Mount Fuji seen from the Bullet Train, or Shinkansen, to Tokyo
The past several weeks in Japan have been many things. First of all, beautiful, incredibly beautiful, in a strange but powerful way. Second, as beauty comes at a cost, intimidating, being immersed in such an unfamiliar place. I can only compare it to being a child again, everything being so new and being largely illiterate. Third, the thrill of exploration, it is exhilarating, being able to experience everything with such a pure sense of discovery. And lastly, serene, outside the urban sprawl of course, the rampant, lush growth of the wild sits there and settles you. It is a lot to take in, a lot to process, and it is quite thoroughly, an experience.
Looking over the city of Kobe from Mount Rokko, which sits to the North of the city.
The graceful Odaki Falls, the largest of a series of four waterfalls that make up Nunobiki Falls on Mt. Rokko
Just getting our feet on the ground has been a small adventure, and would have been far more formidable without the help of our colleague, Mori-san, and the students of ALPHA, particularly Junko-san and Kaori-san, who have helped us over many of the obsticles associated with culture-shock.
We have explored so much already, with the help and generosity of many. Such as our trip to Kyoto with Mori-san:
Possibly the cleanest pond I’ve seen, most likely spring fed, really illuminated this garden.
One of our many Temple visits brought us to this enormous gate, a tower in fact!
Moss, a silky green vail spread softly on the landscape, provides the quintessential tranquility one associates with Japan. And of course a mirror like stream of water set’s the mood. You would hardly think this garden, hardly two acres, sits between three busy roads in the middle of Kyoto!
And of course, bamboo! While it is a garden bully here too, who wouldn’t want their own grove of ghostly green pillars?
As well as our fearless Director, Tomoko-San, who showed us the sights in Osaka:
Our recent trip to Osaka provided quite a view…
Like a futuristic port to the sky, the Umeda Sky Building provides visitors with a strenuously long elevator ride to a 360 degree glass rotunda to view the city (pictured above).
The Umeda Building is also home to this enormous green wall/vertical garden. Utilizing a planting bed below and tiers of vertical containers, this wall consists of annuals, perennials, vines, and woody plants, providing year long interest.
This circular, sunken garden is surrounded by a large water feature and two story tall pillar fountains (that stopped running right before I got close enough to take a picture).
A view through Namba Parks, a shopping complex, that provides a hanging gardens of Babylon feel, has eight gardeners of its own and was designed with help from Tomoko-san herself on many of the plantings.
And our day concluded in Dotonbori, the lively shopping and restaurant district Osaka is famous for.
And Hirata-sensei, ALPHA professor, who very kindly took us to the Takasago Fall Festival near Akashi, which was quite a cultural experience:
Our journey began iat the Akashi port as fishermen were auctioning off their mornings’ bounty to local restauranteurs and fishmongers.
These alien fish seem to be made of of the finest chrome, and are aptly named swordfish in Japanese.
The Fall festival marks the end of the growing season as both a thanks and an offering to the god or goddess for the rice harvest. These young girls guide the arrival of portable shrines called mikoshi, opulent floats containing a large drum and two drummers, both considered sacred during the ceremony.
Each village surrounding the local shrine, bring their own mikoshi by hand (sometimes wheeled) into the Shrine for their offering.
Each village is given a color to identify themselves, and provide quite a show as they rock the float back and forth and lift it up as high as they can with the assistance of song and drum.
There is much more to share, and much more to be done, stay tuned!