Picnic in Notogawa, Japan

It had been a very long time since I last went on a picnic! And, here I was in Japan with friends, spreading a tarp out on the ground of beautiful Water Mill Park in the town of Notogawa. The giant water wheel in the photo is the symbol of Notogawa. The mill served in years past as a rice mill. The giant wheel is a replica of the original, but the original wheel’s center hub in still on display at the park as well. The weather was absolutely beautiful, and we spread our picnic next to the concrete-lined waterway that curves through the park and is stocked with golden-orange carp swimming about. Continue reading



I have to admit that while in Japan I was a bit confused about whether it was a shrine or a temple that my friend and I were visiting.  By the way, there are a lot of temples and shrines scattered throughout the country in big and small towns alike. That fact explains why visitors to Japan visit so many temples and shrines! So, after learning a little in Japan and then further looking into the matter, things have cleared up a bit—but just a bit!  Buddhism seems a real challenge. I couldn’t tell if there was one Buddha, or many Buddhas although it was clear there are many different sects of Buddhism believing in and/or practicing slightly different ways.  Also, it seems that there can be a large Shinto shrine for all to attend or small neighborhood shrines for local use; I think this is due to the fact that there are many different and/or localized deities.

Regardless of my lack of knowledge about Buddhism and Shinto, I really enjoyed observing the uniqueness of each practice, the unique features and history that make each temple or shrine special, the many picturesque and well-maintained accompanying gardens, and the beautiful and ornate building structures of the temples and shrines, many of which are very, very old.  Most temples and shrines charge admission fees, but the fees are very reasonable and average around $5.00.

Here is some helpful information. Continue reading

Typhoon Neoguri

My heart goes out to all those affected by Typhoon Neoguri this past week as the storm made its way straight up through Japan. Best wishes for a speedy disaster recovery.

In the Japan Today news an article stated, “The storm swept past Tokyo earlier Friday, where it failed to disrupt the morning rush-hour, but was still packing winds of up 83 kilometers an hour and bringing heavy rain.”    Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is about 50mph winds with heavy rain. My thoughts return to my trip to Japan and the morning I left the hotel and casually strolled around a few blocks with a cup of coffee from Starbucks before heading to the train station.  There were a lot of pedestrians dressed very nicely obviously headed to the office.  It’s hard to imagine the same scene in 50mph winds with heavy rain.  The folks must have been soaking wet by the time they reached the office!

The 15-Rock Puzzle

Ryoanji Temple is another Zen temple in Kyoto that has a famous raked pebble “garden” with 15 carefully placed rocks, all supposedly visible from the one side but placed so that only 14 are visible at one time. There is seating along just the one side for viewing and meditation while the other three sides are walled. Tradition indicates that only by enlightenment is one able to view the fifteenth boulder.

15-Rock Pebble Garden

We sat with the rest of the crowd, meditated, counted and re-counted the rocks but still only counted 14. It slowly became apparent that the “missing” rock would have to be hiding behind one of the larger rocks on display. We meditated a while longer. This time while meditating, I got further enlightened and figured out the only place the other rock could be hiding was on the other side of the big rock at the far right end of the garden because this rock would be the only rock we would be able to peek behind; but, we needed to move in order to do so. Therefore emboldened, we got up and walked to the end of the viewing deck, peeked behind the rock, and voila! There it was—rock #15. It sure felt good to be a participant of enlightenment.