Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 20: Joge to Fukuyama

Today Tsuchida Sensei drove me from Joge to Fukuyama to drop me off at Akahoshi Sensei's temple.

Akahoshi Sensei's temple is at the top of a steep hill which is tricky to navigate so he met us in his car at the bottom and we followed him up. Wow, is this road ever tricky. It is by far the narrowest, steepest, windiest road I've ever seen. The road is *barely* big enough for a small Japanese car to fit on and it winds between people's property going up the hill so that you often have a wall on one side and a ledge on the other, both just inches from the car.

From the top, you can see all around the city. Sensei brought us in and served us tea. Once Tsuchida Sensei was on his way, Akahoshi Sensei showed me around a little and let me take some pictures of the temple. He also explained a lot about what the different statues and symbols mean, which I really appreciate.

Main shrine area:

Side shrine:

Where the head priest sits during the service:

Screen at the entrance to the temple offices:

Sensei said a service was about to begin and invited me to come watch. Of course, I did and it was a good experience. Sensei's religion (Nichiren Buddhism) believes in a sacred phrase which they often chant during the service, "Namu myoho renge kyo". I could follow along at this point because Ai-chan and her parents taught me this when we went to Nichiren's birthplace, but for the rest of the ceremony I mostly just meditated quietly.

The congregation there was really surprised to see me, of course. At the end of the service, Sensei brought me up front and said "You're probably all wondering who this is..." and introduced me as his kendo friend from Portland.

It was a really rare opportunity, staying at the temple with the minister, having him explain what everything is, and going to his service. Something I won't soon forget.

That evening, Sensei asked another minister to take me to a nearby kendo practice. This practice is run by Kobayashi Sensei (kendo 7 dan), who many people in my dojo actually know because he visited Portland around 10 years ago. This practice was for sensei's middle-school students so I watched the drills he had them doing and then got to practice with him afterwards.

I got totally dominated, of course, and when Sensei left right away without saying much I thought maybe I'd done so poorly that he was insulted or something. But when Akahoshi Sensei came to pick me up he said that Kobayashi Sensei would be picking me up for lunch tomorrow. Okay! He also said that Kobayashi Sensei told him we wouldn't need a translator. Oh no, I said a few things and now he thinks I can speak Japanese...

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