Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Book of Tea


In mid-September we took a break from "everything". Kimie got Friday off from work and drove us up to the northernmost city of Ibaraki Prefecture - Kitaibaraki City (literally "north Ibaraki" - doh!). Along the way we took a detour into the mountains to see a lovely thatched roof temple, Jorenji, built in 858.

Our destination was Izura - a cliffside resort area which was home to famed artist Okakura Tenshin (February 14, 1862 – September 2, 1913) who, aside from writing The Book of Tea and other English language volumes, ran an art school and was at one time head of the Asian arts section of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The area was also home to Ujo Noguchi (1882-1945) who wrote children's poems and song lyrics, many of which are still popular in Japan today.

We have visited Izura twice before, but only on day trips - once by car, once by train - and so had never spent the night before. We stayed at the cliffside resort of Izura Kanko Hotel, close to Tenshin's home and art school, though the latter is no longer there, and walking distance to the Tenshin Memorial Art Museum.

Our suite was on a corner and had views of the cliffs and Tenshin's hexagonal meditation room "Rokkokudo" on the point below his home, as well as straight out to sea to the East and the rising sun which we awoke to witness each morning. (Yawn- it was like O'dark:30 but very much worth the effort.)

The occasion was my 60th Birthday and I could think of nothing more appropriate than to spend it by the sea, with the sound of ocean waves soothing my angst of increasing age. It worked. I felt invigorated by the sights, sounds, and smells of the seaside, which combined to gently take the edge off of the "3 score" milestone, as did a soak in the limestone bath of the spa.

This area has most of Ibaraki Prefecture's fishing ports, so seafood was the order of the day, and the hotel did not disappoint. (I had lost 3 pounds in the previous ten days, and was afraid to look at a scale after the trip.)

I was happily surprised to see, among the myriad fishing boats, a number of sailing yachts in the waters off Izura, parading past the window at breakfast and returning in the afternoon. There is even a small wooden sailboat on display near Tenshin's house - one that he built himself for fishing.

On Saturday, we drove into the mountains again to the end of a road where there is an ancient Shinto Shrine. Set by a mountain stream amidst 600 and 700 year old cedars and pines, Hanazono Shrine is quite stunning for its size - like a jewel in the forest.

There is much more to tell, but I will leave that for a later post on Pacific Islander.

For now, I will close with this thought; it's a quote from The Book of Tea (1906) by Okakura Tenshin:

"Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others."

He meant it on an international level, specifically how Western countries viewed Asia at the time, but it applies to personal life as well, and seems to me to be a concept worthy of our reflection.

Until next, sweet sailing.


HappySurfer said...

Belated happy birthday, Panda-B, and many happy returns!

Awesome scenery. Thanks for sharing.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Happy. It is quite nice up there. I should have made some video to include the sound of the surf. Very soothing.

Arkonbey said...

It's your birthday? Congratulations on riding the Earth around the sun one more time! I know it's tough to hang on at 108,000 km/h!

Arkonbey said...

And that temple in the forest looks like how Myst would if Miyazaki had designed it.

Pandabonium said...

Arkonbey - thanks. it isn't the speed that gets me, it's the rotating round and round that makes me queasy. :)

I always look up shrines and temples before going on a trip here as they offer a view to the past. Both the temple and the shrine were inspiring.
Miyazaki captures the essence of such things really well.

word verif: wingspl - an incantation used by Nausica of the Valley of the Winds.

Martin J Frid said...

Happy 60, didn't you get to wear bright red (ask K if you don't know)?

That is one place I really want to visit, btw.

Word verif: heaker - a combination of healer and seeker?

Pandabonium said...

Martin - heaker? "Hello seeker. Don't feel alone in the new age, there's a seeker born every minute!" (sorry - very obscure reference to a 1974 record by Firesign Theatre).

The red hat and vest would have clashed with my hazel eyes. However, I am definitely into the kanreki concept of returning to my infancy - I have a jump on that angle, not having acted my age in a long time.

I hope you get to visit Izura sometime. I know you would find much to appreciate.

Zen said...

Ok, I'm in the office marina working this weekend, nothing to do so I can catchup on my blog surfing.

This looks like it was a wonderful trip!! I want to come north and visit one day and see the sights and eat at Mama's!!

Kiddo, You are just a couple of month's younger than me. Happy belated!

Does your wife blog also? ..or is she too busy taking care of you (^_^)

Pandabonium said...

Zen - thank you. looking forward to seeing you both here and sharing some good times on Bluesette and at Mama's.

Kimie doesn't blog ~ leaves that to me.

Zen said...

A little something for you:

Pandabonium said...

Zen - that is so awesome! Funny thing is, my 2 daughters went to a high school where the saxophonist who played the solo for the movie soundtrack "The Pink Panther" was the music teacher! And my #2 daughter played trombone in the band. Thanks so much.

bowsprite said...

happy happy belated birthday! what beautiful photographs!! Hawaii and Japan! two places on the list I would love to visit...

Pandabonium said...

bowsprite - thank you for the birthday wishes. Hawaii and Japan are definitely worth visiting.