Takahata Fudoson Kongoji

Ajisai (Hydrangea)

Takahata Fudoson was built about 794 by Jigaku Daishi Ennin by the order of Emperor Seiwa as a sacred ground in the eastern mountains of the realm. Following the destruction of the temple by a storm in 1335, Gikai Shōnin I rebuilt the Fudō-dō Hall on the current site in 1342. This Important Cultural Property was followed by another, the Niōmon Gate.

Most of the original temple buildings were destroyed by fire in 1779. Reconstruction occurred slowly and continued until 1975. Okuden Hall, just behind Fudō-dō Hall, enshrines the repaired 1,100kg statue of Jōroku Fudōsanson.

In addition to the rich history and many important cultural artifacts, the temple grounds are open every year for the ajisai (hydrangea) festival.

The temple grounds also feature a pilgrimage route inspired by the Shikoku region’s pilgrimage to the 88 temples. The route features large number of hydrangea in June and cluster amaryllis in September, as well as momiji, famous for their fall colors.

Momiji (Japanese Maple)
Momiji (Japanese Maple)
Ajisai at Takahata Fudoson Kongoji

Fukuchiin — stay in a Buddhist temple

Decorative dragon panel

福智院

Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture, home to Shingon Buddhism, boasts more than 50 temples offering shukubo, an overnight stay featuring onsen baths and a traditional vegetarian meal. Fukuchiin, one such temple, lies just a few steps from some of Koyasan’s more famous temple complexes and just a 15-minute walk from Garan, the central temple complex.

Amenities include wifi, onsen baths and private dining rooms, and alcohol is available upon request. The temple includes many artistic treasures. An overnight stay includes an invitation to join the 6 a.m. prayer service.

Entrance to Fukuchiin

Rock garden
Rock garden

Shojin ryori
Shojin ryori

Fukuchiin「福智院」

Receiving the benefit of the doubt

Just back from the doc, getting a refill, where the following conversation happened:

Doctor
You’ve lost a kilogram! That’s good!
Guy Jean
Really?
Doc
I’ll bet you’re not going out drinking as much these days because of the Coronavirus, right?
GJ
Er … right.
Doc
A lot of people are drinking out less, and losing weight as a result.
GJ
Interesting theory …

Well, we’ve cut down going out a little bit. But it’s not as if we’re not making up for it at home …

IKR

[The following conversation happened entirely in Japanese.]

Nana:
(Grouses at TV)
Guy Jean:
Right?
Nana:
(Grouses something else at TV)
Guy Jean:
Right?
Nana:
You keep saying “Right? Right?” But you don’t understand a thing I’m saying, right?
Guy Jean:
Right?

Rat? Or a middle-aged man?

My colleague gave me this hand-written card along with some sweets for the new year. I tossed the card on my desk and there it remained for a couple of days, turned sideways.

I glanced at it one day and made a startling discovery:

Hand-drawn illustrration of Year of the Rat greeting
Mouse, or ojisan?

This was definitely unintentional, as when I pointed it out to her it took her more than a minute to realize what I was talking about. And then she said, “A western ojisan, possibly! Not a Japanese one.”

Godaido

The twin bridges of Godaido

五大堂

Godaido was built by Jikaku Daishi in 807 to enshrine the five deities of wisdom, said to be carved by his own hand. The current shrine, reached from the shore by arching red bridges, was built in 1604 by Date Masamune to celebrate his victory at Sekigahara, which brought the civil wars to an end and laid the foundation for the Tokugawa shogunate.

Godaido is the oldest example of Momoyama period architecture in northeastern Japan.

Red arching bridge leading to Godaido
Godaido

Godaido

Zuiganji Temple

The Kuri of Zuiganji Temple

瑞巌寺

Zuiganji Temple, a national treasure, was first established in 828 by legendary priest Jikaku Daishi. Caves for the depositing of funerary ashes were added during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). The temple took its current form in 1609, when it was restored as a family temple by Date Masamune, the “One-Eyed Dragon of Ōshu” and founder of nearby Sendai.

Pine trees line the approach
Pine trees line the approach

The approach to the temple is lined with the pine trees for which Matsushima is named. The gate to the left is the Onari Genkan — the Emperor’s Gate. Visitors instead pass across the front of the temple and enter via the Kuri, the distinctive temple kitchen to the right.

Temple wall adjacent to the Kuri
Temple wall adjacent to the Kuri

The temple is filled with many elaborate murals on gilt sliding screens, including the famous Peacock panel painted by family retainer Sakuma Shuri. (Photography is forbidden in the interior of the temple.)

Entrance to Hosshin Cave
Entrance to Hosshin Cave

Kamakura-era cinerarium
Kamakura-era cinerarium

Kamakura-era cinerarium
Kamakura-era cinerarium

The temple grounds also include the Seiryuden museum, which houses national and prefectural cultural properties such as the armor of Date Masamune and a large Wakizashi sword commissioned by his son.

Zuiganji Temple

Preferred pronoun: he

Nana has been wanting to buy a Roomba since we moved, and last week she spoke to a salesman at Bic Camera about the various models. She also was interested in the Braava model which automatically mops the floor. (We have all hardwood floors, no carpet.)

The salesman told us the Roombas need 10cm of clearance, so we decided to measure the clearance under our bed and sofa before proceeding.

Yesterday we were preparing to go to Bic again, and I measured the clearance under the bed: 8cm, and not a millimeter more. The sofa is fine at 14cm.

So we talked to the same guy again and he said (despite varying appearance) all the Roomba models are the same height. I confirmed this with the spec sheet and in fact they’re all 9.2cm. Nana told him to let the maker know we wanted a slimmer model. He said that was a popular request, but the spec hasn’t changed on that for the past 15 years.

So we looked at other makers. We thought we might find a Panasonic or Hitachi. They had models on display. We couldn’t find the specs, but they looked about the same size as the Roombas (and I hadn’t brought a tape measure). Then we found one that clearly said it was only 5.7cm high. It was quite a bit cheaper than the Roombas — only one-third the price. Nana asked the salesman about it and he confirmed it’s a Chinese company: Ecovacs.

We looked around a few more minutes, but it was clear this was the only one that would fit under our bed. And we were surprised to discover that it combined the sweeping and mopping functions, so we don’t need two separate machines. For the price we knew we couldn’t expect much, but we decided to take the leap.

Not a Roomba

The moment we got home I unboxed the thing. “Do they have instructions in English?” Nana asked. I pointed to the quick set-up guide: it’s all diagrams and iconese. Within a couple of minutes the robot was scuttling around our flat, quieter than we’d expected, and Nana had immediately decided it was a “he.” “Where is he now?” she’d ask. And when he got tangled up in anything, she’d say, “He has to learn to do that.”

(I’m not sure how much learning capability this cheap model has, but we were joking about its giving all our information to the Chinese.)

Nana would take to following him around the flat, worrying where he was from minute to minute and going to watch as, for example, he was busy pushing all our shoes around in the entrance foyer. “That’s more entertaining to you than the TV, eh?” I asked her. (I’d include a video of her following the thing around, but she’d have my head for it.)

Robot vacuum stuck on the pedestal
Easily fooled

Things that he gets caught on or confused by:

  • The table pedestal
  • The chair legs, unless we push them close to the pedestal
  • The window blinds
  • Electrical cords
  • The bath mat
  • Papers or other bric-à-brac on the floor (as in my den)

I’m sure we’ll discover more to add to the list.

After leaving him to charge up all night, we’ve set him going again this morning. We’ve left the bedroom door open, but so far he’s ignoring the allure.