day. So, to all of you who were wondering, ‘Gosh, is going inside a hollow metal statue – and essentially encasing yourself in bronze – a wise idea on a boiling hot and humid day in the tropical isle of Japan?’, I would reply: ‘After personal experimentation and consultation with experts in both meteorological phenomena and metallurgy, I can conclusively assert: No, it’s not a wise idea. But it’s definitely a metaphorically cool idea, even if it is a literally uncool one’. Finally, while I was in Kamakura, I tried the local cider, which was very tasty (and, might I add, my decision to try the cider made our guide VERY happy. He was an enthusiastic supporter of every decision our group made).

All in all, our day trip to Kamakura was outstanding, one of the best days of a quite wonderful trip. It certainly hit all of my ‘cultural’ buttons (as a Classicist with an archaeological background and a penchant for anthropological/historical readings of ancient literature). And I should probably also mention at this time (to those of you who do not know me as well) that my light-hearted approach towards the Daibutsu (in the photograph captions below) is not meant to be insulting or demeaning. Rather, my humor here strongly indicates how very much I enjoyed viewing the artifact in question. In short, it’s giddiness before something I really admire and enjoy, not dismissive humor.

At any rate, after our lovely visit to Kotoku-in and the Daibutsu, we got onto our bus and rode back to Tokyo. And so ended an eventful ‘Day 11’.

We approach the Daibutsu.

Such a mellow dude.

A close-up.

A close up of his hands.

Getting closer.

Moving towards the Daibutsu's back.


Circling the Buddha, getting closer still...

Y'pays yer 20 yen, y'gets to go inside. (That's Joe McKay's back - Joe McKay of SUNY Purchase, pronounced 'Mc-KIE (as in 'pie'). This one's for you, Joe!).

Up we go, into the belly of the Buddha.


...Buddha up...

...Buddha-head (close up)...

...Buddha front...

...Buddha shoulder/side...

...Buddha down...

...back away from the Buddha...

...we'll be comin' 'round the Buddha...

...to come full circle, back where we started. (Buddha takes a bow).

After a fantastic viewing of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, we traveled by bus to the outskirts of Kamakura. There, we had lunch before viewing the second-to-last site on our itinerary for the day: Hasedera Temple (with sites dedicated to Buddha and Kannon, the goddess of mercy). I will cover the final site, Kotoku-in Temple (site of the Daibutsu, or ‘Giant Buddha’), in Day 11 (pt. 3).

Yes, I’m discussing lunch. Yes, I’m a hard-core foodie, and yes I do happen to like a good meal. But we had one of our better meals at our Kamakura lunch spot (and that is saying something). We had a lovely lunch at ‘Ajitei’, a delight to the eyes and the tastebuds.

Still another beautifully presented meal, this time at Ajitei in Kamakura.

A beautiful view as we dine at Ajitei.

Following lunch, we walked to Hase-dera, the hillside temple to Buddha and Kannon. This temple houses the famed ‘Kamakura Kannon’, who was carved from a camphor tree c. 721 CE (which makes her 5 centuries older than the Daibutsu, which we will see later). Kamakura Kannon is just over 9 meters tall and covered in gold leaf (which was added c. 14th c. CE). Of course, it is forbidden to take photographs within the Temple itself, so I have no images of her. But believe me when I say that she is a beautiful carving, and somewhat awe-inspiring.

While we were visiting Hase-dera, we were fortunate enough to be there during the high season for viewing Hydrangeas (which is one reason why the temple complex was so very crowded). At the base of the hillside you are welcomed by floating irises (literally floating, they plant them on square platforms that they set adrift in ponds), and as you climb to the temples housing Buddha and Kannon, you begin to see Hydrangea blooming everywhere. The hillside behind the Temple was absolutely covered with Hydrangea. At this point I must make a confession. We had limited time, so I had to choose between going uphill to find a wall of Hydrangea, or downhill to see a cave shrine to the goddess Benten (a goddess of fortune, music, and water (how Indo-European of her!) imported from India by way of China, c. 6th – 8th c. CE). I went downhill to see the cave shrine of the goddess Benten. I do know, however, that several of my companions got some photos of the Hydrangeas, so I will try to get some copies from them. (Yes, I’m totally predictable: Hmmm, flowers or cave shrine? Ah, the light, it burns…go to the cave shrine!).

At the cave shrine I discovered that it’s ok to take photos, so I am including a few of the more interesting images we saw inside. As we left the cave shrine, there was a board to the right covered with wishes left for Benten to fulfill. One poor schmuck left a wish asking that the Chicago Cubs might win the World Series before she died. I fear, however, that not even Benten can help the Cubs.

The gate to Hase-dera.

Floating irises at Hase-dera.

More floating irises at Hase-dera.

The building housing the 'Kamakura Kannon'.

'Tis the season for Hydrangea at Hase-dera.

The view from Hase-dera's hillside (next to the main shrine).

A view of the shore from Hase-dera.

Yet another scenic flower moment as I slither downhill towards the Benten shrine.

The Benten shrine just before the cave entrance.

The entrance to Benten's cave shrine.

The first (and main?) cave in the Benten shrine.

A row of images for Benten's 16 children/disciples.

A musical, Apollo-like child/disciple.

A bow-wielding, Artemis-like child/disciple.

Go through this low passage to see...

A sword-wielding child/disciple of Benten.


We just came through the left passage (Benten is behind us), let us now go to the right.

As we go down the right passage, we see the formal Benten shrine to our right.

And we emerge into the light (ah, it burns...).

In re the Cubs: Yeah. That's not gonna happen.

Today we took a day trip to Kamakura, a city about 2 hours south of Tokyo by coach. In the late 12th century CE, after their victory over the Taira clan, the Minamoto clan moved the country’s capital to Kamakura and established a militarized bakufu government (‘tent government’). Kamakura was the capital until c. 1333, when Emperor Go-Daigo reclaimed power and moved the capital back to Kyoto. And as a former capital of Japan (during tumultuous times), Kamakura has many different monuments. We visited a Shinto shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu (a shrine dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war, and the ‘guardian shrine’ for the Minamoto clan), Hase-dera (a hillside complex dedicated to Buddha and the goddess of mercy, Kannon), then to the Buddhist temple Kotoku-in to see the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha.

Kamakura is simply an amazing town. Because of Japan’s omnipresent mountainous terrain, it’s hilly and beautiful in that regard, yet it’s also near the shore. And though I only must have seen a small section of Kamakura, still, the town seemed ‘cozy’, as in, a place where you could get around by simply walking along narrow streets from place to place. (Again, I realize how limited my exposure to the place was, but that really was my initial impression).

Our first stop was Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu. When we reached the site, we were surrounded by tree- and bamboo-covered hillsides. And though there was a modern street leading right up to the shrine’s main entry, again, it was not a majorly wide or bustling street; it was divided by a beautiful center barrier (with trees and a walkway), and on either side of that barrier, there was not a lot of commotion. The day was very hot, humid, and full of glare, so I must apologize for some of the lighting in my photos. Also, incidentally, because this shrine is dedicated to the god of war, I purchased some good luck charms for my daughter and myself (yes, I’m a weirdo). It was also a remarkably beautiful spot, so you’ll have to endure a lot of photos.

My advertising slogan for Kamakura: Kamakura, so cozy it's positively Amish!

The modern street leading up to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu (which is behind me).

The approach to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu. Note the 'hump' bridge, which was designed by Minamoto Yoritomo's wife (Hojo Masako) as an 'offering' for her husband's eventual victory over the Taira clan.

Another view past the bridge.

We walk down the avenue to the shrine.

Mai-den, the stage in front of the steps leading up to the shrine itself.

A close up of Mai-den's ornamentation.

Another close up of Mai-den's ornamentation.

Yet another close up of Mai-den's ornamentation.

Invincible: This ginko stump (to the left of the stairs to the main shrine) is over 1000 years old. It stood intact as a full tree until March 2010, when a typhoon snapped its trunk. To everyone's relief, however, the stump has recently sprouted shoots.

The steps up to the main shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.

The front of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.

The 'right wing' of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.

Cool roof eaves on Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.

The 'left wing' of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.

To the left of the main shrine, go up the stairs to a tiny shrine - the Maruyama Inari shrine?

The Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine from the hilltop Maruyama Inari Shinto shrine.

The Maruyama Inari shrine next to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu.

Hachiman (or 'The best Hachiman shot I could get quickly in the glare' because that shrine was BUSY).

A view of Mai-den from the steps to the main shrine.

Sake and beer offerings.

The ginko stump and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, as seen from the sake offerings.

Today, we visited Tokyo Tower (a copy of the Eiffel Tower that is 333 meters tall – 33 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower AND painted red and white. Take that, Paris), then took a quick walk to Asakusa, home of the Kaminari-mon (Thunder) Gate and Senso-ji Temple.

We got up bright and early to meet Mitsunari at the Hotel before taking a subway to Tokyo Tower. The Tower itself is, well, tall and brightly painted. And though one might ask, ‘What’s the big deal about a tower?’ – still, the visit was great. We went all the way to the tippy top and got some nice pictures of various spots in Tokyo. And it’s a tower. Towers are always fun. But pictures will do more justice to this landmark than a written description, so I defer to the primacy of the image.

From there we walked to Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Temple (built c. 645 CE). It is located in the heart of Asakusa (a major shopping district). The road leading up to the Temple begins at the Kaminari-mon (famous for its giant red lantern, among other things). As you walk up this road, you are flanked on either side by crowded market stalls (filled with souvenirs and other items). Apparently, this road has been a major market space for as long as the Temple has stood. Once you reach the end of this road, you see the Hozo-mon, the gate guarding the front courtyard of Senso-ji. Sadly, however, Senso-ji itself was under construction, so we did not get to see it. Still, the grounds surrounding Senso-ji are beautiful and well worth wandering. After this full day, we returned to the Hotel to prepare for our trip to Kamakura, tomorrow (Day 11).

Tokyo Tower in all of its splendiferous glory. (It's red and white).

The final approach to Tokyo Tower.

Yup. It's a tower all right. Tokyo Tower.

The 'look down window' in Tokyo Tower.

The view down the 'look down window'. Cooooool.

The Rainbow Bridge from Tokyo Tower.

Hello Kitty Mecca (or Buddha?): A Hello Kitty shop in Tokyo Tower. (Why no, I'm not obsessed).

As we make our way to Senso-ji, we spy a mini-van cum lunch cart on the street.

The Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate) leading to Senso-ji Temple.

Through the Kaminari-mon - Behold Nakamise-dori, a street full of merchant stalls.


Nakamise-dori leads to Hozo-mon, the gate marking the front courtyard of Senso-ji.

The part of the Hozo-mon that faces Senso-ji temple (note the giant sandals). Sadly, Senso-ji itself was under construction, so it was not visible from the outside.

All I could see of Senso-ji.

The Pagoda next to Senso-ji (for Buddhist practitioners to meditate in).

Today the visiting faculty gave lectures to different classes of Technos students. I gave a lecture on ancient Greek pottery to a combined group of architecture and interior design students. The lecture itself was 35 minutes long and there were some questions afterwards, but it was hard to tell how effective it was (since it was given in a foreign language (with a translator, thankfully), on a rather foreign subject, to non-liberal arts students from a culture whose ‘teacher-to-student’ classroom dynamic is unknown to me (as in, how animated are they typically? How do they react to a professor asking them questions during the lecture? Etc.). I think it went well, anyhow. Since this lecture was in the middle of the day, I did not do much before it other than prepare, and I spent the rest of the day up-dating my blog (trying to make up for those days at Midori no Mura without internet connections) then visiting a 100-yen store to gather tiny ‘objets d’art’ for all and sundry. (And, might I add, a Japanese 100-yen store is a thing of ‘hello Kitty’ beauty). And so went Day 9 of the Technos trip (at least for me).

Following our lovely morning at the Tsukiji festival, we took a quick look at Tsukiji Hongan-ji, a large, rather Indian-looking Buddhist Temple (sorry, no memorable pictures from this site, since the outside is less stunning than the inside (which I politely did not photograph)). From there, we decided to visit Tsukiji’s local park Hama Rikyu Teien, once a duck-hunting preserve for the shogunate, and now a public garden. This garden is beautiful and interesting in its own right (especially because the various ponds, etc. are linked to nearby Tokyo Bay, so they rise and fall with the tide, allowing us to see interesting flora and fauna). But it also has a well-known floating teahouse, Nakajima-no-Chaya, on its largest pond. You gain access to this teahouse by crossing a trellis-covered bridge. And, needless to say, it’s quite beautiful. Following our lovely mini-tea ceremony, we took the Asakusa ferry to Ueno so that we could visit the Tokyo National Museum.

As we enter Hama Rikyu Teien, a portent manifests itself: A fabulous pink Hello Kitty bus tells us all will be well as we wander the garden. All hail Hello Kitty!

As you enter Hama Rikyu Teien, to the left you will see this garden's oldest pine tree (over 300 years old).

One of the floodgates which regulate the sea water supplying Hama Rikyu Teien's ponds and canals.

A canal at low tide in Hama Rikyu Teien. (Note the city in the background).

Annette Sachtleben (from AUT in New Zealand) and Mitsunari Sakomoto (our intrepid leader) fearlessly approach a giant, man-eating aloe plant as they seek the shelter beyond.

We take a break in Hama Rikyu Teien beneath a beautifully constructed shelter.

Nakajima-no-Chaya, the floating teahouse in Hama Rikyu Teien.

The view from our seat at Nakajima-no-Chaya, the floating teahouse.

The view behind us of Nakajima-No-Chaya, the floating teahouse.

Our confection and matcha (specially prepared powdered green tea for tea-ceremony) at Nakajima-No-Chaya.

The Teahouse Party: (from left) Mitsunari Sakomoto, Leah Himmelhoch (missing - who do you think is taking the photo?), Janet Wicker (McKendree U), Ilaria Ossella-Durbal (Illinois Wesleyan), Brian Rogers (Pembroke College, Oxford - also missing, as he takes a photo to my right), Madalene Spezialetti (Trinity), and Annette Sachtleben (AUT)).

Hama Rikyu Teien is a stunning park, so rather than ‘narrate’ it, I’ll let some pictures do the talking, instead. But I would also like to describe our mini tea-ceremony at Nakajima-No-Chaya (and I do mean ‘mini’, so all you afficcionados out there, don’t get your hopes up). Here is what I recall. We cut our confection into four pieces then ate those pieces first. We then picked up the tea-cup and held it in the flat of our right hand (with an enamel design facing us), and turned it once clockwise 90 degrees (with our left hand), then again clockwise 90 degrees, until the enamel design was visible on the side of the cup opposite us. We then drank the tea in 3-4 sips, making sure to leave no foam within the cup.

After tea, we went down to the dock to catch the Asakusa Ferry, which took us to Asakusa (no surprise there), where we caught a train to Ueno. Within Ueno park is the Tokyo National Museum, the goal of this particular journey. The park itself is huge, a home to several National Museums and the Ueno Zoo. The Tokyo National Museum, however, essentially covers the history of Japan itself, so that was everyone’s goal. In particular, I wanted to see some Jomon pottery (bronze age Japanese pottery decorated with rope marks (or jomon, for which the style is named)), dogu (bronze-age, fired clay sculptures reminiscent of the steatopygous figurines found throughout Neolithic Europe and Asia), and, of course, the sword collection. My needs were quite satisfied. The Museum is filled with remarkable examples of pottery (from the Bronze age until the 20th century), dogu, swords and sword fittings, armor, kimonos, scrolls, wall-hangings, No costume and No masks (one of my favorite displays), and, to my surprise, some Cypriot geometric pottery (yes, dark age Greek pottery) that had been donated by a wealthy family. Go figure. Following this enthralling visit to the Museum (and a very long day of walking about), we all returned to our hotel to absorb the day’s events. And so ended ‘Day 8’.

A close-up of the Teahouse.

Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge (as seen from the Asakusa Ferry).

A close shave: This bridge is so low that the ferry boat's staff came up to make sure we all sat down as the ferry traveled beneath.

The Asahi Beer Corporation's headquarters: A building designed to look like a mug of beer with some sort of blorty golden thingy next to it. None of us could begin to guess what the golden thing might be, but we all agreed we feared it.

Animé lives! The waterbus Himiko, designed by Leiji Matsumoto, the manga animator perhaps best known for the series Space Battleship Yamato, Captain Harlock, and Galaxy Express 999.

En route to Tokyo National Museum: In Ueno Park, we see the giant whale outside the Tokyo Museum of Science and Natural History.