Monday, May 28, 2007

Shinkansen to Tokyo

Well, after Nara, we staggered to the train station in the cold. When we got back to Osaka, we tumbled into bed so we could rest up for our big trip to Tokyo! I was so excited to be able to ride the Japanese Bullet Trains. They travel at 300 KPH and are sleek and beautiful works of art. Below is the scrapbook page I made and the journaling is below if you want to read the story of our mishap.

Our second day in Japan we got up early to get to Tokyo on Japan’s famous Shinkansen; the Bullet Trains that travel at up to 186 MPH. We waited for our train at the wrong station. We were supposed to be at Shin-Osaka Station, but we were at Osaka Station. When we realized our mistake we rushed to the other station, only to get there right as the Shinkansen left! So we had to give up our reservations for the comfy non-smoking car and run as fast as we could to catch the Nozomi Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. When we got into the car it was filled with smokers and the haze was so thick that Matt said it looked like “Mordor!” I was so tired from jetlag and our previous day’s adventures that I immediately burst into tears at the thought of spending three hours standing in that smoke-filled gloom with my asthma. Luckily, Johnny was able to get us regular seats in a non-smoking car as soon as we reached the next station. And even more exciting was our upgrade to Nozomi instead of regular Shinkansen, which only took two and a half hours to arrive in Tokyo. Nozomi is a wonderful way to travel!

(digital papers from Christine Smith at )

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fire Ceremony Video

Here's a short video we took of the fire ceremony with my camera!

This is a video someone else took that I found on youtube, but the footage is amazing! They must have waited for hours to get that close! It starts off a little slow, but is definitely worth watching!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fire Ceremony

After we had seen Big Buddha, we walked around the park some and then went over to where there was going to be a special festival that night. It is called "Omizu-tori" which stands for "Water-Drawing Ceremony". I have no clue why they call it anything to do with water, because it is all about fire! (I apologize in advance for my blurry photos--it was the best I could get with my point-and-shoot. If you click on a photo you can see a larger version)

We had to wait a couple of hours for the ceremony to start so we chatted with a man who was standing next to us. He had spent some years in South America and spoke some Spanish, so we communicated partly in broken English, Spanish, and Japanese. It was fun to interact with the locals and he had some interesting stories to tell.

It was so very cold there and it was snowing agin! We got some hot drinks from a vending machine to keep warm. They sell hot coffe and chocolate in cans from the machines there. We bought a couple extra to put in our pockets, too! I was shivering and just about to freeze to death, but we really wanted to see the ceremony so we stayed!

The ceremony is a purification ritual and anyone who is touched by the ash or embers is especially lucky. This ritual is said to purify a person for the whole year. (anyone who knows about this ceremony, please correct me if I make any mistakes). Look carefully at the covered walkway to the left of the tree in the top photo. That is where the ceremony began with participants carrying huge, flaming torches up the stairs. I don't know how they got the torches up there without burning down the wooden structure, but since they've done it for centuries, they must be experts!

As soon as it got dark everything started. My giudebook says it's a very solemn occasion, but it really was more of a festival atmosphere. Especially once the fire started, there were so many "oohs!" and "aahs!" that I felt like I was at a Disneyland fireworks show!

What happens is that a torch is carried up the stairs to the second floor of the temple. Then they run the torch along the balcony so everyone can see. When they get to the end, there is already another torch coming. As they carry it they periodically stop and shake the torch so the embers will fly off.

Now I know you're envisioning a small torch like Indianna Jones would carry, but this thing was huge. Big enough that I probably couldn't hold it! And there were times when baseball and melon-sized fireballs would fall to the ground with the embers. It truly was a spectacle.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New look!

Ps--I updated my blog template--the old one kept hiding the text. Maybe this one will do better! Someday I'll actually customize it, but I'm so lazy, ha ha!

Big Buddha Complex

Well, when I last left off we were still on day one of our trip to Japan. We were in Nara and I was arguing with the guys about big buddha. I swore the one we were looking at was terribly big and there's no way there would be a bigger buddha! Well was I ever wrong!

As we walked up the path of the complex I could tell it was something special. There were lots more people up there for one thing. And the entry gate was huge! It was guarded by a couple of forebooding wooden statues.

Then we saw the building; which was enormous. We knew then that this was a really special place.

Todai-Ji is the world's largest wooden structure, according to the guidebook.

Temple Entrance

Big Buddha Himself. Notice the top of everyone's heads--Buddha is about seven feet higher than us. He's a 53-foot bronze Buddha. Daibutsu is the largest Bronze statue in the world and is 1,200 years old. It was really dark inside and it was snowing outside so there wasn't much sun to help with this photo. Sorry it's blurry.

Here's one of the guardians behind Buddha.

I'm not quite sure what this represents--it is a statue in front of the entrance. If anyone knows--please share!

Thanks to the person who took a photo of the three of us--Matt, Lianna & Johnny!