Fedex Sucks!

30 03 2007

Ok, this is just my Opinion,  it is also my blog! So I can rant from time to time. I realize this is the good ole US of A and I have come to learn not to expect great service as in Japan. However some politness and cooperation would be nice.

I had a package being sent via Fedex ground home delivery. Maybe it is just me, but one would expect most people NOT to be home during the day, mostly…

Weds, I’m out job hunting /TCB, a package comes at 2:30pm so the email says. I call customer service, I ask if the package can be delivered after 4:00. The guys say, ok I’ll put in the request for as late as possible drop off. I ask can it be left at one of the locations VERY close ( 1 is 1 block away, the other 10 mins.) to me. No he says it is not a express but a ground so, no. But I will message the office for a late drop off. Ok, cool I think at least that is something.

Next day I get back from an interview just after 4:oopm another email (no note at the door just an email) no one home can not make drop off. This was sent at 12:30pm. Now this is even earlier than the day before !!! ???? Huh!! is that a late drop off!!!???

Ok, I’m cool, I think; tomorrow ( today) I’ll make a point of being back early. I cut my sail short and make it home about 1:30 pm. I see a Fedex truck , down the street before my house. I quickly park in the lot and walk back to the street to meet the guy. The Truck is GONE!!! grrrrrrrr

I call the customer service after I check my email which says they came by @ 10:30 am!!

Are they nice, NO!

Are they Sorry, NO!

Are they Helpful . NO!

They say, it is at the station, I can pickup up from the station ( 1/2 hour drive, plus bridge toll $4.00) or they will send it back!

Fedex Sucks!





Berkeley Kyudo revisited

27 03 2007

MakawaraI went to Kyudo class tonight. Even though we are going to need to tighten our belts big time I figured I should get at least one class in. I purchased a bunch of equipment whilst in Japan for the practice. It is unknown when I’ll be able to go again. I will go again at some point but the thing is regular is at question. Anyway I figured to get one class in before I cut it. Tonight seemed prefect. I wanted to give them photos from the seminar, also since my Kung Fu class had missed so many classes this month with my travelling, we would start fresh for April.

It was good to see the few that were there, they were surprised to see me and did remember me. That was nice. The class was small not a lot of folks were there. Which was nice really. The Zazen was calming with the group. Then we did a group shoot. My first time, I just followed and did what they did. It went well. After that we just practiced. I got a lot of shoot time in. I was given a few corrections and advice, it was good. There was at least one or two times I got that “feeling” ahh this is what it is about. Not that I hit the traget center, but the focus, the build up of tension, then the release of the arrow and the moment of bliss, calm and relaxing afterward, almost sex-like. I also got injuried. The bow string caught the side of my face one time when I was not turned enough and the string slaped me in the eye. I could feel a knot later and it swelt up. I can still feel the knot there. oh well, I’ve gotten worse from working wiht my Kung Fu weapons.

The evening was short, I got to use my glove and wear the vintage Hakama, which I was worried it was too short, but was just right and got some correction and practice. Most of all I got to not think about being jobless and the rocky road ahead. So it was worth the cost of one class for the peace and distraction from the storm clouds.

There is a big seminar in May, I really want to attend, however, the cost at this time is prohibitive . However who knows what the tide will bring by then. The tides of life go out, they come back in…





Storm Clouds

22 03 2007

storm

Storm Clouds and the winds of change. The tai chi symbol says life is change. Nothing that is good stays good, nothing that is bad stays bad. When something is positive sooner or later it has to turn negative. Fullness turns to emtpyness.

I was right about my job … it is no more.

What will the winds of change bring…





Japan – Misc thoughts n doings

20 03 2007

tree 2

Japan misc thoughts and doings

Only In Japan, would there be a show on the different types of hamburgers and Hamburger places. With big discussion on the deliciousness on each and the style.
This is a full show on comparing them. Food and eating is BIG deal in Japan. There is a lot of great food here. Much of it not what is served in American restaurants

Public transportation seems expensive. However if you work for a company, they pay for your daily commute, VERY unlike American companies. I will need to figure out something about getting around. I would love to have a Harley here to get around, even though it gets COLD! We did find one train line that has cheap fares to and from where we mostly go

station

I went out the other evening to met a guy from Black Tokyo.com and have a small interview with him. Lady Z was not up to going, she was pretty burnt out from the day and wanted to rest. She thought it would be good for me to travel on the public transportation alone to try it out. It went off fairly well , I only asked for direction once when changing trains to get home. The interview went well, the young brother brought his girlfriend along , had I known that I would have made Lady Z come. Kamen, from NY, lives in Osaka for some 7 yrs now, teaches English and Spanish and has an advance degree from a University in the states. He is also much into the Martial Arts perhaps he’ll be a future student once I move over. Funny guy and interesting views.

The trains are great in Japan! Everything runs on time and are clean!

I got fussed at by Lady Zen for opening a taxi door. She says one does not do that in Japan. The driver opens the door from inside for the riders, it is bad form to open the door. Who knew??!

You find American music in the most unusually places that do not really match the place. American Jazz played at several places I would have thought would do some traditional Japanese tunes.

street 1

Went out fro a walk to the local shopping center toady to meet up with Lady Z. I got to see some of the local area vai foot. Clean streets, clean homes. Nice area. I could live around here if it was closer to the water.

street II

This was our best trip to Japan. I felt honored to met and be advised by not just one master, which is a big deal to happen once, but by three in one week is amazing! The only downer this trip was the COLD.

street III

Well, the other is, we did not get all of our cash converted at the airport, thinking we could do it at the local bank here, WRONG! They not do it on a walk-in basis any more. Most places do not take plastic so our cash flow is a problem.

I feel more comfortable in Japan each visit. There are things would miss about the states, but I can adjust. The weather in Cal would be a BIG one. One thing for sure, I really need to bone up on the language before coming over, that will be more than helpful.

dnner

We went out to Dinner with sister and mother tonight. We went to a local place. We had a bunch of small dishes of great food, sake, and some mixed Shochu cocktails.
I have discovered Chu-hi. A drink with Shochu and juice, Mmmm yummy I got some to take home to the states.

I found if I go in the kitchen I can access wifi, sweet!

The area of Osaka we are in has a really nice park(s) and lots of trees around. I would love to see the area in Autumn, the plan 2009 next visit! That will be the last before the move.

park

Everyone is out doing stuff today but me. I felt like staying in and updating the blog and doing some reading. They will bring me home Sushi tonight. It is kind of nice for my male ego to have three women concerned about my well being here, serving me, I feel like “the Man” heheh
————–
We are to go out shopping and stuff with sister and okasan. We had lunch together. There were a few ladies at the table while we were ordering. They got a kick out of all the things that were named as Dame (no good) for me, Shrimp, mushrooms, clams, other slimy stuff..

lunch II

We stopped by the Kyudo supply and pickup a few things for me to take home to the states. As we spoke with the owner we found out the place I went to for Kyudo is famous because of that Sensei. However they are not really open to people just coming in, or is it easy to just walk in and join. Many have complained about that being somewhat closed door. I was lucky to get such a good reception and private lessons for almost free. It was more of an honor than I thought to be treated so well. I will need to send him a gift from the states as a way of thanks.

I wish I had more time, money and transportation, there are still some things and places I would like to go. Like to the Kobe Marina and visit Bill and his new boat. also another American is in town with his wife for her father’s 100 day memorial, we are here for Lady Z’s father 1 yr. memorial. interesting. I did get to speak with the other visiting Californian. He and his wife are planning on moving to Osaka this year just after Oct. He put his boat up for sale. I will make some plans to visit him and his wife before they leave, He sound like a nice guy, I’m sure Lady z and his wife will have lots to talk about as out lives share a similar path.
———————-
Winding down.

Today is our last day, we went to Otosan’s 1yr. memorial ceremony today…
It snowed in the morning. As we had to get up and started early I did not plan to go Tai Chi, which was just as well since I do not think they had it in the snow.

fountain II

We set off early for the ceremony for Dad. We went to the shrine in a part of town I had not been too. The shrine was fairly old and small. The ceiling in the alter room was done by a famous Japanese artist I was told. It was a beautiful array of Phoenixes. The ceremony took an hour. It was not an outstanding ceremony. When I was listening, even though I did not know what was being read/chanted it sounded like the monk was messing up. I find out later that he was, some of the relatives complained about what a poor job he did just reading. We say/kneed through out the hour long ceremony. I was thinking my legs would be good with all the Zazen that I have been doing. However after about 45 min, they starting getting painful. I stuck it out telling myself, Ganbattemas!!

Afterward we went to a hotel for a old style traditional Japanese Kaiseki meal in a very modern hotel. it was all light tasting, but good, along with Sake and beer everyone was in good spirits. The elders who had not seen each other in a while were happily visiting and chatting. It was a good, day although the shadow of it ending soon, loomed over Lady Z and I. Neither of us were ready for this way too short trip to end.

family

So I believe I could live in Japan, it would take some adjusting of course but I think I’d be ok. I would miss the weather in Cal, the very few friends I have and my Sci Fi shows May I can get some type of internet TV hookup That will give me some feeds. I know it is always nice everywhere one visits and living there is different but I think I’d be ok. I have a pretty good feel for things this time, and we’ll hopefully get another visit in before the move. I am not going in blind and have a few plans so we’ll see.

My biggest concern of course is working , money, it is always money! I will need to focus on bringing my Japanese skills up Then I should be able to get a decent PT gig teaching English which will be our base support. IF Lady Z can get some P/T gig as well we’ll be ok.

We decided on live in an Area between Kobe and Osaka. Easy to get to both places from there.

We met up with a few ladies at the Airport. One of which I had been in touch with on MySpace.com. Since she lived in Osaka I figured i’d contact her. She was looking forward to meeting us and brought along 2 of her friends. They where nice we chatted for a while about their travels, and life in Japan vs the States, over lunch and coffee. Then it was time to head out.

airport

This was a VERY good trip, we Hated to leave, even through COLD, now it is time for back to the real world.

Culture shock!

Service in the states sucks!
We were given the wrong item at the duty free shop in SF. When we went to return in the manager offered nothing in the way of an applogie, even though it was clearly their error not even, sorry for your trouble.
Then when we get to the taxi stand at the Bart station we are pushing and pulling our 4 pieces of luggage and the cab driver just sit there even after we come up to the cab. He just yells out the window, where do you want to go? WTF!! In Japan they are out of the car, doors open, trunk open, asking how they can help. I was pissed, and took another cab. GRRRR Only a short time in Japan an I am already spoiled by good service. I will not even go into the time I came back and the Homeland Security Guards are yelling at people to move along faster, great impression to see when coming to America.

It will most likely be quiet around here for a while. Nothing really planned other than a second visit to the HeartChan (zen) pratice group and a Kyudo class visit in Berkeley next week. I do not except it to be eventful enough to write about.

Time to shift focus to sailing now. I have a couple of traning classes upcoming next month and should be hearing something about teaching for the city of Oakland. There is also a sail boat race in Berekely. I was invited to crew on one one the boats, but that will not work out due to some scheduling conflicts, however I will be there for some pictures on Sunday. So the sailing blog will be seeing some action now.

Next big thing I know of for here is a Kyudo Seminar at Sonoma Mtn Zen center in May. It lasts over several days. It should be interesting. So check in for updates…you never know what the tide will bring in…





Da Bomb Baths

18 03 2007

bathThe Japanese have not gotten the hang of Central Heating in all homes.

However they have the bath Down. Japanese baths are the Bomb!

You can set the temp, it will fill the tub and let you know verbally when it is ready. Then when you fall asleep like I did tonight sitting there , it will keep the water hot by adding more to maintain the temp, sweet! Also even in some places where the tub is short, it is still deep, you can sit in it a cover up with water up to you neck, although if you are tall you have to cross your legs, but still, that is a small thing to pay for a nice hot soak!

he shower can be used sitting or standing. Once the values are set as you wanthem. you can just leave it set that way, so on eyou next shower you can just turn on the water value and the mix and temp are already set.

The bath/shower is a seperate small room, The shower is taken outside of the bath tub, then you get in the tub to soak.

The toliet is in its own seperate room. How cilvalized is that ! Nice!

I just had a nap inthe tub for about a hour and the water was still warm and toasty when I got out. This is our last night here so I pampered myself. Acually the wife and mother-in-law pampered me. They prepared the bath. Awww yeah.





Winding down…

18 03 2007

Bamboo sky
Today is our last day, we went to Otosan’s 1yr. memorial ceremony today…
It snowed in the morning. As we had to get up and started early I did not plan to go Tai Chi, which was just as well since I do not think they had it in the snow.

Yesterday and last night we went out to Kobe and hooked up with a couple of new friends. I met with the instructor of Kobe Kung Fu, Sifu J. He has been teaching in Kobe for some 6 yrs or so. We met after his Sat class, and chatted about kung fu, life, etc. He offered to be whatever help he could on me getting set up In Japan. We spoke of doing seminars to support each other. It was a good meeting, he has a good heart seems like. A quiet guy like myself. Afterward he made sure I got on the correct bus to visit Mi-chan’s, who he also knows, and lives very close to. He waited for me at the bus stop, having got there first on his bike, to direct me to the correct condo. As it happened Mi-chan was on the balcony and spotted us and invited Sifu J up for a visit as well.

Kobe II
We stood on the Balcony and chatted about the similarities of being married to a Japanese wives and about life in Kobe and things like how I can get my swords in to the country and misc stuff about Kobe.

It was time to move on. We invited Sifu J and his wife to join us that evening and we all headed off. Mi-chan took me around Kobe on a walking tour of Downtown. Interesting place, lots of small shops, clubs, stores, restaurants, and what not. Sometimes feeling very Japanese, sometimes feeling not at all like Japan, well other than the cuites with the short skirts, high boots or socks and the small streets with Kanji signs. After sitting in the park for a bit, getting a buzz off of Shu-Hi, it all had a bit of surrealalisticness (is that a word) about it.

After awhile our wives joined us. Sister and her husband were suppose to join us, but brother was just back from a cookingweek of being on the road with business trips so was too burnt out. There was suppose to be another International couple, but for whatever reason they choose not to come also. So it was just the four of us.
We went to an Izakaya for dinner and drinks. They played Jazz music as background, it was nice but a bit on the loud side with us right under a speaker. We had good food, drinks, and chatting. I tried a couple of new dishes, yum yum.

Our next stop after a bit of walking is a little bar. We go in for a few drinks and shortly later Sifu J and his wife join us. That was good some more energy to the mix. We guys sit on one side of the table and wethe group discuss, life in American, life in Japan, team work with my Kung Fu and Sifu J’s, misc stuff. The ladies sat on the other side of the table and talk about, I have no idea. They were going on in Japanese and enjoying themselves.
We wrapped up the evening shortly after as Lady Zen and I had to catch the train back to Osaka. We got home shortly after midnight.





Osaka Park Tai Chi II

16 03 2007

It is Friday already, wow the week went fast. I got up early this morning, thinking about if felt like going to the park, in the cold, to practice with the group. Also being on the shy side, I felt maybe I would be intruding. I checked my email after getting awake and there was a comment on the last Osaka Taichi post from wujimon.

He had commented about the different energy of group practice. He is right the chi flow is stronger in a group. So I took that as a sign I should go. Besides it would be my first group early morning park practice, and being in Japan that would make it special as part of this “Zen’s most excellant adventure” So I dressed and headed out.

walkway

I left somewhat early figuring to get my own practice in before hand. I picked a little spot just off from where they would assemble. I was amazed at the amount of people mostly older that were out jogging or walking that early in the cold.

I started my routine of warmups, then went into Sigong’s Tai Chi Palm. Half way through I noticed a few people watching from the other area, from the couple of remarks and stares I guessed they were part of the group. Next I did Sigung’s Tai Chi Sword, when I finished the group had gathered and were starting their warmups. I gathered my stuff and headed over.

The lady I knew, motioned for me to join them so I did. I followed along on the warmups. After a bit I figured out they were doing Pa Lum Gum. ( 8 silken movements). Although somewhat different from the way I learned I was able to follow easily.

Afterward we went into Yang 24. They had music chinese music and narration going through some of the warmups and through the fom. It was their guide I am guessing. We went through the set two times. It was a good feeling to be out doing this with the locals. Lady Zen says they are very use to us Gaijin this this area as there is a exchange school or soemthing in the area. This may expalin why people never bat an eye when they see me.

zazen

Afterwards I introduced myself to the group and was told they are there everyday. I was also taken aside and told something I did not catch at first. I thought she was asking about a movement, or telling I was doing a movement wrong. However after a bit I got it she was taking about doing the sword in the park was not good. Another Auntie also said, the sword in the park in not good to do. She said, it is a collaping sword?, I said yes, she said I want to do that also. I do not think even the Japan police with consider my folding sword a weapon to be taken as threat to anyone, unless I hit someone on the head withthe handle, but I will keep that in mind.

After we ended, I went over to a spot by the lake for some Zazen.

It was a good start for the day.

I am enjoying my vacation in Japan, this has been the best visit. Also way too short. The park here is beautiful I look forward to seeing it in the Autumn one day.

bamboo


News from state side is, there have been layoffs at my company. Not unexpected, seems the force is with me, I have dodged the bullet again. That would be a real downer to hear while on vacation I was sacked, well anytime really but more so whilst on vacation. Who knows what awaits upon my return…

anyway…

worrying about it will not change anything, but my peaceful space and distory the moment…

So for now, life is not only good, but the Force is with me.





Tai Chi in Osaka Park

15 03 2007

Tai Chi Morning cloudy cold

Nippon Tree


I have spoke with a lady in the building who said they have a Tai Chi group of retired people that meets everyday in the park.  When Lady Zen told her I was a teacher  she said they were not that serious about it and just did it for fun and a social gathering.
Today Thursday ( already) morning I figured I’d check them out. I go tup at 6:15 and got ready. I ventured out of my own. I was familiar with the park since I had walked alone past and through there the other day on my own.

my spot


I did not know were it would be, so I went by the place I figure it would be. There was no one there. So I found a small place behind a stage next to the lake and practiced myself. It was cold but not too bad.

sword


About 15 min into my practice, I noticed a group forming where I had though the class would be. It was them doing some warmups. I continued with my own sets, then watched from a distance.
After I bit I figured out I knew the Tai Chi they were doing so moved up close and took a sit on a bench. The Lady I met saw me an we bowed. I watched the group go through the set again this time I checked them more closely. For their age some of them could be good with some serious practice.

group


After they finished the set for the second time I was going over to ask to join them for a 3rd round , but they only did the 2 and started to disberse. I did the good morning thing with the lady I met and she told me what they were doing. I got about 1/4 of it since it was all in Japanese but I understood enough. Then we smiled,

lake

bowed and went our ways. I went for a walk around the park and lake.

I’m thinking about going back to tomorrow and joining with them for their practice., just for fun. I can always use the practice.
It will give them a Chi Gong  breathing drill & something to talk about later hehehheh…

flowers





Kyudo with a master

14 03 2007

Day IV – Kyudo

Another day and we are out early catching the mono-rail to the park this time over to the Kyudo dojo and to see Yoh Sensei’s boat which is on display.
We were expecting it to go by the Kyudo dojo and just be left to shoot a few times and the Sensei was just going to be around. WRONG!!

At first the person who greeted us seemed unsure about the whole thing, but after a few minutes of explanation he agreed to let us in and for me to shoot.
After being outfitted with equipment NOGAMI, KATSUTOSHI Sensei shows up. I introduced myself and Lady Zen gave him the story. He asked what style I was learning and who the sensei was? I said Hmm Heki ryu, He said I am Heki ryu, sensei wa? ( your Senesi?) I told him, oh he said I know him, he is a bowmaker.

first contact

He was very receptive and right away showed me the correct way of stuff from the beginning starting with how to put on the glove. The tie I had learn was different. I remember someone saying some places are different ties which are on the bottom.
Next the entrance, Mine was all wrong!! “Chigaou” ( wrong) he said after I started in the dojo, after just bowing. He had me start over, and showed me the way. I was told to copy him exactly I did so. Hai, (yes) he said!

next instruction

Next coming up to the target, again I was incorrect with the steps and “addressing” the target. They com eup to it a certain way, kneel, turn on the kenees, then raise. ( simple discription) More correction, now there was the Asst. instructor also helping and soon another Asst. instructor joined. So now I have private instructions from the Master and his senior students, whao

lesson 2 a

I’m shocked, Lady Zen is shocked! We had no idea it would turn into this big event. We spoke later I may have been one of the few Gaijin visitors, and maybe the first Gaijn of color.

Anyway  I digress

the range

I felt clumsy with my efforts I had thought I had at least the basics down from my seminar, this was different, at least I knew how to hold the Yumi (bow), the stance and finger positions. However everyone was being helpful and patient so I paid close attention, this is all going on in Japanese. I was shown how to kneel and turn to set up for the target. Different from what I learned. Next the stance, ok, now things are getting familiar. Loading the bow was different and at the same time the same. I followed instructions. I was told how to grip the arrow and how to grip the bow with the left hand. The cocking and setup was different but close enough that I got it quickly. The draw was the same, and was told the same thing by Don at the seminar, to place the arrow staff on the cheek.

I shot about 3 times, Then the Sensei left the hall. I was told that his students were waiting for him so he left. One asst. stayed and helped me more. After a short time we get a message from the Sensei, that his class is starting I should come watch.
We went to the main hall, and were directed to sit up with the Sensei. (We found out later this was a great honor) He explained alot to Lady Zen in Japanese, I only got some of it translated to me. The short of it was the whole thing was different from the States version, this was traditional Japanese Kyudo from the way they entered the Dojo, to the timing and sequence they shot. Not all together. One at a time everything was should be to timed to the second. One the first person finished the next shot, but the next started their prep at a certain time while the other was shooting, the person behind them also waited until a certain number of events took place then started making ready. They did not turn to look at each other or the surroundings at any time, it had to be felt and heard. Once each person finished their shot they knelt and waited. The first did not stand again until the last person was finished, but started their prep at a certain time when the next to the last person was finishing. If even one second was off from the timing of the entrance to the exit of the group shooting was off, it was wrong. Where I guess this was important was in a formal show/contest as a group/school.

We believe that since I was a rare vistor from the States he arranged to give me a private demo of tradtional Kyudo. He asked if I had learned the things that they did? I said some some and some were different. His comment was “Hmmm Okashii” (weird), This is Traditional Japanese style!

demo 1

The amount of mindfulness/ awareness was impressive. It was explained to us that the white and black gigs, where for training and the Kimonos were for formal event, shootings, tournaments, etc. The Sensei explained that there was three parts to learning to shoot, first to watch alot, learn from what you see. Then to shoot and practice alot!. Then think about your shooting, your practice, see it all , review it all in your mind.


demo

After watching the shooting (which we were pretty sure was arranged as a demo just for us, because some seemed unsure of just what to do afterward.) I was told to go back to the other dojo and practice, the asst. was directed to help.

Things were easier this time, I remembered some parts some not, overall though I got it. I made three shots at the close target, then was moved to the long range position. I was not expecting this… I came close but did not hit the target, which was not a big deal. The asst. did not hit it ether, it was about the shooting not the hitting at this point. full range shotMy first shot fell short of the target but in front of it. My next shot went past the target, but a little to the side of it. I was pleased even with that.

Time was getting late for us, so I had to excuse myself from any more shooting
The Sensei showed me some pictures of him doing the sequence to shooting, the asst. made some copies for me to take home.

The Sensei told us he had been doing Kyudo for 60 years, he had retired from being the master teacher there at the dojo, but still came in for free to help. The students that were there were senior Kyudo students who had long ago finished basics and even advance training. They now came just to learn with him.
He is 85 years old and still amazingly active.

Nogami, Katsutoshi Sensei was very free with is help and time. Lady Zen was told by one of the asst. Instructors he thought I had been doing this for awhile since my form looked good. While gathering my things from the changing room, he called me to the side and said something about Senesi, and me, or Sensei said something about me, who was also in the room, It sounded like a complement, so I just said thank you and explained my Japanese was still limited, sorry I could not understand more.Kyudo master

This was Lady Zen’s first time seeing Kyudo, she was impressed with all the detail and the explainations giving by The Master.

I did get from Lady Zen who told him we were planing on moving there, that we were invited to please come back. So I guess we left a good impression. Yokata! ( cool! fortunate )

More photos on Flica: Zen’s Photos

Our next stop was over to the Expo park to see the boat Yoh sensei built himself to circumnavigate. Hmm This small write up will be on the sailing blog.





Tea with a Ceramic master

14 03 2007

Day III- Tea with a Ceramic Master

(click on photos to see larger image)

It is Monday and we are up fairly early for another trip. Sister makes us breakfast. Her and lady Z have a western styletemple city breakfast with toast and jam it is there custom, lerned from there mothr who loves western style breakfast. Brother and I have Japanese style breakfast, fish, rice, plum, green tea.
We prepare for a cold day reported by the weather report. We load up the car and head off to the mountains. The destination is Shigaraki. We drive through some unseen parts of Japan for me. Out of the city and up through some mountain roads. Some interesting country views and winding roads. I am told we are stopping at the A World Heritage. This turns out to a 1,000 yr temple1Thousand Year old Temple “Byodoin“. Amazing to imagine a place around built a thousand years ago! It’s image is on one of the Japanese currencies. It is an eye full and I take a bunch of pictures. It is lucky that it is Monday otherwise it would have been very crowded. However the whole area would have been enhanced if the flowers were in bloom, which would have also made it a lot more crowed. So it is all a trade off. It was still a incredible place, the lake, the scale, the vibe.1,00 yr temple 2 Inside off the museum we were shown a video of what was thought to be the original colors and designs. Many of the inside carvings were placed inside behind glass in controlled space and were on display with no photos or drawings allowed. I understood the no photos but not the no drawings. Oh well. It was enough to see them, the memory (hopfully) will stay.

We walk around a bit, including past the headquarters of Shorinryu Kempo ( Shaolin kung fu ) in the Area or Osaka I’m not sure which.
It was closed so could not go inside to check out what the deal was, bummer!

green teaOff to see the ceramics. Another 45min or so puts us in the town, after driving past what I find out later are fields of green tea. The rows cover sides of hills, through most of the areas where there is no tree growth. Rows and rows of tea. It also turns out that this area is know for this special green tea. I could not figure what they were, There was not miles and miles of it like farmland here in the states, but more like little or large home gardens, but almost everywhere around each bend in the road.

We arrive at the town

complex

We head down a few small streets and arrive at a place, a center complex that has ceramics everywhere! Large, small and everything between amazing. We wander a bit and end up a one shop and enter. It turns out it is not the starting place and we are given a map. However since were there we figure to look around a bit. The gentleman who helps us, sits down at a hanging tea kettle and starts talking. Saying he has been to S.F. and a few other places and starts dipping out hot water from this old iron pot over a old style pit fireplace and invites us to sit for tea. He serves us this very complex tasting green tea bitter but flavorful and starts telling us about himself. the master n meTurns out he is the Master of the whole complex, Sojyu Ueda Sensei. He was invited to be a judge at a Japan ceramic show. He has been on National TV many times, and is quite famous in Japan ceramic circles. If I had knew we were going to meet with the master I would have prepared some questions. shucks!
They tell him I am doing ceramics and he asks me a few questions about what I make, what type of firing I use and other things. I could not understand hardly anything, it was good the family was there to translate. He did not speak any English, and for some reason, my ears were not working well , so even words that I knew did not register. Duh!
After he asked me did I have any questions, and I finally got it ( duh) I asked,
Q; How long have you been doing this?

A: 75yrs he says. He is now 80 something. He started when he was 15.

masters work

Q: Who was your teacher?

A: He learned from his family. Just getting the basics, after that he developed his style, and he made a great of the main display pieces.

the masters work 2

Q: What type of wheel do you use?

A: These days and electric wheel. back in the day it was a manual wheel which had to be turned. It seemed like he was saying by hand.
Q: What type of firing do you do, Gas, wood, electric?

A: It is all done with wood.

He went to look for a write up in English for me and found one. We were told were to go to start the walking tour, with instructions not to speak to the workers. So we start on our way.
We walk past the largest wood ground build Kiln in Japan. We were not allowed to take pictures ( I got one before the sign was read, oops), and usually folks were not allowed to watch the loading method they used, but we were granted access even while that was happening. This Kiln was huge and had many loading doors, we walked upstairs past several doors and up several levels, think a two story building oven.

OVERLOOKING THE TOWN


We were told the firing is done for 7 days, before the pieces are done. Following the arrows around the complex which went up and down several buildings where ceramic & clay were handled at various stages of production. After walking for some 30 minutes in and out of multiple buildings, we came to the end of the complex and saw a single smaller hole oven, built of bricks and into the ground. this was not currently being loaded, so I was able to get a picture. Although it turned out not to be a good one.

You will notice in the picture there is this weasel looking creature that there are many statues of. It is the famous badger of the area. Supposedly a creature of good luck . It is shown with a sake bottle and a note book. legend has it it begs for Sake and makes note of who it owns payment to on this book, however it pays with leaves, which it thinks is money.

LunchTime to head home. we stop at a very small noodle shop for something to eat. Inside we say the meal is good, but once in the car, Only Lady Zen says she really enjoyed hers, myself and the others say it was only a so so meal, only average.

A quick trip back to the city and we are home again for the evening another interesting and turns out special encounter with another Master.
How lucky is that!!?

Note : I will be posting more pictures of all this and other stuff , little by littel on my Flickr account if interested:

Zen photo’s