πŸ’ B+ Positive πŸ’

Timing is everything – a week either side and you’ll miss it ………. the all consuming annual cult of Sakura !! πŸ’ It’s ….. Blossom Time !

Vast resources dedicated to it …… like this long range forecast.

People fly 000’s of Miles to see it . I love the enthusiasm, the odd unquestioning delight , the “well they can’t all be wrong ” aspect to something that’s a natural beauty for sure ….. BUT …….you know …….. as far as understanding the furore 😜 – Do I get it ?… Would you ? .

Am I …….πŸ’B+Positive or πŸ’B-Negative ?

For this I’ll need experienced Blossom Doctors , the best Tokyo guides πŸ‘ their amazing hospitality will ensure I get Sakura …….. or Not .

The first signs ….. can’t see what the fuss is about …….maybe it’s a little early –

…….. and mmm , yea , I can see the B+ quota going up – but ….. Trees , Small Blossom More Trees ,Trees along roads , …… some paper lanterns . Mmmm πŸ€”

I think I need an B’intervention ……..

So I asked around , Local knowledge from the Jingu Urban Tree Collective …… and even an actual Blossom Concierge

……. and slowly …….. things started to get a little clearer …. Rivers , Roads , Day & Night

I felt a subtle presence behind me ……….. πŸ˜‹

The spirit of Sakura began to show itself …. Blossom EVERYTHING – Walls , Kimonos , Lanterns

A complete , fan driven city takeover , RosΓ¨ Wine , Champagne , Pink Food , Pop-Up Bars …..

……. Blossom Coke , Blossom Starbucks

And the only time this ultra polite society drinks outside as “Hanami” – Blossom picnic parties spread across city parks ……. it’s popular due to bylaw to drink Jim Beam bourbon from plain 3 litre containers ……. with the inevitable day after consequences. Handily pointed out by Deb from the running crew 🀣 .

I’ve always loved niche enthusiasts – whether its Steam Trains or Stamp Collectors , Wind Surfing or Spoon Whittling. My admiration driven by the calm satisfaction , the general (overused word ) wellness it creates.

Their originality in swerving the Mass Permitted Enthusiasms.

Outside of this I’m enthusiastic about enthusiasm ; and I’m beginning to see the Blossomistas in this way.

Motivated by the Buddhist comparison between the brevity of blossom and life or the all too rare satisfaction of group appreciation with family and friends .

All peaceful , all in Tokyo , all surrounded by 38 Million people ; – remarkable.

The “Pinker” photos above – not taken by me – I didn’t have a drone handy that day .

However ……. the progress of the blossom at home , ( πŸ’ photos by Jess age 11 ) at our road in Southport means I won’t feel too dispirited about leaving Tokyo behind .

Same tree – same branch over 6 days – cool eh ?

…….. and a drive by – also by Jess … πŸ’•

I end this post with my fellow niche enthusiasts – undeniably B+ Positive.

However I’m Blossomed out now πŸ˜† …… so until next time . XXXXX

Cats , Cars , SakΓ© & Kochi

Coming to an end of the parts of the 88 Temple route that we chose to take . Back to Tokyo after this .

Nothing can match the Temples for the real deal – but the enthusiasm, belief and joy shown by the people who shared the following with us makes them as much a part of this aspect of the journey .

Cats !

😁 An entire temple – Cats , 20,000 or more not on our track but the lady who ran our B&B so wanted to show us – it’s a matter of local pride – that she drove us there and gave us a tour πŸ’• .

…… and showed us the villages and valleys nearby …..

SakΓ© Brewing

Ancient and super traditional. Modern and aspirational. Religious and Commercial. A “Gin Akin” Resurgence in Rinky Dink Renaissance Bottles.

Sold in Family Mart at 200 Yen – (Β£1.40p) and Ginza Six at 20,000 . Sparkling SakΓ© , Cloudy SakΓ© , Sweet SakΓ© , Creamy SakΓ©, or high end Gold Flecked , It’s Omnipresent 🀣

A wailing wall of colour saturated SakΓ© barrels in a Tokyo Park – and a low tech brewery in Shikoku ……

Kochi

The overnight stop in Kochi city before we fly back to Tokyo has 2 memories .

Izakaya

An Izakaya – I suppose is a type of informal Japanese Pub , casual places for after work drinking. A Japanese version of Irish pubs , Pinchos or Tapas bars.

The food – cheap , hot , fast , delicious- made in front of you – Β£0.70p to Β£2.00 a dish βœ…

The stafffast and fun . We weren’t allowed beer until we had succeeded at playing the children’s game “Pop up Pirate”! 🀣🀣🀣

The longer we took , the more expensive the beer would be!…..Serious Panic πŸΊπŸ˜†πŸΊ

A great night out !

Home of the Kochi Shoguns

Before we left – we read about one of the best preserved castles in Japan. It didn’t disappoint – beautiful – almost a cliche.

With complimentary Vertigo it’s main defender 😬

Cars

Tiny Boxy Emasculatronns , Chromed Magpie Mobiles , Silent Hybrid Spaceships. Next decades face of KWh over BHP ?

Clean ? Green ? Speed ? ….. Sure : These silent assassins are upon us . Touching the back of your knees before you knew.

Where to go in this temple of tech’ for a Breath of fresh air tinted with high octane sculpture. Just look at this thing of beauty ……. found at Nissan Crossing. Shibuya!!

Powering a Nissan GTR black edition – Yum! ……Now THIS is high art .

And if you find the Art analogy a little hard to follow …….. this engine is signed by the artist ! πŸ–‹ All in a glass walled midtown cathedral and free to the converted βœ…

…… and where else can you be thrown around in a VR race car , a rictus grin , sweaty Palms and then offered a placatory cappuccino with your face lasered into the foam !! 🀣🀣🀣🀣 Yes – an Odd town .

A bounce around Tokyo to follow ……. 😘

Into the Shikoku Mountains

The Iya Valley

I’m beginning to see what appeals about this island – both the cities and the rural landscapes. It’s the opposing elements of each. Here we move from trails that are 1 metre above sea level to trails 1500 – 2000 metre above in Tokushima prefecture . The countryside almost alpine , ice green rivers , hotels that look like 1950’s Val d’Isere . Minus any Chairs – oh ….. or Beds πŸ˜†

One single road – route 32 takes us to Hotel Kazurabashi in the mountain hamlet of Iya – now famed for walking and Spa breaks. They make a fuss of their vine suspension bridges too – try one if you dare . The one nearest our hotel was closed following an infestation of common sense . πŸ‘€

This hamlet was unknown to the outside world ( poster below ) until tbe late 1800’s . The inhabitants valued their isolation as the main islands of Japan suffered frequent wars , foreign intervention, and strife as the Emperor overruled the Shogunate.

This place is – to be honest – a bit of a treat. We heard it has the most amazing outdoor thermal “Onsen” – the Japanese traditional bath house . Ideal for aching legs !!

I have to swot up on multi stage Onsen Etiquette- it’s so easy to cause offence otherwise.

I wasn’t prepared for how unusual this Onsen was !! 🀣 It had its own mini mountain railway running from the 2nd floor of the hotel . A cross between a cable car and a mobile potting shed.

Well worth the ride as this was a great experience. Public bathing – Wearing nice hotel supplied Yukatas ( demonstrated here πŸ˜† – exotic ) –

meant unsurprisingly- cameras not allowed – BUT – as I was there late that night and again early 6.30am the following morning – I had the place to myself and snapped these views . A remarkable way to start your day in the mountains – a thermal spring with these views !!

That evenings food followed the usual rule :- 20 pots of mysterious FPW – Fish , Pickle , Whatever. Eaten at 12 inch high tables – Edible Russian Roulette 😬.

The staff were lovely. They loved what we were doing on our adventure and the fact we loved what they did for us – and told them so. Makes the world go round .

A great overnight stay βœ…

Office Closed – 20 Minutes

We should have checked , it was getting late the following day. We had achieved good altitude- many floors on my Fitbit – a lot of rise and fall over a short distance – a sure sign of steep paths and forest steps .

“It ain’t the steps it’s the floors ! 😬”

So we added an extra Temple visit assuming that the path down was the same as every other.

It had now been raining for 6 hours As we came out of the forest hillside into the temple courtyard wearing green ponchos and Sugegasa- conical straw hats – more damp Vietgong than Pilgrim 😬.

Bravo πŸ‘ Sister Kate ! – you’re made of tough stuff – spirits high throughout πŸ‘

The rain pauses , welcome evening sun appears , some quick pics and …………. you remember that path we assumed we were taking out of here – easy eh ?

But noooo ……

were met with a very concerned official – “No time for visit we close in 20 minutes ” . We looked confused as 20 mins is normally fine , we’d see the temple then head down the exit path to the next meeting point …… He smiled and said – “No path – come with me ”

Surprise ! – The only Temple – anywhere – where the onward path is …….. a full size cable car ! – ( That closes at 5.20 pm !! Who knew )

A fully working – double ridge ( it crosses 2 high mountain valleys ) – 1960’s Swiss cable car 🚠 . The full “Where Eagles Dare” . Here in the dense Japanese Pacific forest . Bizarre .

But we’re getting used to “Bizarre”

Talk tomorrow XXX

The Real Deal & The Pacific

The vast mechanics of keeping the wheels of conventional religion rolling for a thousand years is usually unobtrusive and does not touch our daily lives

Firstly ………..

THE REAL DEAL

Monastery Saba Daishi – Contains one of tbe 20 additional temples . When you spend time with the Abbot of a Buddhist Monastery – 12 hours of meals , the 6.00pm end of day fire ceremony and the 5.30am dawn prayers you start to get a feel for the place and what it takes to maintain.

No photos allowed during the service , you’d just miss the whole point clicking away πŸ‘Ž – I was given some of these Later for my journal . He also allowed me into the tunnel again as we spoke & interacted quite often . Possibly because this Monastery will sleep up to 150 visitors and priests – but tonight the total overnight guests were …….. 2 !

After 2 rewrites to make this next paragraph sound less Lara Croft and failing …..

The fire πŸ”₯ temple was linked by a vast tunnel – and what faced us was this ……

Walls lined with 100 000 tiny JesΓΌ figures , golden lotus stepping stones , a bright corridor , leading to a dark , descending tunnel with mini shrines you pray to every metre , only step on the lotus stones – nowhere else , it goes straight for 100’s of metres , curving at the end as it opened out into the curved saucer shaped temple .

See what I mean ?

Baffled , Awed , shocked – we were in the perfect state to follow the deep tones , rattling relics and bells of the Abbots mantra and prayers .

He set fire to Kilos of Incense , smoke fills the temple , deep intonations start and only then does he light the fire with sticks made of messages , pleas for Luck , Health , Children , Family – you name it .

By now you can’t see a thing except for the huge fires hazy glow and hear the mesmeric chant .

Only now – in part due to the tiredness of the hike – it’s partly the intended way pilgrimages work – you feel the trancelike state too.

Wow ….. the Theatre of Religion – Honed over thousands of years .

Open your mind and it’ll get you every time !

Pacific Time

We leave that morning and we start to see new things as we come down from the hills to reach the coast – my first view of the Pacific Ocean .

And ……. Signs that say we are at risk of tsunami !

Leading to these strange towers ……

At first I thought they were steelwork for new buildings – but no – in an almost disaster movie scenario- this where the entire village will run to when the wave is about to strike . Chilling – there’s not enough room .

The climate is now tropical , the villages all centred around fishing . The harbours ( even the little ones ) with 5 storey high new concrete sea defences . The walls dwarfing the villages . We decided to check – Kate’s Japanese is good enough – the communities have been told by the Government that there is a 100% chance of a tidal wave in the next 30 years – hence the vast defence preparation . I don’t see that as a useful timeframe as it means ANYTIME really.

But for now a pregnant calm cloaks all these villages , silent streets , little obvious activity, the sea flat , the temperature and humidity high.

My favourite temple is here – Number 32 . Not the most ornate , nor the wealthiest – calm and friendly a thousand feet above the potential inundation below .

With homespun red knitted cloaks to keep the chill away from the local guardians πŸ’•

Odd really – this feels like a different country .

The charming priest of a nearby Shinto Shrine breaks off from his gardening to create another gorgeous entry in our books.

Heading for the mountains now …. until then xxxxx