On Tuesday, we went to Osaka, to an R and D facility for Mitsubishi. We met with men who do very specific research work. I listened to formulas, questions and solutions, again impressed with the integrity in producing so much of what I take for granted. I see my car with new eyes. I see transport up and down and all around with new eyes and appreciation.
We went up in the now world's tallest skyscraper in Japan at 300 meters, and enjoyed the observation deck.
We strolled the longest shopping street, or maybe strolled isn't the right word. This is a busy place. We walked rapidly to a wonderful place to dine. Then "home" again to Nagoya for a busy next day. We eat breakfast at 7, so it's rarely possible to get eight hours sleep by the time we get to the room each night.
Yesterday I met a tour guide for a tour of an amazing shrine, perhaps the oldest, Okage Yokocho. We took a 70 minute train ride to get there. Our small group of 8, including me and the guide strolled together through the exquisite, and then, had some time to explore. I walked by the river, and further purified by walking through gates and dipping water over my hands, and running my hands through the river, which is enchantment to the children, and me, too.
We then went by small van to visit an Ama hut in Hachiman. An Ama is a woman shell diver. We were by the sea, and the women we met, five of them, the oldest 82, and the others certainly middle-aged, had dived for the fresh shellfish that morning, and were now cooking it over a wood fire. We were served and then, they danced. Tears filled my eyes with the beauty of the women, their job, and their relationship with the sea. The Ama (woman diver) is said to be the oldest of a Japanese woman's job.
We were finally away from tourists. 14 million people a year visit the shrine we savored in the morning, though the forested grounds are so huge it didn't feel crowded. It allows communion with nature and is very sacred land. This is sacred, too and yet this way of life will die with these women. These women learned their profession starting at 12 years of age. The younger women prefer to leave the village and go over the mountain to surf, wind-surf, work differently and shop. That is the explanation we were given for the age of these women with no one younger to replace them. They also dry kelp in this location, spread it in racks to dry.
I feel blessed to have met these women and experience a small piece of their life. The 82 year old was lively and a kick. The husbands go out in fishing vessels but these women are gathering the shellfish closer in. They have now up-dated their "outfits" to wear wetsuits in the winter. They dive every day.
We then drove up to the Toba Observatory. Again, we were the only ones there. I'm not sure why this part isn't on the tourist path, or at least it wasn't this day, but I'm grateful I saw it like this. Two or three days a year Mt. Fuji can be seen from this viewpoint, but I was thrilled with our view of sea and islands. Quite a treat. We then journeyed into Toba City. We were allowed thirty minutes to "shop" so I went outside and checked out the ferry terminal and water. Two women asked me if I spoke English. They were Americans, one now living in Japan and they were looking for the Ama. From on-line information, they thought they could walk there. I said, no, they would need to hire transport, but it was worth it as we passed through beautiful forests with daffodils and camellias lining the road, and magnificent views of the sea. It was worth a drive to meet the women.
Last night we again enjoyed a wonderful Japanese dinner. This afternoon we tour Nagoya Castle, and then, a "Western dinner" is scheduled, so it is a test, as we begin to prepare ourselves for transition back to Tokyo, and at some point, life at home. Before that though, we fly to Shanghai on Saturday, the 5th.
I had hoped to give a sense of the trip but I don't know how to convey it. I haven't absorbed it yet, so perhaps, in time, and with reflection, but many of you have said you are interested in the schedule, and this is what it has been. As I say, I am grateful to have had time this morning to come back to myself, and now I'm ready to venture back out into this land of transition, crowds, shrines, gardens and a multitude of gifts.