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…..away from it all on Mt. Koya, Wakayama prefecture, Japan.  The Sekishi-In Temple. It’s quite high up there and the road is steep and winding….sort of shut your eyes going around the curves’ drive. But so incredibly beautiful with trees over 60 feet high. Amy told us they had been planted as the forest was not ‘natural’. Sixty-seven percent of Japan is forest and mountain areas ( 3.5 rivers & lakes) and this contributes to making this such a beautiful country.

        I’m not going to write about how cold it was….or how austere.  Well, maybe a little.  I had no idea when we were told to dress warm….just how warm we’d have to dress.  Think Eskimo attire and that’s inside!  Thanks to Lizzie Girl and my white angora socks I survived the night!  You have to take your shoes off and the tatami mats are no protection against the cold.

The  good part was Bonnie was able to get another ‘entry’ into her book.  Each time one visits a shrine, temple or monastery, a monk will enter your confirmed visit in beautiful calligraphy and possibly write something very special.  The whole idea is to make a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of much revered Kobo Daishi, traveling to all of the 88 temples and hopefully obtaining enlightenment, …..especially during Cherry blossom time (second best time would be during the fall foliage season). Bonnie’s beautiful book will be placed in their Tatami room on the wall alongside the scroll commissioned by Bonnie & Charlie especially for this room.

The book will be placed right behind Bonnie.
A close-up of the scroll I painted.
Oh, by the way, here’s the socks……I thought I should photograph them the next day when in a cozy, warm room…….just saying……

Somehow I made it to the great hall for a vegetarian dinner prepared and served by the monks.

It was delicious!

Loved these old landscapes in the hall.

I followed  Pam back to my cell….I mean room.  Along the way as we walked, the floor beneath us ‘chirped’…..A system devised long ago to prevent anyone with an untoward motive to creep up on you.

Pam sent this picture saying “it was so cold inside the temple that snowy day, that they gave us hot tea and a cookie in this dining room with a heater. We decided to warm our tootsies.” I on the other hand was hiding out in my cell!
Cold Feet
Why you’d need a safe in a monastery is beyond me.

My futon in the A.M.  O.K., put on my card….’Does not camp out well.’

What we awoke to. I told you it was cold!

Way to cold to go for breakfast down that long chirping hallway.  I confess (it’s a monastery isn’t it?)  …there  were two hard boiled eggs in my purse.  One never knows and it’s always good to carry rations.
I also had a bag of the ‘snackies’ I’ve become addicted to & this one had tiny, tiny dried sardines in it!

Just don’t report me to the head monk.

I shut my cell door and breathed a sigh of relief as we left. 

But wait….there’s more. 

I must say everyone in the group was a great sport….at this point it began to snow again as we headed for our bus.

Looking back with a very happy goodbye.
At this point we were in a Chicago style snow storm.  You know, the kind they close the schools for and there were still stops to be made on this mountain top.  I completely chickened out as it involved over two hours off & on of walking through what was now a blizzard. 
This is why I moved to California!

Finally, back to civilization and a first rate pit stop on the way to Osaka. Kishiwada Service Area.

This is arguably the finest ‘facility’ in any roadside stop.  Along with the bidet commode there’s a ‘high-chair’ for toddlers.

And I love this….disinfectant to wash/wipe the seat with.

And flowers at the sink area….

Even a vanity to check out one’s appearance.

Now who else do  you know who would tell you about such things?
There was also the best ice-cream….orange flavor this time.
….And… make it perfect…..I had a doggie encounter!
Back on the bus Gus and on our way to the Ana Crowne Plaza in Osaka.  Amy shows us the floor plan of an average condo.  Incredibly small…..but people seem to manage.
It’s interesting, my artwork traveled it to Osaka 20 years before I did!
We arrive & I love this hotel.
My room is wonderful….
….And I had a beautiful & delicious dinner in the ‘Japanese’ restaurant on the 6th floor.
Just look at the effort & detail that went into this sashimi…the thinly sliced little cucumber is cut into the form of a butterfly!
If veggies were always prepared like this people might eat more of them!
Comfort food egg custard.
Nighty night!

But wait….there’s more…..

The best breakfast so far….in the Ana Crowne Plaza Hotel /Osaka
Starting with my usual…yogurt and fresh fruit.
What is Pam selecting?
The chef makes me a delicious ‘everything in it’ omelet!
And yes, those are the dried sardines I mentioned although about ten times larger than the little mini’s in my package of munchies.
Off to my room to finish packing, add this to the blog and see the exquisite hand-pained antique obi.  Oh my!

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