Monday, February 16, 2009

Japan Day 2 (cont'd) [transcribed from journal]

Tiny shoes.  Slippers, specifically.

It has been an absolutely packed day: trains of all description, high school classrooms, temples, a volleyball match, plenty of shy Japanese and English practice, and (of course) tiny slippers.

The train I wrote of this morning was another high-speed marvel whisking us from Nagoya to Osaka, where we dropped our bags in the sparkling Shin Osaka Youth Hostel (more on that in future entries, I'm sure).  We toted smaller overnight bags back to the Shin Osaka station.  Then it was a short succession of trains decreasing in size and ridership along with the increase in green space out the window.

The culmination was a one-car cable car running up the steep side of Mt. Koya.  Slope is so steep in fact that there are steps running up the length of the cable car.

Spent much of the day at the local high school, which has a normal academic track as well as a special track for those entering the priesthood in the Buddhist sect headquartered here.  (Kobo Daishi, founder, 812AD).  We began the afternoon with a long speech from the head priest / headmaster, followed by 30 minutes' silent meditation in the temple.  Back in the states, I'd been proud of my irregular and haphazard practice, centered mainly around breathing and generally lasting about 15 minutes.  Oh, and in a comfy chair.  Well, 30 minutes in a half-lotus pose on a tatami mat + cushion have shown just what a dilettante I've been.  (No real surprise there).

Lunch was delicious, and the anti-salt lobby apparently has not made it over to Japan.  Salted tempura and sauce, salty pickled cabbage, salty miso soup, and tofu with soy sauce.

The hosting students were very bubbly and positive, leading us through several afternoon activities:
  • English & hand-drawn telling of the story of Kobo Daishi, with dramatic voice parts to boot.
  • Calligraphy.
  • P.E. (basketball and volleyball -- I spiked a few for Anna).
  • Origami / magic / language practice.

Just a great group of kids, from both schools.
Bussed over to the associated temple, where we're staying the night(!).  Monks again gave us the rundown on Kobo Daishi.  Absolutely superb vegetarian dinner*.  "Bed" will be a thin pad atop a tatami mat floor.  The temple looks like a movie set.  Large sand and rock garden.  Rice paper doors and walls.  Manicured gardens along manicured ponds.  Hard to believe it's real!

* - Dinner included more tempura (no guilt if I don't ask for it), tofu, noodles&broth, miso soup, rice, beans, pickled radish, and tea.