Another reason I love Kiyomizu-dera is the Jishu Shrine! It is a love shrine and everybody needs some love, even world traveling divas. The teenybopper in me wouldn`t rest until I visited the `love shrine.`
I walked, I saw, I squealed in glee, and I purchased a `love cupid` charm and made a wish for my coming beloved.
The Jishu Shrine is also famous for a lover`s test. If a person wants to gain success in love, she/he must walk between two stones that are set 10 meters apart with their eyes closed. I did the walk with my eyes closed and was successfully!
Privilege. I was swimming in this feeling as I walked around the ancient rooms of Nanzenji on Wednesday afternoon. My mind tripped on the fact that a few weeks ago, I was teaching English to overheated junior high school students in Toyama City. I was also basking in the disbelief that three years ago, I could only dream of spending a Wednesday afternoon indulging in Japanese Buddhist culture.
I dig Kyoto for the obvious reasons; it is a city, it is home to loads of temples, shrines and other Japanese cultural artifacts, and the people don`t stare at me too much. Therefore, I knew I had to visit Kyoto for a last time before I bid adieu to the land of the rising sun.
I arrived in Kyoto on Wednesday sleep deprived and emotionally drained from another round of goodbyes at the Toyama Japan-Rail station. However, the Kyoto zest swept over me as I left the train station. The urban air and sun charged my lifeless body for a little sightseeing after I settled into my hostel. I decided that I needed to visit the Buddhist temples in Eastern Kyoto, like I needed air to breathe.
I have an off and on passion for Buddhism. I like the religion because it seems uncoupled with all the historical baggage (the enslavement of Africans in the U.S., etc.) that Christianity has in the West. However, the fact that Buddhism is a world away from my Midwest roots may also be a reason that I`m so intrigued with it.
The first temple I visited was Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion). Unfortunately, Ginkakuji doesn`t glisten like it`s cousin, Kinkakuji. Everyone raves about the Kinkakuji for obvious reasons- it is the bling bling of Japanese Buddhist temples. But Ginkakuji has one saving grace- the garden. I`m not a garden person per se but I can enjoy Japanese horticulture with the best of them. The Japanese rock garden heading into the temple area seduces you into a zen mind frame. I could feel myself calming down after the mini-hike to the temple.
The second temple I saw was Nanzenji. Why did I go to Nanzenji? Boston Spice recommended it to me and it was on the way to the money-shot of Kyoto temples (in my view), Kiyomizu-dera. Nanzenji didn`t disappoint me but it did befuddle me. Nanzenji isn`t just a temple- the grounds hold a number of smaller temples.
I was walking through the main building, Seiryo-den, marveling over the murals from the Kano School artists when the weight of my life smacked me in the face. Here I was a former girl-child from Parktown who spent summers reading travel guides because my family didn`t have the means to travel beyond the American borders. Here I was a former working class girl spending a work day sauntering around the temples of Kyoto and eating too much ice cream after basking in the sizzling sun. The tears I had prepared to cry in sadness slid down my face as I was overcome with joy about my life. How did I get here? Why was I so blessed?
After crying, I regained my composure. I also decided it was time to depart Nanzenji for my heart`s desire, Kiyomizu-dera. I was walking towards the exit when I caught a glance of a waterfall in a room on the other side of the exit. I decided to take spy a look into the secret room where Japanese traditional tea was being served in front of a waterfall! I had to join this party, so I paid another 500yen for a tea ceremony ticket. Japanese tea ceremony is high culture that it now practiced by many elderly women and my crazy Cousin Ryumi. I dabbled in Japanese tea ceremony at one of my junior high schools. I developed a fondness for drinking the foamy green stuff which cultured Japanese people call tea.
I sat down Indian style since I don`t have the body to sit Japanese (sitting on your feet) style. I concentrated on the beauty and smell of water cascading down a private waterfall for my pleasure. I kept thinking that I really need to be like water-go with the flow. A woman served me tea traditional style. She seemed a little surprised that I knew how to hold the cup, enjoy it`s beauty, and savor the tea in three swallows. I sat the tea bowl down and marveled at my life and departed the room.
I got lost trying to find the bus stop near Nanzen-ji but I eventually made it to Kiyomizu-dera. My students at N. Junior High School put me on to the hotness that is Kiyomizu-dera. Why is it so hot, Ms. World? Two words- Jishu Shrine and that balcony! The temple`s main hall juts out over the greenery of Kyoto. It is a very beautiful sight. I could write African-American Japanese romance novellas and set the last scene on the balcony. It is a place that beckons the romantic in me.
Of course, there is a price to pay before reaching the land of desire and to reach the romance land of Kiyomizu-dera, I had to walk up a steep hill under a hellish sun. However, once I reached the main temple hall, the memory of my climb melted into the Kyoto forest.
Please note the best photos I took on this day can`t be displayed because they are upside down. I`m still figuring out how to do the photo thing on the road.
Last Saturday night, I had my final ballyhoo with my adopted Japanese family. The family hosted a farewell feast for the Miami Diva and I. I had a great time overindulging in Japanese beer and eating Toyama`s culinary delights. I will miss my Japanese family. I feel very blessed to have met them and formed a bond with them.
I now pray that an Indian family will adopt me because cross-cultural adoption is a great way to learn about people and places.
LONG LIVE THE I. CLAN! Duomo Arigato Gozaimashita!
It is Saturday night and I haven`t cried yet. I actually think I may not shed one tear of sadness as I depart Japan on Sunday afternoon. It has been much harder than I expected to say goodbye to Toyama. A few months ago, I was counting down the days and daydreamed of a very happy & welcomed exit from my life as an English teacher. However, I think I was glossing over all the emotional ties and connections I`ve formed in Toyama. It has been much harder than I expected to say my goodbyes. My homegirl, Diva Nonnie has summoned it up best, `It (Toyama) isn`t a place but a moment in time` which you will never experience again. It was a crazy, fun, frustrating, intense, amazing moment in time that I`ll never forget.
*IPOD MINI/ IPOD power charger/IPOD manual charger (I`ve decided to limit my IPOD usage to airports, bus stations, airline flights, nighttime bus trips, and trying to fall asleep in a hostel dormitory which I`m sharing with 5 other people.)
*2 mid-sleeved and collared shirts (I`m really trying to pack light.)
*All the courage I can muster
* 1 pair of shorts
* writing journal
* A healthy dose of no expectations
*medium size towel (I cut 1/3 of the towel. It is still a little too big. However, it is a luxury item.)
*My trust in the Omnipotent One
*pair of black pants
*A song in my heart because I can`t believe after dreaming about long-term travel for the last few years that it is now a reality.
*silky sleep sack (THANKS SINGAPORE SPICE!)
* reading light ( I know this will come handle when I`m sleeping in $5USD a night hostel dormitories.)
*Danyel Smith`s latest book `BLISS`
*contact lenses (This is my attempt to look cute while traveling.)
*digital camera & other related accessories
*A tissue to wipe all the tears from my eyes after the airplane takes off.
*pink sweat pants & black t-shirt (for sleepwear)
*condoms(Chinatown Spice and others have advised me to pack this in case I bump into Abhishek Bachanan or Taye Diggs.)
*Indian Rupees (A gift from Chinatown Spice!)
*hair moisturizer (A Black woman`s necessity!)
*flip-flops (for shared bathrooms at $5USD a night guest houses)
*2 pair of capri pants
*Mad love for myself and everyone I meet on my upcoming journey because the world is really waiting for me!
I have five more days left in the place that I have called home for the last 2 years. I have nine days left in a land where I became a `grown` woman. Toyama City, Japan has made a lasting mark on my life and my heart.
I`m currently going dealing or trying not to deal with a lot of emotions. Honestly, I feel like the situation hasn`t hit the tipping point yet but I know it will soon enough. I know I will cry eventually but right now I don`t have the energy or time for it.
Here are several things that I learned in Japan
* how to deal with everyone and their grandmother staring at me because I might be the first person of African descent that they had ever come into contact with. I dealt with all of the attention by turning it into a positive interaction. I`ve spent a lot of time in Japan smiling, waving, and speaking to strangers because I`ve found it easier to be positive than to get pissed.
* that I like a lot of attention.
* that language can be noise. Even if you and another person don`t know each other`s native tongues, it still may be possible to communicate with each other on a basic level.
* that I`m a total hottie.
* that my friendship theory is a definitive truth. I believe that you need at least 1 friend in your central environment who you can call up at 2am in the morning or see regularly on a face to face basis in order to maintain your well-being. I prayed to GOD before I arrived in Japan that I would make at least 1 good friend in Toyama City. I have been blessed to have many people in my life that I can call at 2am in the morning. I now pray that I meet people like this when I`m traveling.
* that my voice is powerful and deserves and needs to be heard.
*that sometimes I need to be quiet and listen to others.
* how to respect people`s wishes even if I don`t understand them.
* that politeness and kindness aren`t the same thing.
* that people`s reality is their truth. If your realities haven`t or don`t intersect, than you may remain blind to each other.
*how powerful personal interactions and friendships can be. I have come to believe that we can make the world a little better by interacting and possibly building friendships with people who are completely different from ourselves or who come from different neighborhoods, cultures, religions, or countries. However, we must be as open to each other as we can be.
*that people need to have sex.
*that it is important to call people on their shit in a non-confrontational way and out of a sense of respect for each other.
Don`t be jealous! It was an all girl thang. Don`t be pissed! It was for leaver`s only too. Just take delight in browsing my photos of a fun night!
I have a confession to make. I like champagne or sparkling wine as proper wine lovers call it! In fact, I can`t think of anything better besides the indoor sport starting with S and ending with X or laughing with my crazy and loveable family or even with my crazier friends, than sipping on some Moet & Chandon and nibbling on good imported cheeses. My upcoming departure from Japan is a huge moment in my life. I feel like these last 2 years of living and playing in Japan have been a very intense experience. And I felt a great need to celebrate surviving it all in my own Ms. WORLD way. So, I had a champagne soiree because everyone can use a little champagne in their lives (unless their recovering alcoholics). My party got started late but once it got started it was loads of fun! I LOVE CHAMPAGNE!