11 PICTURE ALBUM
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.
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