Viewing Mt. Fuji from Kurodake

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I climbed Kurodake with some friends. Kurodake is located in Susono City in Shizuoka Pref. and if the weather permits, it commands a great view of Mt. Fuji from its summit.

Usually this time of the year, mid of May , is too late to have a nice view of Mt. Fuji. However it has been rather cool and we could have great view of Mt. Fuji from the top. Our guide Atsuko has a lot of experience of climbing mountains and she also knows nice spots in this area. Two other ladies have some experience of climbing. Two young American friends are very strong and love outdoor activities. And it was a little difficult for me to keep up with them. We were really lucky to have perfect weather for hiking. Since the trails are surrounded by many trees with young beautiful leaves or evergreen trees, the air is fresh and I didn’t get much suntan. As we admire some seasonal vegetations, flowers and new leaves,

It took about two hours to reach its summit.

One of our purposes to climb this mountain is to worship Mt. Fuji.

Recently some scientists discovered an active fault below Mt. Fuji. I gave thanks and asked Mt. Fuji to keep protecting and supporting our lives, with staying as the most beautiful symbol of Japan.

It’s hard to believe but this highest mountain in Japan used to be in deep ocean long time ago. The earth is ever changing planet and each of our life span is too short to realize it.

   

On top of the mountain we boiled water to make green tea, coffee and cup noodles. I was too lazy to make box lunch for myself but I could enjoy eating others’ delicious lunch! Thank you! it was very nice.

 

I introduce this green tea drip ( not a teabag ) to American friends.

They enjoyed it. Whenever I take his photo, he always makes funny face.

I really like it. And let me introduce this fairy I came across in the mountain. This is Eric’s trip mate.

The Year of the Dragon 2012

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

 

 

A happy New Year !  I wish all of you health and happiness this year!

This year 2012 is a year of the dragon. This dragon comes from the Chinese zodiac. According to this zodiac, each year a different animal plays a role as a symbol of the year. Last year, a rabbit was the symbol. According to my father, rabbit years often bring big changes or upheavals I remember my father mumbled this on New Year’s Day and we had a big disaster last year. My father isn’t a fortune teller but he simply said what he had heard from his parents or grandparents.

 I think it’s very important to listen to older people or learn from history or folk tales. I also believe Japanese old belief that what you say will occur.

For example, if you keep telling good things these lucky incidents are sure to happen and if you keep telling negative things these unlucky things may occur.

 Now this year’s symbol, the dragon, is an imaginary animal as you know.

It is said that this animal brings us the blessing of water. Water is very important for us but we sometimes miss giving thanks for it. Japanese have considered nature as a group of gods but these days we sometime forget about it.

 I sometimes visit this shrine deep in the mountain. Some people say this place is a so-called power spot. I know some people train themselves under the icy waterfalls. (not for me though . I heard an interesting story from a person who takes care of this shrine. We are supposed not to catch and eat the fish in the river since it belongs to gods of this place. But someone caught a fish and ate it. Then he had a terrible stomachache. He apologized for his wrong doing many times, then the pain went away. This waterfall and river is such a mysterious place.

 Even on hot summer days, this place is very cool. But in winter it’s not as cold as I expected. This area is surrounded by mountains and looks like being protected by them. In fact, even after a typhoon passed by this area wasn’t messed up much.

 I can get very good water from this shrine. The quality of the water is very good so I can make delicious tea or coffee. I also can cook tasty rice or miso soup with this water. Another good thing is that this water doesn’t go bad for a long time. So I keep this water in the tank for emergency.

 Of course I always make sure to thank the gods at this shrine. This year I specially begged the gods to protect us from natural disasters.

The winter solstice

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

December 22nd is the winter solstice. Traditionally, we eat a dish called

“ toji kabocha “, simmered pumpkin and azuki beans. Both of the ingredients are very healthy and its combination is said to be perfect.

Pumpkin is a summer vegetable but we can preserve it for some time it as long it is uncut. Its rich carotene prevents us from paralysis caused by strokes. Azuki beans are also good for many things. We have many drinking parties in this time of the year but azuki beans work as an antidote.

 We take a bath with yuzu so that our body stays warm. It is said if you do that you don’t catch a cold.

 I found these Japanese sweets at a store in Fuji City. They said this set is for the winter solstice. One dumpling with a small green cup is yuzu. Another yellow one topped with azuki bean means “ toji kabocha “.  They are beautiful and taste good.

 Since it was very cold we enjoyed hojicha. In winter, we drink hojicha more often because we would like to drink it hot. In the case of sencha, we don’t use water that is less than piping hot. After eating a rather fatty meal, hojicha refreshes your mouth. I heard it’s very good for the people who had surgical operation because it can heal a damaged vascular system.

 I have a feeling that this winter in Japan is going to be very cold. I have to take good food and drink not to catch a cold. I am almost in winter sleep mode.

Enzyme bath part 2

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

I took a British person to my favorite enzyme bath in Fuji city.

One American said that by his experience, Japanese people like to make people from foreign culture surprised or even scared. If they are not surprised, Japanese people become very disappointed.

It may be right. In fact, I wanted to show him something unusual.

Enzyme bath consists of rice bran, fermentation agent and water. All of the ingredients are from nature. These things produce heat. We soak our body in the rice bran which is from 45C to more than 60C. We can’t take a bath in water as hot as 50 degrees but in the case of an enzyme bath, it’s not a problem. We can choose the temperature depending on our preference.

 This bath is good for the people who are fatigued without any serious health problems and even for people who have cancer. The owner of this bath told me that her client who has three tumors kept taking this bath. Then to their surprise, three tumors are united one and made the operation easier, then the operation went well and the person became healthy.

 My friend works hard and travels a lot, also he had a slight cold on that day.

Usually the one who tries it for the first time takes a bath around 15 minutes, but he said he would like to stay longer and ended up taking it for 25 minutes. After taking the bath, he looked very exhausted and sleepy but after that he looked refreshed. I hope more people experience this magical bath. Even babies who have skin problems can try. I heard it’s much better than taking medicine. I guess babies can be given something wrong from their mothers but since they are young , it’s easier to get rid of it.

For senior citizens, it helps them to rejuvenate by adding more enzymes.

Bringing loose-leaf green tea for a hiking.

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

I went on a short hike in the nearby mountains. The main purpose of hiking is enjoying drinking tea after walking as we view autumn colored leaves.

The weather was all right and the temperature relatively high for the beginning of November. It was a little too early for leaf-viewing though.

 

We discovered a small path along a main road then we pulled over in our car. This path is very quiet and the air is fresh. Its slope isn’t steep so it’s easy to walk as you breathe fresh air in. I don’t know why tea or onigiri ( rice balls ) taste so good outdoors. I don’t like tea from a thermos so I bought a small burner and kettle to make tea outdoors. In some places around Mt. Fuji, natural spring water is available but I brought water from my place. With this small but powerful gas, I can get cup noodles ready, too.

     

I tried this loose leaf drip. A kyusu (tea pot) is too heavy to carry but with this pack, we can enjoy loose-leaf tea. As I opened the package, its fragrance pervaded the air. You don’t have to look for a café when you go for a drive.

Sitting in a car long hours makes you tired. It’s important to take a break from time to time. You might find something you miss, if you just keep driving. I love to find lovely little things existing without being noticed.

Getting to know hemp in Yamanashi ( Lake Kawaguchi )

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

I happened to know about hemp by reading someone’s blog. I don’t know why but I became really curious about it. I learned that a couple living on Lake Kawaguchi ( Yamanashi ) and growing organic rice and vegetables also deal with hemp products. The wife makes clothes, underwear and accessories, etc.

I visited their place and found beautiful hemp clothes. They say that hemp is not only beautiful but also gives you energy and health.

Honestly I couldn’t believe that at first. So as a trial, I bought some pairs of socks made from hemp ( 46% ), cotton ( 38 % ), nylon ( 13 % ) and polyurethane ( 3% ). I bought some pairs for my family and we all tried and were surprised with this magical power. 1. Socks and feet don’t get stinky. 2. After wearing them for a day, the socks stay dry. 3. We all felt our feet warm in the socks.

 

 

 

Then I bought a loincloth since they say loincloth is the best to feel the effect of hemp. The loincloth is made from 100% hemp. Loincloth covers the point called “ seika tanden “ or “ hara “. The point is located about two inches below the navel. When I do zazen I try to bring my mind to focus on that point. Probably hemp provides my hara with its energy. The loincloth is thin but strong. It didn’t look very warm like a blanket but in fact I feel really warn when I wear it. They say wearing underpants often lowers our immune systems. But when I wear loincloth, our hip joints move smoothly and lymph glands work properly to make us healthy.

I feel very relaxed. The touch of hemp is very nice, too.

I heard that god gave humans hemp and water. After trying out hemp clothes, I understand that. It’s fun to know about hemp.

Seishi Nagatsuka, the Photographer at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I visited the Nagatsukas at their home, Maple House in the Asagiri highlands. This area is located to the west of Mt. Fuji, between the mountain and Lake Kawaguchi, which is one of the five lakes that surround it.

The previous day a powerful typhoon had passed by. I was amazed to see this beautiful photo taken by Mr. Nagatsuka.

The typhoon did not leave the Asagiri area until almost midnight. Mr. Nagatsuka couldn’t sleep that night so he went out. He has a beautiful huge garden in front of his house with unimpeded views of Mt. Fuji, not even an electrical line in the way. He caught this spectacular scene with the reflection of the moon, Mt. Fuji and clouds around it. The skies having been being swept clear by typhoon winds, the stars twinkled brightly. He said that it was not very easy to take this photo but he really wanted to share this wonderful scene with other people.

His wife Noriko Nagatsuka put this photo on her Face Book. Then many people inquired about who took the photo. Mr. Nagatsuka is a great photographer and he is a very friendly and nice person. I really like him. From professional to beginner, photo lessons are available. Anyone who would like to try, please contact me.

Minami Soma ( Fukushima )

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I went to back to my hometown, Minami soma. About six months have passed since the mega earthquake and tsunami. According to my mother, the situation has changed but many problems are still not solved and they are even encountering new problems. In this area, people have experienced a lot of hardships for thousands of years. I think because of this historical background, many people have been patient, kind to others and honest. Not all of them, though.

From Shizuoka where I live to Minami Soma, it used to take less than five hours by train. But after the earthquake, my hometown got much farther away.

The city is located between Iwaki and Sendai on the Jyoban rail line. But now train services aren’t available to Minami Soma because of the crippled nuclear power plants and broken rail tracks.

It seems more convenient to travel by car now. But we still have to avoid some areas when driving to the city and it takes more time.

On our way to Minami Soma, we stopped in Soma, to the north of Minami Soma. I was very glad to see my favorite rock called “ Mojishima “ still exists.

There used to be many restaurants and inns in this area but they have all been destroyed.

I saw people are cleaning the sea by excavators. The restroom building on the beach collapsed. But natural rock was not affected very much.  Probably it means if humans live according to nature, we will be more likely to survive. Nuclear power is totally against nature.

In Minami Soma, many people who evacuated came home but many families with children are still away from their hometown or living separately.

Many older people like my parents remain in town. Some children are in town and commute to schools far away. When disasters occur they reveal people’s true quality. Some doctors who used to practise in this city have left.

I don’t know if they had valid reasons or not. I was very glad to know the E.N.T doctor who has practised in the city still working hard in town. I know he is a very nice person so I was not surprised but it’s not very easy to keep going in this situation since many of his patients have to be away from the city.

However he knows many people in town need him.

What has happened and is still happening looks quite unfortunate but we learn a lot from it and we’ll be stronger. And it’s important to share the stories with many people who think that these matters are none of their business.

Cutting down on electric consumption in Japan

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Our consumption of electricity of August went down by 44 % than last August.

We were all surprised to find out as we saw the bill from TEPCO. Given the fact that last August we were all away about one week in August, we have almost saved more than 50% of electricity.

 

Since the power plant problems, we have always been thinking about how to be free from nuclear power as much as possible. Then we did these things.

1.    Replaced incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs.

2.    Bought a new TV, a new fridge and a new washing machine. Three of the ones we replaced were more than 12 years old.

3.    Used air conditioning only for its drying function.

4.    Used a big electric fan in the living room.

5.    Planted bitter melons to make a shade. Bitter melons give us energy.

6.    Turned off the heater on the toilets.

7.    Cooked rice on a gas stove. It took only 10 to 15 minutes, while it takes 45 minutes

by electric rice cooker.

To save more electricity, I should stop using the dish washer. But we can save water by using dish washer.

 

My conclusion is that we all consume too much unnecessary electricity at home.

Also our houses are designed to consume more electricity. We are trapped.

 

It’s fun to think how to save energy.

Mt. Minobu, Kuonji Temple

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

If you go to Shimobe hot spring, you might want to visit this temple. One American who has visited many temples in Kyoto or Kamakura told me that this Kuonji Temple was the most impressive one. As you walk in the second main gate, you’ll see long and steep stairs. Climbing up the stairs will be good exercise for you.If you are not strong enough to do so, you can go up by car. 

This temple was founded by Nichiren who established the Nichiren sect about 758 years ago. Nichiren had many hardships and danger in his life. He was persecuted and exiled to Izu or Sado Island or he was almost executed but each time some miraculous incident occurred and his life was saved. I enjoyed reading the stories along with looking at the paintings in the temple. At the time Nichiren lived, Japan had many troubles such as big earthquakes, famine and epidemics. People were suffering from these problems. Nichiren suggested his ideas to the leader of the country writing in “ Rittusyou ankoku ron” but the government didn’t listen to him. I think Nichiren was a very political person so his teaching may also be political. One of the famous persons who lived his life according to this teaching was Kenji Miyazawa.

I don’t know much about Buddhism but Zen seems to be more individualistic than Nichiren’s attitude. Zen seems to be a fight within one’s inner self. I heard one priest was chanting sutra. Nichiren’s chanting style sounds very powerful using drums or other instruments. I like listening to many kinds of sutras. I don’t always understand the meaning but I feel relaxed whenever I listen to them. One person told me, the important phrase in Nichiren “Nanmyou hou renge kyou” saves you from disaster. When the person has to pass by somewhat spooky places, she always chants the line quietly.