Tom's travels

"To follow knowledge like a sinking star..."

Posted on: Fri, 03/30/2007 - 08:55 By: Tom Swiss

Well, didn't rain. Was a lovely day, in fact when I went for my run I would have appreciated a pair of shorts.

Got my laptop audio set up so I can use it as an "IP phone" - make very cheap calls, like 2 cents a minute, back to the US. Sound quality ain't great, but workable. Called home to talk Rachel though computer set-up, the DSL line was back up but for reasons unknown we needed some config work to get her PC back on line.

Last night I was doing some reading on-line about Red Thread Zen. Turns out that crazy wonderful lusty Zen master Ikkyu was abbot of Daitokuji, the Zen temple I went to last week, in his later years. Now I must go back.

karate in Sakai; old farmhouses in Osaka

Posted on: Thu, 03/29/2007 - 22:44 By: Tom Swiss

Last night I had the pleasure of training at Senpai Kuwa's Kansai Seido Karate dojo in Sakai City. I am very grateful for the warm reception I received.

I can even now say that I've taught karate in Japan (bringing coal to Newcastle and selling iceboxes to Inuit are next on my list), as Kuwa Senpai handed me the reins for the second class. A few language difficulties, but Kuwa Senpai's English is excellent and he was able to translate for me. (It is interesting though that for some things I've learned a different Japanese, instead of "kiai-do!" as the instruction to do the next techniques with kiai, the famous martial arts shout, they used some te-form verb I didn't quite catch, "kiai-mumble-te kudasai" - probably more polite and grammatically correct.) Senpai and his family were kind enough to take me out for dinner afterward, and even scour the menu for something vegetarian for me. Much fun and I look forward to next week's keiko. (Though today, returning to training after a few weeks off, I can definitely feel it! But it's a "good pain".)

Today, slept in after staying up late trying to deal with an internet outage at home (complicated by not being there plus being about 13 hours ahead timewise). Beautiful day and I knew I had to do something outside, so I went to the Open Air Museum of Old Farmhouses, in Ryokuchi-koen.

Sakura blossoms in Kyoto rain

Posted on: Tue, 03/27/2007 - 10:48 By: Tom Swiss

Today, Kyoto again, Nanzen-ji.

     Sakura blossoms in Kyoto rain
     I think of my grandfather

(maybe I'll try to make that into a proper Nihongo haiku...someday)

Nanzen-ji, big Zen temple complex. Great big old central temple, a painting of a dragon on the ceiling - you can only see it from outside. Apparently there's some thing about sticking your hands through the bars and clapping to make an echo. I follow along. (I bought a poster of the dragon painting.) Lovely lovely gardens, a great painting of Bodhidharma on one wall in the abbot's quarters. Had real o-cha in their tea room looking out at a waterfall and garden, very nice.

But then. Go up the hill behind. First a small old Buddhist temple, Saisho-in; not so much a touristy place as an active, day-to-day, actively used community temple - the kind I love to find. As I stand there for a moment of meditation, a woman parks her car just outside the grounds, walks up quickly, bows to the shrine, and hurries back out. Just stopped by to say "Hi" or "Thanks", I guess.

A beautiful small cemetery behind it, stand and watch the rain fall, see an offering of sake left on a grave, think the young man in the inner city pouring out a 40 for a fallen homie, consider that the Buddha was a prohibitionist, contemplate the adaptability of the dharma.

Umbrellas, Dali, Daruma

Posted on: Sat, 03/24/2007 - 10:33 By: Tom Swiss


I don't have a good history with them. They tend to be ripped away by the wind, or left behind, within a few days of my purchasing one. So I usually go with a hat to keep my head dry, and a reasonably rain-repellent jacket.

But, I don't live in a mass-transit culture; when it's raining, I just don't spend much time outdoors.

Here, when it rains, umbrellas come out. Everyone has one. There are boxes or stands for wet umbrellas outside every shop.

Tramping around in the rain, getting damp, surrounded by umbrellas, getting weird looks for being an idiot who's gtting rained on, I gave in an bought one at a convenience store in Shinsaibashi. We'll see how long it lasts.

Earlier today, went to the Dali exhibit with Liz and company. Quite crowded; everyone very quiet, moving in orderly queues.

Sumo, Nara, and Indian food in Japan

Posted on: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 07:30 By: Tom Swiss

In Puru Nima, an Indian restaurant in Shinsaibashi. Indian food is quite popular here - the restaurants are a savior for vegetarians (though I've resigned myself to missing the 100% vegan target, probably ingesting some ghee in something I order), and the menus all seem to have English.

Yesterday I daytripped out to Nara, one of my favorite places. Nara was the first "permanent" capital of Japan, though that lasted only a few decades (before that, it changed with each emperor). Paid my respects to the Daibutsu at Todaiji, the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world, housed in the largest wooden building.

Also visted Shin-Yakushiji, a temple dedicated to the Medicine Buddha and to the "Twelve Divine Generals", fierce spirits that drive disease out of the body. I visited both on my first trip over here, and really wanted to see Shin-Yakushiji again, a small temple but good energy (I felt blessed to see it right before starting my shiatsu training, a good omen). I bought a souvenir print of the Buddha and the 12 generals, which I think will go well on the wall of my treatment space (maybe I'll arrange a loan to The Well "from the collection of Tom Swiss"). I think I might return there to get some omiyage (souvenir gifts) for my shiatsu friends.

karaoke, Japanese style

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 09:45 By: Tom Swiss

Word trivia for the day: "karaoke" means "empty orchestra", and is
written with the same kanji "kara" as "karate", "empty hand".

Going out on the town in Japan means making a decision: to head back
early, or to miss the last train (which runs around 11:30pm) and either
walk, take an expensive cab, or stay out until the trains start up again
about 5:30am (many places stay open all night to take your money while
you're waiting).

Last night I decided to stay for the end of Eric's gig, which meant
missing last train. I thought I might shell out for a cab, but somehow I
got talking with a few local musicians who were going out for karaoke, and
got invited to tag along.

ukuleles in Osaka

Posted on: Sat, 03/17/2007 - 08:15 By: Tom Swiss

At The Cellar, a pub Shinsaibashi. Eric is playing later with "The Tardy Boys". I came down early, to find a ukulele recital.

Drinking Guiness on St. Particks Day (yes, I'm wearing green, as are several Nihonjin here) in a pub in Osaka, listening to ukulele recital, with songs sung in English and Japanese. Am I a world citizen yet?

Let's self medication!

Posted on: Thu, 03/15/2007 - 08:12 By: Tom Swiss

Yes, let's self medication! Seems I've picked up a bit of a cold, so yesterday I was off to Universal City in search of a drug store where I might be able to understand what I was buying, and where I found this delightful sign.

But let me back up a bit. Saturday, I met up with Liz in Osakajo-koen, Osaka Castle Park. Lovely day!

We wondered about the park a bit, then headed down to Shinsaibashi. Our orginal plan was to meet up with a friend of hers to go to New Age healing fair, which sounded like it might be interesting, but that didn't work out.

Instead we got dinner at Slices (yes, I was able to order up vegan style pizza), met up with Eric later on. I ended the evening with a few drinks at Mojo Bar, a little walk-down place in America Mura. Not a gaijin-bar, but enough English about that I could talk a bit. The nihonjin present were tickled that I was a karate teacher and a shiatsu practitioner.

the tale of the jitensha

Posted on: Fri, 03/09/2007 - 20:10 By: Tom Swiss

Found the music store yesterday, thank goodness. Bought a tuner, capo,
slide, and some picks to replace what I left in Baltimore. Didn't find
wireless but the cable guys came this afternoon, so I'm good.

So: the tale of the jitensha...

Andy, gaijin-liason for my landlords, had suggested a nearby bike store
with a used selection at good prices. I found a decent one at 5500 yen
(interestingly, it was what we'd call a girl's model in the states, but
that doesn't seem to apply here) and decided to buy it.

The shopkeeper had about as much English as I have Nihongo. And there was a
form to fill out. Apparently bikes have to be registered (which,
fortunately, I remembered from a conversation on a previous visit; I
wouldn't have gotten the idea otherwise, and might have tossed the paper he
gave me.) But the shopkeeper was a good nihonjin, full of ganbatte - "go
for it", "don't give up" - and wasn't going to let language stand in the
way. So we made it work.

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