Also I am adding another haiku and photo to remember Hiroshima. I first visited the Peace Park and Museum in 1990 with Jill and brought each of my school groups here. Our students would make 1000 peace cranes with their sister school hosts in Osaka and leave them at the Sadako memorial in the Peace Park. A vist to the Peace Museum is a chilling reminder of the horror of nuclear weapons and the stupidity of war.
Three different views of Mount Fuji yet all similar. From whatever direction or distance one sees Fuji San the presence and shape remain the same. That is, as long as you can see it. The three scenes are.
Sunset from a temple high on a ridge above the city of Gotemba
Approaching Tokyo on the Shinkansen from Osaka.
From a car on the ropeway above Lake Hakone in the Hakone National park.
When I was younger I dreamed of climbing Mount Fuji however being lucky enough to see the sacred mountain each visit to Japan has been more than enough. Besides climbing is only a dream now. ON my last visit with a school trip My group stayed in the Hakone National park. Two evenings in a row I took them to the temple site for a sunset and both times the cloud hid Fuji. Touring the national park was a rain filled heavy clouded sightless day. Finally on our last morning before travelling to Tokyo I escorted the disappointed viewless students and teachers to a recommended lookout even though the atmosphere was heavy and again cloudy. As we stood there straining eyes with a few false alarms I implored everyone to say a pray to Fuji. A few giggled and then suddenly the clouds parted and for a couple of minutes there stood the mountain rising up before us. Then in seconds it disappeared and rain began falling. I did hope none of my group considered me some kind of holy man calling up Mount Fuji. It was pure luck and unpredictable weather conditions.
My first glimpse of Mount Fuji was in May 1990 from a shinkansen window as we travelled from Hiroshima to Odawarra. I almost missed it because of the distractions flashing past outside the train as it hurtled along. Suddenly the cloud cleared and through the smog Japan’s sacred mountain appeared, hovering in the sky. Close up there is something awe inspiring about Fuji San
The three wise monkeys of Nikko Japan sum it all up. I had them high on my bucket list of what to see in Japan and was lucky to fulfill that wish in 1994. I was leading my first school trip to Japan and with one of my colleagues abandoned the students and other teachers in Tokyo Disneyland and took off to Nikko for the day. We definately had the better deal although the sacred white horse, a gift from New Zealand needed some cheering up in his tiny stable. A good chat in New Zealand accent made him very happy.
A trust everyone reading this haiku and connecting the image can understand my political satire arising from the act of sedition in Washington D.C. yesterday.
I do recommend visiting Nikko if you plan to travel to Japan, (when you can) in the future.
The Hiroshima Prefectural Building stands today as a memorial to the futility of war and the insane, incomprehensible, destructivness of nuclear weapons. This was one of few concrete buildings in Hiroshima on the morning of August 6th 1945 and one of a small number of buildings to remain in structure after the explosion and fires that ravaged the entire city, even though what we see today is a concrete shell only. The survivors of Hiroshima left the building to stand as a visual memorial of that morning. All tourists to Japan should visit either one or preferably both the the Peace Parks and memorial museums at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Three times I led groups of students and teachers on trips to Japan visiting our sister school in Osaka but also spending time at the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum. On each occasion when my group gathered in the park after experiencing the museum there were few dry eyes, no one spoke, the silence was all consuming.
This Torii gate is the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine, a 16th century Shinto shrine built over the water from the shore of Miyajima Island just across from Hiroshima on Honshu in Japan. This great Torii is the boundary between the spirit and human worlds and with the shrine has long been one of the most significant Shinto Pilgrimage sites in Japan. The entire shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. To stay at least 1 night on Miyajima Island and wander around the Shrine at night is one of the most peaceful experiences one can have. I have visited Japan four times and always planned a night on Miyajima.
Mount Fuji seen from across Lake Hakone. At the top of that wooded mountain in the middle foreground one looks down across a valley to the city of Gotemba nestled at the base of Fuji and then your eyes are drawn upwards to the majesty of that Japanese icon. More images of that view at sunset will come.
Unless your reading of Japanese is excellent I shall explain this story. Back in 2002 my little sister in Nara Japan emailed me this article with an English translation. It seems that on a summers day in August a person was walking their Afghan Hound near Osaka station in central Osaka during early morning peak hour, (I would never do that having been there and experienced the noise and activity).
Anyway, the hound broke loose from the walker and took off into the crowd and apparently entered the main entrance of Osaka Station. Accounts of what happened next are varied and bizarre, however the dog found its way down into one of the many subways running beneath the central station, leapt off a platform and took off up the tunnel. Fortunately for the dog a very efficient emergency lock down system was immediately activated. ( I will not explain why the Japanese have such systems but if interested you can find out)
At some point during the next half hour the dogs exploration of the subway system ended when it emerged up onto a platform at another station and merged with a very packed waiting group of stranded passengers.
Police arrested the dog and escorted it to a police station. Meanwhile the entire railway network of central Osaka was halted and took some time to restart.
The cost of this activity was several million Yen as chaos reigned across the city for hours, and apparently the instigator of interruptions to the subway system are charged for the cost. The dog’s beloved could not be traced and for obvious financial reasons the owner never turned up to be re-united with the poor pooch.
Having an Afghan Kara living with us at the timeI felt for the dog knowing what lovely and adventurous dogs they are and what a nightmare unfolds when they escape into suburbia, believe me its scary. Also the experience would have traumatised the lovely hound. Anyway our Afghan Kara was a special guest on the website of an Afghan Hound living in Osaka. We contacted them to find out the destiny of this dog and were kept informed across the following days.
Apparently the dog became famous across the country with Afghan Hound lovers leading the call to save it and eventually the disruption costs were withdrawn by the police. Offers to house it came from across Japan and abroad and eventually the dog was resettled. My little sister suggested hopefully it may have been the original owner, I hoped so too.
These are two Geiko (thats Kyoto speak for Geisha) who were doing a photo shoot on a terrace at Kio Mizudera. No Japanese were allowed near the action, however some of my students wandered over and were allowed to take photos. I went over and was also allowed to take some shots. One of the advantages of being Geijin tourists.
Gion Kyoto in June 2000. It was late afternoon and this Maiko, (apprentice Geisha) was setting off to an evening of professional engagement. Suddenly she stopped to pass the time of day with a young white cat, very much at home on the street. I waited for a shot of the Maiko reaching down to pat the cat but alas she only exchanged pleasantries and continued.
Very close to this setting Jill and I experienced one of our most bizarre non disastrous situations ever. It was April 1990 and we were half way through a 5 week tour of Honshu and Kyushu.
Near the foothill of Tea Pot alley leading up to Kiomizu dera we entered an interesting pottery shop. We had left our two Afghan Hounds Floss and Suki and cat Tippy back home and were on the look out for Afghans in Japan. Up near Matsushima Bay a week earlier we came upon a school girl walking 2 Gold Afghan Hounds and had chatted and photographed them. Otherwise no hounds to be seen.
As we entered this pottery store and began browsing the crowded shelves and narrow walk throughs we were suddenly disturbed by a rushing sound coming from the rear of the store. A young Afghan pup was hurtling through the shop straight for us. Instinctively I dropped to my knees and the hound arrived in a ball of energy, tail wagging furiously pursued by a young woman. They both stopped in front of us , the pup stood still and we all exchanged interesting finer points of detail that only Afghan Hound people can exchange between each other and with the dogs. Not one piece of pottery had been dislocated from any shelves let alone broken. We have all heard of the term a bull in a China shop. Well from this day Jill and I knew the opposite term is an Afghan Hound in a pottery shop. Unfortunately we were so excited and distracted we forgot to photograph the pup, but did buy some pottery jewellery. Four years later when I returned to the shop whilst guiding a school tour group I stopped off at the store hoping for a repeat performance and some photos. Sadly the potter informed me the dog had died prematurely of some rare infliction. She was too distraught to get another one.