Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

I'm back from Japan, physically and spiritually refreshed, ready to embrace my jobs , my blogging, and my outdoor activities with new vigor.

In previous years, my vacations have been about movement - hiking the John Muir trail, climbing in Yosemite, and exploring the outdoors with my family.

This year's trip to Japan was about people. My family and I had remarkable experiences that were not about traveling to every tourist spot, taking a few photographs, then shuttling to the next location. Instead, we based our ourselves in Kyoto for 2 weeks and in the Inland Sea (Miyajima) for 3 days, spending time with shopkeepers, craftsman and friends. Here a few examples:

We had the opportunity to spend a few hours with the President of Shoyeido Incense, Masataka Hata, the 12th generation leader of the company. He led us in a traditional Japanese incense ceremony (Koh-do), teaching us the details of refined arts from the 1600's.

We had the opportunity to meet with the owner of Horaido Tea, Nagahiro Yasumori, whose family has sold tea in Kyoto since 1803. He taught us how to make the ideal cup of Gyokuro and Sencha green tea.

We spent an afternoon with Ken-ichi Utsuki, owner of Aizenkobo workshop, a traditional Japanese natural indigo dying and textile firm. He and his son fitted me with a Samue (Japanese workclothes for Zen monks and tradespeople).

We met with Kunimi Naito and her family, makers of traditional Japanese Geta (wooden sandals) in the Gion (Geisha) district of Kyoto. They carefully studied my feet and are making a custom pair of geta for my 27cm western-sized foot.

We met with a Sake brewer and tasted the range of his handmade Ginjo and Daiginjo sakes.

We viewed the bonfires of Obon with faculty members from Kyoto and Keio University.

I played Shakuhachi in a 500 year old mountaintop temple overlooking the Inland Sea with a Zen monk who played a Conch shell.

We made traditional Japanese sweets (Wagashi) with a master craftsman.

We had incredible Zen meals in small family run restaurants such as Kiko

I want to thank our Japanese hosts, Dr. Hiroyuki Yoshihara and Michiko Yoshida for making it all possible.

There are so many memories and spiritual experiences to describe that I will use the next several months on my Thursday blogs to share everything I learned about traditional Japanese culture from the master craftsman who taught me over the past two weeks.


Ahier said...

Welcome home John!
Sounds like you and your family had quite an adventure. I look forward to your updates this evening...

Anonymous said...

I've not commented before, but I have been waiting for your return from Japan to hear about the time you had there. Wonderful post! I look forward to Thursdays for more of the story. Thank you so much for sharing and for being such a meticulous observer/reporter.

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