June 1:

We visited the Tofuki-ji Temple, which has many beautiful sand-and-rock gardens, and also moss gardens.  Later we went to Sanjusangan-do which contains the famous 1001 Kannon statues.  It was amazing and awe-inspiring.  A powerful symbol of a limitless abundance of compassion.  We had a late lunch at the Tenrikyo church, hosted by our friend Minooka-sensei and his family.  We went back to the ryokan and Ken and I had shakuhachi lessons with Ronnie.  The whole group then headed over to Kurahashi-sensei’s house in two taxis and we all walked to a great little gyoza restaurant for dinner, right across the street from Kurahashi’s house.  After dinner we all regrouped at Kurahashi’s house where Ken and I had shakuhachi lessons from him while Heidi and Kay stayed downstairs and chatted with Ronnie.  After our lessons Ken and I joined the others downstairs and Ronnie and Kurahashi played a duet of “Sanya Sugagaki” for us.   An amazing experience for us to have this private performance by these two great virtuoso players!

June 2:

All of the days we stayed at the ryokan Heidi and I had a morning routine of walking to a little bakery down the street to get breakfast pastries, accompanied by canned cold coffee drinks from one of the drink vending machines to be found all along the streets.  Our last morning in Kyoto we had our usual breakfast, then the whole group took an airport limousine to the Osaka airport.  At the airport security check I had a confusing encounter with a young woman security official who for reasons unknown to me was concerned about my shakauhachi.  She didn’t seem to know what it was.  There followed a confusing couple of minutes in which we tried to communicate with each other in pantomime unsuccessfully.  I began to worry that she might not let me through the security check with my shakuhachi.  I pantomimed the process of playing it and she seemed to get then that it was actually a musical instrument!   I’ve taken this thing through security checks in several airports in the USA and it never got a second look or even a question from any American airport security people.  It seems kind of ironic that the only place where I’ve ever encountered airport security concerns about this traditional Japanese instrument was in Japan!  We took a commuter flight from Osaka to Tokyo.  I had rented a cellphone for Ronnie’s use in the Tokyo airport at the beginning of our trip and I needed to return it to the rental company kiosk.  Returning the phone turned out to be a problem.  I tried to find the location of the rental counter from looking at maps of the airport, and Heidi and I ran around the airport in a state of confusion vainly trying to find this place.  Finally in desperation we stopped and asked the first airline agent we saw.  He explained that the rental counter was outside of the international transit area  and that we were inside it since we had just come from Osaka and were on our way to Toronto, and that we would be unable to leave the transit area to return the phone.  I started to panic.  We looked for a gate for Air Canada flights (the airline we would be taking from Tokyo to Toronto), and approached an AC agent and told her the problem.  She said we would have to call the phone rental company and ask them if it would be permissible for her to return the phone on our behalf, and if so she would return it for us.  She then went off to attend to some other business, and I tried calling the rental company on the rental phone but I couldn’t figure out how to work it.  Then I tried calling the phone number for the rental company from my own iPhone but it kept ringing and ringing with no answer.  I had never dialed Japanese phone numbers from an American phone before and didn’t know if I was doing it correctl, but I figured I probably wasn’t.  By this time I was getting a little frantic.  I had been pretty good at keeping my calm throughout the trip but now fatigue and the stresses of travel were catching up to me and I was losing my composure and my ability to think straight.  Finally the Air Canada agent we had spoken to earlier came back, apparently having noticed my distress.  I gave her the number for the rental company and she called it herself and explained the problem.  She told me they had agreed to let her return the phone for me.  So, problem solved finally!  We got on the plane to Toronto.

When I had originally rented the phone on our arrival in Tokyo I had known then that we would be flying back from Osaka, but (being rather naive about international travel) I had failed to realize that on the way back I would be limited to the transit area of the Tokyo airport and thus would not have access to the area of the airport where the cellphone rental company was.  With hindsight this seems like a foolish blunder on my part.  But, now I know.  The Air Canada agent who helped me in Tokyo was great.  She was very professional and efficient and extremely helpful.  I’m sorry I don’t remember her name now but I send her my thanks, whoever she was!

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