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My photos from Day Eight.

cat with motor-scooterSunday was our day to escape the urban bustle of Kyoto and head north to the countryside area of Ohara. We took taxis there, and it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that the driver of the taxi I shared with three others in our tour group turned out not really to have understood the instructions our organizers quickly gave him through the open door of the cab before we set off. So we rode back and forth along the main road, wondering where we were supposed to be dropped off and lacking any way to communicate with the rest of the group. The driver stopped a couple of times to ask for directions, but that didn't appear to prove illuminating. Eventually we stopped somewhere and found our way to the rest of the group, who were starting the walk up the hill that seems to be the main tourist area of Ohara.

The path up the hill winds through scenic woodlands and alongside a stream; stalls selling pickled vegetables and handicrafts dot the path. The scooter and kitty in that photo belong to a jewelry vendor along the path; later in the day the cat could be seen—detached from the scooter—curled up next to the jewelry cart. Its portable litter box was a mere ceramic bowl. What a cat.

At the top of the hill, a flat boulevard lined with more shops and eateries takes visitors to a series of temples. We went to Shorin-in Temple, a Tendai sect temple founded in 1013. Inside is a large Buddha statue and a tape recorder playing Shōmyō chant, a style that was introduced to Japan from China at this very temple.

We descended to have lunch at a rustic restaurant at the foot of the hill. What I remember most from the lunch were the yummy grilled tofu with its caramelized miso glaze and the young women dressed in traditional Oharame costume at another table.

dyed fabric and yarn dries in the breezeOur afternoon activity was dyeing fabric—scarves in this case—with natural plant dyes (Kusaki-zome) at a rural workshop. Our hosts were very gracious, chatting with us over tea as a gentle breeze blew through the house. It was so peaceful there. Once each of us had picked out an undyed scarf we liked, we learned about the dyes we'd use to color them: indigo for blue (we were getting to be quite familiar with indigo by the end of the trip), Japanese cedar for brown, madder root for red, Pagoda Tree for yellow. One of the happiest moments I remember from the trip was standing in the dyeing shed, stirring my scarf around in a warm pot of yellow dye, inhaling the scent of woodsmoke, looking out the window at the countryside.

We took a bus back to Kyoto, a ride that seemed longer for our having to stand and for the late-afternoon sun blazing through the bus windows. Once we got back to the ryokan and freshened up, we went to a restaurant with tatami mats and a low table for our big farewell dinner. We wouldn't actually be leaving until Tuesday, but the next day would be a "free" day where we'd be on our own, so this was the last evening we'd be together. We presented Junko and Gary with "omiyage" from North America (thanks to thewronghands for the Old Bay Seasoning suggestion—since Gary likes to cook, I hope he'll enjoy the canister I gave him). One of our group, Guy, had forgone the Ohara outing to catch a baseball game on his own at Koshien Stadium, and just about the time we were figuring he must be lost in the streets of Osaka, our organizer Nancy got a call from him reporting that he'd made it back to Kyoto; he joined us shortly afterward. Beer and sake flowed. Late into the evening, we bid farewell as Junko left to catch the bus back to her place, Gary rollerbladed back to his machiya (no, that's not a typical mode of transport in Japan), and the rest of us wandered back to larger streets to catch taxis.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
woofiegrrl
Jul. 29th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)
I love finding cats everywhere I travel - so far I've been able to meet kitties in Turkey, Bermuda, and St. Maarten. If there's a cat somewhere I'm traveling, I seem to always find it!

By the way, I'm the person you bid on for "what's your most recent website" on IILWY - I can't believe somebody who lives in my hometown bid on me! And then I found your LJ profile and we have shared interests...would you mind if I friended you?
radhardened
Jul. 29th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't mind at all. Living in your hometown isn't too much of a coincidence—you can browse IILWY by geographical area, which is how I saw your profile. I'm really new to IILWY, though, so I don't totally understand what it means to bid on a person. I assume I'll get the hang of things sooner or later.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )