16 May 2008

English School Concert Video

Japanese elementary school and kingergarten students sing "Because He Lives" at the Hiroshima SDA English School Concert in March 2008 in Japan at the SDA Christian Church.


07 May 2008

Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe

On the way home on the train now. Meant to leave Kobe earlier, but got sidetracked looking at a few things around Kobe harbour. The harbour area is quite nice. There's a ferris wheel, nice walk around the shore, park, eating and shopping area, tall tower, maritime museum, and a small outdoor museum about the recent earthquake in 1995. The town is, of course by now, back to normal. I saw no signs of earthquake damage today.

Because I left Kobe late, I couldn't catch local trains all the way home to Hiroshima. The last train wouldn't take me home! So, I had to get a shinkansen ticket for the last leg from Fukuyama to Hiroshima... and extra 2410 yen. Should be home a little after mid-night, then wake about 8am ready for work around 10 am. First class is with the grade 1 students.

Back track to last Wednesday. Just relaxed a little around Osaka and went for a nice few-hour bike ride to some part of Osaka. I really like bike riding around cities.

Thursday I went to Kurama, a small rural town on the northern side of Kyoto. Went up some mountain... Actually, I think I've already written about this! Ok, next...

By Saturday, a good group of us had gathered in Osaka, most of us SDA English School teachers from Hayato, Kagoshima, Hiroshima, Osaka and Yokohama. Others joined us. It was great to hang out with "foreigners" again. Nice to be able to converse freely and share experiences and common feelings etc. I felt like I was back to my normal self. My Japanese self has already taken back over now :-)

Saturday we had English church in Osaka, group lunch in the room above the church, then prayer meeting (encouraging time), before walking up to the nearby Osaka castle. Had pasta for Saturday night.

Sunday was a packed day at Kyoto. So many people! Probably one of the busiest days in Kyoto in the year. The train from Osaka to Kyoto was quite busy, and, after getting busy chatting with some other people, I distracted them from getting off at their destination! Oops.

We passed through the Gion district (where all the geisha ladies are meant to be, but didn't see any). Looked at Yasaka Jinja and saw a Japanese wedding! It was very serious and formal. Nice to see though.

Headed to Chion-in in Maruyama Park and then had Kyoto style okonomiyaki for lunch. Caught a very full and slow bus to Nishiki Food Market where there is plenty of good cultural taste and suveniours. Bit more shopping, walking around, and then headed back home.

Monday the group went to Byoudouin Temple (which is on the 10 yen coin) and hiking. I went solo to Nara and Kyoto. At Nara I saw the the largest wooden building in the world, Todaiji Temple, which contains a huge buddha. The building site dates back to about AD 800. Heaps and heaps of people visiting and worshipping by washing hands, burning incence, bowing and praying to buddha.

Before going further, I want to say that I am a Christian. Visiting these kinds of places for me is out of interest and the purose of learning about other religions. It has not been an act of worship for me to go to these places. I hope to understand different religions and peoples.

My experience with God has been real and I continue to search for God and for the truth each day. There is only one truth and I hope to learn more. I serve the one true God.

After seeing a few other sites around Todaiji Temple, I headed to Kyoto. Hired a bike and went to Kiyomizu-dera, a huge complex of buddhist temples and Shinto shrines up on a hill overlooking Kyoto. Many ways to worship... throw money, buy prayer cards, wear good-luck charms, stroke a statue, pray, burn incence, bow, ring bells etc. There were also many, many shrines and places to pray. This place seemed like a very central and key place to Japanese religion and culture. Again, so many people there!

Then pushed out of the crowds and pedalled through some rain to the other side of Kyoto to Kinkakuji, the Golden temple, one of the most famous in Japan. It's covered in old covering. A very beautiful temple, tucked in amongst a nice Japanese garden.

Rode slowly back past a few more shines, temples, the Botanical Garden, the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, without going in to any of them. Returned the bike and ate some dinner at Kyoto station. Kyoto station is another thing! It's huge! Many train lines, 11 stories high, very modern and futuristic looking (quite opposite Kyoto's style), big, busy etc. And, had a photo with a geisha lady... Caught trains back to Osaka after dinner.

Got up nice and late today. Some Japanese ladies showed us how to do some cooking, which was fun. By the time that was finished, it was time to pack and go. So, said the good-byes and caught the train to Kobe.

02 May 2008

Himeji, Osaka, Kurama Photos


Osaka & Kurama

If you want to visit Kansai region (including Osaka, Kyoto etc) and you want to get into the quiter part of Japan, I recommend Kurama.

Had a really nice day there yesterday. I took the train from Osaka, through Kyoto, to Kurama. It's only about 900 yen one way by train. The train, after Kyoto, weaves up through some mountains, forests and beside rivers. It was perfect weather. A bit overcast, but that made it nice as we walked up the mountains in the forest.

I met some young people and they were happy enough for me to join them. There are many shrines (Shinto) and temples (Buddhist). It's a very peaceful place and relaxing. It's a good walk up the mountain (don't wear high-heel shoes like one of my friends did!). I recommend it.

After the walk back down the mountain, we had a nice lunch in a small town by a river. Perfect way to end the walk. I said good-bye to the people I was with. They were very nice, friendly, and welcoming. I wish I could thank them more.

I after wards, walked back to Kurama along the road and up to the onsen (hot spring). A little expensive (2500 yen), but I think it was worth it. I got really, REALLY, clean. Tried out the very HOT sauna (110 degrees celcius), and the spa etc. Dried off and put on a yukata (Japanese bath robe). Relaxed and actually slept a little in the relaxing room.

Later went to the outside spa (rotenbura), met a couple of young Japanese guys there. We had a good chat, using my broken Japanese. Nice guys. They live in Kyoto. Then dried off, ate a little, caught the train back to Osaka and went to bed.

Now it's almost a day later and I still feel clean! :-) Four English teachers from Kyushu have joined us. They too the overnight bus from there. Another from Yokohama is coming soon. We'll all enjoy some good times together for Sabbath, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Good to hang out, catch up, sight-see Kyoto and Nara, do some cooking, worshipping God, sharing etc.

In conclusion, I say, "Go to Kurama."