Kyoto, day two.

Our second day trip to Kyoto was on Tuesday. We met with Yamashita-san, our guide from the previous day, and headed out.

“Volunteers to ring the giant bell? I thought you’d never ask!”

This day began with a trip to a working Buddhist temple for a taste of monk training. I didn’t know I was in for a lot of pain, and not the way you’d expect. We were met by a man who explained a few things about the temple, then showed us the bell they ring for services and such — complete with battering-ram-style ringer. After showing us how to do it, he asked if anyone would like to ring the bell. Hell, yes! Thing has a profound tone.

We were then shown to a meditation room, outfitted with raised squares, each with a round cushion atop for sitting. A monk explained (via Nou-sensei) that we would sit and meditate for twenty minutes, take a five-minute rest, then do another twenty. He described how to put our legs, our hands, and our heads, and the significance of each as it pertained to Buddhism, as well as the way we were to breathe. He rang a bell three times, and we began.

As I said before, I’ve never been good at sitting on the floor. Once I finished growing as a kid, I just couldn’t quite do it any more, and after taking a few months of martial arts and practicing 正座 (sitting with knees out and the tops of the feet flat on the floor), I must have made it worse. I can’t even sit cross-legged for long. So when I say that sitting in this lotus-style manner was uncomfortable for me, you get the idea.

I spent the first ten minutes or so of the meditation trying to keep my back straight and my breathing regular, while the second half I spent trying to get the blood flowing back into my legs and feet. During the rest period, I asked to use their restroom, and was glad for the chance to get the feeling back into my lower limbs. For the second period, I sat with my feet down on the floor, and found it much easier to concentrate on the meditaton aspect (instead of oh-crap-this-hurts-and-my-feet-are-getting-numb). The monk walked around behind us, occasionally straightening peoples’ backs or gently correcting us, but he left me alone, perhaps noticing my difficulties. I can say with certainty that, aside from the religious and ascetic reasons, I would not be welcome into the ranks of the Buddhist monks.

Afterward, we were given a tour of the place. It had a lovely garden and pond, as well as a few rooms with gorgeous artifacts or ancient artwork. We were then led into a dining room to have a traditional monk’s meal (which, of course, meant we sat on the floor again). On the way, I spotted the monk who’d instructed us earlier, and sincerely apologized for my necessary bathroom break between meditations, and he assured me it was okay (which was good, because I was worried he’d been offended).

The meal was entirely vegan, with vegetables and tofu and such. As with the kimono shop’s meal, I wasn’t fond of several of the pieces, but ate everything nonetheless. (I can’t say the same for some of my groupmates.) We adjourned to the lobby, gathered our things, and left with many thanks.

The ride home was uneventful, mostly spent on a bus. As we were taking our series of trains back to Kawachi-Eiwa, I spoke to a group of high school girls, one of whom told me my nose was 高い (high/tall). “High?” I asked her. “Is that good or not?” She assured me it was good.

I’d been trying to coordinate a meeting with Kanako, Oomura-sensei’s right hand during our school-sponsored excursions or club activities. She was friendly and helpful, and took to us quickly, and I’d finally gotten her phone and internet contact info. This would be our last night of free time, so I contacted her (via phone and internet) and planned to meet her after she was done at work. We agreed to meet at 布施 (Fuse), and I rounded up whoever wanted to go along. Ashe had been talking with Yuta, one of her conversation people, and we decided to join forces. Only Warren chose to stay back, claiming fatigue.

Everyone posed after our last dinner with Kanako.

We met Kana at Fuse Station and exited, and everyone chatted while we waited for the rest to show. Turns out it wasn’t just Yuta, but Kazuma, Katsunori, and Sakaya (Mike’s and my people) as well! The twelve of us decided to go to a place that did yakiniku for dinner. I got to sit between Sakaya and Kana, both gorgeous, and we proceeded to order food by the table (four apiece). We got various cuts of beef, some half-sections of corn on the cob with barbecue sauce, along with onion and some vegetable I couldn’t identify. Kana opened up a lot, agreeing with us that our teacher had a penchant for talking a lot (but Kana wasn’t allowed to interject), laughing at my Oomura-sensei imitation (an homage, I promise), and generally having fun as part of the group. She told me that she’d only started in April, and when I asked what her job title and duties were, she said she had no idea — she just did what they told her to do. The other tables found that the lamp overhead had a suction part to keep the smoke from the grill fire from escaping, and put bits of paper and such into it for a while (tsk-tsk). We ate our fill, and when it came time to pay, Heaven, Josh, Mike, and I all chipped in and bought Kana’s dinner for her. She stayed with us a bit longer for photos and goodbyes before heading home to Kobe (which was gonna be about three hours by train for her).

The rest of us went to Sega World, an arcade, and amused outselves with four-player sit-down Mario Kart 2, a head-to-head motorcycle game (I watched but didn’t play), and House of the Dead 4 (which I didn’t get to play). I found a Melty Blood machine, and since I’d never gotten to play it, I sat down. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed out on some purikura.

We said our goodbyes in the end, promised to meet at WVU, and headed back to the hotel. The next day would have us gone for three days, so we packed a bag each and crashed.

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One thought on “Kyoto, day two.

  1. Great blog, Brad. Felt as if I was there with you. I can identify with the lotus-position–never could do it in my yoga class either. What a great experience you’ve all had!

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