Departure time for return to US must be getting close. I’m counting clean socks to make sure I’m done with hand laundry for this trip. People are getting just a bit cranky as they are reaching their limit for one more shrine or shop or even restaurant.
Yesterday we traveled by bus to Arashiyama, well we traveled by bus then boat polled up river and then a long climb. The climb was advertised as 20 steps and then 20 steps then times 5. I didn’t count the steps but the climb was on a par with Potala Palace (without the altitude) or the Great Wall. At the top was a small Buddhist temple where we had a tea ceremony, abbreviated, a reading of a sutra, with Dvar Torah (in Hebrew Words of the Law-in this case an exegesis of the meaning of the words), and a meditation session. Upon descending we returned to the boat and the bus took us to a farm where we picked Japanese spinach before heading to a lovelySamurai House where we were taught how to make a vegetarian sushi roll (sushi means vinegar rice and does not refer to the filling) using the spinach. The rest of the meal was delicious, even our sushi rolls were very tasty. We returned to the bus for the return to the hotel.
After a 30 minutes rest, most of us reboarded the bus for an optional evening experience. Our first stop was at the home of two Japanese musicians. The wife plays Koto and Shamisan, the husband plays bamboo flute. They explained their instruments and the music and performed both solo and duet. We each had an opportunity to try the instruments. Only one of us could get any sound from the flute and Marcie plays flute and still it took her several long minutes to get any sound from it. I tried a couple of times, it is much harder than blowing over a coke bottle. I made lots of wind noise but no musical sound. Our next stop was in the Geisha quarter where we walked through the quartet before arriving at the restaurant. Out 10 filled the place. The owner/chef is 4th generation. The restaurant was founded 100 years ago and has been in its current location 70 years, if I understood him correctly. It was another meal that cannot be topped.
Today, May 2, was listed as a free day. We took the optional tour to Arashiyama, to take a walking tour of two very beautiful gardens and a famous bamboo grove. We traveled by train rather than bus. First we stopped at Tenryuji Temple, the primary temple of the Renzai School of Zen. It had been destroyed and rebuilt 5 times since it’s original construction in 1339, most of it dates to the 19th century. However the gardens date back many centuries. I fear our pictures will not do it justice. There is no way to experience the peace and ambience of the place without being there. After the walk through the bamboo grove and the neighborhood we split up. Four of us went to the Daitoku-ji Temple area where we toured three sub temples and their magnificent gardens. The gardens are dry stone gardens with gravel representing water and stones of appropriate shape representing mountains, Islands, turtles, etc. There are even some trees, shrubs and mosses incorporated. Finally, exhausted, we caught a cab back to the hotel to put our feet up for a bit. Tonight is the Farewell Dinner for the bulk of the group who leave tomorrow as we go on to Hiroshima with 3 others for three days.