Monday, May 5, 2014

Student Painters, Luxun Art Academy, Shenyang, China


I managed to visit with my entire family this trip. Great to spend time with everyone! Mom's looking good for age 86. She had the energy to walk around Tokyo for 3 days with me!

Younger brother Gene, brother-in-law Hisa, nephew Ritsuki, sister Ceci

Younger brother William and mom


I photographed a number of jizo on this trip. Each visit, there seems to be more and more of these unborn statues in little shrines, large temples and corners of buildings.

Sweet red bibs

Hell ema or wooden prayer cards associated with the unborn

Little jizos in a small reliquary wedged between buildings. Note the Buddhist swastika, not to be mistaken for Nazi

A flock of jizos at the foot of Amida at Togenuki Jizo Temple. Togenuki means "removing the thorn"

Sleepy-eyed jizos at Daitokuji

Zenkoji, Nagano

We had some time between trains so decided to visit Zenkoji, a Tendai and Jodoshu Buddhist temple built in the 7th Century. This temple contains a secret Buddha, which is supposed to be the first Buddha statue brought to Japan.

A sumo-worthy man rolling dough to make soba.

1000 cranes made from advertising flyers tied to a post

Straw zoris tied to the temple gates.

Getting prayer books inscribed by a faithful

Let the good luck incense smoke waft over us 


A limited visit to Kyoto this time. Spent nearly an entire day in Daitokuji. It is an area that is rarely crowded and you can view all the examples of beautiful gardens in one complex. Kiyomizu was hot and crowded. Gion was lovely in the early evening.

Shojin ryori (monk's food) at one of the complexes in Daitokuji

Sand garden in Daitokuji

On the city bus: young girls dressed up for a weekend outing

Beautiful patterned wood wall in the Gion

A geisha hurrying to an appointment

Natsume Photography Studio

The widow from the Sekiguchi bakery mentioned that Natsume Photo Studio was still in business. This shop was started by my mother's cousin, who with her husband, were professional photographers. Her mother was known to be a painter of Japanese beautifies. We went to Kagurazaka, the area of Tokyo where the photo studio was located but couldn't fit. Across the street from the supposed address was a small photo studio so we went up to see if there was a connection. There was. The photographer was an assistant of the original Natsume Photo Studio, and had taken over the business. He showed us some old camera equipment and was delighted to meet a relative of the original owners. Mom decided to commission a studio portrait of the three of us. I look forward to getting the photo!

Sekiguchi Bakery

My mother researched the French bakery started by my great grandfather durinng the Meiji Period. She remembered its name, Sekiguchi Bakery, named for the Tokyo neighborhood it was based in. There was quite a bit on the internet, including the original bakery location. My sister, mom and I paid a visit recently. The French bakery, started by a priest, had been given to my great grandfather around the onset of the Russo-Japanese war, when foreign business owners were kicked out. My mother had heard that her family had originally been of the Russian Orthodox faith. My mother's uncle, who had inherited the bakery, had passed away long ago but his widow was still operating the store with the help of her sons. She welcomed us into the shop and she and my mother spent nearly an hour in conversation. The widow also allowed me to take Iphone pics of old family photos. The next day we visited the other branches of the shop but they were smaller and much less lively.

At the bakery

The French priest in the center. Don't know who these other people are.

My mother's aunt. There is a family resemblance, to be sure.

My grandfather, in the front row second from the left. The Carmelite nun in the back is one of my mom's aunties. I don't know who the others are in the photo.

The widow was energetic and white, like the bread she sells in her shop!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Yudanaka and the Monkeys

On April 21 my friend and I traveled to Yudanaka in Nagano Prefecture. Thanks to Hyperdia, we were able to map out our connections to the minute.. Most of the travel could be accomplished via the JR rail system, which was covered by our weeklong rail pass. The last leg of the journey from Nagano to Yudanaka was via a private local rail system. Started our journey in the morning and by mid afternoon we had checked into Seifuso, a Japanese inn at the hot spring town. We were concerned about the hike to the monkey park but innkeeper offered to drive us to the trail head. He also loaned us rubber boots, saving our shoes from mud. We had been warned that the trail was arduous but it wasn't that hard. And we got to the monkey baths at feeding time. Which gets to the problem with monkey hot springs. It is set up like a sanctuary and the monkeys are coddled and fed by the park staff. Still, it was fun to see the monkeys frolicking. Afterwards we walked down the mountain in thick fog with two guys from Mexico who befriended us. The bus stops eluded us for a while but pretty soon a bus came along and we ride it into town. The guys were on their way back toTokyo and we went into the first of three baths to relax before dinner. After a typical Japanese inn dinner we took a second bath - an outdoors place that was fabulous. In the morning there was time for the third bath and lovely Japanese breakfast. We took a walk along Yudanaka to see the cherries before going on to Nagano.

Cherry blooms in rain

Baby stays close to mother

Spring growth along the trail to monkey park

Dinner at Seifuso, a traditional Japanese inn

Cherries bloom along a river bank