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Travel Diary: Special Tour after 2012 Autumn Grand Ceremony
Following the 2012 Autumn Grand Ceremony, sixty North American region members went on a fascinating journey west of Takayama in Japan. Staff members who traveled with the tour provided explanations and teachings that made the journey a spiritual one for participants.
When these wonderful optional tours are offered, they are very special opportunities to get to know other members in ways we don't usually have time to do at home, spend time with members from other centers, learn from and enjoy time with our staff members, and deepen our awareness of the living nature of the teachings.
11/4 Leaving Takayama early in the morning, we traveled southwest through beautiful countryside, reaching the cultural city of Kyoto in time for lunch at a restaurant on a picturesque street near a bridge over the lovely, willow-tree-lined Kamo River. At one time the capital of Japan, Kyoto has a rich history of universities, culture, arts and crafts, shrines and temples. After lunch, we visited Kinkakuji Temple, called the Golden Pavilion in English. Kinkakuji, a Buddhist temple, was built in 1397, and its graceful lines are mirrored in the clear pond it sits near, set within a simple, elegant Japanese garden, all designed to reflect purity and beauty.
Dinner was on our own and we went out in groups to try local specialties, such as udon noodles, or international restaurants.
Another site of interest that we visited was Nijo Castle, built in 1605 as the Kyoto residence of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first shogun of the Edo period. In 1867, when Yoshinobu, the fifteenth Tokugawa Shogun returned sovereignty to the Emperor, the castle became the property of the Imperial Family. It was donated to the city of Kyoto in 1939, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. We were able to walk through the castle and view the beautifully decorated rooms where the shogun met with his samurai and lived his daily life.

Next, we visited the Heian Jingu, a huge Shinto shrine, with what is said to be the largest torii (gate) in all of Japan. Heian means "peace," and the shrine was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Heian-kyo, which was the old name for Kyoto. On the day that we were visiting, there was a children's festival going on in the main shrine and a wedding was taking place in the wedding hall. The grounds of Heian Jingu also contain a beautiful Japanese garden.
11/5 On this day, we first went to the Koryuji Temple. This is a very old Buddhist temple, established in 603, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Imperial Prince Shotoku (573-621), who was instrumental in bringing Buddhism to Japan, donated a statue of Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya), who it is said will come down to the earthly plane 5,670,000,000 years after Buddha's death to save those who have not yet attained enlightenment. The shrine has several statues of Buddha, all designated as national treasures, and two statues of Miroku Bosatsu, probably also given by Prince Shotoku. There is an eight-foot-high wooden image of the Amida Nyorai. The original temple was built by the Hata clan, a naturalized Japanese clan from Silla (modern-day Korea). Prince Shotoku gave sacred Buddha statues to the leader of the Hata clan, and then it is said that he built this temple to enshrine them. We were very fortunate to be joined by our regional director, Mr. Wada, who at one time served as the director of Kyoto Dai Dojo and could explain to us much of the spiritual significance and connections to the teachings of the sites we saw.
After leaving Koryuji, we visited the Kiyomizudera Temple, a Buddhist temple established in 798, in the early part of the Heian period. Kiyomizu means "pure water" and is named for the waterfall that flows through the grounds. The main hall of the temple has a large verandah that extends out over the hillside and offers impressive views of Kyoto. The temple complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to the god Ōkuninushi.
The third site we visited this day was Yasaka Jinja Shrine, also known as the Gion Jinja Shrine, as it is located in the Gion district of Kyoto. Established over 1350 years ago, Yasaka Jinja enshrines Amaterasu Ōmikami and Susanoo no Mikoto. According to the legend of the shrine, its history may go back as far as 150 years before the Heian era to 656. This shrine is the site of the well-known Japanese summer festival called Gion Matsuri, held in July. The Gion Matsuri dates back over a thousand years and involves a procession with massive floats and hundreds of participants.
That afternoon, we left Kyoto and traveled north to the coastal town of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture.
11/6 First thing in the morning, we went to visit Izumo Shrine, well-known to Sukyo Mahikari members as the shrine worshiped at by Sukuinushisama's mother. Izumo Shrine is very large and one of the oldest shrines in Japan. As it happened, this was the only day when heavy rain came upon us, and yet we were all stilled and peaceful in awe at the cleansing greeting of nature. Izumo Shrine is dedicated to the deity Ōkuninushi, known in this area as the creator of all things under the heavens, a savior and protector of the natural way of all things, and a deity with great love for our ancestors. The brochure for Izumo says that Ōkuninushi:
  • shared people's joy and sadness
  • cultivated the land
  • took great pains to develop the nation
  • introduced agriculture and fishing to people to help lay the foundations for everyday life
  • taught people effective methods of crop production, and
  • is the creator and arranger of relationships - not just marriages but also the relationships that help us grow into respectable adults, create a bright and exciting society, bring all things happiness and good fortune, and create a feeling of brotherhood among us all.
The area around Izumo Shrine has been called "the land of the gods," and people there seem to have great sympathy for the mysterious ancient origins of Japan. Because of the arrangement of the heavy rain, which turned into a thunderstorm, we stopped our walk around the grounds, where we saw the famous statue of Ōkuninushi giving Light to a suffering rabbit, and we took refuge in the museum on the site of the shrine and the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, which provided fascinating history, interactive exhibits where visitors can see for themselves how past civilizations made fire and an interactive rice paddy showing how they planted ancient varieties of rice, and a multimedia video presentation of the legends associated with Ōkuninushi.
We had a wonderful lunch of local seafood, vegetables, and rice at a restaurant on Shinji Lake, and then continued on to visit Matsue Castle. Before returning to our hotel, we came back to Shinji Lake to view the wind-swept sunset there.
11/7 This day, we were treated to a drive to a place of incredible beauty called the Adachi Museum of Art. This museum houses a lovely collection of paintings, and is set in Japanese gardens, which the US Journal of Japanese Gardening has rated as #1 in Japan for the tenth year in a row. It's worth a look at their website to get a sense of the beauty and peacefulness that rests and refreshes the soul at this wonderfully designed museum and gardens:
Another wonderful lunch of local seafood, vegetables, and rice in a large bamboo steamer was provided to us at Izumo Magatama Museum's restaurant overlooking Shinji Lake. After lunch, we viewed the museum's excavations of mysterious comma-shaped stones, and visited the gift shop.
We then traveled to Kamosu Shrine. This shrine is also considered a national treasure. Kamosu means "the soul of God," and the site, in the countryside, conveyed its peaceful vibrations to the visitors.
11/8 We took a flight from Yonago Airport to Tokyo, where we boarded our flights home.
Thank you very much! We can't wait for the next one!

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