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This morning.  I was seated in the restaurant facing a magnificent old Cherry tree growing in a waterfall garden.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and began to weep, tears streaming down my cheeks – for those I have loved and lost, for the fleeting moments of life, for the beauty and joys and heartbreak, of renewal and death…of endless beginnings and infinite existence….ah, Japan.  (My most memorable experience.)
Blossoms heavy on Spring twigs
Draw back night’s curtain
Buddhist temple under snow
A highlight of this Japan trip for me was being able to enjoy a beautiful country with two skilled guides and some of the most remarkable, curious and accomplished traveling companions.

The highlight of this trip was a view through a Kaleidascope where I saw things grand and small – Cherry blossoms, Fuji-san, kind Japanese people, snow monkeys, the Jinkansen, our group and the room service 1" Tabasco bottle whose seal had been partially opened to ease the unwrapping.
The two most memorable and enjoyable activities thus far has been the free-form sumi painting & paper making process because I always enjoy doing processes.
The cherry blossoms bursting in colors of pink and white all around.  The snow monkeys frolicking in the steamy hot springs.
The soothing waters of the onsin calming the soul.
The beauty of the mountain sides bursting in color in the small passing villages.
The flowing brush-strokes of the sumi-e paintings and the rainbow of colors of the flowing kimono’s.
These are my memories of Japan.
A trip, a journey to a new place is an experience of life, shared with people who may be new, or friends from before.  Each day is a new adventure into the unknown, the uncharted waters of sharing time together.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, and on other occasions it is wonderful and memorable.
The rainy day excursion through the open air, garden museum in Hakone, Japan was different and wet!  The treck to see the snow monkeys in Nagano was different and muddy!
The interaction between all the travelers was unique and revealed a concern for one another, and in certain cases, ‘true grit’.
The night at the Buddhist temple was somewhat auster, humble, spiritually moving and very cold!  It was down right freezing yet, most memorable when, to open the morning curtains, there was fresh falling snow that ornamented the mountain trees like a sea of Christmas trees sprinkled with confection powder.  It was unexpected and beautiful; an image that will last for years to come.


I loved seeing the beauty in my friends which far surpassed the Cherry blossoms! 

Bonnie and her kind heart hearing the ‘sounds’ of Japan.  Her gift of music was put to great use.  However, I trust the ‘voice’ of the elevator in Koyoto will soon leave my head! 
Charlie’s humor and quick wit made even difficult moments delightful…..he and Bonnie are great ‘observers’ and brought so much to my attention that might otherwise have been missed.
Wilbur’s great dignity equalled that of Japan and his thoughtful kindness for all the ladies will long be remembered. 
Boyd always made us laugh and he too was kind beyond measure watching out for those who needed an extra hand.
Miss Judith’s strength of character, her willingness to go with each experience…..especially the treck to see the snow monkeys made a lasting impression on everyone.
Eileen’s generosity always came to the fore and she continually saw to it that needs, even unspoken ones, were met.
And dear  Pam.  How I love her gentle nature and listening to her voice could sooth the wildest beast.  I just want to hear her speak forever!
As for Japan, it’s beauty is indelible in my mind’s eye.  The intention of placing beauty everywhere …..from turning a bottle so that the label faces you … planting trees and flowers that continually delight the eye.  The natural gift of courtesy extended to all.  It’s an art form here and a rude gesture would be   unthinkable.  I understand all the bowing & thanking as it’s just another way of acknowleging the moment ……of being concious of your interactions.
Everything works to bring one peace.  There are no rude drivers, no honking heard and courtesy is always extended.  We never saw grafiti or trash….it just must mysteriously disappear.  Tea or coffee is always served piping hot and I love the electric pots in each hotel room to make instant boiling water.  The green tea is beyond delicious and especially so at the Royokan where I made so many cups of it and each with great pleasure.
Food, glorious food.  It seems impossible to get a bad meal and there is great beauty in the presentation.  The ‘Japanese’ dinner I had in our hotel in Osaka is the most perfect example. (A little cucumber slice was cut to resemble a butterfly!)
It’s hard to believe but my artwork made it to Osaka 20 years before I did.

One cannot omit the general ‘cuteness’ found….especially in the young and the creative fashion sense they have….’fashionistas’ one & all!  This contrasts sharply with the more austere dress of their elders… fact, there seems to be a ‘uniform code’ for the men.  And I love Japanese TV….the soap operas and the boy and girl music groups……wonderful! 
Pam mentioned that a friend told her how unusual it is to see both snow and blooming Cherry blossoms at the same time as this has not happened since 1984.  The ultimate contrast!
The cleanliness is beyond description….I completely understand the concept of the ladies/men’s communal baths and you will as well if you read my blog about the experience.  All of the rest stops have bidets….of course, all the hotel rooms do.  There is hand sanitizer placed everywhere and you are always handed a rolled up warm towel to wipe your hands at each restaurant.  (And also at the completion of the meal.)  Little hand towels in plastic are continually being given out and the water is pure from any faucet. I especially appreciated the little tubes of toothpaste that are enclosed in each toothbrush package.  And the ease with wish one can open any packaged item.  Attention to every detail no matter how small!
It seems the tea ceremony teaches everyone to be fully present in the moment and you can feel that when you interact with anyone.  Great attention is made in getting you just the right thing, wrapping your package perfectly and never making you feel that you are wasting their time.  This was most apparent in our superb guides, Eva and Amy.  They were helpful beyond measure, kind and so knowlegable……making our stay in Japan full and complete.
This journey could not have been more perfect or more memorable.  A feast for the eyes, soul and spirit. I found the true ‘art’ of Japan is in it’s people.
Our hearts thank you Japan!

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