Je vous souhaite d'aimer ce qu'il faut aimer et d'oublier ce qu'il faut oublier.

Je vous souhaite des passions. Je vous souhaite des silences. Je vous souhaite des chants d'oiseaux au réveil et des rires d'enfants.

Je vous souhaite surtout d'être vous.

Jacques Brel (part of "le droit de rêver")


The deers from the Gods

The day after the practice at Kyoto university I planned to visit Nara.
I left at 7:15 Gojo guesthouse where I took 2 different lines (keihan & Kintetsu ) and after 50 min
I arrived at Nara. In Japan trains are not coming late, only people (in 99,9% of the cases).
So be in advance at the station and the message is: plan your trip very well before arriving at the station.

My plan for the day is to visit some temples, walk through the city and be back at 17:30 at Uzumasa station in Kyoto.

Before leaving the station I just popped in the toursit office where I took some plans.

The employee starts to talk to me and asks me if I want to have a guide? I never heard about these kind of guides, but I accepted this as a nice opportuniy to have some assistance and so I started my walk with Ms.Yukiko Furukawa in Nara.

These guide organisation started after the EXPO in Osaka (1970). Yukiko tellls me that the idea came because at that time everything was written in Kanji & Kana and nothing in romanisation. Foreign people didn’t understand the Japanese culture. To avoid this kind of frustration around communication, an organisation with goodwill guides was created. These people received some history and culture courses supported by the Japanese gouvernment.

We walked 5 hours together with the sun in our back. Hereafter I will tell you about some places she guided me in Nara.. Before entering Nara park we went to the Kofukuji temple (5 levels pagode).

In the entrance of temples and also here for example, believers have a book that they give to the monk at the entrance of the temple. He will make a calligraphy and put a stamp with the symbol of the temple in it. With this new calligraphy people will continue to find harmony in their lives.

In Nara I also started to keep these calligraphies as a memory of my presence on these precious places and to keep them during my journee.

The deer are sacred animals and are a symbol in Nara. It is said that they were once messengers from God. When you look at them, they will bow as Japanese people to say hello to you. My explanation is very brief. What I’m trying to tell you is that they have a very very precious and strong symbolic meaning for Japanese people.

We continued in the direction of the Todaiji temple (built in 743).

From a distance you can see 2 horns on the top of the roof of this temple, but finally Yukiko told me that they are 2 golden fishes. These fishes protect the temple from fire. They are a part of the sea. This place was dammaged several times (2 times the great Buddha hall burned in the fires

of war in 1180 and 1567), but anyway it’s magic. I have a lot of admiration for

the fact that after the fire they built it again and they did that also for many other places again to preserve this cultural heritage like the Castle in Nagoya or the Golden temple in Kyoto and many others..

The time when Todaiji¹ was built was at when Buddhism was at its height, and served as a state religion. When we went inside we could see its Daibutsu, a colossal statue that, with 15 meters in height, is the world's largest gilded bronze Buddha. It is housed in an all-wood building, the Daibutsu-den, 48 meters in height. Even if the place is now ± 33% smaller than that of the original structure it still ranks as the largest wooden structure in the world.

The Southern entrance (Nandai mon) is also very impressive; Pass this entrance and you will be surrounded at left and right of the 2 wonderfully expressive guardians gods (Nio) They are more than 7m toll each. One of the big differences is that you have one with the sword in his hand (ready to attack) and the other one has his sword still in his saya. 2 lions are outside on both side also guardians of this place. From any entrances it’s still very impressive to see the temple. It’s so big!!

Before leaving the temple I received a small bottle (3 cm) with the bouddha inside as gift from my guide. This as a gift to be able to compare this one with the one I will see later in Kamakura.

Which one will be the most beautifull in your eyes??

¹the text with the dimensions of the Todaiji temple are coming from the website himself and folder.

Short Lifecycle

During the Obon period all of Japan was moving to be at their homes. I have chosen this time to be in Kyoto to celebrate the Daimonji Okuribi(¹). I just arrived in Japan when the spirits (good and bad) were on earth.

On the 16th of August I was in Nara and after that I went immediately to Uzumasa station in Kyoto. There I was goig to meet some people from the guesthouse. They also wanted to see the bonfires like I was. Nobody was there. Fortunately there were 2 stations with this name, so I moved to the other one. I stopped some policeman on a motorcycle and I didn’t let him go until I understood where this station was situated. Finally I arrived to the other station and waited as well, but nobody came. .

I had more than 1 hour to be there, but I didn’t know at all how to move from where I was to the place where these guys (from the guesthouse) wanted to see the bonfires. Imagine: I was at the busstation, I didn’t know where I was, which way to go, how to reach my distination, but I had a plan of Kyoto. In addition there was an old fantastic woman (who was waiting for the bus) who tried to help me. We asked to people about the bonfire, but nobody could help us. At that moment I was just feeling so lost in translation that I started to be a little emotional. This old woman was there and she tried to calm me, but at that time I was still lost. Finally her bus came and I was completely again, alone with the spirits, the sun and the humidityJ. I decided to stay where I was and to remain calm and relaxed. I knew I would find it.

Suddenly 2 Japanese young tourists (coming out of nowehere) sat next to me. It was a mixture of punky/ hip hop style with some gold colour in their hair. I started to ask them if they knew some place in Kyoto where we can have a good view of the Daimonji Okuribu. They started to take a look at their documentation about Kyoto and they suggested me to go to the Funaokayama Park. I opened my map and I went in the direction of this park.

At the moment I got off of the bus for the final destination, an older women started talking to me in English. She looked at me and asked me if I spoke Spanish? Uhhhh?? Yes of course and so I started to have a Spanish guide who took care of me for a couple of minutes. She told me how to get to my destination. This was amazing to be able to talk in Spanish in some area in the centre in Kyoto!!! I had the feeling that the spirits of my grandmother and my father were taking care of me.

There were so many people going to this park. I was the only person who was not Japanese.

I followed the people upstairs until we reached the top of the park. From there you could see the east, west and north of Kyoto. In the park you could see friends, family and tourists like me. Some people brought some food and alcohol and tried to find a nice place while waiting for the big moment.

I started to talk with 2 students who where there for the same reason as me. I asked them if I could join them for this special evening and so we waited together. As I said before, during the Obon period spirits of families’ ancestors are said to return to the family home. You have welcome fires (mukaebi = welcoming fire) and Daimonji (the kanji: dai means: great or large) Okuribi (sent back the spirit word with “seeing off fire”).

The fireworks started in the east. You have to imagine everyone running to take a picture. All the hands with mobile phones taking pictures. Hiro- san (one of the two students) explained me that when the fire is on, you can see the spirits through the fireworks. When the smoke starts, the spirits leave the earth to go back to the other world. And so we were there waiting until the fireworks went off and the smoke rose to the skies. In Buddhsm what counts most is the fact that we treat the return of our ancestral spirits with honor and genuine hospitality.

It was a magic night for all of us.

(¹)The folks in Kyoto burn words and pictures into the mountainsides. The media and the tourist guides always show the dai character , but more that one hillside is set on fire that night. There are also bonfires on four other mountains—two parts of the same mountain have the two kanji for myoho, or Buddha’s Law, another mountain has a smaller dai kanji, a bonfire in the shape of a ship burns on a fourth mountain, and the last bonfire is in the shape of a torii, the gateway to Shinto shrines.These fires are large enough to be seen throughout the city. Each kanji stroke ranges from 80 to 160 meters in length. Pine branches are used to set the fires, and there are 75 separate fire sources for the larger dai kanji alone. That figure is ignited at 8:00 p.m., with the others following immediately after. (Japan guide overview).

Summer 2005

Thanks to all who: supported me, support me, sempai, kohai, sensei, devil, gods.. I writed in Enlish (even if my English is very poor)so Naoko who I thank specially can also join this first experience that I had in her home country.. Be aware this is my interpretation of my experience (see notebook + my mind)... Part I: Paris-Tokyo Narita-Osaka Itami-Kyoto Before leaving I print: my shedule, all important @mails concerning kendo/reigi/ + I took the green + kanj & kana dictionnary,... and I packed my bag with more gifts for all the sensei, friends and friends I will make than clothes for myself. I took my bogu and a handbag that’s all, so don’t think I’m the the girl who moves her dressing room with her on holiday for example. Paris-Tokyo Narita. After looking ¾ movies, walking & disturbing all the people around you to go to the toilet we arrived in Tokyo. In Tokyo I took another plane to Osaka Itami and there I took a another limousine who was going directly to Kyoto. I The transport is on time and I arrived after 1h in Kyoto. From the station I walked like 30 min till the Gojo street, (N-E => 5 min from Kiyomizu Temple: ) where the first insect that I saw was the wonderfull cucaracha. I was still dreaming about Japan that I forgott to be tired till I took my shower at my distination: I was staying 9 days in the Area of Higashiyama. Most of the time I walked to the centre along the Kamo river and took the small streets just to see the houses, take a look how people are leaving and be lost.. My plan for Kyoto was visiting firstly what is far from the centre and than come closer to the place where I stayed, this to provide to be short in time to visit some place(es). It was 6 in the morning and thanks to the jetlag no chance anymore to can sleep anymore. Still sleepy, I went downstairs and start to prepare the shedule for the day, at that moment 2 German girls came downstairs where I started to talk. They had the same shedule than me and still sleepy I ask them to join the day with them and so I started to go to the N-W of Kyoto (Kinkakuji area). Kyoto is situated in a valley contourned of montains; you can not lost your way in Kyoto, because of the structure of the ways...How more we moved outside the centre how beatifull it become.. I will not tell you about all the temples I saw, but my top 3 in Kyot is: Taizo-in temple (at Myoshinji), Tenryu-ji temple (Sagano district of Kyoto) and the Ginkakuji temple (the silver temple). These 3 Zen temples are for me the 3 temples where the architecture and the garden where reflecting harmony and peace. The Kinkaku (Golden temple) were the opposite of the feeling I had with the previous temples. It’s too bombastic and all that gold everywhere it’s seems to aggresive for my eyes(this is my personal point of view). 1.2 Everything has his place as in a temple, castle, palace, kendo... 50 min in advance; it’s the first time that I took the local train and I couldn’t know how much time it will take. The weather it’s the same than at my father his homeplace, but the humidity makes the difference. After 3 days I practice kendo at Kyoto university. Everything just goes like it had to go . All my fears and doubts flowed on the same way away. Everybody knew his position in the dojo and took his responsabilities in a serious way. Only this atmosphere gives a strong spirit to this dojo and his kendoka, but also me who was having his first practice in Japan. The moment from the beginning of the practice till the cooling down after the practice where one continuity without dead times. • Joge buri • Zanshin kotai men suburi • Zengo sayo men suburi • +/-Kote suburi • Uchiotoshi kote suburi • Haya suburi The suburi +/- 50 were fluent/dynamic to make the wrists souple,strike in the centre in a good way and to be relax in footwork & in balance between the upper & low body. After we maked with a partner some basic kihon, like for example: men uchi (this without men)we started kirikaeshi( small groups of 3). Kirikaeshi was very intensive and all the movements of the students were fluent in one time. You felt that to be hit and more the strike getting trough yourself and keep zanshin after the strike ... After we had: shiai, free gi geiko, kakari geiko (3 kendoka in a line and you start to make kakari geiko on the tree people in one time), 2 men uchikomi, kirikaeshi and finally the cooling down. The most difficult was kakari geiko. I didn’t keep in a good way (55%) with the first motodachi, the second I was (80%), but the last I was aware that I let my concentration flew away and I ended (30%). Why? I could say that it was the fault of the weather, or because I was tired, but I didn’t use it as an excuse. I just focused myself to be more concentrated the next time at the end of such an intensive exercise and to be able to make me improve in a better way. After the practice everybody stays there in the dojo. The kohai brought some water to everybody and all the students relax at the dojo or in the changing room. You can compare their changing room like a studio with only kendo material everywhere (I maked some pictures). The sempai adviced or give comments to the kohai after the practice. Everybody takes care of his bogu and put everything outside so everything could breath the air and dry again for the next practice. All the kendo equipment stay in the changing room, so nobody excepted me had to take his bogu back at home. The line up was in a L: __ left to right (low to high rank), the people line up at the I were graduated. The kote were put in vertical instead of horizontal like we do in the dojo.