Visiting Zen master Hakuin’s Hometown

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Next, Eric and I went to Hara where Hakuin (the zen master) was born. Hakuin traveled to many places in Japan as he trained and finally he came back to Shoinji temple in Hara. It is said that many priests longed for Hakuin and visited Shoinji temple to learn from him. There have been five Hakuin related temples and Chokouji is one of them. According to Rev. Matsushita from Chokouji , Chokouji used to accommodate trainees who learned from Hakuin.

        

If you go to Shoinji, you’ll see these three writings on the boards. These are three important things Hakuin emphasized. 1. Have a big question. In zen, people seek to find out who they are. 2. Have the strong belief that the proper way of training will lead you to the state of enlightenment. 3. Have a strong passion for your improvement. Every year on April 29th, Hakuin’s hanging scrolls are on display and anyone can visit to see them.

 

       

Just like old time trainees, first we went to Choukoji. There Rev. Matsushita welcomed us with his delicious green tea. Matcha green tea is one of the top grade teas. Matcha enables us to take whole leaves so it is particularly good for our health. Along with beautiful confectionery matcha gave us energy. In the words of the tea ceremony, people say “ Ichigo ichi-e.” It means “ Treasure every encounter” I really like this term.

 

Mishima Taisha ( Shinto Shrine )

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Before going to Ryutakuji ( zen temple), we went to Mishima Taisha. In this shrine, Ooyamazuminokami and Ebisu are enshrined. Ooyamazuminokami is a god for mountains, forests and aguriculture. Ebisu is a god for businesses. We have many Sengen shrines around Mt. Fuji and on top of Mt. Fuji, too. At Sengen shrine, Konohanasakuyanohime is enshrined and this goddess is a daughter of Ooyamazuminokami.

 

First, we went to a chozusha to wash our hands and rinse our mouth before paying our visit to the gods. We do this as a brief form of misogi or purification.

 

We came across a Shinto priest and he told us that they were going to have a wedding ceremony in a few minutes. How lucky !

The beautiful bride and groom were walking to the shrine led by a Shinto maiden. We could listen to Gagaku . The URL below, you can listen to Gagaku. It’s not from Mishima Taisha, though.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSK0BvGQsEc&list=QL&feature=BF

 

 

Later Eric and I talked about music and I learned that he is a professional musician ! He plays the cello. No wonder his voice is very nice, sounds like a cello. Someday I hope to listen to his cello.

 

 

 

Ryutakuji Temple in Mishima ( Rinzai zen )

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

   

I was very happy to accompany this American to Ryutakuji temple in Mishima the other day. He has been practicing zen for 10 years and knows a lot about it. Since his great grand teacher, Soen Nakagawa, was once an abbot of this temple, he had been wanting to visit for some time. The day we visited was one of the days of intensive training period called “settushin”. Usually people outside of the temple can’t get into the precinct, let alone inside of the temple, but those who have strong passion for learning can attend the abbot’s lecture. I think it was fortunate of him to visit Mishima on that day. I guess the late abbot was somehow ushering him into the temple. I asked the general manager ( Shikaryo ) for special permission to visit the abbots’ cemetery, and again this was granted. I have been to this temple for a few times for its festival on Nov. 23rd. We can see many calligraphy scrolls and paintings made by many famous people such as Hakuin or Genpou Yamamoto, in fact I love Genpou Yamamoto. I think his life was dramatic enough to be a movie. Before the lecture I heard some drums played by trainees and the sound affected me very much. The sutra chanted by everyone was awesome. The abbot talked about zazen mainly. I felt zen is not something to study like subjects at school. It’s something we learn physically or we can learn by feeling it. I may be wrong but I felt so. I asked my new American friend how he came to like zen. He said it’s a long story but among other examples, he mentioned that when he played ice hockey and wanted to learn how to concentrate, or when he studied physics but didn’t understand something, in both cases zen showed him a way. I guess zen might help us find a way of thinking in every field. The abbot also told us that we have to do zazen in the correct manner. Zazen can be done anywhere , by anybody. All we need is a cushion to sit on. But first we need to learn how to do it correctly by proper person. My friend said that many people become healthy by doing zazen, that’s for sure.

 

 

Dining Cafe and Bar in Fuji

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I had two guests from Kyoto and Kobe. They came by bullet train and got off at Shin-Fuji station. Tokaido bullet trains are very fast and punctual. It takes about two hours and forty minutes by Kodama Express. They arrived around lunch time and I took them to this café. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the north exit.

They have many different types of food. We had Fujinomiya Yakisoba.

Yakisoba is a fried noodle dish seasoned with broth and Worcester sauce.

They were happy to try this famous local food. Fujinomiya Yakisoba is well-known as so called B-rate gourmet food. They liked the noodles’ chewiness.I like the atmosphere, BGM ( jazz ) and the cost performance.

Yakisoba and coffee cost only 680 yen. Some diners took their pet dog and they had lunch on the deck outside. It was wise enough to reserve a non-smoking table. It was almost full for lunch time. Café Seri 10:30~21:00, Tuesdays closed. 0545-60-0063

 

 

Fuji Delicacy

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

This year’s weather was very irregular, so a lot of vegetables and fruit

are expensive. But not all of them. The peanuts harvest was abundant and the quality seems to be good this year. In the area I now live, Fuji city in Shizuoka, we enjoy having boiled peanuts. I hadn’t tried them before I came here so it must be a local Fuji delicacy. I bought a big bag of raw peanuts at a farmer’s market and boiled them with salt in a pressure cooker for about 9 minutes. Before draining them I left them soaking them in the salt water until it had cooled down. The peanuts go well with tea, beer and wine. For children they will make a healthy snack. In fact, peanuts are good for the liver. They are rich in protein, vitaminB1, B2, C, and calcium etc. They make our capillary vessels more flexible. They keep our bodies young! But if you eat roasted ones too much, you might get a nose-bleed. However if they are boiled, it won’t happen. People who have diabetes can eat boiled peanuts for a snack. I often serve these boiled peanuts as starter. I invite my family and friends to my kitchen as I cook and we make a toast with chilled beer. I’m not a kitchen drinker but a kitchen partier!

Tea ceremony in Fuji City ( Shizuoka )

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

A friend of mine and I went to a tea ceremony one Sunday morning.

Kobayashi En, which grows and produces delicious green tea in Fuji city, has a wonderful tea room. I don’t know why but they have had strong ties with Ryutakuji temple in Mishima for many generations. So they have many calligraphy scrolls done by famous people.

On that day we saw one by a priest of the Obaku School of zen. Probably he must have been a distinguished priest but I didn’t know about him. The Obaku School’s head temple is Manpukuji temple in Kyoto. It is also Zen but their style is rather Chinese. I like Obaku style shojin dishes. They are very different from Japanese cooking and quite interesting.http://www.obakusan.or.jp/fucha/index.html

 

A tea ceremony host or hostess chooses a hanging scroll appropriate for the season or occasion. This scroll is for autumn. The hostess chose it because in this season it gets cooler at night and we can see the moon clearly. This year’s summer was long and extremely hot so everybody might share the same relief.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 Before going into the tea room, we had sencha and confectionary. They have a bigger room next to the hall. There I saw a big calligraphy scroll made by the abbot of Myosinji temple in Kyoto. http://www.myoshinji.or.jp/english/zen.htmlIt says : “Sitting on top of the great mountain alone”. I am not sure what he means. Someone told me that it doesn’t mean that he’d like to lord it over others but rather that he’d like to be independent and not to be influenced by anything.

Then we went into the tea room via the nijiriguchi, a little worried about being able to get through such a small entrance. But I managed it relatively successfully. I kind of like this because it made me feel I was entering another world like in the movie “Being John Malkovich”.

We had good homemade confection and two bowls of green tea from beautiful bowls. Both of us were quite satisfied with our luxurious Sunday morning.

I hope more people enjoy tea ceremony. I still don’t know much about proper etiquette but the tea teacher and students were very kind and helpful.

The next gatherings are on November 7th and December 5th. Only 500 yen for each. The tea room is open from 10:00 AM to around 13:00 PM. If you would like to join us, please contact me.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

A friend of mine is having a closer look.

 

Sushi

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

 

Sushi used to be a special food when I was a child. Now sushi is available in many different styles and price ranges all over the world. Personally I love sushi in Tokyo . Susisei in Ginza serves good sushi at a moderate price for someone like me. I like to eat sushi at a bar a la carte while drinking a little beer or sake. It costs more than ordering by fixed menu though. But just like in an Izakaya, I can order what I feel like eating in smaller portions, and that’s what I like about it. The other day I went to a sushi bar for lunch. We were a kind of pressed for time so I ordered a fixed menu. It had eight different kinds of sushi, miso soup, and dessert. Of course we got free konacha tea. It was ok. For one person it was only 1,800 yen. Compared to beef bowl at Yoshinoya or Sukiya, (both are less than 300 yen ) it must be way too expensive though. In Japan it seems like the prices of many things are staying lower as companies are competing with each other. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. All I hope is to maintain the quality and reasonable prices. The experience of eating authentic food is important even though it’s expensive. Food is a significant part of culture.

An Exhibition in Ginza ( Tokyo )

Monday, October 4th, 2010

One of my best friends, Yukiko Kasahara, had an exhibition at a gallery called “ Simon” http://g-simon.com. I hadn’t seen her for a long time but she was just the same and her work was amazing. I was very happy and touched, too. I’m really proud of her. Her work is based on Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy. I knew this Austrian thinker’s name but I was not quite familiar with his ideas. I took my British friend to the exhibition and according to him, Steiner emphasized the harmony of human beings and nature and the importance of spiritual elements in education and art. Yukiko displayed some of her etchings and I really liked them too. The gallery owner is a sommelier and talked about the bio wine made by Steiner’s method. I was surprised to know that Steiner also studied about agriculture. The method is that grapes are to be grown according to the location of the moon or other planets. For example, the moon’s location tells us when to water the plants and so on. They don’t use any chemical fertilizer. I really want to try the bio wine someday. It is said that this kind of wine tastes delicious. Ginza is well-known as a shopping district and it has many interesting art galleries, too. Why don’t you visit sometime when you are in the area?