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Published: April 7th 2018
Spring blossoms can be mercurial..blink and you might miss them. In 2015 we arrived in Tokyo on April 1 with Probus friends on the peak cherry blossom day when you couldn't see the sky in Ueno Park for blossoms. This year we arrived on the same date but were 10 days too late for the blossoms.
Given the Zen view that perfection is transitory and that once past their peak blossoms will gently disappear, we should have accepted our lot. However, that first afternoon, after a short flight to Osaka and a coach to Shigasan Onsen in the mountains near Oji we saw blossoms at their best in a cooler climate. They hung outside every room at the onsen and were right through the mountains and the valley. Two nights were not nearly enough to take a zillion photographs and explore this lovely spot. Hide-san, our guide, declared it to be a 3 night stay for future trips. Col said "no way Hide..this is the last trip". The outdoor onsen baths were relaxing and beautiful surrounded as they were by cherry blossoms with their tiny green leaves just appearing.
We had a long day trip to the shrines and
temples of Nara and a second night at Shigasan before going by coach to Kyoto. On the way we stopped at Uji and it's famous Buddhist Byodoin Temple. The serenity and peace there contrasted with the hordes that greeted us at Fushimi Inari and the Golden Pavilion. Truly seemed as if the world was in Kyoto that day.
Highlights of our few days in Kyoto included the vegetarian dinner at Kangaan Temple which was cooked by Zen monks and was both a visual and a delicous feast; finding quiet spots in Kyoto like Shorenin Temple at night when it was lit up and climbing the hill at the Silver Temple with its beautiful landscape design and garden of moss and flowers; the walk some of our friends did down from the hills of Arishiyama past temples and the lovely village of Saga Torii-moto. At the same time the rest of our group went on the Kitano line of the Randen Tram and discovered a real treasure at Ninnaji Temple with it's orchard of late blossoming dwarf Omuro cherry trees to wander through and then finding deep purple azaleas on the other side.
On our free afternoon when 30
people went in all directions across Kyoto I had a special treat when Col, Hide-san and I found Robert Yellins Yakimono Ceramic art Gallery near Ginkakuji. Having seen many of the works online it was wonderful to be able to touch and see them up close in the company of such a generous host.
Kyoto may have been more crowded tha usual but it still showed us what a beautiful and special city it is.
To complete our first week the group split up again. Those who hadn't seen the castle at Himeji went there and the rest went on an emotional journey to Hiroshima. We all met up on the train to Nagaski in Kyushu and traded stories of the different adventures. The Himeji Castle people said it was "subarashi" and beyond description and a Shinto wedding at Miyajima plus a ride on a fast hydrafoil across from the island to the Peace Park took some beating. As always the dome, the childrens memorial and the museum took its toll on our emotions, and it was a qiet group that left Hiroshima.
On to Nagasaki and a surprise degustation meal in our hotel, served on fine
china with silver service cutlery and cooked by the chef who came 4th in Japan's equivalent of Master chef. It was delicious and we all felt very spoilt.
On Sunday we visited Nagasaki's Peace Park, the hypocentre and the Museum. Again it was a moving experience to view images and mementos left from the explosion but there was also a lot of hope for peace expressed by the sculptures in the park and the thousands of paper cranes that hang everywere. We had made our own cranes with help and Brenda and I were privileged to hang them for the group.
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