Thursday, May 28, 2015
Larry got a cold while in Kyoto, and I got mine the night we left Japan. We can do nothing but recover this week. While I rest and recuperate, I want to highlight my favorite aspects of this wonderful trip of a lifetime.
First and foremost, I tapped into a new level of spirituality there. I knew I was in for an awakening when I saw the baggage handler bow to an approaching limousine bus that would take us to our Tokyo hotel. Did I really witness him bow to a bus? Before departure, the handler came aboard the bus and bowed to us all before returning to ticket bags for the next group. On the super express train to Kamakura, a conductor bowed to us all in the car before entering and turned to bow again before leaving after checking our tickets. I found this behavior fascinating and surprising. Lastly, as we boarded a cable car before rising up a mountain, the attendant bowed as we left and bowed again as we arrived. Everyone bowed to everyone else in this country. I found I began to bow to anyone whose eyes I met or just approached everywhere we went. I really enjoyed feeling respected and offering back respect to complete strangers and new friends alike. Respecting others: what a concept.
Shrines were everywhere. Not only did we visit ancient temples and shrines in Tokyo, Kamakura, Kyoto and Nara, they were on most street corners and popped up everywhere. Shrines were both elaborate and simple, but unmistakable. I found myself bowing as I passed them on the street. While visiting the ancient ones, I made a point of bowing and praying in either Buddhist or Shinto style. I offered my coin, clapped or put my hands together in prayer and bowed in gratitude for the blessings and resources that brought us to this unique and sacred place. Then, I began to pray for a grandchild. When I saw all the written prayers and wishes for hundreds of visitors, I decided it was okay to ask for something too. Taking a moment to pray and be grateful was calming and brought peace to my heart and spirit. I had forgotten about it, and vowed to make a point to do this more once I got home. I lit candles and stopped at the smudging pot to cleanse my spirit at every opportunity. I loved it.
I began turning from eggs for breakfast and started choosing mackerel or salmon with steamed vegetables, rice and miso soup with seaweed for breakfast. I wondered each time I chose these how I would continue to eat this way when we returned home. We were eating enough food and did not overeat. We did not eat much sugar, and drank minimal alcohol during our visit. And, we drank a lot of tea, especially green tea. I felt great. We walked long distances every day, and although my feet and hips hurt at the end of each day, I was happy for the exercise. I felt great the next day and looked forward to more. Our eighty-five-year-old friend, carried a step counter and walked every day. He became my new mentor, and I vowed to get back to a daily walk on returning home. Larry said he would join me. We haven't done this so far, because we are sick and haven't gotten back to normal yet. I still have to go food shopping, and gain energy to spend time outside. I gave myself this week to recover.
I fell in love with heated toilet seats and bum washers. Larry has already researched "Toto" toilet products, and we can purchase seats for our existing toilets. It's just a matter of how much we want to spend for a hardwired version or something simpler. We will definitely purchase at least one for each house. I can't wait. I already miss that warm cozy feeling when I sit on the commode. I do NOT miss those versions in train stations and restaurants that required me to squat. My knees had such a hard time with these. Next time I travel, I'll bring my pee funnel.
I loved learning about the ancient history of the architecture and landscaping in this country. I am not particularly interested in war-related history which pervades all countries. I did find learning about the Shogun and Geisha very interesting, though. They are just different from my historical frame of reference. And, I loved the lettering. Signs were so beautiful. I saw people on subways and trains reading Japanese books from right to left; top to bottom. I could follow their eyes, and smiled to myself. It was just so different. I embraced the differences, and they gave me a healthy perspective on my own way of life.
This new perspective is why I love to travel in the first place. I look for similarities in human behavior, lifestyles and cultures. And, I notice the differences and enjoy learning about them in order to appreciate them. This appreciation allows me to compare life in the United States or my own neighborhood, and choose new tools for my life's "toolbox"; incorporate those behaviors and aspects I like into my own life, or not depending on what it is. Expanding my world view is very important to me. Understanding humanity, growing my spirituality, incorporating variety into my wellness routine are all crucial to my overall good health and happiness.
As long as we can, we will continue to explore the world. Life is much too short. On this trip, I learned that it would serve us well to reduce our stuff, and compact our lives. Less is more, because it allows us to concentrate on inner well being. Everyone we met in Japan smiled, seemed happy, was respectful and lived a full life. These are attributes I am interested in fostering in mine. "Made in Japan" has new meaning for me now, and I am grateful for this new knowledge and understanding.
Thank you to our gracious and generous Japanese friends, and to those strangers (turned new friends) who made our trip most enjoyable. Thank you also to my Facebook friends who followed along with this blog and offered me support and encouragement to keep posting. Arigatou gozaimasu, Oki-ni, and Sayonara.