May 30:

Ken and I had two shakuhachi lessons each in the morning at Kurahasi’s house.  Kurahashi caught me off-guard by making me play a duet version of “Sanya Sugagaki” with him, which I found to be difficult and confusing.  After lunch the whole group went to a music store that sells traditional Japanese instruments.  I was strongly tempted to buy a shinobue (folk flute) but resisted, since I don’t really have time to play all of the musical instruments I own already!  We visited the Ginkakuji Temple, beautiful gardens and grounds.  We went to the historic Gion district (well-known for its geishas), with a lot of old and architecturally beautiful historic houses and shops.  On one busy street lined with more modern shops we found, surprisingly, the Chugenji Temple which dates back to the 11th century, seeming strangely out of place on such as bustling street.  We took a trip to Kyoto Handicrafts for some shopping, then had a fantastic meal a a 100-yen-per-plate sushi place.  The people at this restaurant sit in booths and there is a long conveyor belt that goes around the restaurant and passes all the tables.  People just grab what they want off of the conveyor belt as the food goes around, and at the end of the meal they are charged by counting up the number of plates they’ve used.  It was a strange but fun dining experience, and the food was great.

May 31:

We visited the Uji Temple in the morning.  A beautiful temple, quiet, simple, and elegant.  A powerful feeling of peace and stillness prevailed throughout.  Afterward we had lunch at elegant restaurant with big wide windows that overlooked the Uji River.  We went to an old historic teahouse and sampled several of their teas.  The proprietress was a delightful lady.  In the afternoon we went to the Kosho-ji Temple, a beautiful and peaceful place that was still in use by Zen monks when were were there.  We could hear them chanting, and see them walking among the buildings.  The temple had a very beautiful cemetery attached to it, in which the ashes of many master shakuhachi players (including Jin Nyodo the founder of the shakuhachi tradition that I practice) are supposedly buried.  We went to our friend Minoka-sensei’s house and had dinner with him and his family.  Minoka-sensei and his wife are in their early 80s but have the energy of people in their 20s!  They are wonderful people, apparently filled with joy all the time.