“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
On my last day in Tokyo, I wanted to do a little shopping. According to Google, there was a Daiso and an Aeon SuperMarket nearby. It looked like a short walk, but since it was so hot, it seemed long. However, I did not expect such a nice park on my way. That's my hotel from another angle.
This is my hotel - The APA Hotel and Resort in Makuhari. I chose it for the price and also bus service direct to the hotel from the airport. So tall and I was on the second floor. My big mission for today was to go to the More Digital Art Museum AKA teamLab Borderless. I purchased tickets online but didn't notice that it was for the evening. So I got there when it opened, only to find out I had made a mistake. Went on other adventures. Headed across town to the Mori Art Museum.
I spent a month in Guam this summer (I will write about it later). On my way back, I had the idea to go back via Japan. And if I was going to be in Japan, I may as well stay for a few days. It has been many years since I was in Tokyo. We went there on a senior class trip when the dollar was much stronger than the yen. Very memorable time. There were also a time that Northwest fly out of Guam via Narita, and they'd put you up in a hotel for the day as you awaited your flight to Honolulu in the evening. This was many years ago - 1973 when I was a senior in high school and in the 80s, when my daughter was very young, maybe 3. So it had been a long time.
Life is like a tapestry; the things you do and the people you meet are woven into the design. It seems so random that I would end up in Oaxaca for a second time. First time was in 2012. I had met Illinois storyteller Jim May when he came to Honolulu for a Storytelling conference organized by Jeff Gere. I got on his mailing list, went to a weekend retreat when NEA (teachers union) was in Chicago. There, I learned about the retreat he does in Oaxaca, and went there the following spring. I loved it and made some good friends. I met Jewel Murphy back then who was staying at the Casa and told me about her Art Tours.. I wrote about that in my previous blog entry. So Jim’s workshop was during Holy Week, a 2-week interim between the art and storytelling workshop. And I had been wanting to learn Spanish, so things fell into place. Art-Spanish-Spanish-Storytelling. That was my month.
Jim’s style of storytelling is a mix of fun and games (he works a lot with kids) and serious personal stuff. But you choose how deep you want to go and how much of your personal story you are ready to tell. My group was ready! They opened their hearts and souls and I am humbled and fed by the stories they told.
I haven't quite processed what I experienced during this retreat. I made some good friends, really nice people with interesting life stories. My project for the week was to share a story from my Okinawan roots. Since then, I have developed it more as a play. It is now a draft. There was something about this week that was deep. I was touched, somehow, by the storytelling, by the people, by the collective energy of the group. It was a good week.
I recently spent 9 nights and 10 days as part of an art immersion tour organized by Jewel Murphy from Eugene, Oregon. The artist who led the art workshops in our mornings was Rogene Manas, a mixed media artist, also from Eugene. This blog post is intended to be somewhat of a testimonial as I think it will take me a very long time to write about everything that we did.
i first met Jewel at the Casa Colonial, a charming “inn” (don’t know the correct name for it. It’s a small 16-room B and B with rooms surrounding garden.). I was there attending a storytelling workshop (more on that in another post). I found out that she was doing these art tours and I thought it sounded like something I would enjoy so seed planted. That seed blossomed this year as I let my intuition lead me to my next adventure.
For artists and artists-in-desire, this workshop was designed not only to be an opportunity for artists to do creative work but also to bring novice artists gently into the art-making fold. Rogene was a masterful teacher and generously shared valuable (invaluable) techniques, skills, ideas, guidance, support. I’d say it was thrilling ! To think that you feel like you accomplished something, that you now know something that you are now able to share with others is no easy task for a teacher. I can’t wait to get her book, Artful Paper Clay. I am posting below my finished projects, but all of us did work that was amazing.
Jewel is an artist in organizing, in creating this opportunity, in choosing the artists and artisans who we visited, in deciding which restaurants we would eat at, and in giving us also a bit of the Oaxaca art and museum scene. You could say it was highly “curated.”
Our schedule was generally that in the mornings we’d make art: sculpture with the paper clay; painting; collage, and assemblage. In the afternoons and one morning, we went on excursions, mainly to visit artists and artisans - sculptors, weavers, carvers, printmakers, assemblage artists. One of my most memorable days was a visit with Marietta Bernstorff, the curator of the current exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. I will write more in detail about that exhibit but it was fascinating to hear the stories about the fascinating exhibit. Somewhere in this mix, we also did shopping, museums, galleries, and eating. The artists and artisans and sites that Jewel curates in the future will not always be the same. But I am sure though that she will put the same thought and care in plannning future tours. That’s just the way she is.
I can not write this piece without mentioning the magic in our group of women who participated in this tour. I was towards the end of making self-introductions and I felt a little intimidated by these women. They included a real artist, an art teacher (also a real artist); a creative writing professor, an acupuncture teacher, an herbalist, a professor of inter-cultural communication, a yoga teacher/physical therapist/ paper-maker/ etc., and me. You know me. Not only were these impressive women on the surface, they were kind and compassionate souls. We were in the zone together. I don’t think this was curated except by the forces of the universe. We also had a wonderful guide, Pablo, who made sure we got to our destinations, provided information and translation, and gave us a interesting and personal explanation if the artist Rodolfo Morales.
You may hesitate as I did when faced with the decision to do this tour. (I was the last seat!) But you will more likely regret not going, than going. In the tours, we were given opportunities far beyond the beaten path. Combine that with the the masterful teaching of Rogene, the setting at Casa Colonial and the many, many extra blessings we experienced, that is a recipe for a beautiful once-in-lifetime experience. But I’ll probably do it again.
We started the day heading for Arashiyama, the bamboo forest. I had read that it was good to go early so that your photos would not be filled with other tourists. Very good tip. So peaceful.
Near the bamboo forest was a zen temple, Tenryu-ji, which had beautiful gardens.
We walked through the town (bought some delicious furikake there), across the Togetsukyo Bridge, and were relaxing next to the river, when Yuki, a Kyoto local, befriended us. 50 years ago, she had been an exchange student in Pennsylvania, where she learned English. We are so grateful for her friendship and helping us to get around using the buses. She taught us how to pay for a one-day pass. And she brought us to more temples than we had planned to see. It was quite an adventure.
This guardian was at the entrance to Ninna-ji, which Yuki said was her favorite temple. It is famous for its five-story pagoda.
We then went to Kinkakuji, the golden temple, one of the more famous landmarks in Kyoto.
Later in the afternoon, Yuki wanted us to see the Heian Shrine, as the admission was free on Monday. It was not so much the shrine itself, but the gardens that she thought we would like. As we got off the bus, she starts running to the entrance, as it was very close to closing time. She tells us we don’t all have to run, she’ll do it for us. Sure enough, she made it just as a guard was closing and he let us in.
As it turned dark, Yuki brought us to see the Gion district. I don’t have many photos but I can tell you that I did see an actual geisha. She shuffled quickly past us as we were walking through a street. Yuki pointed her out to us and assured us that she was authentic.
And then, it was time to part ways. She made sure we got on the right bus, going in the right direction. Though she gave me her email address, I tried to write and it was returned as an error message. Yuki, or as she referred to herself, Noisy Yuki, domo arigato gozaimashita for your wonderful company. You really made our time in Kyoto so special and memorable.
Of course, we had to go to the Fushimi Inari (god of rice) Shrine, an important Shinto shrine. It has thousands of these torii gates; I believe they are all sponsored by somebody or some company or another.
We figured we had a morning and perhaps afternoon to explore Kyoto before the typhoon was to pay a visit. The one a few weeks before had hit Osaka pretty bad but this one was expected to miss Kyoto. Plus, we were in a solid hotel. We went to Kizomizudera first, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
we took a cab to Ginkakuji (Silver Temple) and did not spend much time there. I only have a few photos.
By chance found this cute cafe called Gospel cafe. I thought we were going to be sucked into going to an evangelical church but no, it was just a cafe. Polly had a scone and tea and really enjoyed it. Sherry and I had a meal. I don’t think it was anything special, but it sufficed.
We made our way back to the hotel by taxi. We found a huge department store near us and also a grocery store. We did what good Guam girls do when there’s a typhoon coming, get food supplies! While we waited for the storm to pass, I tried to teach them how to play the hanafuda card game that I bought at the department store. The storm passed in the night without incident. This was the same one that hit Okinawa pretty bad, so we did worry. But grateful that it barely affected our trip.
On our fourth day, the itinerary was to do a short hike to the next village. But because of the weather, and also we really liked this town and did not have enough time here the day before, we decided to not take that last leg. We enjoyed our morning here in Narai, even though it was a bit rainy.
There was an option to take a morning hike to this waterfall before heading to the next segment of the trail. Because I didn't take the planned hike the day before, I felt a need to do this. Though it was rainy the day before, this day was gorgeous and clear, so I decided to take this option. My companions chose not to, which was fine. They spent the day in the town, as we did the day before.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.