This weekend Nina graduated from University of Oregon and we weren’t able to be there. I decided to take a long Oregon vacation in August, so we’ll celebrate then, but I was feeling a little low. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself or a little bored and lonely, I hop on my bicycle and head out somewhere. It seems that once I am out riding my bike, I come across interesting places or meet interesting people or just find myself smiling at exploring alone on my bike in Saiki. Jiro has been really busy this past month doing his work, so I have had the weekends all to myself.
On Saturdays his mother goes to Day Service (I think of it as senior day care), so I try to get the main household tasks done while she is gone and can’t interfere. I understand her frustration at not being able to take care of the house on her own, and she is clearly uncomfortable when we are in her house changing sheets, scrubbing floors, and taking care of things that she wished hadn’t happened and that we “discover” (broken dishes, spilt tea, and other less-pleasant messes). I also do a lot of gardening and running errands. So by the time Sunday arrives, I am ready to relax and enjoy the day.
Yesterday, I spent a couple hours studying kanji and then decided to ride my bike to go splurge on a “Gel Mat“. The nights are getting to be pretty warm and uncomfortable and I have been on the lookout for products to help me stay cool. Traditionally, things like簾 (sudare: bamboo screen)and 風鈴 (furin: wind chimes) are supposed to make you feel cool, but I need something that goes beyond the illusion of coolness. The Gel Mat is a 90 x 140 cm gel filled mat that you lay on top of your mattress and it is supposed to help keep your body temperature low. It doesn’t require any electricity or preparation. You just put it on the bed and it’s supposed to keep you cool all night. The advertisement says that you won’t even need an air conditioner (we don’t have one, but I’ve been thinking that we should get one-maybe now we won’t need one). It was expensive – about $90, but much cheaper than an air conditioner. This one is made in China, the other made-in-Japan brand was about $140 and was only 90 x 90 cm. I can’t imagine any major differences…I’ll check the seams.. a leaky gel mat might be a headache to clean up.
But the point of the whole story is about the adventure, not the gel mat. For the past few months, on my way to work and back home I’ve been thinking that I should check out a temple that sits halfway up a forested hill just south of the river. All I can see from the bike path is a roof similar to our neighborhood temple and I wonder what the rest of the temple looks like. So on my way to the store, I decide to hike up the hill. The sign at the bottom of the steep stairs says 東禅寺(Touzenji) and I headed up.
What I first noticed was a long strand of wooden prayer beads suspended from the front of the temple, where I would expect to find a rope to ring a bell. After looking around the buildings and manicured garden, I noticed a stone torii gate (Shinto gate) to the left. Hoping to figure out how to get there, I walked around the back of the temple and kept following a path up the hill past several stone Buddhist carvings and also small Shinto shrines. I got so lost in looking at things along the way, I missed the path to the large torii gate.
Finally I came to an old shrine in the forest. It felt so tranquil …but I could hear the high school horn section practicing down by the river and of course mosquitos were buzzing all around me. After poking around, I noticed another path. I continued up the hill, past more stone carvings. These carvings were the most detailed and intact that I’ve seen in Saiki.
I wish I knew more so I could understand what I was seeing. Of course being ignorant makes it all more mysterious and exotic – definitely an outsider. However, many people here don’t know much about the local sites and think that my curiousity is a bit odd. Took lots of photos, I’ll post to Flickr later this week.
So an hour after I entered the forest, I started thinking about the monkeys and boars that I’ve seen around here. I looked at my feet in sandals and decided to head back down, with a thought to come back some day with Jiro and a sturdier pair of shoes. I”ll ask around and see what I can find out about that place.
These adventures make me feel lucky to be living here.
I’ve started working on a translation of the kouji cookbook written by my friend who runs a traditional koji shop here. It’s a good project because recipes are short, the vocabulary is limited, and there isn’t much ambiguity nor complicated sentence structure. I am also working on translating several legends about Saiki that I found on this website.
梅雨 The rainy season has officially started, but we’ve only had one day of rain. Farmers are nervous about water shortages…rice is a water-intensive crop.