December 24, 2010

Reflections・・・ at Kyoto Station

 Kyoto Station is a futuristic building designed by the architect Hiroshi Hara. The station, soaring 60 meters high up to the sky, was completed in 1997.

The main concourse is amazingly spacious; 50 meters high, 147 meters wide, 29 meters deep. Through the ceiling, the art of steel and glass, people see the sky color changing over time and feel the transience of time. I appreciate it as the building has the Japanese traditional way of sensing the subtle change although it is a masterpiece of futurism.  At sunset the ceiling seems to glow a pale pink. The combination of the sunset, the high ceiling and the huge space is inspiring. This perfect setting also reminds me of a solemn cathedral in Europe.

What I enjoyed the most are the beautiful reflections. All the pictures in this blog, except one, have the reflections.
The huge glass facade  mirrors the sky, clouds and Kyoto Tower.
 These are intriguing mirror images. You will  wonder, what you see  is real or not.

He seems to be going to fall from the edge of the top. His image is also a reflection.

Twins of Kyoto Tower
 Grand Staircase is the soothing area where people sit down to take a rest, eat  or enjoy doing nothing.

Over the main concourse is an aerial walkway connecting the east and west wings,
 and giving a magnificent view of the city.
Although more than ten years have passed after the construction, this building is still half praised and half criticized by people. As Kyoto is the ancient capital where the emperors had lived more than 1000 years, the architectures in the city are expected to harmonize and unify with its long history and unique culture. Some people think the station is too modern. But, I really like this building which is the ideal  fusion of the modern and the traditional.

In front of the station is Kyoto Tower which also has been the subject of controversy since it was built. It isthe similar case with the station.

Kyoto Station is one of the most important transportation hubs served by train lines extending throughout Japan.
Why don't you come and explore the station which is the ideal starting point of your journey to Kyoto.
I'm sure you'll like it!

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December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas at Nara Park !

In the late afternoon of a gentle winter day, I happened to meet this scene.

 A deer has just arrived at the edge of a pond to drink water. A father is taking pictures of his family, lying on his belly over a rock. People are talking and walking. Children are smiling. The pond quietly mirrors the peaceful scene. Over them, soaring up to the sky is a dawn redwood,  turning reddish-brown and watching people.  It looks like a natural Christmas tree.

When I encountered the tranquil and  soothing scene,  I could not help murmuring,
  " Merry Christmas !."

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December 06, 2010

Why Don't You Have a Cup of Tea ? Kissako (喫茶去)

"Kissako" is one of Buddha's teachings.

When you are very worried  or obsessed about your trouble, you can not see anything else but your trouble. You focus on one thing which seems too hard to solve, and you don't know what to do.

In such a time of being at a  loss, why don't you have a cup of tea?  The cup of tea will  surely relax you and make you realize there must be a  way  to conquer your trouble or it may not be as serious as  you  think.

When I walked pass him, I thought  I heard his voice  "Why don't you have a cup of tea?"



December 01, 2010

Last Flicker of Subtle Beauty, Mizuya-chaya (水谷茶屋)

There are two beautiful princesses in the myth of Nara. One is Princess Saho, the deity of spring. The other is Princess Tatsuta, the deity of autumn.

Princess Tatsuta gracefully flies from tree to tree and whispers to trees "Time has come. Change colors." Her long scarf is flowing and touching to them one by one. Being waked up with her gentle whispers, the trees start to turn myriad colors - crimson, scarlet, red, orange, gold, yellow and more, astonishing variety of hues. Finally she  arrives at Mizuya-chaya (Chaya means a tea room. 水谷茶屋)and finishes her mission. Mizuya-chaya is the last place where people enjoy viewing autumn leaves in Nara Park .

Mizuya-chaya is located at the entrance of the northern approach to Kasuga Grand Shrine. When climbing down the stairs from Mt. Wkakusa or climbing down from  the shrine,  a traditional thatched house suddenly appears . People catch their breath and feel as if they wandered into the fairy land.
It doesn't look like a restaurant but a tiny traditional house. It serves simple food -  noodles and Japanese sweets. You can enjoy the picturesque scenery and food, sitting outside. In all seasons, this place pleases the eye as much as the palate of visitors.

Behind  Mizuya-chaya, trickling is a serene stream,  Mizuya River, now being covered with autumn leaves. The river is the border between the sacred world of Kasuga Grand Shrine and the ordinary world.

There are a few small  paper dolls in the river. In Shinto, there is a purification ritual in which paper dolls are floated down rivers to wash away bad luck.

This picture was taken at the same place on June 30th when the big purification ritual is held annually.

The scenery of the surrounding  area  welcomes us  with the delicate beauty contributing to evoke quiet reflection.

A deer also seems to enjoy glowing autumn leaves.

November 29, 2010

Let's Talk About World Heritage in English ! Todai-ji Temple!

On a beautiful autumn day,  high school students visit Todai-ji Temple which is famous for Great Buddha (大仏-Daibutsu) and designated as World Heritage Site. There they enjoy guiding in English.
This is part of the English lesson of Ikuei High School.  Away from textbook English, the students study living English through this lesson by serving as the temporary guides for foreign travelers. 

Before the lesson, in school  they make their own sentences to guide  Todai-ji Temple  based on  those copies given to them.

 They are advised to heed the three important things while their guiding.
1. Big smile
2. Eye contact
3. Clear voice

Now, they are ready to go.

The  students  ask foreign travellers to listen to their explanations. .

Student: "I'm a 2nd grade high school student. Would you give me 5 minutes? I would like to tell you about Todai-ji Temple."
As soon as the  English speaking travellers know this is part of English class, all of them  instantly answer "Sure!"
 They  listen to the students with smiles, encouraging them to speak English. We appreciate their generous kindness. But, the students are very nervous.

Student:  "This is Great South Gate, the entrance to Todai-ji Temple."
Traveller:  "It's huge!"

S: "The gate is supported by 18 solid ・・・・."
T: "Would you tell me again?"

S: "They are a pair of guardian deities, made of more than 3000 wooden pieces."
T: "Amazing!"

S: "He is one of the four directional guardians."
T: "He is very scary!"

S: "In Nara Park there are about 1100 wild deer."
T: "Oh, they are wild!"
The students  give a thank-you note with their messages to express their hearty thanks.

 Time flies. Now the students finish the exciting English class and  look relieved, relaxed with confidence and satisfaction.

Our groupe helps the students study spoken English and  accompanies them in Todai -ji Temple to make the lesson go smoothly.This is our annual event.

 We are the first students who graduated from the three-month "English Guide Course for Adult Students" held by Tezukayama University. Now the fifth students are studying in the university.

November 28, 2010

Start of Winter

According to the lunar calender, November 7th made the start of winter.
 While  autumn leaves are boasting the last  glory of myriad shades of subtle beauty, winter is arriving in earnest.
Deer are eating silently to prepar for the hash winter.

November 21, 2010

Funny Funny Osaka People! Black Mayonnaise and Catherine

I was born in Kyoto and raised in Osaka. I have lived in Tokyo for seven  years. And now I live in Nara. Sometimes I miss  funny Osakans who are really born comedians.

Funny Advertisement in Osaka
This poster was so impactful that it stopped me walk and made me chuckle.  "Alone, Vancouver!" Soon I started to make a story about the chubby man in the poster.

"His dream was to be a figure skater and to perform in the Olympics. However things were not favorable to him, and he had to give up his dream. Maybe he was not talented enough or his appearance did not allow him to be a figure skater. But hearing  news of  the coming Vancouver Olympics, he rekindled his old dream. Now he is standing at the skating rink in Hira-Pa alone, wearing a flashy costume and posing."
"What a genius made such a funny poster!" , I thought.

Hira-Pa is the shortened name of Hirakata Park which is the oldest amusement park in Japan, and located in Hirakata city, Osaka. It is famous for beautiful chrysanthemum dolls in autumn.

One of Black Mayonnaise- the name of  comedy duo, Kosugi has been advertising Hira-Pa as a mascot character "Hira-Pa Niisan" which is the shortened name of "Hirakata Park no Oniisan" meaning Brother in Hirakata Park.

 What is going on in Hirakata Park now? The park  is  in the middle of election campaign spree to choose  Kosugi or another Black Mayonnaise,Yoshida for the second Hira-pa Niisan. Which one is  more suitable as Hira-Pa Niisan?  But, why did the election campaign start?

Because, one day very disturbing fact was disclosed. The disclosure is that  present Hira-Pa Niisan, Kosugi has been to Hira-Pa only once and  moreover, he likes a certain theme park in Osaka more than Hira-Pa.  On the contrary, Yoshida has been to Hira-Pa more than fifty times and  loves Hira-Pa the best.  Yoshida started claiming he would be better Hira-Pa Niisan than Kosugi. Here started the very heated election campaign- "The Hira-Pa Niisan Senkyo", "Election for Hira-Pa Niisan".  The fans of Black Mayonnaise are being confused, complaining that to force them to choose one of Black Mayonnaise is cruel, but at the same time they are enjoying this great joke and are  indulged in the very stupid spree . You can join this funny election to vote for in Hira-Pa until 22nd November. Only two days more!  Which one do you choose?

They have been  issuing their manifestos,  holding down each other and speaking ill of each other. Hira-Pa Niisan election  campaign is here.

Last minute apple-polishing!

Funny Bus Tour in Osaka

This is Duck Tour in Osaka. As the name shows, a bus is amphibian.  The windows of the bus are open without any glass. So, it is extremely hot in summer and freezing in winter. But in the bus, the temperature is always very  high because of a bus tour  guide.
This is  Catherine, a tour guide. She is a typical " Osaka no Obachan", literally meaning an ant of Osaka who is over kind,  very talkative, very curious and very very funny.

Catharine is a very funny and informative guide. She  tells us many interesting things about Osaka. Occasionally she says " Let's shout Ooooh!"  With our fists up, we shout "Ooooh"  very loudly. Whenever she finds  familiar faces, she shouts to them from the the bus, "Hello! How are you?" "Thank you, your coffee is very good!" and more. The loud, noisy shouts make pedestrians or passers-by startled. Soon we  find loudly shouting in the middle of  a big city like Osaka is a greater fun than expected.

This is the most dangerous moment for us when the bus goes from the land to the river.  A staff member of the Duck Tour company anxiously  watches the moment at the river bank. If he smiles, it means everything is all right. But, he frowns longer and makes us worried. Catherin says that  he enjoys acting more and more. The total tour takes 100 minuets. After the tour is finished, we will have released all stresses.

This huge duck has nothing to do with Duck Tour.