Monthly Archives: March 2014

On: Music Down Under

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Being in Australia, I thought I should share some music. What better songs than ‘Down Under’ by the 80’s Australian band, Men at Work and a childhood favorite, The Kookaburra Song by Marion Sinclair in 1932.

“Marion Sinclair wrote the song in 1932 for a contest being held by the Victorian Girl Guides.

The competition was for an ‘Australian round’ song. Her song, the Kookaburra Song won and was introduced by Marion at the World Jamboree in Frankston, Victoria in 1934. It was instantly a hit with the girls and has become a much loved song all over the world.

This is a fun children’s song. A gum tree is a name for the eucalyptus tree. There are more gum trees than any other kind of tree in Australia.

Lawsuit
The Kookaburra song was involved in a copyright dispute with the Aussie band Men at Work over their song (I come from the land)”

excerpt from:  https://alldownunder.com/australian-music-songs/kookaburra-song.htm

The Song, ‘Come from the Land’ or simply ‘Down Under’ had a flute riff which the Australian Court ruled is an infringement of the copyrighted tune, ‘The Kookaburra Song.’ Despite the controversy between the two songs, and even former members of ‘Men at Work,’ both songs are wonderful and are shared here via YouTube videos.  But first, what does a Kookaburra look and sound like?

Now for the lyrics and followed by the video of, ‘Down Under.’

“Down Under”

© 1980 by Men at Work

written by Collin Hay and Ron Srykert

Travelling in a fried-out Kombi
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said:

“Do you come from a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder
You better run, you better take cover.”

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscle
I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich
And he said:

“I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder
You better run, you better take cover.”

Lying in a den in Bombay
With a slack jaw, and not much to say
I said to the man, “Are you trying to tempt me?
Because I come from the land of plenty.”
And he said:

“Oh! Do you come from a land down under (oh yeah yeah)
Where women glow and men plunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder
You better run, you better take cover.”

 

 

Even though this video is about 14 years old and was filmed during the Olympics in 2000 in Australia, note both the familiar icons on stage and the enthusiasm of the crowd. They (the Aussies) loved this song, seem to connect to it and it was treated as an almost unauthorized national anthem.  The term Down Under is a colloquialism referring to all things Australian, New Zealand or just one or the other. it is also known as “The Land Down Under” for its position in the southern hemisphere. This is because when one looks at a map in the most common way, Antarctica at the ‘bottom’ of the page, north appears to be “up” and south; “down.”

By the way, it rained this evening then cleared off. I am not a star specialist nor do I know the difference between the big and little dipper, but the sky was full of stars and what ever ‘dipper’ I was looking at, I have never seen it appear so close!

Anyway, despite the term “down under’s” wide usage, it is rarely used by Australians themselves, many of whom regard it with some derision. Nevertheless, Australians are not above using it themselves, as exemplified by Men at Work song “Down Under” which has become a patriotic rallying song. Australia’s most famous boxing champion, Kostya Tszyu, was nicknamed as “The Thunder From Down Under”.

According to Roger Ebert, “No film set in Australia is allowed to use the word Australia in its title where “Down Under” is an acceptable alternative. For example, we don’t get The Rescuers in Australia or Quigley in Australia.”

And now for the childhood favorite the world over, The Kookaburra Song.

The Kookaburra Song

By Marion Sinclair in 1932

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see.
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
That’s not a monkey, that’s me!

Here is another video that I thought you might also enjoy.

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Categories: Aussie, Australia, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Japan, kookaburra, Music, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Birds of Paradise

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

Guhday mates and mate-esses or Sheilas, from Australia 🙂

After the flight in from China and stowing our suitcases for the next month at Jonathan’s & Caitlin’s and baby Felix’s place in Camden, we instantly set out to discover this new country and experience what it has to share to share with you. It did not take long!

You might think, Oh yes, English speaking after Japanese, yes, yes, yes! But let me say this, you have to be a born and raised Australian to understand what some of  them are saying sometimes! “Huh, was that English you just spoke????” 🙂

But yes, mostly it is nice to be able to understand and communicate in a language I am mostly familiar with.

Quite a contrast here to Japan which is just now starting to heat up into their spring. Here down under the equator where the water spins counter-clockwise, they are into their fall. Fall of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit by day and mid sixties at night. It has been raining slightly for the last couple of days and everything looks lush and lovely. It was dry today and with the humidity of over 90%, it was hot, but we get a lot of the cool sea breezes.

Camden is about an hour from Sydney. It is considered the country. Those in the city call this the ‘bush’ but those that live here say the ‘bush’ is somewhere else. We are not far from where kangaroos roam freely. They are overpopulated and used for food. It is considered the reddest and leanest meat you can eat on the planet. Jonathan grilled some last night for us and well, it was DELICIOUS!

Camden is a quaint community of around 80,000 or so. People are genuinely helpful and friendly. Jonathan joined a community band and they had a concert this morning outside of the local library. Music is a universal love and they played many familiar tunes, even dedicating one to Susan, Jonathan’s Mom from the USA and another to a Belgium couple. We met for the first time a couple and they invited over to their home for lunch, coffee, tea, wine and desert. The world is, truly becoming, a global village. People really are, quite the same everywhere. We all just want to find our voice and our place in the world, love, be loved and live happily ever after, at least once in awhile. :).

Everything we need or could desire is only about a 7 minute walk to town. You walk past huge gum trees where they seem to be growing without bark. They are and the bark has just fallen off. They call the bark ‘fuel’ because, this is what it is used for. You pass home after home with mostly tile roofs (some metal), which are so built because, it keeps the homes cooler inside. It can get pretty hot here and stay this way for quite some time throughout the year. We are told that fall is the best time to be here and here, we are! But when it reaches a certain temperature, the humidity is just burnt off leaving the environment hot and dry, but again, cool breezes come in from the ocean regularly.

But oh, the birds of paradise! It is almost like a dream that we have traveled so many thousands of miles away from home to the other side of the world and now, almost to the bottom of the world. Our lunch hosts had recently been to the literal bottom of the world in Antarctica and showed us some incredible pictures of their time year. Their suggestion was to see the movie, ‘Happy Feet’ as the landscapes and the penguins including their personalities is just about how it really is. I also sometimes call new baby Felix, ‘Happy Feet,’ because he is always moving them like he’s dancing! 🙂

But anyway, birds of Paradise. For the most part where we are is, tropical. There are palm trees here and flowers and birds I have never seen except in picture books or movies. Some are similar to Florida USA or the country of Jamaica, but there are species here that exist no other place on earth.  The streets are lined with color after color of sweet fragrant roses. But besides Lily of the Valley, my favorite flower is…

...Bird of Paradise

…Bird of Paradise

It was so nice to be able to snap this picture just a few minutes away by foot on my mini-walkabout. 🙂

Then, there was another bird of paradise just outside the living room window where we are staying, eating at the feeder.

Another Bird of Paradise

Another Bird of Paradise

I hope to be able to capture and record and share with you the beautiful bird-music by day and night be here just outside, as well as, the other birds of paradise that live here. I feel like I’m in paradise here. If I am not any more colorful or beautiful here, I am at least surrounded by color and beauty. Maybe, just maybe, some of Australia will wear off and into me? 🙂

Categories: Australia, Birds of Paradise, Japan, kangaroos, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Things that really matter, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: The Land Down Under

“G’day mates and ma-tesses!” Well, we’re off to the Land Down Under.

'The Land Down Under' by Dahni © 2014, all rights reserved

‘The Land Down Under’ by Dahni © 2014, all rights reserved

So waltz Matilda and tie me kangaroo down sport, we’d put some shrimp on the barbie for you, but I don’t really think they say this in Australia?

Paul Hogan, yep the same mate that played the lead in the ‘Crocodile Dundee’ movies

Shrimp on the barbie” is an often-quoted phrase that originated in a series of television advertisements by the Australian Tourism Commission starring Paul Hogan from 1984 through to 1990. The actual quote spoken by Hogan is “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you”, and the actual slogan of the ad was “Come and say G’day”. It has since been used, along with some variations, to make reference to Australia in popular culture.”

excerpt from:

Categories: Australia, didgeridoo, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Fun, Inspiration, Japan, kangaroo, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Purification

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

Perhaps there is no better way to title this post than by the word, purification and using a single picture showing incense burning? It will be the only picture given in the post, but as it is written, said and known, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” One picture here and we will just have to see how many words will follow. OK, maybe two pictures? 🙂

Purification

Purification

Burning incense may be thought of as having a spiritual and a practical implication, for both purification and cleanliness. Both the words are interchangeable or synonymous in Japan.
Every temple and shrine has an incense burner, sticks of incense to share and some means to light them to burn. Throughout Japan and our travels here, the lovely fragrance of incense fills the air and is seen burning as sticks and sometimes like clouds, clouds of smoke rising in the sky. Indeed, this does have spiritual significance and is symbolic of purification. Items you purchase in Japan, often have the aroma of incense. And I just love the smell of it and the surprise of it upon my senses when least expected. Whether for spiritual reasons or not, I would love the West adopting this custom to make our countries, communities, shops and homes fragrant and conducive to the promotion of peace and harmony, it seems to bring with it as it burns and purifies the world around us, our consciousness and the attitudes we harbor within us.

Purification II

Purification II

Water is important in Japan for both spiritual and the practical application of purification. There is a lot of washing of hands in Japan especially when entering in to a temple or shrine area. Warm moist towels are common everywhere in restaurants, tea houses and in homes prior to the consumption of a meal, to freshen your face and hands. One side of the towel is used for your face and the other for your hands. For the purpose of cleanliness or purification, it is extremely important not to commingle. Another example of this is understood from the picture of the water bowl above. The long-handled dipper is usually made out of bamboo. It’s purpose is to keep your hands as far away from the pure water as is possible. You dip the cup into the water and pour some over one hand (outside of the bowl), change hands and pour more over the other hand. The last step is to pour the last remaining water over the handle where your hand was to clean it for the next person and then placing the dipper back to its original state as shown in the picture. The purpose of this again, is for purification. The cup stays clean, the handle stays clean for the next person, water in the bowl stays clean and nothing is supposed to commingle.
Purification and cleanliness is seen and observed throughout Japan. It is not a mere novelty or even just a tradition or a custom, it is a way of life here. Cabdrivers, bus drivers and train personnel all wear clean and freshly pressed suits and ties or uniforms. The vehicles they drive or work in are always clean inside and out and void of trash and debris. Efforts to remove trash and debris are kept at a minimum because, people in Japan for the most part, just do not leave their trash. For the longest time, I could not understand why it is next to impossible to find public trashcans anywhere I have been in Japan. Now I think I might? The Japanese do not encourage the placing of trash in public. They want their surroundings to be clean and to reflect their desire for peace and harmony. Trash is not solely the responsibility of refuse collectors, it is everyone’s! Also, along with what is to follow here, in Japan, space is just limited so there is a conservative aspect to cleanliness-purification.
There is an order to order here. People generally only smoke in designated areas inside and out and generally, only while standing. There is a lot of bowing that takes place here – towards places of significance and out of respect for others.

 

Bathrooms in homes, businesses and shops are always separated into three parts and are compact areas. I humorously suppose when England refers to a bathroom as a water closet (WC), they must be talking about Japanese toilet rooms. These are are not much bigger than a closet. 🙂
Toilets have a tank for filling the flushed bowl and it fills at the top from a curved pipe that acts like a waterfall. I suppose you could rinse your hands in this clean water, but I would have a personal issue with washing my hands in toilet water, even if it is clean. Besides, the sink and laundry facilities are in another separate room, next to the shower and bathing room.
The shower and bath are in the same room but they are separate. You turn on the hot & cold water to adjust to your desired temperature then turn a lever to activate just the shower. A custom of the Japaneses is to fill the tub with hot water and shower first getting clean as possible, then soak in the tub for a few minutes. This same tub may be shared by all the members of a family. The water in the tub is already clean, each person has already washed in the shower and well, water is not to be wasted. Still, space is limited in Japanese homes so public bath houses, a sento, are not only popular here, they too, are a way of life.

 

A sento allows for much more space to stretch out, more features than are found in a typical home and are a way for families and friends to spend more time together. Most people here visit a sento at least once or twice a week at around about $7.00 per visit. Some do this daily for the added extra space and the features offered by the sento. These bath houses just relax you after a hard day or a week’s built-up stress.
At first, even though men and women bathe separately, one’s first experience at a sento can be a little intimidating, because in Japan, you bathe nude, just like everyone else. Fathers bring their young sons, other male family members and I suppose, a friend or neighbor’s child? And the same goes here for women. Public nudity is no big deal in Japan, only to westerners I guess like I once was somewhat uncomfortable the first time. But as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” However, body piercings and tattoos are not allowed inside a sento. The only focus the Japanese want in a sento is, the result of the experience, not looking at anyone’s body. The result of the experience? You feel great, clam, refreshed, relaxed and ready to conquer whatever life throws your way.

 

For the price of admission, you are given a locker to store your stuff and a key which you can either wear around your ankle or wrist. You are given another wrist or anklet bracelet to purchase anything you might need. Most people bring their own towels to save money or they can be rented. Shampoo, conditioner and body soap are pump containers and are supplied by the sento. They are fragrant and really good products, for your skin and hair.

 

First, you enter the bathing stations which have the pump dispensers, a mirror, a small bucket and plastic seat with a hole in the top. You rinse out the bowl and the rinse off the seat then sit and wash yourself as clean as is possible. Then you clean the bucket and the seat for the next person. Now one is ready to enter the bathing facilities, clean!

 

There is a hot sauna (one of my favorites). When entering, again, you clean the seat and area where you will be sitting and again, when you leave. In this hot, steamy environment, there is a large container of course salt. The salt is rubbed and scrubbed all over your body except for the face, any sensitive areas or obviously not any cut or wounded area as the salt would burn. The salt removes many callouses and polishes your skin smooth. It is an incredible and wonderful feeling. You stay in as long as you desire then move on to the next area. This could be a dry sauna, cold or hot tubs, individual or groups. There are fountain areas and waterfalls. Some areas are surrounded by walls with no ceiling so you can sort of be outside and seen the moon and stars and feel the cool night breeze on your heated skin.

 

There was one area where you lay flat on a constant stream of warm water and your head is slightly raised on a rectangle block. You place the rolled towel you have been carrying throughout that is wet from constant cleaning, rinsing and drying under your head for extra support. I call this the horizontal stretching pool as this is what it is does, stretches out your spinal column and makes your possibly otherwise aching or sore back from a lot of walking, just feel terrific.

 

There was a mineral warm pool of minerals and ginseng and etc. designed to relax, refresh and rejuvenate you. These baths are changed from time to time with other minerals etc. which are supposed to do give other therapeutic benefits and give variety. On two corners of this bath is a series of electrical pulses that have different cycles and degrees of duration and intensity. One side is mild and the other corner is more robust. It’ like getting a lower back massage with magic fingers.

 

There are many other areas we did not have time to explore. We chose to be here only for an hour, but I suppose if you wanted to, one could stay all day or night until they closed. The facility is constantly being monitored, inspected and cleaned for the maximum amount of efficiency, purity and cleanliness that it humanly possible. The Japanese have been using sentos or public baths for centuries, so they are masters at it!

 

Men and women, young and old come out of their separated areas fully refreshed and clothed and meet in the center area to share in food, fun, frivolity, conversation and drink. Special (private areas) are stationed all along the perimeter of the central common area. These are for more specialized areas like a special massage, yoga and etc.

 

But the whole point I am trying to make here is that in about 1 hours time, you leave the sento just feeling great!! 🙂
You leave the facility, turn in your bracelets, pay any charges, pickup and and put on your shoes and off you go into the night air FULLY SMILED AND RECHARGED. I would love to have a sento at home where we live, but due to our western thinking about public nudity and perverts lurking almost everywhere in the United States, this will probably never happen. Still, I would love this to be possible along with importing the Japanese art of barbering and so I’m told, hair styling for you ladies.

 

I mentioned shoes earlier. Most rooms that I have seen in Japanese homes are separated with raised thresholds when leaving one area into the next. As you enter through the front door, you immediately remove your shoes and leave them by the door. There is a step up to enter the hallway. There you find sandals/slippers and place them onto your feet. This act keeps dust and debris confined and kept to a minimum so the next area you enter remains, relatively clean. Every entrance to every room has a raised threshold, keeping each room clean from the others, as much as possible. The toilet area have their own set of shared slippers/sandals. You remove the ones on your feet and leave them outside the door while slipping on the ones in the toilet area and leaving them there when you leave. It may be possible for a man to stand at the toilet to urinate, but it would be pretty difficult to do, so is is preferred and appreciated if all remain seated. Japanese people are for the most part, pretty non-confrontational. They do not like to offend or confront. I have even seen a little wall mounted picture with visual descriptive images and instructions in French, to make the point that men should remain seated. 🙂

 

We of the west with our large bathrooms, wall to wall carpeting and one level surface between rooms might think the Japanese way is all fuss, much-ado-about-nothing and unnecessary? You might think the same about this post and its length of time to write it and to read it? But the entire subject and purpose of it is, purification.

 

The Japanese work very hard and quite often have limited time, space and resources. Adopting some of their customs in the west for a practical reason is that, if our stuff just stays cleaner, we may actually use less time for cleaning and have more for living life. And I may have discovered a practical reason for bowing too? If you change your shoes/sandals/slippers a lot between rooms, as you bow or bend over, you can turn your shoes in the direction of your exit so it’s easier to slip them on and go! 🙂

 

This may be my last post until we reach Australia for the 2nd leg of our travels. Susan is by far the better journal-er as she posts a series of pictures and brief overall descriptions on her Facebook time-line. I am, obviously more wordy or be it, verbose. But I am a visual learner and a post-processor. It take me a long time to process the incredible amount of information and experiences I have had here in Japan. Why just yesterday, I believe I took over 800 photographs. And that is just one day and does not even begin to suggest all the places we have been to or seen. It will take me some time to process all this information, edit, choose or discard the pictures taken and to decide what to do with them. But I will share something with you at some time later. At the present and I’m sure while in Australia it will be just, experience-point-and shoot! 🙂

 

I am told that the best way to learn a new language is immersion. By immersing yourself into the culture and being constantly exposed to the hearing, seeing and reading the language, you have a great opportunity to pick it up rather quickly. Although I did not come here to learn the language, but have picked up some words, I have for the most part, immersed myself in the Japanese culture. This is not our first time in Japan and perhaps some of my previous experience spilled over into me, this time. I was paid a very nice recently by Yoshi, the father of of Saiko and father-in-law of of Chris, whom we came here to see and his their new child Kai. Yoshi in speaking about me told Chris, “He (me) takes Japan with ease.” Whether this is by nature or something that has just evolved in me, I must make a confession.

 

In 2006 (our first trip to Japan), if I was not prejudiced, I at least harbored a lot of stereotypical attitudes about the Japanese and the culture and especially their food. But I am by nature, curious and generally like people. Still, despite my profound experiences here, I am quite sure that there are many things I would never try, repeat or eat in my own country. Food like the title of this post if pure, it is a fresh as is humanly possible, free of additives and chemicals often found in the United States. At home, I can hardly even drink a single beer or glass of wine without falling asleep. I am very selective about eating fish at home because, if I can smell it, I’m not eating it, Here in Japan like Yoshi told Chris, I seem to take Japan with ease and it has seemed to be genial towards me. If this is immersion than, it has served me well and I only hope that it continues in Australia.

 

When you really think about it, prejudices, fears, intimidation, and stereotypes are really just the consequences of ignorance. If memory serves me correctly, the rising awe inspiring pagodas are symbols of wisdom. The carry the message, ‘Come with an open mind!’

 

Where ever I have had the blessing to go in my life and the privildge to share with others, I have found people to have more in common then we might first believe.

 

From my point of view, the main difference between the United States and every other person in the world is that we put into writing, into our form of government that, “all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are…-

 

…Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.”

excerpt from: The Declaration of Independence

And those those certain truths are universal we all hold and that about purification!

Categories: Australia, Family & Friends, Inspiration, Japan, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: We Sent You a Card

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

For those of you for whatever reason(s) are not with us traveling in Japan and soon, Australia, we sent you a card. Hope you like and it is to celebrate the Spring Equinox 3/21/14. Hope the weather is getting better where you are! Think Spring!!! 🙂

CardFrmJapan

Categories: Australia, Family & Friends, Japan, Spring, The Gathering Place, Tumbler, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Golden Pond

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

 

Actually this post is not about Golden Pond, but a Golden Palace on a pond or be it, a small lake. But one has to name something, something and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I must digress here to state what may or may not be obvious. These posts from our travels are neither a journal or in day by day, hour by hour chronological order. Part of this is due to my love of words and my tendency to write many of them. I do try to think of others in that I ask myself, what would I want to see or want to learn about while in Japan? I try to keep these posts interesting and informative to the best of my ability.

Another issue is that even in the short time that we have been here, we have done so much; seen so many things. I have taken lots of pictures and when we return, I will just have to decide on what to do with them. Lastly, there is the lack of WIFI in Japan. With iPhones, an iPad and a laptop with us, we certainly have the means to post content and pictures in several ways, but outside of where we are staying, there is no internet access.

Oh, there are, WIFI access points everywhere and most are secured networks which require a password. In order to use one of these you have to pay for them by the day or even the month. In order to do that, you need to be living here basically, as the Japanese are not too particularly fond of sharing their WIFI or broadband internet with foreigners. Many Japanese have WIFI at home for their devices. Their smartphones are tied to a prepaid (monthly) satellite service so that they can use their phones, pads, and devices pretty much wherever they are. I have seen several people on trains here, communicating over the internet through social media like Facebook. But, alas for us, we have to wait until we get back to where we are staying to access the internet and use services that require WIFI. I do not know what it will be like in Australia, but we are soon to find out.

But as you walk in Kyoto, soon you find yourself within the woods and then suddenly in the distance, you see this beautiful and phenomenal sight with a background of nature like a picture frame as if made to feature it. Here is the Golden Palace, actually overlaid with 24k gold.

The Golden Palace

The Golden Palace

I’m not sure why the bottom first section is not gold, perhaps so that no one could scrape it from the structure?

It is beautiful, but I am more awestruck at how it blends in with nature and the angles and the way in which such structures are built.

The harmony of nature and the work wrought of humans

The harmony of nature and the work wrought of humans

Roof construction

Roof construction

Natural reed roof

Natural reed roof

The material again is from nature and the construction by human binds hollow reed so tightly, it insulates and protects against insects, wind, snow and rain while keeping the structure warm in the colder months and cool in the warmer months.

Yes, it is the harmony of nature’s art and the art of humans which make so many things so beautiful in Japan! Though to build such a structure which still stands after so many centuries was long and difficult, naming things in Japan is often short and simple! These are contrasts or more like understatements, figures of speech that call our attention.

A golden palace on a pond is, what this is, but the words cannot describe its effects and affects upon the senses when they are first experienced and long remembered! The words are almost like a haiku poem of just three lines and 17 syllables, but hold great depth of meaning and purpose. But stated so simply and so matter-of-fact, they seem not able to convey the difficulty to master the art form and construct them like, the golden palace. It is just there as if it is supposed to be and always was, waiting only on you and I to discover its truths.

Oh sure, this place is a tourist attraction and many people come here to see it, both foreigners and the Japanese. And why not, wouldn’t you want to see a palace of gold on a pond, we did! So, perhaps this was an intention of its builders that even after the deaths of those it was built for, people would continue to be drawn here; support it and etc. But it’s importance is so much more to the Japanese and to me! It is an example of the art and harmony of, nature and humans simply drawing others to it as if calling out and stating simply; beautifully; poetically, here is…

…The Golden Palace on the Pond

I will close this post with another example of this understating and harmonious blending of the art of nature and humans.

Leaping Fish Fountain

Leaping Fish Fountain

This fountain is also part of the compound of the Golden Palace. The up righted or vertical stone looks like a fish that is leaping up the fountain. Notice the rainbow! 🙂

Categories: Australia, Beauty, Family & Friends, Inspiration, Japan, Japanese culture, Poetry, Simplicity, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Ramen Noodles

You know, a lot of people like those prepackaged dry Ramen noodles. Personally, I just never understood what the big deal is. Well, these pictures are the real deal and I love it. Real thick sauce of boiled down vegetables and peanut sauce. Add lots of green onion, thin sliced pieces of delicious meat (pork and beef) and of course, noodle. I am told the translation of the Japanese on the bowls in thee pictures mean,…

…”the best thing you can buy under heaven!”

I can believe it! There are people that eat this every day for lunch as it is very good for you and filling. I can understand why! 🙂

Chopsticks, spoon, slurp and enjoy! 🙂

REAL Ramen Noodles

REAL Ramen Noodles

"The Best You Can Buy Under Heaven"

“The Best Thing You Can Buy Under Heaven”

Categories: Australia, Family & Friends, Food, Fun, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Ramen noodles, The Gathering Place, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: From Kyoto with Love

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

kissable

kissable

Cherry Blossoms

Cheery Cherry Tree

I am no expert just opinionated based on my limited observation, but I believe there are no better symbols for love and matters of the heart than the cherry blossoms and tea ceremonies.

Both take care and the proper time to make the ordinary into the extraordinary.

In Japan, cheery trees are spread out across the country and bloom in their own time and at different times from late February and March.

To your left is a is a picture of the cheery cherry tree outside where we are staying

Like love, both the cheery cherry blossoms and tea require patience in order to appreciate their beauty and all that they have to offer.

It is the measure of our details applied, the care and focus and patience which squeeze out every drop of tea or matters of the heart which make the experience from ordinary to the extraordinary. After all, is this not what extraordinary is, just adding extra to the ordinary!

This is what I believe and what I observed in this ceremony and what I will continue to believe about all of life!

carpe tea-um (seize every drop of tea)! 🙂

Cheery Cherry Blossoms

Cheery Cherry Blossoms

The tea ceremonies are also, time sensitive. Precise measurement of tea, water temperature and many other details are necessary to extract the full measure of its flavor and properties to perfect the whole experience.

Tea-licious

Tea-licious

Everything is important

Everything is important

While in the United States, we may be in such a rush that we’ve little time to prepare or even enjoy our teas and coffees, but this is not how tea is approached in Japan.

Whoever coined the Land of the Rising Sun, or thought of Japan as a country of extremes or opposites, I would like to suggest that it is a people and a culture that does so much with so little. To perhaps state this differently, they strive to maximize what they have with as little wasted as possible – time and resources.

Color and taste and texture

Color and taste and texture

Japan is an island country formed by volcanoes and in their cooling; Japan is full of mountains almost everywhere. It is my understanding that Japan is 70% mountains which leaves 30% for land and its people to live on. So in this, it is not quantity that matters most, but quality and to acquire quality, it takes time.

Instead of extremes, I have come to think of Japan as a country with a culture of contrasts. This is beautifully illustrated by tea or tea ceremonies. To understand this more fully, we westerners need to understand taste.

The sensation of taste can be categorized into four basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. A fifth, umami, must also be included. Umami uːˈmɑːmi, a savory taste, is a  loanword from the Japaneseうま味 Umami can be translated “pleasant savory taste”. This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai うまい “delicious” and mi 味 “taste”. The kanji 旨味 are used for a more general sense of a food as delicious. People taste umami through receptors for glutamate, commonly found in its salt form as the food additive, monosodium glutamate (MSG).For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.

But taste also requires our sense of smell, sight, sound and touch. Actually, all of our senses, if focused like a magnifying glass focuses light and produce fire, will not only enhance the enjoyment, but will aide in digestion.

With this in mind, we enter a tea house of tea and tea ceremonies, in Kyoto Japan. There is tea, good tea, great tea and the best of the best tea. Our recent experience was with the best of the best.

Extra fine, delicate and fragile green tea with something sweet for contrast
Color and texture and beauty
Everything has a reason and a purpose.

Our particular tea was a fine fresh cut tea. Its color was an intense and vibrant rich green. Sufficient quantity is placed into the tea pot. Hot water is poured into an empty cup and allowed to cool for about a minute. This is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and then it is poured into the tea pot for about 20 seconds. Then it is poured into your cup with a strainer and the last drop has much of the flavor!! Too much heat for too long can burn and ruin this fragile tea.

The tea is to be drunk slowly and along with the contrast of something delicate and sweet that you cut with a wooden knife and with a bite on the knife, you raise this to your lips and eat slowly. This continues until you have consumed your tea and sweet or until you have had sufficient.

The other type of green tea is crushed to a fine powder and is actually ingested. It is believed to have many health benefits as antioxidants and something that I am highly interested in, its possible ability to reduce and regulate blood pressure.

Because of its somewhat bitter taste, this tea is also served with contrasting sweetness made with the tea itself baked inside little cookies or some other soft and chewy sweet.

Green tea cookies Green tea soft and chewy sweets

Green tea cookies with candy pink cherry blossom designs

Soft and chewy tea infused sweets

Soft and chewy tea infused sweets

But everything done is all to enhance the flavor of the tea.

It’s all about the Tea

It’s all about the Tea

Tea of this quality and experience can be quite expensive. But the experience is not common, but rare, so cost is not that great when compared to the infrequency of the experience. Like love, or fine wine, it is all about the quality of the experience, not the cost or the time required perfecting it. But at the end, there is a cost. For three people our bill was about $60. In the United States, I have no doubt that this would have been around a hundred or one hundred and twenty dollars. And our experience included the time it took to savor every bite, taste every sip, mouth every delight and enjoy every moment, plus, the wonderful clear, detailed and informative instruction by our server, the view of the garden and even the warm singing toilet in the bathroom! 🙂

And the company I was in and the conversation was exceptional too!

But someone must pay for this. And they receive the following wooden kanji tile.

Kanji tile to the one that pays

Kanji tile to the one that pays

The tile, the kanji and the texture of the table upon which it sat was a work of art in and of itself and contributed to the whole experience.

Susan and I were invited here by son Chris and we certainly thank him for this precious gift and for the memory! We will return here before we leave Japan to attend a special class on how to do this at home and purchase tea to ship home to The Gathering Place, so we can share with you that come to visit.

Yesterday, Susan and I spent precious time with our dear friends here, Ted and Shohei that we have not seen for eight years. Shohei is from Japan and Ted is from Australia. But to use a word Ted is often using and seems quite fond of and rather than my usual word as ‘wonderful’ or something like it, I will use here what just seems so apropos. I am quoting Ted in context of this whole experience, “It’s just lovely!”

To conclude this post as it began, it’s all about love. It’s about quality. It’s about you! It’s, “from Kyoto with love!” 🙂

Categories: Australia, Desserts, Food, Inspiration, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese culture, Love, Tea, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Some of my Favorites

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

Well, where do I begin with “Some of my Favorites” from Japan? Just start!

In just a few short days since I have been here, I wanted to make sure I was able to get some of my favorites and I have! 🙂

On my list was tackoyaki (octopus ball), modanyaki (modern “as you like it”), green tea ice cream, anpan (sweet red bean filled buns) and calpis sour (made with calpis, citrus carbonated soda and shochu (Japanese-like vodka)

Check

Check…

Check

…Check and…

Check

…Check!

Note: In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the above items have been triple checked with check marks encircled in green!  🙂

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

Modanyaki

Modanyaki

Modanyaki is a more modern way to enjoy this common food. Modan or modern is “with noodle.” It’s starts with cabbage and raw egg and pretty much whatever you have leftover, (shrimp, pork, beef etc.) and a sauce formed into a ball and cooked over a hot grill. After it is turned over you add noodle and sauce and cook and turn. When it is done you serve it with a sauce similar to bar-b-q suace and Japanese mayonnaise which is vinegar, oil and more eggs than traditional mayonnaise. OMG this common meal “as you like it,” is incredible!

Susan and Green Tea Ice Cream

Susan and Green Tea Ice Cream

Oh, it might seem a little chilly for ice cream, but when it’s Green Tea ice cream, one just has to make an exception!

It is served in a waffle cone with a spoon and of piece of green tea white chocolate.

I love this stuff!

It is sweet like Susan and some pungent or strong taste of the green tea. This dessert is actually better for you than ice cream.

I have seen Green Tea gelato in the stores and would love to try this.

Surely though, green tea ice cream is a hard act to follow!

Onpan

Onpan

Sweetened red bean paste filled inside a typical white bread bun. But there is nothing typical about this! It is not only sweet and delicious, it is actually good for you. One of the most popular animated cartoons in Japan is Onpanmon, a red bean bun character that is a hero. So no wonder I love this, kids love them and I R !! 🙂

And last, but certainly not least is my Calpis Sour. Yes I know, it looks like it sounds like cow + pis. Westerner’s have a problem with this so the same company that makes it makes the same thing under the name of calpico.

Calpis Sour

Calpis Sour

Calpis is a fermented product made with milk and some citrus flavor as a preservative. Fermented yes, but it does not contain alcohol. It does have natural cane sugar and is good for you since it has calcium. It looks and tastes like watery yogurt with a citrus overtone.

A calpis sour contains calpis, citrus carbonated soda and shochu (which is like Japanese vodka). All in all this is a fantastic cocktail with some nice health benefits. Whatever, I love these!!! I have plans to find a way to make these at The Gathering Place when we (you and us) get back home!!! 🙂

Categories: Australia, Family & Friends, Food, Fun, Japan, Japanese cuisine, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On: A Familiar Sight

Barber pole

Barber pole

A familiar and common sight perhaps throughout the world is the spining; blue and red striped pole. Yes, the barber pole where one can get s haircut and a shave and a whole lot more in Japan. This an unforgettable and most enjoyable experience! 🙂

Barber shop in Japan

Barber shop in Japan

From the moment you walk in to a Japanese barber shop, you are greeted and everyone inside that works there, bow out of respect.

The shop, chair, ever person working there and everything is neat and tidy.

After being escorted from the waiting area and directed to a chair by a barber, you are seated and prepared.

You then communicate with the barber or though an interpreter (as I did) exactly how I wanted my hair cut, how much off, that I wanted a shave and a shampoo.

Next, I was given a hot towel to refresh myself. Hot towels are offered almost everywhere in Japan for nearly every experience. They are much appreciated to wipe your face and hands. Much of this and many practices of Japanese culture center around personal comfort, cleanliness and respect.

Discussing what is needed and wanted

Discussing what is needed and wanted

As the barber skillfully and quickly cuts your hair as you desire, thrir movements are so precise and with such a light touch, it is as if they were not there and you can hardly feel a thing. I did mean “their” a plural personal pronoun meaning more than just one. Indeed, there are more than just one barber involved in serving you. My first experience, there were no less than six people that served me. There was the hot-towel person that constantly brought hot towels or covered your face as needed. There was what I call ‘Cut Barbers 1, 2 and 3. The first one started, the second one fished and the third checked to insure that 1 and 2 did all that was required and perform in touch-ups necessary. The last two would be involved with the shaving and shampooing.

Well, sitting in the chair yo are so impressed with their skill and that leads to confidence in their abilities. So this of course is part of the relation therapy. It is not uncommon to fall asleep or doze because, yo are so relaxed and almost unaware of their presence. In my experience, I could not tell when the first barber left and the second took over. The Japanese are very particular about touch. Once contact is made they keep it even when transferring to another person, Well, my eyes were closed and I only opened when the ‘touch’ changed from my heard to my face. And when I did, I was surprised to find another person starting the process of shaving me. I was surprised to find that this was a woman as it is uncommon to find female barbers.

Shave

Shave

Note: The barbers in these pictures are wearing masks for their own protection because of, the pollution they believe is coming from China and has nothing to do with allergies or fear of the flu bug coming to them from foreigners.

Back to the shave. Again your face is covered with hot towels, it is rubbed with an emollient of some kind to reduce friction and then it is hand-lathered with shaving cream skillfully applied with a natural bristle brush. The shaving was so light and precise it was as if it could not possibly be close enough or the the blades used were very sharp. They were! And like almost any normal person, when someone is holding a blade at your throat, you have a tendency to be awake and have your eyes open! 🙂 No worries, Japanese barbers are incredible!

After shaving your face, it is hot-toweled again and a fragrant astringent is applied to tighten the pores and freshen your face. Facial hair is very important to the Japanese. Not a single hair can be missed or out of place. This means on the forehead (even the peach fuzz is shaved), eyebrows, the back of your neck mustache or beard, on, inside of and outside of your nose and ears and etc. Nothing get missed! It is by far the best shaves and the closest shaves that I have ever had. How close? Close enough that I did not have to shave myself for two days. How close? Baby’s butt smooth, close! 🙂

Shampoo/Massage

Shampoo/Massage

After the shave, I went for a shampoo. Instead of leaning back in my chair to the shampoo sink as with my barber in NY, I leaned forward towards the shampoo sink. Your hair is lathered and massaged through yor scalp like a million fingers dancing through your happy!! 🙂

The shampoo is incredible and warm water gently washes away the shampoo and your every care. Then your head, neck and shoulders are rubbed/massaged to release any last remaining negative energy and release you to peace and tranquility and whew, don’t I just feel like a million bucks!!!

The final thing is to blow-dry and hand sculpt every hair in place on your face. You get out of the chair and you feel like you look and you feel like a millions bucks! And how much did all this first-class pampering cost? About the same price with tip that I pay for just a trim by my barber at home – $18.00. And no tip is allowed in Japan, but I would have more than been willing to do for this kind of service.

If I can’t be handsome or handy, at least every hair on my face can be perfectly placed, and my skin as soft as a baby’s butt or face. Susan watched and she was pretty amazed. She gave me the kissable face seal of approval.

Every hair in place and skin baby's butt soft!

Every hair in place and  face is, baby’s butt soft!

I would love to have a Japanese barber where we live! I would love to import some Japanese barbers! Do yourself a favor. If you ever have the opportunity to have your hair cut, a shave and a shampoo by a Japanese barber, Carpe bar-be-um SEIZE the BARBER!!!  🙂

By the way, I am told that the experience of cutting your hair for women. In Japan, is 10 times better than for a man!

Categories: Australia, Beauty, Family & Friends, Fun, Health, Inspiration, Japan, Japanese culture, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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