Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Last Supper, All Good Things Come To An End

Bistro Damontei, owned by Cathy Toma's twin sister's brother-in-law (Darren)
 After a day of leisurely exploring Kyoto and visiting the Monkey Park, the choir met at 3:15 pm and we all crammed into a single bus to head out for our last organized event.

Cathy Toma's twin sister's brother-in-law is the owner and head chef of this totally cool Bistro called Bistro Damontei, so we reserved his restaurant for our end of tour celebration.  The food was fabulous.  It felt like we were visiting someone's home.  We had an absolutely great time. It was the perfect ending to a spectacularly successful tour of Japan.  With that, everyone said a fond sayonara and traveled home the following day.

Tall Guys demonstrating where the doorway cuts them off
Making Chicken Yakitori in the yard at Bistro Damontai

This sign was prominently displayed on the wall at the Bistro Damontei

Exploring Kyoto and Monkey Park

Today a quite a few people opted to Explore Kyoto, while the rest of the group went to the  Iwatayama Monkey Park.  In all of Japan there are so many amazing Shrines and Temples that you can hardly believe it, but it is especially true in Kyoto.  For those who took the exploring Kyoto option, many took what is called the "Philosopher's Walk".  It was a picture perfect sunny day with a nice breeze, not humid and not too hot.  Just what we ordered.

It was a perfect last day in Japan.

During the walk we saw some Great Blue Herons, or some type of crane.  First we saw one and went slightly crazy because it was so beautiful.  Then we saw a second one.  Then, all of a sudden, they started interacting with each other in either a fight or a mating dance.  I was lucky enough to catch it on video.

Iwatayama Monkey Park

The organized event of the day was a visit to the Iwatamaya Monkey.  This park is unusual in that the monkeys run free.  The park is on Mt Arashiyama, on the same side of the Oi River as the train station. It is inhabited by a troop of over 170 Japanese macaque monkey.  While the monkeys are human-fed (even tourists have a chance to feed them), they are still wild, so visitors are advised not to stare at or touch the monkeys.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dave and Marty Part of School Study at Inari Shrine

Dave and Marty Shearer were wandering around the Inari Shrine and inadvertently became part of a School Study.  Here is how Dave described it:

We were part of a school project at Inari shrine. These students interviewed Marty and me with scripted questions. I guess they needed English speakers. They had a guard take pictures of us. And we gave them our ISing cards, so maybe they'll visit our website and tour blog.

Japanese Highway Superb Rest Stops (Service Areas)

We have had some great times at the rest stops, or service areas, as they call them, along Japan's highways.  Most people make the restroom their first stop.  They are super clean with plenty of stalls at all times--no waiting.  You can see if the toilet is in use by green and red lights outside the stall, much like parking places at the Portland Airport.  The sinks are well stocked with soap, and lots of the super fast hand drying blowers.  Then there are all sorts of great shops and restaurants reasonably priced and fast.  You can even figure out how to flush the toilets.

Kyoto - visited two major Shrines today - Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple

The first Shrine we visited after arriving in Kyoto was the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  Think thousands of vermilion (orange) torii gates which straddle a network of trails behind its main building.  It is a photographer's paradise.  The gates create a magic tunnel, and then you see all these women wearing beautiful kimonos and men in traditional garb walking through the tunnels, and you just have to stop and take pictures.  The street scene around the temple is amazing, with lots of street vendors selling all sorts of street foods that we had not seen elsewhere.  It was very crowded with people enjoying themselves munching on street food.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.  This shrine, dedicated to the god of rice and sake in the 8th century, also features dozens of statues of foxes.  The fox is seen as the messenger of the god of grain foods, Inari, and the stone foxes are often known by the same name.  The keys often depicted in the fox mouths are keys to granaries.  This shrine is the central location for some 40,000 Inari shrines throughout the entirety of Japan.

Great Street Vendor Scene

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyoumizu Temple is located on Mount Otowa with a commanding view of the entire city of Kyoto. Officially known as Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera, it is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. Many Japanese people visit dressed in their traditional garb.  We saw kimono rental stores as we drove up to the temple.  We walked the route that went around the circumference of the temple. The place was crawling with people, but despite that it was an incredibly beautiful place with beautiful views, birds singing, peaceful waters, clean air to breath and green everywhere.  Japan is an amazingly beautiful place.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Leaving Ogaki - Stop at Yoro Park

We said a tearful goodbye to our wonderful sponsors in Ogaki early this morning.

Then on to Yoro Park, where some of us climbed a steep trail to get to Yoro Falls.  Some of us went to an area where you could reverse your destiny.

Final Concert Ogaki

We had our final concert in the beautiful Performing Arts Center in Ogaki.  It was glorious.  We felt quite victorious.  It was a very emotional experience.

We sang:
  • Salmo 150
  • Noche de Lluvia
  • Beneath the Wave
  • Ain't No Grave Can Hold Me Down
  • Evening Prayer

Then the audience stood up to sing with us and we were joined by the Children's Choir and other singers and jointly sang:
  • Ue Wo Muite Aruko
  • Hana wa Saku
After the concert we were enthusiastically greeted by all, especially our Japanese friends.  We were treated like rock stars.

Mission Accomplished.