After our visit to Matsumoto Kobo we didn’t think the day could get much better. But Mr. Nagata, or Nobu, continued to impress us with his thoughtfully planned itinerary.
Typically this is a very popular tourist attraction, but Nobu’s sleek Toyota Crown cleared a path through the crowded streets.
It was pretty cool to feel like a celebrity for the day as we drove past the onlookers who looked inquiringly into the deeply tinted glass of the car as we slowly made our through the bamboo lined path.At one point Nobu let us get out and walk the rest of the way through the lush landscape of towering bamboo. The fragrance of the bamboo permeated the air as we made our way through the forest that was still damp from the overnight shower.
Then it was back into the car and on to the Gioji temple, which had served as a Buddhist nunnery. A dense forest of thick green plants and many different kinds of moss awaited us in the beautiful garden that reminded us both so much of the Pacific Northwest. Nobu offered to give me a tour of the small thatched house in addition to a mini lesson on meditation. It was certainly a peaceful spot to sit and relax, if only for a few minutes. We continued to walk through the ancient grounds of the temple as Nobu told us the story of the four nuns that lived here in the days of old. One of the nuns was a dancer who had lost favor with a powerful clan chief. According to the story he grew tired of her and replaced her with a younger dancer. So at the age of 21 she , her mother and her sister came to live at the nunnery. They were soon joined by the the other dancer who at the young age of 17 had come to the realization that eventually she too would be jilted by the heartless chief. Reportedly the four women all lived here for the rest of their lives. A lovely candid shot of Nobu and then back in the car as we eagerly awaited our next stop. We drove through the maze of quaint little side streets of Sagano and stopped at the Town Preservation Center where we got to tour the inside of a restored traditional Japanese house.At the entrance we were shocked to find an Alterra coffee display which is a company from our hometown of Milwaukee, WI. It just served as a reminder of much our world is shrinking and getting more and more connected with each passing day. Our next stop was just down the road at the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. This was a very unique temple and due to its location is less crowded then the other temples in the area. On the day of our visit we were fortunate to have the temple almost entirely to ourselves.
The most interesting feature of this temple are the hand carved stone Buddhas. In total there are over 1,200 of them and no two are alike. The founder of this temple requested that the stone Buddhas be given as offerings in lieu of money. Since each sculpture was carved by a different person there is a huge variety of styles and facial expressions. We walked along the pathways and marveled at the amount of creativity and humor on display.
By this time we had worked up quite an appetite and Nobu called ahead to one of his favorite restaurants. It was past the normal lunch hours but they made an exception for us (out of respect for Nobu) and the two of us had the entire restaurant to ourselves.
This was definitely one of the most memorable meals on our trip and we couldn’t thank Nobu enough for recommending the place.
After a late lunch Mr. Nagata had one last destination in mind, which was about a 20 minute drive from the restaurant. While we were eating lunch, Nobu had arranged for us to visit a modern day temple in the beautiful mountains to the northwest of Kyoto. There we would meet the presiding abbot and his wife would prepare for us some ceremonial matcha (green powered) tea.
She even asked Nobu if I wanted to try whisking the green tea myself and they both did their best to give me the instructions in English.It was a bit awkward at first but eventually I got better at using the little bamboo whisk, called a chasen.
After tea, we were presented with some handprinted tea towels and briefly toured the grounds with the abbot. But he walked so quickly that it was a bit hard to keep up with him and take pictures. I think the only pictures I managed to take of the breathtaking scenery were the tall trees that seemed as if they were ascending up into the heavens.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. ~ John Muir