Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 8,9, and 10 - Forbidden Palace, Tea, and Mr. Rock

Day 8

Today we went to the Kyoto Geihinkan. It is basically a guest house that can only

be used by extremely high ranked foreign officials. President Bush stayed there

and the guest house has only been used for a total of 85 times. The public isn't

generally allowed in there, so we were very lucky to have this chance. The guest

house showcased a blend of japanese traditional architecture and modern

architecture. At first glance it seemed that the guest house has very little, but

with deeper explanation I realized that every little detail is put there for a

reason and made with utmost care. From massive doors all carved from one 700 year

old tree, to handcrafted designs to cover places that showed nails, everything

was made with time and extreme care. Enclosed in the middle of the guest house is

a beautiful pond complete with a bridge, strategically placed rocks, greenery,

massive koi fish, and even a small boat. The pond can be seen by all the rooms

that surround it. The traditional ideal of blending architecture with nature

certainly blew my mind away. The guest house was surrounded by trees and greenery

and it was as if it was a palace hidden in the forest. Although the trees were on

the outside of the Geihinkan, they can be seen even when we are inside and on the

bridge of the pond. Essentailly, the trees became the background of each view. It

was as if the palace was in its own little world. Although we had to wear new

white socks and gloves and were told to not touch anything at all (not even the

walls), they gave us a few chances to take pictures. It was definitely an

experience I'll never forget.

Afterwards, we went to Ura-senke to learn about tea ceremonies. This Ura-Senke

place is run by the 16th generation grandmaster. So it's a tradition that has

been passed down for a very, very, long time. We listened to a quick lecture and

soon got to experience a tea ceremony. We of course, sat Japanese style on our

knees and despite being told "it's ok you can sit cross legged", we were a

stubborn bunch that wanted to do it the "right way". I was lucky enough to sit

directly in front of the person who was going through the precise motions of

making tea. He moved with such grace and peace, I found myself being lost in his

motions and calmness. For a moment it was as if time slowed down for me.

Eventually, we were served sweets and I was brought back into the hectic reality

of life. But at that one moment, I think I was finally able to understand why the

Grandmaster was invited to perform several tea ceremonies in the name of peace at

conferences around the world.

Day 9

Our time in Kyoto came to an end, and we moved on to Nagasaki. We arrived at

Seishounen no Tenichi, a place high up in the mountains and surrounded completely

by nature. Strict rules were placed upon us and some people felt uncomfortable

and restricted. Oh and did I mention we had to use a public bath? Bath time was

only between 8:30-10 and at 10:30 we needed to be in our rooms. Personally I was

fine with the place. It wasn't luxurious, didn't have A/C, not the best location,

strict, and not perfect in anyway at all. But, it had all the necessities half

the world prays for. We were spoiled college kids. Spoiled and whining, we didn't

give a moments thought about what we did have. I feel that the lot of us was

disappointed by the lack of free time and fun we wanted in Japan, but then again,

what is our purpose for being here?

At night we had a BBQ, talent show, and then a little basketball time. For a

moment we forgot about where we were at, and focused on the wonderful people we

were with.

Day 10

Today we went to the Sasebo U.S. Navel Base where Captain Rock (lol) gave us a

lecture. I couldn't really get into his lecture nor the Q&A because all I could

focus on was how amazing he was at avoiding any politically debatable comments.

His way with words was crazy.

In the afternoon we traveled to Huistenbosch. Look it up online. Please. It's

like a tiny country within Japan. We were there to learn about how

environmentally sustainable the theme park is, but I don't think our mind was

really there. We didn't get to explore the entire park, but we did get a couple

hours of free time. A little shopping and some free ice cream from a nice store

owner later, we hopped on back to the bus to go back to our mountain.

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