Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Thank you for your kindness."

This is what it says at the bottom of the signs that are posted throughout subway cars here in Tokyo informing riders of the central etiquette rules, such as respecting designated seating for the disabled, aged, and pregnant and occupying only the space designated for one derriere (in contrast to those New York subway riders who feel entitled to sit in between single seat spaces, for example).  But "Thank you for your kindness" has become my personal Japan mantra.  The national culture is famous for its hospitality but hospitality, to my mind, is a concept that suggests ritual obligation (another national stereotype) rather than sincere generosity and other-directedness and my experience in Japan, especially with regard to our Technos hosts, has been grounded in incredible, fulsome kindness.  In addition to the beauty of the Japanese countryside and the rich wellspring of experiences of all stripes (just at the level of eyecandy alone!) that is I haven't been able to blog for a few days as Wednesday through Friday we were away from Tokyo as guests at the "Green Village" resort Midori no Mura, which is in the Nagano prefecture north of the city.  On the way to Midori no Mura, we stopped off at Mt. Fuji.  It was overcast and windy, still set with snow and snowmelt and extremely dangerous for climbers, so even if we were trying to see more of the mountain than can be accessed from the midway point where the bus/car-route ends, we wouldn't be able to.  The climbing season opens in July.  One of the other visiting students (from Pembroke College, Oxford University) is staying past the end of our trip, in part to climb Fuji with her parents, who will be flying in from England, on July 1.  Even on a cold cloudy day, Fuji was a beautiful sight to behold, but remember: the mountain is an active volcano!

The trip to Midori no Mura was fabulous.  The resort is famous for its natural hot springs, which faculty and students made full use of.  I was especially grateful for the access to medicinally hot mineral waters as, the night before our departure for the spa, I fell ill with a terrible cold which threatened to become a sinus infection.  A day of rest, the constant care and attention of my new Technos friends (including the wonderful group of visiting faculty I've been a part of), and regular dunking in the hot springs brought me back to health by Friday, which unfortunately, was the day we had to leave the countryside and head back to Tokyo.  On the way,  we stopped off at another of the region's natural wonders, Shiraito no Taki (White Springs waterfall).  It was such a beautiful and unusual waterfall that the Technos group spent a long time shooting this wide horseshoe-shaped waterfall from its various angles.  In the shot below, visiting faculty Joe and Technos faculty Matt consult each other about the perfect shot.

This was my best attempt:
I also took these shots of Kaad and Astrid:

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