Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”

Thích Nhất Hạhn

It is spelled Viet Nam in Viet Nam in English and it seems to be spelled Vietnam in the US.

Vietnamese New Year is everybody’s birthday. Vietnamese  measure age by the number of lunar years you have lived.

Vietnamese weddings have seven to eight hundred guests. The groom’s family pays for the wedding.  (The men  like our tradition better) It  can be as cheap as ten dollars a head. The custom is to do the wedding above their social standing. (that sounds familiar)

Instead of bells, traditional gongs are used to call the Vietnamese children to school.

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Although Vietnam is a developing country, it has a literacy rate of 94%.

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Viets make up the largest ethnic group.  Nam means south country. Vietnam means country of southern Viets.

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Fifteen per cent of Vietnamese  language is French ,fifteen per cent is minority groups and seventy per cent is Chinese.

They get along well with the other ethnic groups because Vietnamese believe that they are all people who” came from the same box”.

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Among all developing countries, Vietnam has one of the lowest unemployment rates.

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Korea is the biggest foreign investor in Viet Nam followed by Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

They are the number one exporter for black pepper and  number two exporter for cashews, coffee and rice.

Three big things in a Vietnamese life is getting a wife, building a house and buying a buffalo. ( I guess for non villagers that means a job now)

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Vietnam is crawling with Australians. it is a four-hour flight. They know everything  – who the best tailors are, where to get glasses made, good guest houses. Even if it is their first time, they have that information from their friends.

Beauty Treatments are everywhere.

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No you have not had the best Banh Mi sandwich of your life unless it is on the side of the road in Saigon or Hanoi.

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Same goes for Vietnamese  coffee.

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Ruou ran (snake wine), a Vietnamese specialty of rice wine with a pickled snake inside, allegedly can cure any sickness.

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If an older person wants you to drink with them, you have to show respect and obedience and comply. Older people appreciate respect and obedience much more than ability and success.

Gambling in casinos in Vietnam is illegal for local people but legal for tourists and expats.

One million Vietnamese dong is close to about fifty dollars. You feel rich all the time in Vietnam because all your bills are in denominations of several thousands.

When a guest comes to your house, the more meat you prepare, the more important the guest.

Buddhism here involves a communal house to worship the ancestors They practice a Theravedic Buddhism which includes Taoist and Confucian teachings. (altar a house in the Mekong Delta)

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Vietnamese believe in the Lady Buddha.

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The communist attitude toward Buddhism and all religions greatly influenced the less strict practice of any religion in the country.

Vietnamese believe that Happy Buddha is a sign of good luck and good deeds. Starving is not the only way to become Buddha.

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They believe in burial. When they are able to, they bury near their  houses so they can watch  the house.

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The Vietnamese language has six different tones. A change in tone changes the meaning of the word. This makes their language somewhat difficult to learn.

Dog meat is relatively popular in Vietnam Probably not where you are eating.

Vietnamese don’t take a shower in the morning. They prefer to take a shower in the evening.

Teenagers in Vietnam  love anything Korean –  food, music, hairstyle, clothes, etc. Yes, K-POP is a big thing here.

So is karaoke.

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When Vietnamese drink tea or water (or anything), they always leave 5 to 10% in the cup after drinking. They don’t empty their cups. There are many lovely teas – jasmine,ginger, peppermint, licorice and Palm leaf to name  a few.

According to the Vietnamese News, taxis are a stain on Vietnamese hospitality. Ho Chi Minh City distributed leaflets warning tourists and are wondering if that would help. Mai Linh and Vinasun are the most reliable taxis.

An estimated ten million motor bikes travel on the roads of Vietnam every day. You will be painfully aware of the mass use of motorbikes here. They crowd every alley, curb, and sometimes sidewalk. This is because in Vietnam, not only are bikes relatively cheap, but they’re easy to fix, and they run for many hours on just a few litres of gas,

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Vietnamese take a nap after lunch. This means driving from twelve to one pm is really quiet and smooth. Yes, no traffic jam!

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They wear helmets not to be safe on the roads but in order not to be fined by the police/traffic officers.

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Nobody respects pedestrian lanes crossing here. The trick is be assertive and don’t stop crossing no matter how scary and also pray.

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Every family has 2 or more motorbikes and they are parked on the ground floor. Sometimes  the living room is a garage at the same time.

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The Vietnamese peasant cared nothing for politics in war-time. They leaned toward those who harassed them  the least. (American bunker near Danang)

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The truth about this very special country is that you can’t really understand it without visiting it. Seeing the different Vietnam landscapes at sunset, sailing down Halong Bay and the Mekong River, watching the fishermen throw their nets in Hoi An, seeing the families on motorcycles after school, the water buffaloes in the rice paddies and the women in the triangle hats , drinking Vietnamese coffee, tasting the food and feeling the resilience, sense of humor and heart of the people are all things I will remember. It’s a mixture of images, sounds, and even smells and textures that can’t be compared to anything else in the world. (Phu Quoc sunset)

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Di du lịch một cách an toàn

JAZ

Ten Reasons To Go To Southeast Asia

Ten Reasons To Go To Southeast Asia

“What we think, we become.”- Buddha

  1. Angkor Wat –the largest temple in the world is a big bucket list item for me.
  2. Best quality fakes.
  3. I like seeing monks walking around and not just at temples – at the airport, on their cell phones, shopping, in the mall, on public transportation etc.
  4. Street Food. I wish that I was as adventurous as my food hero Anthony Bourdain, but if it’s cooked, or has a thick skin like mangos and someone else eats it first, I will try it.
  5. I like condensed milk in my coffee.
  6. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are in Southeast Asia, and since the beach season never ends, you can live in a state of perpetual summer (like Los Angeles where I’m from)
  7. Chaos – crowded cities with motorbikes and skyscrapers.  Contrasts – people working in triangle hats in green rice paddies.
  8. Amazing Asian photo opportunities for my new Asian camera.
  9. Culture and History – different Eastern traditions, lifestyles, fashion, beliefs , languages, ancient temples, the Vietnam War and the terror of the Khmer Rouge.
  10. Buddhism was recently voted the best religion in the world International Coalition for the Advancement of Religious and Spirituality (ICARUS) Joanna Hult, Director of Research for ICARUS said “It wasn’t a surprise to me that Buddhism won Best Religion in the World, because we could find literally not one single instance of a war fought in the name of Buddhism, in contrast to every other religion that seems to keep a gun in the closet just in case God makes a mistake’” I love Buddhist countries. The best part of the story is they can’t find a Buddhist to accept the award because “The Buddhist nature is in everyone.”

 

Fly Safe,

JAZ

 

“I’m Spiritual Not Religious” – An American Thing

“I’m Spiritual Not Religious.” – An American Thing

‘Don’t use Buddhism to become a Buddhist. Use Buddhism to become a better whatever you are.’   Dalai Lama

Most people don’t enter a path of spirituality when they are happy. It is when life gets hard that they look for help. When I started on a spiritual path, I learned a little of everything. –Meditation, Mindfulness, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Anything A Non, Judaism, Taoism and Sufism. I took a Spiritual Christianity class and learned about the Koran.

When I travel, I try and learn about the religions of a country –to see how God fits in their lives. The religious buildings are so much a part of the architecture that I love. I like to learn about the kind of people that use them. What I have seen is that the poorer the country, the stronger the faith and the community of faith. Spiritual but not religious people seem to be prevalent in America only.

My spiritual path is a bit of this and a bit of that. At the moment (and it changes often) It includes some yoga, meditation, mindfulness, quotes from everything, erratic Torah study, Tai Chi, Sufist readings , Indian food, bracelets and feng shui. I haven’t studied the books intensely of any of these religions enough to know the true meaning of the work. I take what I like and leave the rest. My eclectic spiritual path seems to place me on a path alone. My thoughts and belief systems start to change as I continue on to the unknown. It is my journey and my truth and I can become as self obsessed with it as I wish. Is this the religion of the me generation?

True spirituality is supposed to put you in touch with empathy for the world, I’m not seeing the correlation between good, kind and caring people and “ the new American spirituality”.  I’m hearing the words but I don’t see the transformation. Being spiritual allows you to be ambiguous. You don’t have to have a belief system, you can just believe in something. There are no expectations about your behaviors or attitudes . You don’t have to be accountable for your actions.

Spirituality in the American version appears to be a bit selfish. I find myself being hurt by people who say they are spiritual. I give them qualities that they don’t seem to have yet. Their search for their own truths becomes more important than anyone’s feelings but their own. Spirituality and meditation seems to be about making yourself feel better. It isn’t about being part of something bigger or helping a community . It can be a bit narcissistic if you are inclined in that direction. Your own journey is the most important thing.

A  Vietnamese Buddhist monk was teaching a meditation class. He said “If you hear bombs in a neighboring village and your first thought is where is my family? Oh, they are not there. Everything is ok” than continue to sit and meditate.”

So I will have to reconsider my spiritual path once again. I have to change my mindset. I have to make compassion, kindness and integrity more important than my own personal well-being. If the world is going to change, it starts with each of us.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Temples of Nara and Kamakura, Japan

Temples of Nara and Kamakura, Japan

“Just as treasures are 
uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom 
appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze 
of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of 
virtue.“ 

Buddha

Buddhist monks were in Japan as early as the third century and came along the silk road. The official date was 552 when a Korean delegation arrived with monks, nuns, statues and sutras. Acceptance as with any new thing was slow. But the ruling class took up the faith and encouraged others to join. (I guess that is what Christian Science and Kabbalah hoped Hollywood would do for them)

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Buddhism has had an enormous impact on the art and culture of Japan. Japanese Buddhism is the search for fulfillment and ultimate truth, not in any transcendental sphere, but within the structure of secular life, neither denying nor repressing man’s natural feelings, desires or customs. Many traditional arts such as garden design, tea ceremony, flower arranging, and even martial arts developed into the forms they have today because of the religion.

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Nara was the first permanent ancient capital of Japan.There are many Unesco World Heritage sites in Nara.

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Many of the temples are in Nara Park.

The Toda-ji temple gate is the entrance to Toda-ji which is considered to be a very important temple in the Buddhist world.

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Toda-ji Temple presides over the park and is the world’s largest oldest standing wooden building. It was constructed in 752 and houses a Daibutsu-the largest Buddha in Japan.

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The hanging bell of Nara though not the oldest or largest or heaviest is still quite impressive.

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Hokkedō, also known as Sangatsudō is located at the eastern edge of the Tōda-ji complex. Hokkedō is the oldest building in the Tōdai complex.

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It is said that Buddha came to earth on the back of a deer. The Sika Deer are considered to be messengers from God and run free in Nara Park. They are very hungry messengers from God and if you start to feed them you will be surrounded by many aggressive ones. ( but of course everyone does)

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We stop at a teahouse before going to more temples.

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Kofuku–ji Temple built in 669 and dismantled was moved to Nara in 710. It features a five-story pagoda and many Buddhist treasures. Today only a handful of the temple’s 175 buildings remain standing, most of which date from the 15th century. The five-story pagoda is the second highest pagoda in Japan.

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Kamakura is a small city and a very popular tourist destination. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers many temples, shrines and other historical monuments. In addition, Kamakura’s sand beaches attract large crowds during the summer months. (Mt Fuji is in the background. It is good luck to see Mt Fuji)

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The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu) is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotoku-in Temple. with a height of 13.35 meters. It is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara’s Toda-ji temple. ( indoor Buddha statue above)

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The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. Since 1495, the Buddha has stood in the open air. This is the destination even the Obamas had on their Japan bucket list.

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Jufuku–ji is the oldest Zen temple in Kamakura. Although very small now, in its heyday the temple used to have as many as fourteen buildings. Myoan Eisai was a Buddhist priest who was brought to head the temple after it was built. He was credited with bringing Zen Buddhism and green tea from China to Japan.

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A little Zen Buddhist Luck. (Japanese love luck. Who doesn’t?)

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The main shopping street is Komachi-dori. It is a tiny alley with both authentic and touristy crafts and Japanese food. Snack your way around the pickle shop (radishes, carrots, seaweed, anything) and pick up exquisitely wrapped chestnut candies in the confectioner’s shop. (charcoal store)

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Hachimangu shrine is the most important shrine in Kamakura. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family and of the samurai in general. The shrine is reached via a long, wide approach that leads from Kamakura’s waterfront through the entire city center, with multiple torii gates along the way.

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These are two different days. Nara and Kamakura are different cities. Kamakura is forty minutes outside Tokyo. Nara is an hour away from Osaka. After a long day of temples, you can enjoy the local Japanese custom of sleeping on the train home.

Yo I sorano tabi o,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Kyoto, Japan

Things I Have  Learned in  Kyoto, Japan

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

~ Buddha

Kyoto is the headquarters of Nintendo.

Kyoto has almost 2000 Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples. I haven’t seen them all – yet. ( female monks )

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Sanjusangendo is a 12th century temple (partly rebuilt in the 13th century after a fire) and it has 1000 identical life-sized Buddha statues arranged in 10 rows by 100 columns. In front and around some of these columns there are also 28 unique statues of guardian deities. Directly in the centre of these 1000 statues there sits an impressive giant Buddha statue covered in gold. Don’t go if you happen to  be allergic to smoke.  It also has a thousand candles.

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Ryoan-ji Temple’s dry rock garden is a puzzle. Nobody knows who designed it or what the meaning is of the 15 rocks scattered across its expanse of raked white gravel. Some academics say they represent a tiger carrying a cub across a stream; others believe they depict an ocean accented with small islands or the sky dotted with clouds. There’s even a theory that the rocks form a map of Chinese Zen monasteries. The only thing scholars do agree on is that Ryoan-ji is one of the finest examples of Zen landscaping in the country. You could stay there for years quietly contemplating the garden’s riddles and still get no nearer to an answer, and maybe that’s the point.

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Downtown Kyoto is quite ugly.

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Uji is known for the production of high quality green tea.  It has many tea houses and is a great place to sample green tea, green tea desserts, green tea mochi, green tea cakes, green tea soba and green tea ice cream. Byodo-in Temple is there and is also on the back of the ten yen coin.

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Many stores and restaurants  in Uji  are closed on Monday which makes it the time to go ( not crowded) and not to go. (looking for a restaurant)

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Kyoto was never bombed during World War Two. You can still find 100-year-old streets and lots of old wooden buildings. Some of the structures have withstood earthquakes and have no nails.

Kyoto is Japan’s craft capital, where skills are still passed down through generations. Tiny specialty shops in Shijo Dori, Kawaramachi Dori and the Kyoto Handicraft Center  have Yuzen-dyed fabrics,wooden combs, fans and everything you need to host a tea ceremony.  Shinmonzen Dori and Furumonzen Dori and are filled with antique shops and galleries selling woodblock prints. The department stores around Shijo Kawaramachi intersection and Kyoto train station are good places for lacquerware and kimonos.

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The 7-5-3- festival occurs  around Nov fifteenth.   Five-year-old boys and seven or three-year-old girls are taken to the local shrine to pray for their safe and healthy future. This festival started because of the belief that children of certain ages were especially prone to bad luck and hence in need of divine protection. Children are usually dressed in traditional clothing for the occasion and after visiting the shrine many people buy chitose-ame (“thousand-year candy”) sold at the shrine.

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The most famous  Buddhist temples in Kyoto  are Ginkaku -ji and Kinkaku -ji (the gold and silver pavilion).  I bet they are a lot more beautiful when it isn’t raining.

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Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple .  it is  the Gold Pavilion. The garden complex is an excellent example of a Muromachi period garden. The Muromachi period is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design. The correlation between buildings and its settings were greatly emphasized during this period. It was a way to integrate the structure within the landscape in an artistic way. The garden designs were characterized by a reduction in scale, a more central purpose, and a distinct setting. A minimalistic approach was brought to the garden design, by recreating larger landscapes in a smaller scale around a structure.

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The Golden Pavilion was built to house some of Buddha’s ashes..There you’ll witness the flow of Japanese people of all ages praying, paying homage, writing their wishes on colorful ema boards, and buying special charms called omamori in hopes that their aspirations of finding a spouse or succeeding in an exam will someday be fulfilled. (i see my ema board it is one of the few non japanese ones!!!!)

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You will see a lot of school children with their classes at all the temples in Kyoto in November. It is the time for luck and they are all praying for good grades.

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Ginkaku-ji is the Silver Pavilion..  The tea ceremony is said to have originated here. The exterior of the pavilion was originally going to be covered in silver foil, in emulation of the Golden Pavilion (14th century) at Kinkaku – ji. Without ever having enjoyed a coating of silver, the Silver Pavilion is one of the most graceful structures ever built.

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Kiyomizudera Temple  contains several other shrines, notably Jishu-Jinja, dedicated to Okuninushino-Mikoto, a god of love and “good matches”. Jishu-jinja possesses a pair of “love stones” placed 18 meter apart, which lonely visitors attempt to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone, eyes closed, is taken as a prediction that the pilgrim will find love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that an intermediary will be needed. The person’s romantic interest can assist them as well.
 It is the highlight of the yearly school trips to the temples for luck in exams.

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Here is the famous love stone.

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It’s not the only geisha district left in Japan, but Gion, a collection of streets defined by its old wooden buildings, tea houses and exclusive Japanese restaurants, is by far the most famous. Spend an hour wandering the area and chances are you’ll glimpse a geisha or two shuffling between tea houses in their cumbersome zori sandals and exquisite kimono. Much to their annoyance, you’ll probably see camera-happy Japanese tourists stalking them too.

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You get free tofu refills with an eight course tofu dinner – so delicious. ( Tousuiro 075-561-0035 )

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Few museums are as hands-on as this old elementary school turned shrine to manga, or comic books, and its collection of some 300,000 comics and manga-related exhibits. Visitors can read any piece of manga they want at the  Kyoto International Manga Museum  from the towering wooden bookcases that line every wall and hallway. Some read propped up against the walls or sitting crossed legged on the floor; others hunker down with a coffee at the museum’s wood-decked outdoor café. The eclectic and universally transfixed crowd is a testament to how much a part of mainstream Japanese culture manga has become. http://www.kyotomm.com/english/

French Japanese food served by beautiful girls with strong knees is tres bien. ( Takumi Okamura, Gion  075-541-2205 )

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It’s touristy, and  tacky, but dressing up as a samurai and watching TV actors hamming it up on set does hold a certain charm. Eigamura or Kyoto Toei Studio Park to give it its English name, is a working TV and movie set that doubles as a theme park, where besides dressing up in period costume you can wander around a mock-up Edo-era samurai town and take in exhibitions of the well-known TV series and films shot here.It’s the live studio performances, however, that steal the show. The sword fights are extravagant, the facial expressions and body language overly dramatic, and the dialog at times delivered about as convincingly as an elementary school end-of-year play. It’s Japanese kitsch at its finest. Quentin Tarantino would love it. http://www.toei-eigamura.com/en/

(Heian Jingū) Heian Shrine  was  1895  and is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from the city,  A giant torii gate marks the approach to the shrine, The real shrine grounds themselves are very spacious, with a wide open court at the center. The shrine’s main buildings are a partial replica of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian Period built on a somewhat smaller scale than the original.

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Behind the main buildings there is an attractive, paid garden with a variety of plants, ponds and traditional buildings. The garden’s most striking feature are its many weeping cherry trees which bloom a few days later than most other cherry trees, making the garden one of the best   around the tail end of the season, which is usually around mid April.

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Omikuji are paper fortunes that can be bought at both shrines and temples. The fortunes range from great good luck to great bad luck. There are trees to tie the fortunes to avert the bad luck if you are unlucky enough to draw that fortune.

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One of my fortunes is framed in my house. The others might be on a tree. The  thing about luck is that it always changes.

for more info go to

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/japanese-food/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/things-i-have-learned-in-okinawa-and-hiroshima/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/things-i-have-learned-in-japan/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/things-i-have-learned-in-tokyo/

ki o twu kete

JAZ