Kimono-Dressing 101

Yumi Ayama demonstrates putting on an antique obi with padding.

Yumi Ayama demonstrates putting on an antique obi with padding in her Kimono dressing class in Kobe, Japan.

Walking around Osaka these days, I am hard-pressed to see anyone wearing a kimono. Men and women alike are dressed in Western attire.

Kyoto and holidays are the exception, as the amazing colorful patterns and array of fabrics of traditional kimonos fill the ancient streets and festive days then.

Kimono rental is a booming business for the equally booming tourist business in Japan. So there is a lot of hope for kimonos!

When I first arrived in Japan last year, I was leery of wearing anything Japanese for fear of cultural appropriation.

A Utah teen was recently criticized for wearing a Chinese cheongsam to her prom. (I recently found a gorgeous one in a thrift store at Kuromon Market in Osaka!) She said she wore it for its beauty and not out of disrespect. I’m with her – to protect, promote and preserve cultural icons that are disappearing because of globalization and capitalism’s push of the consumption of mono-culture.

Yumi Ayama teaching about kimono patterns in her kimono dressing classes at Community House Information Center in Kobe, Japan.

Yumi Ayama teaching about kimono patterns in her kimono dressing classes at Community House Information Center in Kobe, Japan.

A culture advisor gave me the green light and said it was OK, too, and that Japanese people would be happy to see me wear a kimono, she said, which is worn by Japanese people now usually only on festive occasions, as kimono wearing is in decline in Japan.

I lament that fact, as even men in traditional Japanese kimono seem so proud and unique in today’s globalized monotony of “fashion.”

I love to hear the wooden clunking of geta, wooden sandals, on the streets, and I love the Japanese tabi, two-towed socks. Comfy!

I was happy to read in the Japan Times recently how designers are hoping to revive the kimono and are eager for foreigners to help that goal. “I hope to meet more people who want to understand Japanese culture,” said Kahori Ochi in the article. That’s me!

Everybody love kimonos!

Everybody love kimonos! Get thee into one!

I have had two Kitsuke classes, or the art of kimono dressing at the Community House Information Center in Kobe (CHIC) with Yumi Ayama. She is passionate about the kimono and Japanese culture, and it has been a joy to learn from her over the months.

Cranes on Yuzen-dyed kimonos in Kyoto.

Cranes on Yuzen-dyed kimonos in Kyoto.

My first class back in September was the basics. It was still warm and summer, so we learned about the informal yukata, which is worn June through September. It’s made of a lightweight fabric, and an even lighter one is worn for the intense heat and humidity of July.

Yukatas are for casual wear and are easy to wear around the house and perfect for a Westerner like me still shy to wear them out and about. Even my husband bought one!

Kimono7

A kimono with a full picture pattern and long-sleeves means the wearer is unmarried.

Kimono means “a thing to wear.” This past week’s session I learned that the kimono has changed throughout time and a great history about it is here. Today traditional kimono fabrics are still made, including hand-painted Yuzen dyeing techniques in Kyoto, of which I went on an amazing tour with CHIC in October. Kimonos are for more formal wear and in the colder months of fall and winter.

An artisan applies by hand dies in the ancient Yuzen dyeing technique for cloth used for kimonos in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

An artisan applies by hand dies in the ancient Yuzen dyeing technique for cloth used for kimonos in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Everything about a kimono or yukata has meaning, even unspoken.

Plain patterns and colors are for casual wear. Fancier ones are to wear once for a wedding, or others for dinner or going to out a movie. To show a collar means you are from Osaka. To not show one means you are from Tokyo.

A woman always holds her kimono with her left hand, as with a right hand signifies she is a prostitute and “open” to men. (Not that there is anything wrong with that IMHO (read history about sacred sex, women, The Goddess and prostitution, especially early Greek and Eastern European culture, Japanese and MORE!!!!!  Sex is part of nature! Those prurient mythologies screwed it up for everybody else!!! ESPECIALLY WOMEN! )

In fact, Ayama showed me pictures of fabulous traditional kimonos from the Heian period that women wore in the Aoi Matsuri Festival in Kyoto. One of the oldest festivals in Japan, it takes place annually May 15. The purpose of the procession, she told me, is to bring the consort to the male deity of the Shimogamo shrine and appease the god to avoid natural disasters . She was a former shaman priestess who had lost her ability to commune with the spirits, so she became a prostitute for the god. Amazing!

The only time a woman would hold a kimono with her right hand is on her wedding day, Ayama said. A long-sleeved kimono with a connected picture is worn by an unmarried woman. And the pattern or flower determines which kimono to wear with which season, such as cherry blossoms on branches and light colors in the spring and maple leaves and dark colors in the fall. So much meaning rather than buying something off the corporate store rack made by an Asian slave paid pennies! Liberate the People and wear a kimono!

Accessories to get ready to get dressed in a kimono! Photo by Sydney Solis.

Accessories to get ready to get dressed in a kimono! Photo by Sydney Solis.

No doubt, kimono dressing is a complex ritual in which to dress! For a Westerner it can be mind-boggling and intimidating, and this blog post cannot due justice to this high art…. but after my second session recently, I became more intrigued and comfortable with the process.

I found meaning in the formal routine of how to place your hand to hold the fabric, which way to fold the kimono – your left side is shown to the viewer’s right, an is a sign of respect. To fold it the other way is a sign of death.

Real men wear yukata! Even my hubby wears a yukata around the house! Here we are buying one in Osaka, Japan! Photo by Sydney Solis.

Real men wear yukata! Even my hubby wears a yukata around the house! Here we are buying one in Osaka, Japan! Photo by Sydney Solis.

Kimono and other accessories, such as belts, a sash, waistband and obi, are prepared and laid out on a tatami mat before dressing. Undergarments, nagajuban are first worn.  Then comes a white, under yukata and then the kimono, gripped and put on in specific ways and rules. Then comes the obi.

Experiencing life and being are more important than having. Obis have rich symbolism, including chrysanthemums, water, bamboo and butterflies. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Experiencing life and being are more important than having. Obis have rich symbolism, including chrysanthemums, water, bamboo and butterflies. Photo by Sydney Solis.

How to wrap an obi! Well…. I am still learning! You turn clockwise and wrap yourself…. something like that!

But the patterns show lovely meaning, from bamboo, signifying strength and everlasting life because of its green, to butterflies, its circle-eight symbolism for eternity. Where the hell do you find that in a Gucci bag?!?!?!

Or some for weddings with turtles and cranes – creatures who mate for life. I’m with them!

One lovely pattern is the seikaiha. It’s a symbol of ocean waves and eternity. The wave comes and it goes. The wave goes out, but it always comes back.

A nice thought to live by. A nice metaphor for the kimono! It always comes back!

Seikaiha pattern on an obi.

Seikaiha pattern on an obi.

After taking off my kimono and returning to my Western wear, I felt naked!

Indeed I felt less secure. I remember writing a paper on the history of the corset in a fashion history class I took for a theatre degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

A corset helped women feel held and secure, in those days gone by. (And of course required surgery to remove ribs. Much like modern high heels women wear, which reverse the natural alignment of ankles and knees, and keep a woman out of contact with the Earth, her power and that powerful pada bandha in her feet!)

Indeed, however, instead I felt the instinctual feeling of security with the kimono, its ritual, wrapping and obi! Even though a kimono can limit your walk, much like the early 20th century Hobble skirt. But sometimes limits can be just discipline in disguise. You decide!

You want to take a kimono-dressing class with Yumi Ayama at The Community House Information Center in Kobe, Japan!

You want to take a kimono-dressing class with Yumi Ayama at The Community House Information Center in Kobe, Japan!

In these times of uncertainty, maybe the kimono is just what the the Earth (and women) has ordered! Or something like it. Everything comes and goes. But it always comes back!

I have so much to learn. But I am ready! Join me and try a kimono today! Or at least admire its tradition and beauty! The tradition and beauty that is YOU!

TAT TVAM ASI!

kimono Sydney Solis

May all beings be at peace! May all beings be happy! Dressed in kimono! All dressed up and ready to go! OM SHANTI

 

 

 

 

My Japanese Chiropractor and The Year Of Healing

Ying Yang Lotus by Sydney Solis

Chinese medicine considers the whole person. If your arm hurts, it considers the whole body, not just the arm like Western medicine. Picture of yin-yang lotus from the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis

I have been seeing my Japanese chiropractor for almost a year now, and the results keep amazing me!

Ueda Yoshiyasu is getting rather popular now, too, as people have been reading my initial blog post about him and his Reflex Chiropractic that is next door to my apartment in Shinmachi, Osaka.

He has had so many English-speaking tourists seek him out for healing, including many of my family members and friends, that he has made an English-language intake form!

Many come from Taiwan or Korea even, as they don’t speak Japanese, so they use English! And I’ve been going every week for almost a year now, increasing my time to to 2-and-a-half hours each session.

Ueda’s English is getting very good, as I teach him English terminology as they come up in our sessions. Each week he manually does his magic to manipulate my body and massage it back to a balanced state – best he can with my twisted 51-year-old body! He starts from the feet up. Even working on my chakras or internal organs. It’s always amazing what he knows.

Eating delicious, but too spicy Indian food stressed my colon, my chiropractor said! WOW!

Eating delicious, but too spicy, oily Indian food stressed my colon, my chiropractor said! WOW! Doubling down on eating super healthy, clean and vegan! Or the best we can in Japan!

My low back pain went away completely last November before I went to Tokyo. If I were in the United States, insurance would never cover my weekly treatments, but give me opiates instead!

Opiates are regularly prescribed for back pain in the US!  Despite guidelines from top medical groups, studies and recommendations, doctors still tend to prescribe pain pills to people with back pain instead of physical therapy and exercise, which work better, according to the reports in the Lancet medical journal. 

My father died last year of sepsis because of opiates for his back pain. Horrible! And sepsis is on the rise, too!  WTF!!!! Profit! Pharmaceutical company profit! That’s what!

Of course my body needs maintenance, and I’ve been seriously doing more yoga and strengthening my core again. Hey, it was a tough transition, and yes, I needed to do more yoga to begin with. But I did the best I could! Plus I looked for yoga studios here, but they were all in Japanese or very hard to translate and figure out the information! Or everybody in the studio picture looks 21 and doing backflips or offering ego-stoking-photo sessions of you in a difficult yoga pose. Not for me! And I get tired of practicing alone. (I am planning on starting a free class for apartment residents soon.)

Been doing Zazen at Shourin-Ji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto. Part of my health regime to relieve stress! Photo by Sydney Solis

Been doing Zazen at Shourin-Ji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto. Part of my health regime to relieve stress! Photo by Sydney Solis

It also turns out that twisted ankle from childhood is a problem because of a stretched ligament, Ueda said. 45 years of walking on it wrong! Plus, the change in weather from cold to rainy to hot like its been here can mess with your adrenal glands. So things can’t be helped, he said. But there’s a weekly chiropractor to keep working on you to help!

And then there’s stretching! Living in Japan has been such an adjustment of so much walking and riding my bike or hiking up and down subway steps! Tight and tired muscles, he said. Plus I was just so exhausted from the huge stress of moving, last summer’s heat and more. But he weekly fixes me up!

Recently he amazed me again with his healing techniques.  I thought I was getting migraines from working on the computer a lot and poor ergonomics. My arms and hands hurt, as did my head and neck. I went in for my session, and he started with pressure points on my feet. Of course he always starts with the feet and I was like wishing secretly, “OH, man, I wish he’s just start on my head first this time, I’m in so much pain!” But remarkably, touching my feet the pain in my head went away!!!!

You are what you eat

You are what you eat! And what you’re eating is most likely making you sick! From macrobiotic magazine I bought in Japan.

Eventually he proclaimed the source of my migraines was my colon! Tired and stressed from eating greasy food! I was stunned! Yes, I was eating super healthy in Japan. No gluten nor dairy. No coffee, just lovely green tea and vegan. The Japanese diet is amazing, by the way! I wrote about it too!  

But then I broke down and I had been eating a LOT of HOT food too! Spicy hot! Super Hot Indian food! With dairy! So yummy! And my own recipe of hot sauce for my vegetarian rice rolls!

Then in this week’s session he said there was injury to my left index finger. Something from long ago. He has been studying why I always have arm pain in the left side. I couldn’t remember anything. Was it because I have been typing 90 WPM since the 8th grade? NO. Something older, he said via Google translate on the Iphone (for when we have to have detailed info.)

Hmmm, I thought. Then in a flash again, contemplating my finger, I remembered! My fingers getting slammed in a car door when I was a little kid! No wonder I have trouble even gripping the mat in yoga for poses! WOW!

May peace prevail on earth! May all beings be well and happy and not be stuffed full of opiates for their pain!!!

May peace prevail on earth! May all beings be well and happy and not be stuffed full of opiates for their pain!!!

What else. He knew my diaphram was tight because of doing a lot of yogic breathing and more yoga asana. Have been going to the Shourin-ji Buddhist Temple for Zazen and more in Kyoto.

I also went in for pain in my hands and arms because of computer. Again, I thought, Please…. start with my arms! But he worked on my neck and shoulders and the pain in the hands and arms went away!!!

All I can say is he is my doctor! I did go to the Emergency Room back in early November because I had so many pins and needles pain, my arms and legs in pain and going numb when I slept. My chiropractor said it was from adrenal fatigue and stress. But my heart rate was acting really weird, so I got scared one Sunday and went to the E.R.

The Western doctors were very nice, and the the whole Japanese medical system efficient. WAY more than the US where you spend an hour just waiting for the wandering doctor. In Japan, doctors are on time! Doctors are dedicated to each E.R. room! Plus it only cost me $350 to go to the ER, have a heart EKG and exam! He said it seemed to be OK and that I had a heart murmur from birth. Of course Japan has Universal Health care! Luckily my insurance reimbursed me.

Wisteria in Osaka this past April. Gorgeous! Nature is a big healer! Photo by Sydney Solis

Wisteria in Osaka this past April. Gorgeous! Nature is a big healer! Wisteria in Osaka this past April. Gorgeous! Nature is a big healer! Photo by Sydney Solis

I went back a few times to the hospital, and they did some tests on me, one horribly painful that I asked them to stop! Before they finally announced the diagnosis. STRESS.

So what my chiropractor had said! But it felt good to check it out both ways. I’m sure we need both medicine. But I defer to my chiropractor first!!!

The weather is getting hot and humid in Japan. Today especially hot and humid. Everybody is leaving for the summer, and I may just head to Florida myself as well. My kids are visiting in June for two weeks. They will get a check up with the chiropractor! He knew my daughter had a tight right side, and it was from her marching band practice! SO!!!!

Naturally, working with English-speaking clients and in a language that is not your nature tongue and trying to figure out your issues likely is challenging for Ueda! I hope I don’t put pressure on him. He’s so skilled and I have had so much relief that I just want everybody to have the same possibility of health and happiness! Or at least get a different perspective on health care.

May you be well! May you be happy! May you see a Japanese chiropractor!

I would love to hear from others about their experiences!

Reflex Chiropractic

Ueda Yoshiyasu

Address: Osaka City Nishi-ku Nishi-ku Nishimachi 1 – chome 21-3 Kobayashi Building 1 – E

Phone: 06-6536-1418

Business hours: Monday from 11 am to 21:30 Tuesday 11: 21: 30 Wednesday from 11 to 21: 30 Closed on Thursday. Friday from 11 o’clock to 21:30 Saturday from 11 to 21: 30 Sunday from 11 to 21: 30.

Facebook Page: 

Website:

Wisteria in Osaka this past April. Gorgeous! Nature is a big healer! Photo by Sydney Solis

Me, happy as a clam! Because of my wonderful Japanese chiropractor here in Osaka! And the fact that I don’t have to own a car in Japan! What bliss!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conscientious Japan’s Ethos – In Pictures

IMG_7272Japan works as a society because its Buddhist principles regard every person and object of nature as worthy of reverence and part of one’s own self.IMG_4137

There is no separation. What you do to another is what you do to yourself, because you are a product of nature, and nature is a product of you.

Forget religion for a moment. Society simply functions well when you are aware of others’ needs and do your part to help it

become more orderly, clean and high-functioning. It’s called harmony, or wa, as Japanese values would call it. The world has slowly, however, been moving away from wa and descending into chaos.

“Western culture pulls people apart, pits the strong against the weak,” writes Michael Hoffman in the Japan Times.  Japan’s draws people together. Wa prevails. That’s a Japanese national trait” — or was, he adds, until Americanophile free-market fundamentalist Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2001-06) set the rich and poor at each other’s throats, with the result that today the rich get richer and the poor poorer and more numerous.”

IMG_3973It’s also called ethos. How a group functions, believe and behaves.

Mean and selfish – it doesn’t have to be that way.

Regardless of the world’s chaos and world leader’s “leadership,” you still have control over your own experience and reaction to it. How will you choose to react?

How will you live your life? How will you act? That is the question that provides meaning and purpose in an alienated world.

Riding trains together; sharing space and dealing with crowds or walking around the streets with others; instead of segregated in cars and gated, vacuous houses; puts you in contact with others and the reality that you need to get along with others. The question that arises is, “How are you going to behave?” Marcus Aurelius of Rome posed that question to himself. Regardless of the trappings of wealth and power, he still lived an ethical life.

IMG_6076Tokyo’s lost and found in 2016 included ¥3.7 billion in cash.  Japanese people are honest, because they realize that the only person they would be defrauding would be their own selves.

Do you remember the last time you lost something? How did you feel? Empathy goes a long way toward having a human heart and not being a robot.

I bought a T-shirt last year at Nara’s Toda-ji Buddhist temple about the Kegon sutra which read: “You can see everything in a single object. Even in a drop of our blood, universe exists. Everything connects each other and supports each other.”

IMG_5878This freedom of choice of how we behave is what we really only have control over, according to Greek Stoics and of which is a fundamental value of Hindu India’s Bhagavad Gita. For Westerners, we can draw inspiration from our choice of activity from Albert Camus, who said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

IMG_5887Living in the United States for 50 years before moving to Japan inspired me to realize that riding pubic transportation, as it vaguely still exits, such as Amtrak, brings me into contact with other human beings who may be different from me.IMG_5150

Human beings just trying to live. Who suffer, live and die just like I do. I learn new things about them, and myself.

Living in a small house with small bedrooms that force people out to the living room to socialize and deal with others, a friend of the Church of Latter-Day Saints taught me, is a good thing. Not that I believe in her far-out mythology. I still honor her opinions.

Naturally, I imagine Japanese people are sick and tired of this communal activity that I admire and whom are all intrigued with all these “freedoms” rather than having to conform to “duty.” Their issues are real.

The pendulum swings both ways. So I do not judge. I simply point to the what is. Japanese people have high rates of suicide, ( as do North Americans) and karoshi, death by overwork, is real. Every time a train is delayed, I say a small prayer for what I think likely has happened.

So in terms of a society functioning, compassion toward the other and respecting others and not messing it up for others (yourself) is key. In Japanese terminology it’s called meiwaku, not inconveniencing others. Why this doesn’t apply to smoking in restaurants, I will never know. Because a friend and I promptly left at the first whiff of smoke in a cafe yesterday. As I always do. Because smoke simply makes me sick.

IMG_7182Foreigners unaware of the concept of wa in Japan are slipping in and destroying things like tourists vandalizing the Arashiyama  bamboo forest. Signs and higher fences have gone up as a result. More separation.

An American friend, bless his heart, confessed he left his plastic beverage bottle in a temple bathroom because “others did it.”  He didn’t know what to do with his garbage.

But you, dear reader, know. You have a choice. How will you behave? I feel like a fool bringing my recycled paper and plastic wrappers for plastic bottles and my reusable bags into the Big Beans grocery store across the street from me. I follow my values regardless, because I have to. Everywhere the signs in Japan insist I do. To be considerate of others. Of nature. (as I always have, from living in the US. To Argentina to the U.S. Virgin Islands.)

So I do.

IMG_1880And so I share with you. Some photos I have taken of signs of civility promotion in Japan. Everything from how to flush a toilet to not walking with your cell phone mindlessly and bumping into people (something that happened to me twice today going through Osaka Station and is killing children in the US.)

How did Japan become so mindless? For its strength and power rely on mindfulness.   Its art, meditation, nature awareness, beauty and wa, harmony.

Long live Japan!

 

Wandering and Wisteria Hunting in Uji, Kyoto

Byodoin Buddhist Temple in Uji, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Byodo-in Buddhist Temple in Uji, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

As a Florida Master Gardener I obsess over flowers. Our 35th floor Osaka apartment has been wonderful, but everything green I’ve tried to grow has inexplicably died.

So I’m out and about all the time anyways hunting Japan’s seasonal flower cycles, like Sakura, cherry blossoms, that passed in April.

Roses and peonies are now blooming insanely gorgeous in every park across Japan too. And of course flowers are just everywhere in every nook and cranny in Japan! So beautiful!

Wisteria in bloom in Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Wisteria in bloom in Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

But I was a little late for wisteria. Its intoxicating scent captivated me for the first time at Osaka Castle Park. It wouldn’t be in full bloom until later, and it was still young. I found another more mature one in its pergola at a park riding my bike home. I was hooked.

I had signed up with the Community House Information Center in Kobe to go on a wisteria garden tour at Shirai Oomachi Fuji Park, but it was cancelled, and the wisteria was heard to be past its bloom.

A friend invited me to view with her wisteria at Kasuga Shrine in Nara, however, I was tired and it was Golden Week the following week and we detest crowds.

But she and I and some other intrepid friends of mine later braved a rain forecast and set out ourselves to explore the Heian period (794-1185) Byodo-in Buddhist Temple in the town of Uji in Kyoto the following week.  Byodo-in was recommended for its wisteria and also because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Golden phoenix on the rooftop of Hoo-do Hall, also known as Phoenix Hall at Byodo-in Buddhist Temple in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Golden phoenix on the rooftop of Hoo-do Hall, also known as Phoenix Hall at Byodo-in Buddhist Temple in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

I had also heard Uji was famous for its green tea production as well as the Tale of Genji, the world’s first full-length novel written by Murasaki Shikibu, a female servant of the Empress during this aristocratic era.

And I’m obsessed with green tea and literature! So off we went on the Japan Railroad Nara D line out of Kyoto Station to the verdant hills of Uji.

Japan has experienced quite a tourist boom over the past few years and has been struggling with it. Kyoto is especially packed to the ire of the locals. Byodo-in definitely was bursting with many Chinese tourists as well as Japanese students on tour.

We purchased admission tickets for 600¥ and also had to wait an hour for our turn to enter a tour of Hoo-do Hall, also known as Phoenix Hall because of the golden phoenixes perched on the roof as a symbol of good luck.

Lotuses at Byodoin Buddhist Temple in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Lotuses at Byodoin Buddhist Temple in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

It required an extra 300¥ special ticket, which was worth it. We slipped off our shoes to view the towering Amida Buddha made by Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui. I thought, “What have I deserved to see this!” Amazing!

The 52 smaller sculptures depicted Boddhisattvas floating on clouds or dancing and playing musical instruments were on displays well as other stunning Buddhist art during the regular tour of the grounds in the Byodo-in Museum.

All inspiring and enlightening! Even though there was only a small wisp of purple wisteria left, the pink lotuses blooming in the pond under the cloudy sky was satori for the eyes and heart nonetheless.

Fewer crowds awaited us when we walked around with the map the tourist information guide back at Uji station gave us.

Matcha tea and wagashi, Japanese sweets, at a teahouse in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Matcha tea and wagashi, Japanese sweets, at a teahouse in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

I was tickled to use some of my Japanese again asking for an English version, and the clerk complimented me on it. Even though I just stumble through, it has been very helpful to get around!

After leaving Byodo-in, we wandered historic streets packed with matcha and green tea stores and tea houses for some Chasoba soup – soba noodles made with matcha and served with fried tofu. You can find everything made from matcha in Uji, even ink!

We wandered again and enjoyed matcha tea service and wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, such as mochi. Fewer crowds awaited us again as took to Uji Bridge to cross the heaving Uji River. You can see the 13-layered stone stupa built in 1286 from the other side well.

Crossing the Uji River on the Uji Bridge. Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Crossing the Uji River on the Uji Bridge. Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

 

Uji Shrine was our first temple stop.

My friends and I are shrine-a-holics, so we got our goshuins, temple stamps, in our goshuinchos, temple books. You can see my collection of them on my Instagram account. 

It took a while to learn with my slow brain, but I can now confidently purify myself at the fountains, chōzuya, put my yen coin in the wooden offering box, clap, ring the bell, bow, and pray. Then you get your goshuin as proof you visited the shrine.

Wonderful to participate in this amazing ritual! you feel so alive and magical and as if you are in accord the the whole universe!

Stone stupa at the approach to Kosho-ji Soto Zen Temple in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Stone stupa at the approach to Kosho-ji Soto Zen Temple in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Afterwards we wandered along the river to Asahiyaki Pottery for some stunning artisan work from the area.

Irises were in bloom everywhere, and we stumbled upon the spectacular and serene Kosho-ji Soto Zen Buddhist Temple as well.

The approach up the slope called “Kotozaka” was intensely green and we could only imagine what red blazing color it is like during the fall. The grounds were quiet and sublime, and I would’ve loved to tour the facilities in this asceticism-practicing-temple for monks, but next time! We had been walking a long time and it was getting late!

UjiKami1

UjiKami Shinto Shrine in Uji, Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

We found Ujikami Shinto shrine, another UNESCO World Heritage site after hiking up a hill. It started to sprinkle rain, but I have a trendy Japanese rain coat I picked up and hat so I fit in!

Priests were closing up too by 4 p.m. so we only had a bit of time to visit this shrine revered as a guardian shrine of this world.

By the time we found the Tale of Genji Museum it was late and closing. But I love Uji so much, I will definitely be back, considering how much there is to do and more!

You will too!

 

More photos from Uji, Kyoto, Japan of Matcha!!!!

Chasoba with fried tofu and radish in Uji, Kyoto Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Chasoba with fried tofu and radish in Uji, Kyoto Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

 

Everything is made with matcha in Uji, Japan! Indeed it is Matcha Tepublic!

Everything is made with matcha in Uji, Japan! Indeed it is Matcha Republic!

Matcha gonna do when everything is made from Matcha in Uji, Japan? Love it!

Matcha gonna do when everything is made from Matcha in Uji, Japan? Love it! Matcha Dumplings.

Japanese Dance, Myth and Renewal During Shoryoe

Procession of Shoryoe at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple, Osaka, Japan

Procession of Shoryoe at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

My Japanese keeps getting better and better, as I was able to understand a lot of what was going on during Shoryoe, the Memorial Service for Prince Shotoku at Shitenno-ji Buddhist Temple here in Osaka.

Prince Shotoku built the temple in the sixth century. He was the first Buddhist statesman and was the lay founder of Buddhism in Japan.

I adore this temple and spend a lot of time here, always finding something new and amazing!

Today was no exception. In addition to the Temple Sale held every 21st and 22nd of the month. today featured Shoryoe and bugaku, classical dance of Japan. Bugaku is considered a national important cultural asset, and performances have been in Japanese imperial courts for over 1,200 years.

Drummer

Drummer during Shoryoe at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Enjoy these photos! Some people watch television; I stood at a Buddhist temple for three hours in the sun! Learned the word for sunburn – hiyake! I am also booked to lead my first photography tour of Japan! With the Community House Information Center in Rokko Island, Japan. Mark your calendar for Nov. 29, 2018. A photo lesson then street photography! More info soon!

Drum at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Drum at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Dancers

The giant red balls were made to resemble spider lilies. Everything is about nature in Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

MaskedDancers

Masked dancers perform bugaku, classical dance during Shoryoe at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple April 22, 2018. Photo by Sydney Solis

Children wear butterfly costumes during bugaku, classical dance at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple Shoryoe in Osaka, Japan. Photo By Sydney Solis

Children wear butterfly costumes during bugaku, classical dance at Shitennoji Buddhist Temple Shoryoe in Osaka, Japan. Photo By Sydney Solis

SunMask

Masks that resemble the sun are worn on dancers. The sun brought gorgeous gifts that were then given to the children wearing butterfly wings, then given to the priests. A beautiful myth and ritual to experience! Shoryoe Memorial Service for Prince Shotoku at Shitennoji temple, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Dance of the Shishimai, mythical lion. this was the original dance, a somber event. Photo by Sydney Solis

Dance of the Shishimai, mythical lion. this was the original dance, a somber event. Photo by Sydney Solis

Myth has the ability to pitch us out of ordinary, profane consciousnes and into sacred time. Experiencing these types of rituals, such as Shoryoe, is a participatory consciousness, and a sense of spiritual renewal is the result. Children dressed as butterflies performing bugaku, classical dance. Photo by Sydney Solis

Myth has the ability to pitch us out of ordinary, profane consciousness and into sacred time. Experiencing these types of rituals, such as Shoryoe, is a participatory consciousness, and a sense of spiritual renewal is the result. Children dressed as butterflies performing bugaku, classical dance. Photo by Sydney Solis

Waiting

Mythic Yoga Journey To Japan Haiku Video Poem No. 1

Shitennō-ji i Buddhist Temple and stupa, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Shitennō-ji i Buddhist Temple and stupa, Osaka, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis

Upon my first visit to Japan in November 2016 at age 50, I became a filmmaker!

I had started writing a bunch of haiku and tanka poems during this powerful experience, then turned them into video poems.

This Mythic Yoga Journey to Japan Haiku Video No. 1 was the first video I ever made in my life!

I used to work as a professional photographer back in the silver gelatin days, spending many hours in the

The dharmachakra wheel at entrance of Shitenno-ji Buddhist Temple in Osaka, Japan. The faithful touch and spin its wheel upon entry and exiting. Photo by Sydney Solis.

The dharmachakra wheel at entrance of Shitenno-ji Buddhist Temple in Osaka, Japan. The faithful touch and spin its wheel upon entry and exiting. Photo by Sydney Solis.

darkroom for The Photo Works in Boulder, Colorado as well as newsrooms. I was rather slow to adapt to digital and social media. And I’m sure not one to be seen hunching over my I-phone all day posting stuff instantly or answering messages immediately.

Luckily technology has made it easy for people like me to make videos!  I’ve been getting better slowly. You can see from other YouTube movies I’ve made, such as Shitennō-ji Buddhist Temple here a short distance from our apartment in Osaka. Check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more. I will be posting more over time!

Enjoy Mythic Yoga Journey Haiku Video Poem No. 1, featuring the dharmachakra wheel.

Sakura Fever at the Japan Mint in Osaka is a Transcendental Event

Watching the hoards of people enjoying and photographing the cherry blossoms at the Japan Mint in Osaka is an event in itself! Photo by Sydney Solis

Watching the hoards of people enjoying and photographing the cherry blossoms at the Japan Mint in Osaka is an event in itself! Photo by Sydney Solis

Sakura fever has struck. The falling petals of many cherry blossoms throughout the Kansai region have forced me outside to make pilgrimages on my bike around Osaka and else where to view these breathtaking beautiful trees. They remind me of how short life is. Most cherry blossoms have now faded and dropped their petals like snow.

Sakura at the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis

Sakura at the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis

Every  year the Japan Mint in Osaka opens its black gates on April 11th – 17th for cherry blossom viewing. My friend Jessica from Malaysia organized some friends to go. I rode my bike to meet them, since it’s in my part of town. I saw the flood of people coming out of the Temmabashi Station. At first I thought it was a protest, the unbelievable stream of thousands of people so great! Then I realized what it was!

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Sakura at the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis

Crowds can make me a bit claustrophobic, and the impact of foreign tourists in Japan made the crowds at the Mint on Friday intense. But I just had to catch a view of these last, intensely blooming trees of pink and white, pale or bright.

Some had double or eight blooms, some chrysanthemum-like. 135 varieties, from Kyoto, Tokyo, Hokkaido and Kansai lined the path at the Mint along the Dojimagawa River.

To share these stunning trees with the hoards of people is quite the transcendental experience.

Just as entering a temple or church, passing through the threshold of a Tori gate or door, you  enter enormous iron gates that are usually closed except for this ritual time of year.

Time then stops. You are on the path, viewing trees of stunning allure and awe and beauty as if in another world.  Joseph Campbell said that there is revealing maya in something like cherry blossoms. Maya being the Sanskrit term for illusion for obscuring maya, hiding you from the truth. But with revealing maya you get a glimpse of that truth. It is revealed to you in that instant.

Sakura fever! At the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis

Sakura fever! At the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis

I always feel that with nature. It blasts you out of this world and into the infinite. It’s amazing to watch all the thousands of people in the crush, taking pictures, laughing and enjoying this collective experience. One the walk is done, you exit the gate. Time and space return. And you can’t help but feel renewed. The Japanese understand experience this well!

Before the Japan Mint in Osaka opened, I was along to Dojimagawa Riverfront to photograph the last of the cherry blossoms there. The mint was still closed, but I snapped this picture of them behind the gates! Photo by Sydney Solis

Before the Japan Mint in Osaka opened, I was along to Dojimagawa Riverfront to photograph the last of the cherry blossoms there. The mint was still closed, but I snapped this picture of them behind the gates! Photo by Sydney Solis

Hoards of people viewing the cherry blossoms at the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Hoards of people viewing the cherry blossoms at the Japan Mint in Osaka. Photo by Sydney Solis.

Tanka poem I wrote about Sakura, cherry blossoms, from my first experience of the event in 2017 when we came to look for housing. I made a hand-made book of the poetry and photographs from a book I pulled out of our apartment's recycling bin! One day to be published! Poem, photo and art by Sydney Solis

Tanka poem I wrote about Sakura, cherry blossoms, from my first experience of the event in 2017 when we came to look for housing. I made a hand-made book of the poetry and photographs from a book I pulled out of our apartment’s recycling bin! One day to be published! Poem, photo and art by Sydney Solis

 

Photography & Artwork of Japan by Sydney Solis Available

I Spy Japanese Eye! Photography of Japan by Sydney Solis!

I Spy Japanese Eye! Photography of Japan by Sydney Solis! Osaka, Japan

The wonderful thing about my new life in Japan, that at 51 years of age I am reborn! I recently cut all my hair off and went white.

15 long years since my first husband died and raising my two children on my own are done!

My kids turned out amazing, splendid – I’m so proud of them! I’m remarried to my perfectly matched soul mate and have never been so happy or healthy in my life!!!!

So the next phase of my life is here! Before I became a kids yoga teacher, founding the pioneering Storytime Yoga and Mythic Yoga, I was a news journalist and photographer. I paid my way through college myself as a wedding photographer, and I won first place in the Transitions Abroad Magazine College Travel Photography contest. I worked as a journalist, editing and writing for newspapers like the Bakersfield Californian, The Boulder, Colorado Daily Camera , The News in Mexico City and Digital Video Magazine in San Francisco.

Katsuo-ji in Minoo, Japan. By Sydney Solis.

Katsuo-ji in Minoo, Japan. By Sydney Solis.

I have decided to return to my writing and photography. So I’m excited to announce my portfolio of photography and mixed media collage!  Many years of photos are in there – I used to work with silver gelatin printing, and for many years for a commercial photographer in Boulder, Colorado. My travels from Latin America to Europe to The Caribbean and United States are there. There are also plenty of pictures of Japan!

MinooNikonHDR2

Fall color explosion in Minoo, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

More of my photography and fine art products, everything from metal prints to bathmats you can get these days, are on my sites of Society6 and Fine Art America.  I also have I -phone stock photography of Japan available on Stockimo, and high-resolution DSLR stock photography of Japan available on Alamy. 

I’m still writing, of course, and will publish the numerous manuscripts I’ve written over the years, as well continue writing this blog. Travel is booming in Japan, and the demand for English-language reporting is huge. I’ve also been hired by Taiken Japan to write travel articles and take pictures! What fun! My dream come true!

IMG_2402

Used kimonos for sale at the Kitano Tennmangu Shinto Shrine sale in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Sydney Solis.

You always get what you wanted, just not the way you expected it! All that is required is to follow your bliss! Live authentically and don’t take be afraid to make big changes when necessary!  No matter what the cost! I did! And that made all the difference! That’s what I am, the result of my Mythic Yoga Journey!

So enjoy my photographs, support your local artist! I am heading to the Kyoto International Photography Festival soon and will be hosting a Poetry Reading in Kyoto for Writers in Kyoto as well June 24. And so much more! Stay tuned!

Japanese and U.S. Citizens Lose When Their Governments Revise War History

Japanese symbols for peace

Japanese symbols for peace

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” – George Orwell

United States President Donald Trump is trying to start World War III. With the ultimate newspeak of “preventative war” and dangerously provoking North Korea he wants to attack it with “fire and fury.

The sanctions the United Nations imposed upon North Korea will surely provoke it into war just as sanctions provoked Japan into World War II. The U.S. wants war, as it has nowhere to go with its rigged stock market at 22,000 and the S&P 500 ready to blow can’t conjure up any more Quantitative Easing to inflate away its $20 trillion in debt. The dollar is down, the weakest since 1985,  markets seem vulnerable to some upside surprises, and It’s stuck with a bubble popping, so war, just as it got the U.S. out of the Great Depression, is the answer.

As if the U.S. needs more of its endless wars going on for the past 16 years in which 20 U.S. soldiers a day die by suicide, or the massive injuries and casualties of veterans and civilians alike, and Trump’s U.S.-led coalitions have now killed more civilians in Syria than Russia or ISIS combined!

Americans have been sipping their lattes, mindlessly motoring about and shopping at Wal-Mart as if nothing else exists outside their world, unlike wars of the past where everybody was involved. But a country that does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. So war it will get, and unbelievable suffering it will know. For the United States, as its ally Japan in this nonsense of nuclear holocaust-wannabes, have a tendency to keep the truths about war from its citizens by sanitizing and revising it in efforts to promote it.

This was evident when I went to the Osaka International Peace Center last March on my second trip to Japan. I stumbled upon it while touring Osaka Castle Park. It doesn’t pop up in a lot of tourist info or books I bought. Considering my family’s war history with Japan, that my father was a child survivor of a Japanese concentration camp on Java, my grandfather died a POW in Japan, and my great uncle survived the Death March of Bataan, it is quite ironic that I would come to live in Japan. I wrote about it before when I was there for Pearl Harbor Day last December. My father even died the day I moved to Japan on June 24, 2017. And here I am, living in Japan on the 72nd anniversary of the Atomic Bomb dropping on Hiroshima.

Osaka International Peace Center with timeline of Japan and events.

Osaka International Peace Center with timeline of Japan and events.

My father could be conflicted about it all, saying the morning I went to the Peace Center when I spoke to him by phone, “Tell the people of Japan I love them.” And then when I last time I visited him in Boulder, Colorado his traumatized soul still sadly lamented, “They killed my father.” My daughter, who spent a year in the DeLand High School JFROTC and who attended the veteran’s funeral with honors of my father-in-law two years ago asked for my father’s veteran’s hat that hung by the door of his home. She understands war because of them.

I didn’t realize it was Hiroshima Day this August, 6 when I took a nap that afternoon after touring in the sweltering heat a few Shinto shrines near our apartment in the Shinmachi, Osaka district. Now I understood some of the elder people’s gazes there at us. While watching the fireworks from the 35th floor the night before, an old woman joined me. Perhaps I picked up her quiet observation of me as an American. I brought a fan out to her in the searing evening humid heat, and she thanked me. I noticed that my Japanese chiropractor’s shop, always open, was also closed. How could I forget! How can ANYONE forget anything about the horrors of war! But they DO! Because their politicians want them to.

Osaka International Peace Center showing bombs dropped by U.S. forces during World War II on civilians.

Osaka International Peace Center showing bombs dropped by U.S. forces during World War II on civilians.

I popped up in bed that afternoon. The bombing was something enshrined in our minds and hearts as a child, my mother fiercely telling everybody, even to our embarrassment as children, “Do you know what day it is?” she’d say to the cashier or clerk in 1975 Boulder. “It’s Hiroshima Nagasaki Day. The day we bombed the Japanese to win the war!” And we kids would cringe as people looked at us unsure of anything, as candle light vigils for the victims went on in town.

Of course I understand now that my mother was traumatized too by the war, as all wars do to people – destroy children, families and society. Her brother, my Uncle Charlie, was fighting in the Pacific and may not have come home had the bombs not been dropped. My mother would go on to say that I would have not been been born had the bombs not been dropped. For my father would had died in the camp.

Osaka International Peace Center men and women dressed for war.

Osaka International Peace Center men and women dressed for war.

I understand the bravery of U.S. soldiers who gave their lives for their country. I have been to the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu; my mother was sure to take me there. My husband’s father fought in the war and was with the Occupational forces of Japan, as was my late-father in law from my late husband. I salute their service, bravery and sacrifice. I knew how bad war is.

But I remember last March when I toured the Peace Center that I wanted to understand all sides of the story. Because history can teach so much – otherwise we are doomed to repeat it. And I want to understand the Japanese and learn all I can learn. I’m a trained journalist to think critically. Taught to get both sides of the story and spot fake news or sense something is missing. I am trained as a yogi too to seek the truth – no matter how painful it may be –  for truth, satya, sets us free.

At the Peace Center I asked for special permission to take pictures, something I was surprised you had to ask to do.  The paperwork at the special office where a guard took me back to receive a special badge to wear asked the reason I wanted to take pictures. “I want to learn about the people of Japan and spread peace. I want to work for peace,” I wrote.

This is what I saw: I saw displays about the incendiary bombs that the United States dropped on the wooden houses of the people of Osaka in February 26, 1945, to the early morning of the next day. There were also bomb raids on March 13, 14, June 6, 7, 15, 26, July 10, 24, and August 14, the last day of the war.  The Shinmachi neighborhood I now live in was burned to ash. I had no idea.

I heard their stories of survivors. How it became a U.S. war tactic to intentionally target civilians.  It wasn’t a war crime to target civilians yet back then like it is now, although the U.S. with Saudi Arabia has been bombing civilians in Yemen and there will be consequences when history catches up with it.

During the bombing of Osaka on August 14, 1945, a one-ton bomb directly struck the Katamachi Line platform at Kyobashi Station and killed 700 to 800 evacuees. Kyobashi was one of the last sites to be bombed in Japan during World War II, followed only by the bombing of Akita, later the same day. Kyobashi is also two stops before Morinomiya station where I got off to visit the center and Osaka Castle Park.

One of the displays at the center asked, “Can you imagine the fear of this woman and her child hiding under a mattress for the air raids?” I was overwhelmed with sadness and compassion for them as I thought, “YES! I CAN!”  I heard as a child all the stories from my father of the Japanese bombings of Java, Dutch East Indies when his family took shelter under mattresses or in car dug outs or dodged the bullets in the streets from Japanese Zeros.

Along with my father’s pain, I also I felt such compassion for the people of Japan, people caught up in wars that politicians, not people, begin. At the Peace Center I learned about the Japanese rise of militarism and industrialism, how pictures of Osaka castle was surrounded by munitions buildings, not the beautiful, peaceful plum-tree-filled park it is today.

Sydney Solis war letter Peace, for the children

My letter at Osaka International Peace Center, Peace, for the children

I wrote a long letter that I put into the comments box at the end to say, “I’m sorry we dropped the atomic bomb. I’m sorry Japan committed terrible war crimes. We just all must work for peace now.” But as I was leaving, I did notice one thing, as my critical mind knows how to see both sides of the story and ask questions, and of course because I am educated about history via direct knowledge from my mother and father (and reading and researching a ton.)

That Japan had omitted its own war crime history, its own atrocities. For all of its excellent displays and understanding the role of industrialism in the rise of militarism, those crimes I knew well from primary sources. So where were they? Why were they not shown?

Now I think my country committed terrible war crimes on the people of Japan, dropping the bomb on them and targeting civilians, and here we condemn Syria for its crimes! And what we have been doing with torture, Guantanamo Bay, invading Iraq preemptively based on lies and more lately does not make me very proud to be an American. It makes me ashamed.

But I still love my country. I love it so much that peace is so important. So important that we understand our own roles in war, so that war can never be repeated again. That no American, no Japanese, no Syrian, no Iraqi, no North Korean, not one more person or child be afflicted by war. And understanding history, education, is at the heart of peace.

After researching what I saw, I now understand why they didn’t want just anybody to take pictures. The museum, opened in 1991….. Has been sanitized by a recent surge in nationalism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, removing exhibits on Japanese wartime aggression. One blogger did post pictures of the prior exhibit and still has some online.

Ensuring a Peaceful Future

Ensuring a Peaceful Future

Laura Hein writes in The Asian-Pacific Journal: In order to explain why the city was attacked so many times, the planners agreed on an exhibit that portrayed Japan as not only the victim but also the aggressor: it showed that while the air-raids and the atomic bombs caused tremendous suffering, the war was the result of Japan’s assaults in Asia. The exhibit also explained that Osaka Castle Park, in the heart of the city, was used as a munitions factory during the war. While this information was absolutely accurate, mention of it acknowledged that Osaka had been a military as well as a civilian target, potentially justifying the American bombardment. In other words, the museum was established by local residents, many of whom had contributed to smaller exhibits since the 1970s, in order to institutionalize “collective remembrance,” built around testimony of local suffering due to the policies of both the U.S. and Japanese governments. These Osaka residents also wanted to incorporate remembrance of Asian suffering inflicted by the wartime Japanese into the museum’s narrative. The fundamental message was that war should always be avoided. 

In 1996, Japanese conservative nationalist groups, went on a counter-offensive, Hein continues. These groups, such as the Liberal View of History Study Group (Jiyushugi shikan kenkyukai), led by Fujioka Nobukatsu, had earlier attacked middle-school textbooks as “self-flagellating” and sought not only to end Japanese criticism of Japan’s wars in the 1930s and 1940s but also to change public opinion in favor of future rearmament.

Peace, for the children Sydney Solis Osaka International Peace Center

Peace education area for children who wrote on a peace tree. Peace, for the children Osaka International Peace Center

In an article in The Japan Times, Jeff Kensington writesOn a visit there several years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by a museum that unflinchingly presented both what Japan endured and what it inflicted during the 1930s and ’40s. It seemed an encouraging reproach to the Smithsonian museum, which in 1995 tried to mount an exhibition that complicated the atomic bomb narrative in an effort to give voice to scholars who questioned the wisdom and necessity of former President Harry Truman’s decision to drop them. The curator’s inspiring vision could not survive the political gauntlet, showing an America that was overly eager, half a century on, to stifle criticism.

In Osaka there has been a similar retreat from discomforting truths as the harsh aspects of Japanese imperialism have been tossed onto the garbage heap of history. Visitors no longer confront colonial rule in Korea, the Nanking Massacre, invasion of the Asian continent, aggression in Southeast Asia or the mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war. This sanitized peace museum now features more about the U.S. bombing raids on Osaka and a short video that exonerates Japan from allegations of aggression. At least pulling the aggression exhibits will save teachers the heartburn of explaining things that are no longer covered in Japan’s new textbooks.

The old exhibits were progressive. They depicted Japanese wartime aggression and forced visitors to reconcile this history with the museum’s other main narrative: the air raids that destroyed Osaka in 1945. The new exhibits, by contrast, largely elide Japan’s war with China and Asia and center on the devastation of the Osaka air raids. They are conservative in the sense of avoiding any categorization of Japan’s wars as “aggressive” though recognizing the existence of some “aggressive acts” (namely atrocities). Japanese nationalists – defined as those who present an affirmative narrative of Japan’s wars and deny by omission Japanese war crimes (most notably the Nanjing atrocity of 1937) – led the attack on Peace Osaka’s old exhibits and their influence and rhetoric are also evident in the new exhibits on occasions. The ideological change goes beyond removing graphic exhibits of Japanese atrocities. The entire lexicon of the museum has been aligned with archetypal conservative rhetoric. This ideological “conversion” is far more significant than any cosmetic “renewal” in the appearance of the museum.

I realized that the U.S., too, underwent some sanitization of war history of the same magnitude and for the same reasons. As a Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum exhibit of the original Enola Gay “The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II,” which was to feature photographs and oral histories of the destruction, was cancelled in 1995 “as possibly the greatest tragedy to befall the public presentation of history in many years….the lost opportunity to educate a vast audience about a defining moment in history… abandoned… for political reasons,” writes Richard H. Kohn of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The exhibition’s primary goal was to encourage the public to re-examine the bombings in view of the political and military factors which led to the decision to use the bombs, actions which brought suffering to Japanese civilians and have long-term implications.

There was concern how veterans would react to such a possibly contentious presentation, stated that it would probably be impossible to make veterans feel good at the same time as the public was being encouraged to think about the consequences of the bombing but that the museum could do both scholarship and commemoration

Robert K. Musil, director of policy and programs for the organization, said that “merely showing a plane does nothing” to advance the historical significance of Hiroshima.

“When you go to the museum of record of the United States, you expect the full story,” Musil said. “But having history interpreted by political passion and by congressional investigation is the worst way to do history.”

War history and its effects on civilians are important. Without information about how it affects civilians, suffering on huge scale such as World War II will happen again. We must do everything to prevent it. Truth and education do this. Recently Japan and the U.S. are banging the drums of war, nuclear arsenal for Japan included. On this anniversary of Hiroshima, its Mayor Kazumi Matsui higlighted the fact that the U.S. and Japan refused to sign a U.N. treaty on nuclear arms that 122 other nations signed.

Abe has been trying to change Japan’s Constitution from pacifist, something that has been in place since enacted by American Occupiers in 1947 and is enormously popular with the Japanese people who want peace. Japan has even redacted information about the role of its Self Defence Forces, who were duped into fighting in South Sudan instead of being there for “engineering,” as they were told.  A 50-year-old Japanese mother, going by the name of “Peace Child” remembers war, so she is protesting. Saying that the Japanese government has infringed on her Constitutional “right to peace.”

“The worst thing for me would be to see my son die,” the woman said. “I will continue saying ‘no’ as a mother.” If only U.S. citizens could all say “NO WAR!” and ask for a right to Peace and have it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as it is in the Japanese.

During the campaign this summer, Mr. Abe and other Liberal Democrats kept mostly quiet about their revisionist ambitions, which led opposition party leaders and some news media critics to accuse them of a hidden agenda.

Yeah! Like starting a war alongside Trump! It was planned all along.  Because soldiers don’t fight for freedom. They fight for oil and corporations! In an era when U.S. President Trump and his former Exxon Oil CEO turned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won’t rule out nuclear weapons, they approve of human rights abusers like Bahrain while attacking Syria.

Exxon Mobile has close connections with Qatar’s national oil company, and has joined with Doha to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Persian Gulf coast that is designed for importing gas and possibly for exporting it as well. As a result, the company had a strong interest in keeping the shipping lanes in the region open — for which cooperation with Bahrain is key.

Japan’s Abe has been even inculcating kindergarteners with prewar material.  Members of Abe’s Cabinet voiced their approval for using the prewar Imperial Rescript on Education as a teaching material, drawing criticism that the government is trying to bring back antiquated values.  The Imperial Rescript of Education has recently drawn public attention after Osaka kindergarten operator Moritomo Gakuen, which is at the heart of a political scandal, was found to have been making its pupils memorize it.

TV footage surfaced online over the past few days showing kindergartners participating in a sports festival at Tsukamoto, lined up, standing at attention, and shouting a nationalist chant that said: “Japanese adults should make sure South Korea and China repent over treating Japan as a villain,” and “refrain from teaching lies in history textbooks.”

“Go, go Prime Minister Abe! We’re happy you passed security legislation at the Diet!” the children chanted.

Since the end of World War II, Japanese academics have renounced military research based on the bitter lessons of the war, in which Japanese scientists contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the ravages of war at home and abroad. But remember, they have been planning for a while this war the U.S. and Japan want.

Recently, however, these peaceful principles have been severely violated under the “proactive peace” policy of the hawkish Abe administration. For example, although the export of arms and related technologies had long been strictly restricted, Abe removed this ban in 2014. The Japanese government and various industries have been promoting military-academia joint research for the production of dual-use technologies. As of 2014, over 20 joint research projects had been initiated since the early 2000s between the Ministry of Defense and academia.

President Woodrow Wilson’s nominal idealism proved to be deadly during World War I. Americans should ponder the lessons of his fateful course. It’s time for U.S. presidents to work hard for peace rather than take what has become the far easier path to war. Because ultimately it is the veterans, civilians and children, like my father and his family and all veterans discarded and left  homeless in the U.S., will suffer.

Those who remember war do not stop voicing the need for peace. Scores of Okinawans continue to gather daily at the entrance to the Yanbaru forest to block the construction work of a new U.S. base on Okinawa that is destroying coral beds, chanting, “We want to protect the nature of our hometown,” and “Stop cutting down the trees.”

Nearly all in their 60s or 70s, they travel to Takae on foot or by other means on a journey that often takes two to three hours, even within Okinawa. Fujimoto believes the protests represent locals’ silent cries against war.

“Their protests show the height of their resentment,” he said. Especially since three U.S. marines died recently in the controversial Osprey that is plagued with safety problems. And sailors were likely “not paying attention” when the USS Fitzgerald rammed a Filipino cargo ship earlier this year, embroiled in pedophilia stings as well as trying to board civilian flights with live ammunition. 

Ultimately, a new book called “Japanese Reflections on World War II” is a clear picture of how the tragedy and suffering of war affects ordinary people and their perceptions. Anyone who has a loved one who has died or suffered in the U.S.’s recent wars know that war is hell. It has bankrupted this country and destroyed its liberties and values it once stood for.

Trump is clearly insane, a Mad King, even wanting to fight the suffering of opioid use with more police, rather than medical solutions that the commission report recommended! He is clearly not working for the American people, but the pharmaceutical military industrial complex and the Goldman Swamp of Government Sachs.  He is sick and insane and must be stopped! And only Russia and Israel are supporting Trump these days because of his dangerous policies, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

And as the dollar erodes under Trump’s erratic behavior and people turn to the Yen or physical gold for safe haven, the U.S. continues to become isolated and a risk. “There is some erosion in the relative stability of the United States in light of this administration’s inconsistency on global affairs,” said Mr. Posen of the Peterson Institute. “The U.S. is at relatively more risk than we thought in the past.”

But it’s not too late. Make your voice for peace heard today, because with the U.S.’s huge fleet and presence in South-East Asia, things are not looking good. Your son or daughter is next in line to die, and not for country, but for ego, banks, corporations and oil. Let’s make peace today. All you have to do is say, “Hell NO! We won’t go!” 

Japanese symbols for peace

Japanese symbols for peace

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” – George Orwell

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those of whom it seeks to reach.” – Adolf Hitler

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” –  Ernest Hemingway

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in the Orlando Sentinel’s Hype-Orlando on August 9, 2017. It is ceasing publication and I am republishing it here. Today I had hanami at Osaka Castle Park with several wonderful Japanese women, and we had a lively and passionate discussion about peace. So we work for peace! Join us!

The High-Quality of Life in Japan is Vastly Different from A Declining United States

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A man rides his bicycle in Osaka. Everybody can get around easily, rich or poor! Compare that to the U.S. where only the rich can get around!

The freedom I experience in Japan with its high-quality of life makes me realize how cheated my fellow citizens are as the United States slips into decline and chaos under President Donald Trump. 

The mere fact that I can get on my bike and ride around Osaka and get anywhere I want quickly, rain or shine, is amazing. In the USA, you have to be wealthy enough to own a car and pay tribute to the oil companies to function. I would be killed on my bike if I rode it back home in Florida, as it has one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the United States! Even the Volusia County, Florida Sheriff was hit by a car while riding his bike!

Food in Japan is served in stunning aesthetic style, small portions and delicious! Few fat people in Japan!

Food in Japan is served in stunning aesthetic style, small portions and delicious! Few fat people in Japan!

It’s such a pleasure to ride a bike in camaraderie with thousands of other Japanese people on the charming streets where few cars go. Japanese embrace the weather and can be seen in business suits riding a bike in fashionable Kita-Ku, holding an umbrella with one hand against the rain.

I’ve seen them in the sweltering heat of summer too, fully clothed and arms swathed in long gloves to protect them from the ultra-violet rays.   In Florida, people don’t even go out or know how to turn off the air conditioning. It keeps Japanese people some of the healthiest and least obese in the world! Poor Americans get fatter by the day or are addicts hooked on opiates and legal meth called Adderall! 

Then there’s the universal health care. We can go to whichever doctor we want! I’ve written about the amazing health care I received here. In the U.S., I would be just stuffed full of opiates for my back pain, like they did my father who died of sepsis last year. Instead I’ve been going to an amazing chiropractor and he has healed me!

The values of compassion, kindness and unity are the glue of Japanese culture. No wonder everybody nice, the country clean.

The values of compassion, kindness and unity are the glue of Japanese culture. No wonder everybody is so nice, the country clean and peaceful!

Trains in Japan are so efficient. Although the increase in tourism without supporting the infrastructure plagues Japan right now, as my poor hubby couldn’t even get on the subway this morning it was so packed.

He will be riding his bike to work soon! But I can get anywhere easy, efficiently and cheaply. In Florida, SunRail is wonderful, but it doesn’t even run on weekends!

When I would go to Orlando, I couldn’t get back to to DeLand because the train didn’t run enough! You know it was built to fail and oil companies want you to drive, not be able to get around without bloodshed in the Middle East or supporting a fake economy of artificial needs! Poor Amtrak is all but dead and unreliable!

Cozy, intimate streets and restaurants await you in Japan! So fun to ride my bike everywhere and explore!

Cozy, intimate streets and restaurants await you in Japan! So fun to ride my bike everywhere and explore!

Instead of a depressing, blighted suburban hell hole that so much of the U.S. has become, I marvel at Japan’s charming neighborhoods and intimate streets where people walk, socialize, eat, live their lives, not live for corporations to extract profit!

 

You get the sense that Japan was built for people, not for corporations like the U.S, is.

Restaurants are like eating in a friend’s home, cozy, intimate, and delicious! A contrast to the big concept restaurants in the U.S., which delicious as they are, can lack the aesthetics and connection Japan is so adept at.

Japan is beautiful and quiet! Serene! Here at the Katsuoji Shrine in Minoo, Japan

Japan is stunningly beautiful and quiet! Serene! Here at the Katsuoji Shrine in Minoo, Japan

And then there is the quiet of Japan. On my recent home leave in Florida, the obnoxious music blasting from cars permeates the air along with car exhaust.

Now that Trump rolled back car emission standards, air pollution is about to get worse! I guess he likes India or China! People don’t blab on their cell phones.

Walk through Osaka Station in the morning and you will see thousands of people crossing each other without uttering a word!

Stunning aesthetics in Japan! Life is for the here and now! Not the afterlife! Enjoy it! Macha tea from the Silver Pavillion in Kyoto. Japan travel

Stunning aesthetics in Japan! Life is for the here and now! Not the afterlife! Enjoy it! Macha tea from the Silver Pavillion in Kyoto.

Horn honking is rare. Contrast that to New York City’s Grand Central Station! No wonder everybody is going nuts in the U.S.! Quiet goes a long way!

Everything beautiful and amazing in Japan! Lanterns in Temma, Osaka, Japan

Everything beautiful and amazing in Japan! Lanterns in Temma, Osaka, Japan

Japan is also remarkably clean. Yes, I have seen homeless and graffiti and plenty of disposable trash as Japanese adapt Western consumeristic practices and start to walk and eat more like many mindless Americans do. But it is still way cleaner. It’s built into Japanese mythology.

Artwork, remarkable aesthetics and beautiful architecture is everywhere in Japan. Even the manholes in Japan are gorgeous! In the U.S., the dullest of buildings shuts down the mind and soul as Americans reach for their antidepressants. Just read James Howard Kunstler’s EyeSore of the Month to take your pick! 

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In Japan, life is in the details, such as this bird on the Benzaiten Buddhist Temple in Tokyo.

A friend told me why everything in Japan is so stunning, from every cup of tea with its richness of clay to the frothy green matcha and delicate mochi.

It’s because the Japanese believe that life is here and now. It’s in this blazing, miraculous moment. It’s not in some afterlife everybody has to die to reach! 

Festivals and culture anchor Japan. I’ve been to everything from Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka to Kitano Odori in Kyoto. Every day I discover new rituals, festivals, traditional artwork and more than enriches the soul and is not about consuming and having but BEING. The Japanese philosophy is about living in harmony with nature, not destroying it! There is no original sin nonsense to control people with – everybody is born good! Now that is a functional mythology!

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Beauty in Japan reigns, rather than ugly suburban blight in the United States, a country made for cars and oil companies, not people!

Another thing is I feel so safe living in Japan. No gun insanity like the USA, in which I feel terrible every day my daughter finishes her high school there. Trump wants to send the National Guard to the border, but they are needed more at high schools as prom night is coming up! In Japan, nobody steals. Little kids get around by themselves on bikes and walking. Picking up kids after school with a car is thought of as bizarre! The youngest of kids can get home independently and without fear by themselves!

People don't steal in Japan. You can buy from a vending machine everything from cigarettes to alcohol. People just don't abuse the system.

People don’t steal in Japan. You can buy from a vending machine everything from cigarettes to alcohol. People just don’t abuse the system. Aesthetics reign, even on this vending machine in Tokyo!

A record amount of cash was turned in when Japanese citizens found it! Honesty a wonderful value. I have forgotten my I-Phone on my bike, which I use to navigate, several times.

It’s always there when I return! People leave interesting objects, plants and decor outside their doors. Nobody would even think of stealing it! In the U.S., things would be smashed or stolen in an instant!

Other little things are nice, like kawaii – everything cute! Animals and cuteness reign. Men get to embrace a different masculinity that allows a feminine side, not the bizarre toxic hyper-masculinity cult American men are trapped with.

Everything cute and kawaii in Japan! A great reverence for animals and nature is behind it all. Unlike the West, which seeks to destroy and conquer nature, Japan harmonizes with it! Makes a big difference in quality of life!

Everything cute and kawaii in Japan! A great reverence for animals and nature is behind it all. Unlike the West, which seeks to destroy and conquer nature, Japan harmonizes with it! Makes a big difference in quality of life!

People, even the wealthy, are environmental and hang their laundry to dry outside rather than use a dryer. Desserts are not overly sweet, and food portions are small-sized in gorgeous little dishes.

Food is about tasting rather than scarfing down as much as possible. Our apartment is filled with built-in bookshelves and cabinets. No need to buy or move furniture! More fake economy Americans have to submit to!

Finally, I love Japanese bidets and toilets! Seats are heated!  Even public restrooms are equipped with clean, wonderful bidets! What is with Americans not using bidets?!?!?! It’s a basic necessity! Going back to the US recently, it was downright barbaric! Maybe we now know where the term “brown-nose” came from! The US! Or likely it’s just the sexually frustrated and prude Americans who don’t want women to wash?

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Japan isn’t perfect, but I will take it! Here in Osaka!

I easily find life in Japan utopian, but no doubt Japanese people have a hard time despite their quality of life. Suicide rates are high, as is alcoholism, and it has a declining birth rate.

People must conform to the group. A high school girl sued her school because they forced her to dye her naturally brown hair black!

And last week women couldn’t even enter a Sumo ring to administer first aid to a mayor who was having a stroke, and women are forced to be a little too kawaii to their detriment.  

Prime Minister Abe made thinking about a crime, a crime! And he stepped up the surveillance state big time. Worst of all, cigarette smoking is allowed in restaurants! VERY strange indeed for a county who is all about thinking of others and the group! Obviously the American cigarette lobby has its tentacles far reaching here!

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If you love nature, culture, kindness, come live in Japan! Here in Nara, Japan during the fall.

But I love living in Japan. In a year we can apply for permanent residency. The way the US is looking wanting to build a wall on the border to Mexico, you may just want to get out too before it’s too late and you still have a chance! US looking more like East Berlin as it was all too much!

One thing for sure, Asia is rising. I predict Japan will go along with China, including joining its new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, it once if figures out the U.S. is no longer credible under Psycho Trump, having imposed steel tariffs on it. Nuts! Plus, China just announced oil futures linked to its gold-backed Yuan, which will eventually replace the backed-by-nothing, printed-from-thin-air-paper-petro-dollar as the reserve currency. The U.S. dollar lost 10 percent of its value last year, but gold held its value.

SimplyHDR29819423What does that tell you? The U.S. is in serious decline under Trump. And a higher-quality of life resides outside of it. 

Japan has open-immigration, mind you, everything from unskilled labor to high-tech, highly skilled workers getting fast-tracked for permanent residency. 

Look me up when you arrive!