Where Do You Meet The Old Man After The Shrines Japan Travel – Rotary Group Study Exchange Goes to Japan, Article Two

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Japan Travel – Rotary Group Study Exchange Goes to Japan, Article Two

The international organization called Rotary promotes annual trips that all people between the ages of 26 and 40, men and women, and of all nationalities – should know – because it is a six-week course funded by Rotary and anyone can sign up for part of this important life. If you are of this age – you can enjoy what is explained in my words in this article. To find out more about this program go to the international Rotary website and search for GSE – Group Learning Exchange – and contact your local Rotary Club for more information.

Our events continued:

April 13 – Wednesday:

No, there are no women in this Rotary Club, or English either – and he translated my words on the mobile phone – it’s all a matter of course. After Mrs. Tanaka served me a delicious breakfast – she said the coffee was from Seattle, the wheat from Switzerland, the jam from Germany, the almonds from California, and the balsamic from elsewhere – the avocado was from here – Mr. Tanaka and I drove about 40 minutes to a rural town called Ukiha to visit the Ukiha Rotary Club. I laughed, even though I didn’t understand the language – going to a Rotary meeting is like going to church because all over the world they do the same.

The group had about 40 members – and like the rest, they open the meeting with music – in Japan, with what we know as Glory, Glory Hallelujah, which they consider to be religiously acceptable. Tamaki Oi came with us on the trip – and it was great to meet him as he will be on the next team when this District sends their team to us next year. The walk down and back reminded me of the trip to Gilroy from home in California – two hills on either side, one round and velvety, and the other sharp, with green fields in between. It’s expensive to be a Rotary member in Japan – they tell me their salary is $250 a month – but they don’t do fundraisers, they write checks. Mr. Tanaka asked me to speak about the inclusion of women – imagine my refusal – and he says this is the topic of his Governor. So – I asked questions at the end of my talk – and someone asked me if I knew about Soroptomists – in other words, women could join this group instead.

Yahoo….we’re going to the famous hot springs this evening — I’d love to see any of the hot springs in Kyushu, and I understand there are many. It helps me recover from jet lag.

After the evening changed – it was encouraged – when the girls – Teiko Tanaka, her daughter, Ai and I went to dinner. We went to a French restaurant that gave us the best options and then some. The food here – with small dishes that please the eye and the palate with thoughtful details – is in French cuisine and Japanese. We talked for a long time about the role of women in Japanese society and the changes that are taking place. Women here see the same problems, and these are secular women with different views. The conversation continues with a long soak in the hot springs – a beautiful place in the mountains overlooking the valley. First we wash, as usual, and then we get out of the shallow pool with big rocks around it that form a basin of salt water. It is good to bathe in friendship. It’s 1PM when we sleep. The other members also had a good day.

April 14 – Thursday:

A full day left today – sightseeing day. We gathered around 10AM at Izumi’s house – and the group is happy to see each other after going our separate ways yesterday. We got into Hiroshi’s (Mr. Tanaka) small car and we set off. The first stop is in Tanoshimaru at the Wakatakeya Sake Brewery. We sit Japanese style around a large wooden table with a Japanese flower in the middle – a large bowl with camellia branches standing with pink flowers. What they give us is all delicious and made from other ingredients – like the soup was made from separating the rice from the reason, and the dessert was plums that also came from making it. The sweet little cups are filled with a good reason – and subsequently unfiltered – which we all agree is very good, and we all took bottles home afterwards from the store.

We walked for forty-five minutes or so – and ended up at Akizuki and the ruins of the castle. Amazing – it was a beautiful town, and we walked the length of the market street lined with cherry blossom trees. There were vendors and beautiful shops all along the way, and the stone walls and bridges of the old building. We stayed for a while and entered the peaceful village, walked the long steps through the old gate of the palace, took many pictures because it was so beautiful, laughed and enjoyed being together. The cherry blossoms were floating in the wind like snow, and the green mountains were happy. We stopped at an ice cream vendor because he thought Antonio was Tiger Woods – and they all laughed. We replied that we like the Japanese way of life.

From this street, we headed to Takagi Kyusuke Shoten for Kuzu-kiri. If you’re wondering what it is – it’s noodles made from the root of a tree that is dried, and you dip it in a molasses-like sauce to eat with chopsticks. It was a famous little shop, and we enjoyed tea and Kuzu-kiri – and as Izumi said, this is real Japan. We are lucky because we are beginning to understand that we are seeing things that are possible because this is the home of our hosts who know where all the good things are – and show us the inside of their culture and their place. As we make our way back down the road and leave Akizuki, we stop to take in a bridge that is a thousand years old and water is flowing over the rocks beneath it – with lots of greenery clinging to its edges.

Another hour in the car – and we arrive at Dazaifu, the most famous Dazaifu Shinto Temple. We learn that Shinto is not a religion, but a way of asking for more psychological wisdom. We are treated to something unusual – we go up the side steps to the bottom of the temple, with all the decorations in front of us – and Izumi has arranged a special ceremony for us with the priest. It’s a blessing, and since it’s in Japanese, we don’t understand what he’s saying – but he blesses the palm trees and asks us to put them on the altar. We stopped in front of the temple to see the “flying tree” (because legend says it flew from another island), a thousand-year-old tree with a large base. Then they walked across the famous bridge back to the village.

Now we’re going to eat – I thought the Japanese didn’t eat until today. We drove again for about an hour to Ogori – to Ogori Tsuzumi. This was a special event that he hosted for us. It’s not a restaurant that advertises – it’s the entertainment of a man who was the president of a well-known company for ten years who retired, and now cooks for special groups. We were greeted warmly – and entered a room with Japanese-style tables. We started to learn how to make soba noodles – and with a big plate in front of him, we were invited to join the chef to start with buckwheat flour, add water, mix the corn mixture, knead – then roll. sticks until very thin, cut with a knife – making noodles. The chef was very precise about the thickness and made the dough large. Harry, Monica, Julia, Antonio and I took turns getting ready. Harry learned to feel the dough to see if it was even.

Then, dinner – the beginning is because it was poured into a container to dip with a ladle, and many dishes to follow – lighting and soba noodles. The plates were very pretty and the cups were brightly colored – and we filled each other’s cups. So far we’ve sat down Japanese style for about four hours today – and our American butts and hips are humming – as we see how comfortable our Japanese hosts have become. We laugh a lot at dinner because Hiroshi does amazing magic tricks that leave us all speechless. How did he do this? A dollar bill floated from one hand to another – and the napkin moved to the table and he didn’t even touch it – and when he took Julia’s watch in his hand, and put it firmly, the time went forward by an hour – and the spoon bent when none of us were there who can shake it.

In this group we don’t need to understand everything we talk about because there are only jokes and associations. The chef is happy that we are happy with his creation and everyone bows several times on the way out the door. It has been a day that no stranger would have experienced – and I am only grateful for the gift of the Rotary network – and each of my team individually tells me – that we have experienced this wonderful day.

This story is a sequel — read more — and more days to come in our wonderful journey!

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