Friday, January 27, 2012

Osaka Science Museum

Wendy had an Alexander workshop for a few days in early January in Osaka so I took the kids to the Osaka science museum.  They had a blast pushing buttons, playing with electricity and magnets and looking at the exhibits.  We went to the planetarium too, but as it was in Japanese, we didn't get a lot out of it.  They outlined Orion and the "san-kaku" (three-sides... triangle) constellation and spent a while discussing them, but I don't know what they said.

Of course, we took pictures at the Periodic Table.

300 bonus points for the first person (not Scott) to identify the 3 small people on the poster.

Here I am pointing to my new favorite element.  

N (and later M) built a bridge that was strong enough to walk on!

It was a fun day; we met up with Wendy back at the same hotel we stayed at for the marathon back in October and had dinner, and then took the train home.

Marathon update:  training has been going really well.  44 days until Kyoto marathon!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

temples and spaceships

I'm behind in blogging.  I'll try to add a few posts this week.  The kids and I went to a flea market in Northern Kyoto yesterday (1/22) at the Kamigamo shrine.  It was smaller than the others we've been to. The kids took a few pictures of some of the smaller shrine buildings and bridges:
a nice little bridge

a small shrine with a mossy roof

the door of the small shrine (about 8-12 inches tall)

a larger shrine; you had to be "authorized" to go closer

When we got home, the kids got back in their spaceship that they made from leftover Christmas present boxes.  They were flying to Africa with their animals.  They each have headphones, they are wearing Jedi robes or space suits (NOT PJs) there are all sorts of dials and pockets and fuel tanks and things.  They also have dreaded "coathanger lasers."  Watch out for them if you see them!
doing battle with lasers and things

setting the coordinates, and fueling

adjusting dials and unsheathing the weapon


Monday, January 9, 2012

Moss temple

One more activity we did in December was a visit to the Moss temple (Saihō-ji). You have to apply in advance to visit, as they limit the people who can go to keep crowds down.  Sharon got tickets for us and we visited.  Also, you must be 18 or older to go, so the kids went to school and we went to the temple.

When you arrive, you first attend a zen chant "service."  I believe that you are supposed to be transcribing something too (its described that way online and in guidebooks), but we didn't do that. We listened to the chants by a head monk and 2 other people that lasted about 15 or 20 minutes along with prayer bowls, a wooden percussion instrument.  We did write our wishes and prayers on wooden prayer sticks, and we all knelt and put the prayer sticks on the altar.

After, we had 90 minutes to wander around in a big circle.  It is astonishingly old, it had fallen into disrepair by the early 1300s!  Later, it became a principle Zen monastery. From what I understand, the first traditional Japanese gardens and bridges were here, and this garden and temple is the basis for all that followed. There are tens (hundreds?) of types of moss here, all overgrowing everything.  Its quite amazing. The forest is a carpet of green moss.  All the japanese tourists were taking closeups of the moss.  It was a lot to take in.

Here are some pictures.
these bridges are all covered with moss

This lake is in the shape of the chinese character for "heart" or "mind" (kokoro 心) (though it wasn't clear to me)

the moss doesn't really photograph well; its everywhere

There were still autumn leaves; you can see the green carpet and the red carpet from the maple trees.  So beautiful.  It was like you were inside a green world.

here is a great shot of the green and red carpet; apparently they sweep up the leaves with hand brushes

this is a man-made "stone waterfall" sculpture at the highest point of the garden

steps coming back down to the start

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Imperial Villa

I'm catching up on some overdue blog posts.  In mid-December, we went with our friend Sharon to the Imperial Villa (Shugakuin) which is north and east of the main part of Kyoto (but still within the city).  This Villa was built in the mid 1600s as a place for the retired Emperor to retreat. It has changed a bit over the years, and was rebuilt and restored in the 1800s.  Now it is home to three separate levels; the lowest has some paths and buildings, the middle is where the emperor's daughter built a temple and founded a sect of Buddhism (Ryinkuji) and the upper is a stunning 'reveal' of the landscape that was designed by the garden architects.  You climb up some stairs with tall hedges on both sides blocking your view, and then, right at the top, the hedges fall away leaving you with a breathtaking view of the lake and landscape.

We thought it was really interesting to compare this constructed landscape with a traditional European constructed landscape; the traditional garden.  In the west, it seems like the garden represents people's dominance over nature (angles, straight lines, highly manicured bushes).  The gardens are beautiful, but beautiful like mathematics is beautiful: precise, straight lines, geometry.  In the east, a whole lot of effort is expended to make a landscape that looks natural... but better. Taking what nature has and putting the best aspects all in one place.  It looks like the whole garden *could* have been natural.  Very different styles.

Here are some pictures:
I love the beautiful trees here!

This is the view looking up the path from the middle to the upper level.

This set of shelves in the middle garden is one of the most famous sets of shelves in all of Japan.  

The buildings and nature blend so nicely

Although these are NOT the steps to the upper level, it gives you an idea of the "blocked view" that we had while climbing.

This is the view to the north once you clear the hedges going up to the upper level. It really is breathtaking, not only the view, but the way it is revealed to you as you climb up out of the hedges.

This rock is where the emperor tied his boat.  The bridge in the background was built much later.

There are active rice paddies in the villa (they have been there for centuries but were only purchased to prevent development within the last few decades).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

2012 is here.  We started celebrating 13-16 hours ahead of most of you followers.  We partied hard and were in bed by 9 or 930.  When you are as efficient as we are, you can get it all done early.

We have been busy the last few days since our return from Tokyo playing with our friends Sharon, S and E, and today was their last day in Kyoto.  They fly home tomorrow.  We celebrated by having German food at a restaurant near Shijo dori.  And then Baskin Robbins ice cream.  Here are some pictures.  We will miss you!  See you in 7 months!

The kids, acting normal.

this is a height check-in.  We'll see how much Sharon has shrunk by July.

Its cold here, perfect ice cream weather!