Sunday, April 11

Steve: BACK IN THE GOOD OLD USA!!! We traveled back across the Pacific today, leaving at 4:25PM Tokyo and arriving at 10:00AM (the same day) in Los Angeles. The flight was long (almost 10 hours), but our excitement at being back home (kind of…) for even a day helped us through. After a frustratingly long wait to get through immigration (only two inspectors to handle our entire plane - ugh…), we checked into the Marriott hotel near the airport.

For lunch we met our friends Jeff and Cathy Field (with their 10-month old son Dylan) who took us to In-N-Out Burger. We had never heard of this place, but it's apparently become somewhat of an institution here in California. Our cheeseburgers and fries tasted great! It was also fun to catch up with Jeff and Cathy, who have traveled to many of the places that are part of our plans, including Vietnam and Thailand.

We spent the afternoon at the hotel, relaxing and catching up with friends and family on the telephone. For dinner, we met our friend David Hirsch at the Champion Sports Bar in the hotel, and pigged out on some more good old American food - buffalo wings, potato skins, chicken sandwiches, apple pie and brownie sundaes! It was wonderful to share our experiences with David, who saw us off from LA when we started this phase of travel in January and also has been instrumental and unbelievably inspirational in helping us with all our planning.

Tomorrow we fly to Quito, Ecuador!




Katie's Kwick Kwacks: Japanese Customs at Religious Shrines. While spending time in the many religious shrines in Kyoto, we observed the many customs that people practice in these sacred places. This was a very interesting experience for us, and we enjoyed learning the routines in which people perform their prayers. The following paragraphs describe the ritual we have seen hundreds of people in Kyoto practice, and my thoughts about it.

We all watched as another man walked off the street and under the orange gate. Like many others, he was in a business suite and looked very serious. We watched in fascination as he walked up to the shrine, bowed his head and threw a coin into the wooden box. We all knew what would be next. The man clung onto the thick rope and swung it three times, causing a large bell to clatter. He was calling the Gods, telling them to listen to his prayer. He then began his own routine which included silent praying, bowing, and clapping his hands. After one final bow he turned around and walked casually back to the street. His day goes on.

This man, like many others, was performing a traditional Japanese ritual practiced in almost exactly the same way for all kinds of Buddhists and Shinto people. We noticed many people washing their hands in fountains, and sometimes rinsing their mouth with this holy water. When they walk up to the actual shrine they perform many actions: first they make a sacrifice to the spirits (throwing coins), next they wake the Gods up (by ringing the bell and clapping the hands), then they pray for something they want, and finish by paying respects and thanks to the Gods by bowing. This entire routine is practiced by almost everyone here at least once a day.

As you can see, this traditional routine is very important in the lives of Japanese people. We found learning and watching these customs to be a very interesting experience.












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