Just Smile and Nod

I’ve decided on my favorite between soba and udon (udon). I’ve visited a traditional onsen (relaxing and enjoyable). I even saw a geisha (actually three) on the streets of Kyoto. I’m still nowhere near becoming a local, but I have to say: this first month living in Japan has been one of the most curious in my life. We’ve fit in quite a bit of travel and have been learning at top speed. The language barrier is by far the biggest challenge, but I have yet to encounter anyone who isn’t willing to help. I’m also becoming quite proud of my hand signal abilities and besides: the smile and nod is universal.

Being introduced to the ALPHA campus with a welcome party hosted by current students

Being introduced to the ALPHA campus with a welcome party hosted by current students

Shot of the group. We were extremely thankful for their hospitality and generosity. Such a fun group of people!

Shot of the group. We were extremely thankful for their hospitality and generosity. Such a fun group of people!

As I left off with in my last post, Kiseki no Hoshi was undergoing a display change. We helped complete the display install and here are some photos of the progression which is remarkably quick.

Day two progress

Day two progress

Major installations were made on day two

Major installations were made on day two

Laying out a grid in this corner of the display. This let us ensure the plantings remained the same orientation as the path

Laying out a grid in this corner of the display. This let us ensure the plantings remained the same orientation as the path

Final display installed

Final display installed

The end of day 3 with lots of progress made

The end of day three with lots of progress made

Rounding out day 4

Rounding out day four

We have spent a lot of bonding time with moss

We have spent a lot of bonding time with moss

Laying tiles, both of stone and moss

Laying tiles, both of stone and moss

The final display product! This was taken once it was open to the public and just before the dancing shows began

The final display product! This was taken once it was open to the public and just before the dancing shows began

Hula dancing show underway

Hula dancing show underway

The paintings as a backdrop provided even more elegance to the dancing

The paintings as a backdrop provided even more elegance to the dancing

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After the dance performances were completed, the display was modified for the longer-term display of bonsai. This display included less floral material than usual because the bonsai are intended to be the focus. After helping to make the changes and install the bonsai, we learned how to properly water bonsai of this age and structure.

One of a kind form to this bonsai. You can seem some of the progress in the foreground, with the moss not fully placed on the mound

One of a kind form to this bonsai. You can seem some of the progress in the foreground, with the moss not fully placed on the mound

The final product once the bonsai had been installed

The final product once the bonsai had been installed

A holiday gave us a long weekend where we traveled to Kyoto for the first time. We spent four days in Kyoto and visited many different temple gardens and local sights. We packed in many visits and cultural experiences, far too many to write in depth, so here is a sampling:

Stunning evening at Kinkaku-ji

Stunning evening at Kinkaku-ji

In the small garden at Murin-an

In the small garden at Murin-an

Spending peaceful time at Nanzen-ji

Spending peaceful time at Nanzen-ji

Food market in Kyoto called Nishiki-koji that sells food products ranging from local to exotic; all very fresh

Food market in Kyoto called Nishiki-koji that sells food products ranging from local to exotic; all very fresh

Some of the products on display

Some of the products on display

Part of the garden at Shoren-in

Part of the garden at Shoren-in

View of Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera

View of Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera

Another view from Kiyomizu-dera

Another view from Kiyomizu-dera

Different patterns that felt more modern at Ninna-ji

Different patterns that felt more modern at Ninna-ji

Incredible tree on the walk from Chion-in

Incredible tree on the walk from Chion-in

Now were off to a placement at Sorakoen garden in Kobe. Here we will learn about pine pruning and the traditional practice of tying bamboo together for fencing. While those are the main topics, the Japanese people have shown us incredible generosity so I am sure the week will include many other learning opportunities.

– James

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