Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japan Day 9

Ann Marie and I went on another trip, just the 2 of us.  First we stopped at a sword museum/store.  We saw some blades that were 700 years old and looked like they were made yesterday.
After that, we took a train to Kamakura which is about an hour south of Tokyo.  Kamakura was like a miniature version of Kyoto, although our first stop was anything but miniature.  The Daibutsu is a gigantic Buddha statue the appears to dwarf the surrounding trees. The sight of it is so awesome that it's impossible to describe.  Religion seems to be a big part of Japanese life.  Every Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple we visited had plenty of people around praying and making offerings.  Their religion is closely tied into nature so every place of worship is a breathtaking sight.
Along the main roads we saw a few gift shops.  I was most disappointed by the gift shops in Japan.  Every gift shop has the same exact stuff for more or less the same price.  The chopsticks set you bought outside a shrine in Kyoto was identical to the one on the 5th floor of a Tokyo electronics complex.
Next we visited the Hase Kannon Shrine.  This was small, but great.  There we thousands of tiny statues (of Kannon I'm guessing) placed precisely around the area.  In fact, we were there while a maintenance staff was carefully cleaning and placing the statues.  No matter where I went in Japan, I almost always saw someone cleaning.  It explains why the country is so clean.  The people are on top of it.
Since the shrine was high up, we got a really nice view of the falcons flying closely above.  They were huge and beautiful birds.
The shrine also had it's own cave.  It was my first time ever in a cave.  It was cool.  I felt like Indiana Jones.  The cave had more statues placed all over on the inside.
We made our way back to Tokyo and had another dinner at Fukisushi.  Once again, it was awesome.  I learned that the chef was a guitar player so we talked shop for a bit.  I also learned that Sushi is finger food, and is actually meant to be eaten with fingers instead of chopsticks.
After dinner we met up with the Samurai class translator, Kimi and her friend, Yumi, and we all went to a live show in Shimbuya.  Our sword instructors were joined by dancers and musicians on stage.  It was a nice fusion of traditional Asian music and modern music.  It was sort of like performance art, but not exactly.  The theme of the show was marionette puppets, and it followed a fairly traditional Japanese story line.  Narrating the story was a girl playing piano and singing.  Once again, I was absolutely floored by the Japanese musicianship.  This girl was a fantastic piano player, and had an amazing voice.  She didn't make a single mistake during 2 hours of straight playing and singing...oh yeah, I forgot to mention...she also did fight choreography and was awesome at that too. The show had everything you could possibly want.  It was truly a multimedia experience.

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