Friday, November 28, 2008

#12 Rollyo

Here is a Rollyo of Japanese Temples. These websites should help explain the different temples the appear on my blog and my photo album on Picasa.

Friday, November 7, 2008

# 10 + 11 Fun With Photos

I made this fun poster on FDtoys. Here is the webiste the helps you play with photos:

I should also say that this week's Web 2.0 assignment was to look at award winning sites. One was PBwiki. However, I have been trying to set up a wiki account on it for a week and I keep having trouble logging on. I am currently looking for a new wiki site. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know.

Things 8 and 9 are on the right of my blog!!!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

#'s 5,6, and 7 Japan Photo Album

Here it is. The photo album of my trip to Japan:

I hope to add captions soon.

On Picasa there is a really neat feature under the explore tab. They randomly show you pictures stored on Picasa and you have to pinpoint on a world map where they were taken. The closer you are to the actual spot, the more points you earn. My kids at home loved it. It was a neat way to talk to them about cultural and physical geography.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

China Photo Album

If you would like to see more photos from my trip, below is a link to my Picasa album that contains most of the pictures I took in China:

I hope to have an album of Japan pictures up soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

#'s 3 and 4 Kyoto to Osaka, Then Home

My final entry in my travel blog is being done from home. I made it back, and I am fighting off jet lag while trying to type this.

Why am I writing this from home? Well, I will tell you. If you are ever in Osaka, Japan do not stay at the New Hankyu Hotel. Despite being in the most technologically advanced society in the world, they do not have internet access in their hotel rooms. Also, their rooms are small and their breakfast buffet was below average, though they were the only I ate at that offered octopus balls.

Before we left Kyoto, city of temples, we had to stop at one more, Kiyomizu Temple. This Buddhist temple is on a forested hillside just outside of Kyoto. It is probably the most visited temple in Kyoto, and apparently it was featured in several scenes in The Last Samurai, though walking through it did not bring back any memories from the film.

Below is the golden Buddha statue. It is not particularly large, but this temple is probably the first one built in Kyoto, dating from around the 8th century.
This temple is also famous for its spring. The flowing spring water is divided up into 3 streams. The 3 three streams claim to offer you peace, longevity, or wisdom, depending on which one you drink from. The modern Japanese have even added an infrared sanitizing machine to purify the communal dippers that people drink from.
Since this is the most visited temple in the city, school groups are everywhere. If you are a foreigner be prepared to be stopped by small groups of Japanese students who want to talk to you in English. Apparently, this has been a popular assignment in Japanese schools for over 20 years. Groups of students compete to see how many English speakers they can interview. Below is the second group of students who stopped me. The first group took my picture and gave me a postcard from their school so I can write to them. Sounds like a great class assignment to me.

After lunch at a Japanese Italian restaurant, we took an hour and a half bus ride to Osaka. And of course, we visited the local castle, appropriately named Osaka Castle. The castle, which survived WW II bombing, is a reconstruction because the Japanese destroyed it themselves as they wrestled for control of the strategic area of Osaka in the 1600's and 1800's.

As always, these castles offer great panoramic views of their home city because they usually sit in the center of the town. Osaka is Japan's third largest city, only Tokyo and Yokohama are larger, but since Yokohama is a suburb of Tokyo, Osaka is really Japan's "second city."

In the one of its downtown areas, Osaka has an 1.5 mile outdoor shopping mall. Here is one of those classic images from a Japanese city, the seven story wall of electronic advertisements.

After walking and walking that night, we awoke and drove to Kansai international airport, which sits on a manmade island in Osaka's bay. It was a very impressive engineering feat, but a necessary one since Japan is a very crowded place with precious little room for new construction.

I guess I need to give a final reflection here at the end of my blog. I know I am a very lucky person to be able to take this trip. The Freeman Foundation, Columbia University, and The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia were more than generous in providing the funding and organization. Notre Dame High School was very accomodating in letting me miss a week of school for this once in a lifetime experience. Finally, I could not have done any of this without my loving and patient wife, Jennifer, who looked after house and children while I was gone.

The two cultures I visited were both strange and familiar. Human beings are human beings and react to each other in very predictable ways, and yet, I knew I was very far from home.

To me, China felt like the vast sprawling country it is. The people there reminded me alot of Americans. They can be agressive and driven, especially when they are trying to convince you to buy something. Many times, normal converstations between people on the street seemed like shouting matches as two people barked at each other in Mandarin. Yet, the Chinese could also be humble and accomodating. I got the sense they all enjoyed life and felt great pride in their country and their ancient culture.

As noted befoe, Japan was completely different. Their culture of honor and manners was pervasive. I certainly felt more at home in Japan because its standard of living is similar to America, yet their people are far different. The swagger and confidence that many American possess seems to be replaced with propriety and focus in the Japanese. It was quite evident of thier cultural pride as well. In both countries, the historical places we visited were jam packed with native.

These are just some jet lagged impressions.

I am sure I will write more about this later.

Chuck Newel
Chattanooga, TN

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kyoto Day 1

I am back at my hotel now, and have time to blog, so I will. Thursday in Kyoto was a very busy day. If I do not write now, I may not have time to record all that we have seen and done.

The day began with me looking out my hotel window and seeing the tallest pagoda in Japan. This majestic tower is part of Ninna-ji Temple complex. We did not visit the temple, but the image of the pagoda is a perfect example of how the new and old are juxtaposed here in the ancient imperial capital.

Our first official stop was at the Zen Buddhist Temple of Ryoanji. It is most famous for its rock garden. If you have ever seen a picture of a Zen rock garden it is probably from this temple. The garden contains 15 large stones, and if you are sitting and meditating in front of the garden, you cannot see all 15 stones. This re-enforces the idea that no one is perfect. My Fuji camera must be even more imperfect because I could only capture 7 stones at one time.

This temple is more than just a rock garden. It is set on a side of a hill just outside Kyoto. It has a beautiful lake, and you can just start to see the fall colors in this part of Japan. If you look closely, you can see a red tori gate on the island. The gate means that the island is home to a Shinto spirit or kami.After the Zen temple, we went to Nijo Castle in the center of Kyoto. This was the second castle of the Tokugawa shoguns. They maintained their first castle in Edo(now Tokyo), but they maintained this castle in the imperial capital to ensure that the emperor did not become too powerful and try to remove the shogun as commander of all the feudal armies of Japan. The castle is famous for its nightingale floor. Underneath the floor boards are a series of nails and clamps so that the floor squeaks like the songs of nightingales. It is a pleasing sounds, but it was also a precaution against ninja or other assassins trying to creep into the castle and murder the shogun.

After the castle, it was off to another Zen temple, the Silver Pavilion. The original plan was to have the pagoda at this temple covered with silver. However, it was never done. Below you can see that pagoda is under renovation. Next to it, you can see a sand and salt Zen garden that was created for meditative contemplation. The temple's garden path led me to this view of the pagoda and the city of Kyoto beyond.

After so many temples, many in our group were glad to have a couple of hours shopping time at the Kyoto Handicraft Center. It had a lunch buffet and 6 floors of shopping excitement. It was a mixture of authentic crafts and touristy trinkets.

It was no surprise to discover that close to the handicraft center was another shrine. In this case it was the Heian Jingu Shrine. This was built in the late 1800's and contains the remains of two emperors of Japan. The emperor was once worshiped as a Shinto god. Thus, it is not surprising that this shrine has the largest tori gate in the world.Inside most Shinto shrines, much of the work is done by pure young maidens. The one below is taking time to sweep.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up, and then it was off to dinner. We had shabu shabu. This means that in the middle of each table was a heated pot of water and oil. The waitress brought us vegetables and thinly sliced beef and pork, which we put into the heated liquid. When the food was cooked, we pulled it out and dipped into different types of sauces. It was quite good, much like Mongolian barbecue without the hot grill.

After dinner, we walked to the Gion district, the place in Kyoto where you can still be entertained by geisha. Though we did not have the money or inclination to track down one of these courtesans, we did go to the Kyoto Gion Corner. At this small theater, we were entertained by some classic Japanese art forms, like Bunraku puppetry. Three men controlled the one puppet shown below.

We have one more morning in Kyoto. It will rain again tomorrow, but that will not stop us from visiting one more temple. After that, we bus to Osaka where we will visit another castle before we prepare for our flight home on Saturday.

Chuck Newell
Kyoto, Japan

Rainy Day in Kyoto

Attention faithful readers, we have had a busy but rainy day here is Kyoto. Dr. Ellington, our leader and guide, is correct; you cannot spit in Kyoto without hitting a shrine or temple. We have been very busy today and still have more activities tonight.

Therefore, I may not be able to post a full entry until tomorrow night in Osaka. We are about to rush down to the lobby and go to dinner and a show that will feature traditional Japanese performing arts, i.e. kabuki, bunraku, etc.

I will give you pictures and details as soon as possible.

Chuck Newell
Kyoto, Japan