Zazen and a cozy old Japanese house

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

     

I went to the Zazen meeting. It was one of the coldest mornings and a lady who has a very nice house near the temple invited us in to have for soup breakfast after zazen.

 This soup is called Kenchin soup. According to the priest, its from Kenchoji Temple in Kamakura. In zens teaching, we are not supposed to waste anything.

Kenchin soup used to be made from leftover vegetables. But this kenchin soup was not made from leftovers and tasted very very delicious. 

Another joy was looking around her house. There are many good old Japanese things. She remodeled a traditional Japanese house into a very practical and cozy space. The food she cooks is great, and it is very comfortable and interesting talk with so many people there. I didnt want to leave the place.I said to her that I wouldnt stay long but I ended up overstaying.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 25th, 2009

 Here is Japanese confectionary for Christmas. We chose to have these this year  on Christmas day.

 They all look lovely , delicious and low in calorie.  They are made from mainly grain and sugar.

      I wish you a Merry Christmas.

A crossover concert at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I went to a concert at Maple House, a photographers house. When I arrived, there were already a lot of people, probably more than 50. We enjoyed three different kinds of performances.

1. Jazz : Two Japanese guitarlists and one American Shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese bamboo flute ) player performed together. I met the shakuhachi player John Kaizan Neptune for the first time in many years and enjoyed talking with him. I sometimes listened to his CD but I havent been to this kind of concert for many years. He is a self-made man. For example he makes Shakuhachi by himself and he made a new type of percussion. He says buying shakuhachi is very expensive so he makes them. Both the players and audience enjoyed the music. I always think that jazz can be enjoyed fully in that style, I mean very casual and in a smallish and intimate room.

2. Hula : A very beautiful Japanese woman danced hula. I tried to take a good photo of her but I couldnt make a successful one. Her dance is very graceful. According to her hula is said to be very good for our health, too. Some doctors are studying how the dance affects people’s bodies. She is keen to introduce hula to many people.


3. Mongolian folk songs: The singer, form Mongolia, lives in Fujinomiya. He played Mongoloian violin and sang Mongolian folk music called khoomii or throat singing. He paints,too. I really like Mongolian music because its very powerful and mysterious. I like the costume,too. He gave us a short khoomii lesson. I had a chance to talk with him and asked a strange question. Someone told me that if one keeps singing khoomii for a long time, the person will die. I doubted it that but I asked about it.He laughed and said, No way, Im going to live up to 200 years old. In fact this type of singing is very good for health.

The winter solstice

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

This year December 22rd is the winter solstice.

On this day people traditionally eat pumpkin and sweet azuki bean paste and take a bath with Yuzu citrus fruit.

I found this confectionary at my favorite shop. It looks cute and taste  delicioous,too. The outside is made from pumpkin and the inside is Azuki bean paste.

      This is a dumpling called ” Yuzu manjyu”.  This one is good, too.

At the foot of Mt. Fuji

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I organized a day tour in Fujinomiya. Takasago sake brewery. This brewery has been making good sake for about 180 years using mild and delicious water from Mt. Fuji. We had a tour of the brewery and even tasted new sake.

It tasted fresh and delicios. Some of it is bottled and can be enjoyed immediately as new sake. The rest is put aside to age.

     

Look at this cedar ball. This is called ” Sugidama ” in Japanese. When this green fresh cedar ball is at the door of the shop or warehouse, it means new sake is ready. It’s said that cedar kills germs.

They have some Buddhist statues carried down from the top of Mt. Fuji.

In the Meiji Era, the Japanese government suppressed Buddhism for mainly political reasons and they ordered people to break the statues. But some people saved them secretly, including the ancestor of this brewery, who kept some stutues hidden. Anyway after tasting some kinds of sake, we walked to Fujinomiya  Hongu Sengentaisha.

It was founded around 806 , over 1200 years ago to pacify Mt. Fuji. At that time the Mt. Fuji was a very active mountain.This shrine has been the head shrine for more than 1,300 Sengen shrines throughout Japan.

For lunch we ate buckwheat noodles. I tried them cold and placed welish onion and wasabi on the noodeles with a dipping sauce. Many other people tried hot soba.Their tempura was good,too. I love this noodle shop, it’s inexpensive considering it’s good quality. The people are friendly and attentive.

   

Then we headed for our photo teacher’s house. Seishi Nagatsuka is a famous photographer. He showed us his work and related many interesting things. For me, just looking around and sitting in his place teaches me a lot. His wife Noriko makes a great garden. That day was cloudy but Mt. Fuji can be seen like this when the weather is nice. This photo was taken by Noriko Nagatsuka.

We didn’t see Mt. Fuji , so that means we have to visit there again ?!

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#1

I tasted different types of sake at the sake brewery in Fujinomiya and learnt how they made sake.  I  really appreciated Yumi’s transalation.  I was able to understand everything the man said.   It was a great experience. After that we went to a famous shrine in Fujinomiya.  It was very impressive.  I liked hearing about the history of the place.  We also did a quiz on what we learnt, it was fun.  After the shrine, we went to a nice little soba shop.  We had a very delicious meal, and I slurped my noodles in the traditional way, it was embarrassing for me but it was fun to experience!  Lastly we went to a famous Japanese photographer’s (Mr. Nagatsuka) house.  We saw some excellent photographs and took some photos of the landscape around his house.  It was beautiful.  Of course at the end of the day I was tired, but I was happy that I experienced a day in Fujinomiya.

#2

Yumi was kind enough to organise a tour around Fujinomiya for us. It was really fun. Firstly, we went to a Sake brewery where we saw how sake is made and got to taste test three different kinds of sake. Even though it was only around 11:30 in the morning and I thought it was kind of strange to drink alcohol that early it was good to try the different types of sake and compare them. After that we went to Fujinomiya shrine. Yumi-sensei tested us on trivia about the shrine with the reward of chocolate for every correct answer. For example, did you know that Fujinomiya city owns the top part of Mt. Fuji above the 8th station. I didn’t…
Finally we went to a famous photographer’s house. He was kind enough to give us pointers on how to improve our photos and show us around his property.
Overall it was a very nice, informative day!

Kimono Lesson in Fuji

Monday, December 14th, 2009

 A lady from the U.S. and a man from Australia tried kimono on the other day.

They look great, don’t they ? When they were in kimono, they participated in a tea ceremony.

 

First they had confectionary. ” Oh ! yummy ! ”

Then they had powdered green tea. Before having it , we have to turn the cup twice to avoid drinking from the decolated part of the cup.

When they finish the tea they have to slurp so that the host or hostess knows that they have finished it then he or she moves on to the next stage.

After that we paid a visit to ashrine nearby. Wearing kimono seemed to be a special experience for them. The lady has already tried on Yukata, cotton summer casual kimono, but this time she tried a silk Furisode on for the first time. Firisode is a very colorful long-sleeved kimono which is worn by single ladies on formal occasion.

 A peacock is represented on this kimono.

The man’s kimono is a semi-formal one.

He practiced walking in wooden clog and looked very excited.

Specia sockes called ” Tabl” madehim a lot.

 

     

He practiced walking in wooden clogs and looked very excited. Special socks called ” Tabi ” made him laugh a lot. Kimono teacher and her staff are very efficient people. They could managed to do the lady’s hair do and clothe them in kimono in anout 20 minutes while chatting.

   They said that they are really happy to see people from different culture enjoy and appreciate kimono. Kimono is a wonderful treasure and they hope more people will try kimono on. Some people think kimono is something expensive , but it’s not always so. One kimono can be handed down from generation to generation. The size is quite adjustable so many people can share the same kimono. Second-hand kimono are available, too. They are quite reasonable. Why don’t you try kimono on !

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Mt.Fuji, Zazen, Hakuin

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

I joined the Sunday Zazen meeting in Hara ( numazu, Shizuoka). I got up early and drove to the temple.

On my way to the temple I saw a beautiful sunrise illuminating Mt. Fuji splendidly so I pulled over my car and took some photos of the mountain. I wanted take some photos of the sunrise too, but I didn’t have enough time to do that.

People say ” The early bird catches the worms.” And I think it’s true. I often sleep late on Sundays and I feel bad having done so. Particularly in winter because daytime is shorter so getting up late only emphasises this. I hate my lazyness. But I feel happy tody. I did zazen and became totally refreshed.

   

The people at the meeting are all nice and calm. The priest told me not to think when I do zazen. But it’s not easy for me. I have a lot of things in my mind. To have peace in the mind I have to make it clear and empty.It may takes ages for me to accompliah it. The priest recommended me the book ” Wild Ivy ” written by Zen master Hakuin and translated by Nrman Waddell. We are going to have a reading class on this book in English. If you are interested in this study meeting feel free to ask me.

I heard the basketball player, Michael Jordan practices zen and it makes him happy. Why don’t we try,too ?