Friday, August 22, 2014

August 10 Nara, more temples, and celebration banquet

There was indeed the threat of heavy rains due to the typhoon, but we boarded the bus and headed for Nara. This is the the Todai, temple.  The main attraction is a huge bronze Buddha statue, Daibutsu, which is almost 50 feet high.

This picture doesn't do it justice.  The temple itself was very beautiful and we enjoyed the grounds....though it was raining because of the typhoon.

The group went to the Kasuga Shrine, but I have to admit that I passed it up and stayed in the bus.  It was still pouring rain.  The Kasuga shrine is famous for its many (maybe 3000) lanterns. Here's a picture anyway....admittedly retrieved from on-line sources...taken on a better day.

We had lunch at a food court and I was with a group that ate at a Chinese place.  It was good, but it might have been more interesting to look around for something more Japanese.  We just weren't sure we had enough time.  

We headed back to Kyoto, where we visited the Sanjusangendo Temple..  It is remarkable because there are 1001 Kannon statues.  One is big and is in the center,  It is surrounded by  1000 life-size Kannons.  All of these were formed in 1200-1300.  Kannons are forms of a Buddhist diety, but I will be in "over my head" if I try to explain the significance in this particular case.  Pictures are not permitted and I pulled this off the internet, too.  It really doesn't do it justice.  It was amazing.  This picture doesn't even show the central Kannon--just one part of the 1000 Kannon.    There also was a special incense, and I bought some of that because it was so beautiful and peaceful.

After that, we returned by bus to the hotel.  We had a little more time for shopping and exploring the neighborhood. That evening, we had a wonderful banquet, which included a dance by a maiko.  A maiko is a geisha in training.  The name is a little hard to understand unless you know that, in Kyoto, a geisha is known as a geiko.  The maikos are essentially their apprentices.  Ours was very beautiful and also was gracious enough to answer questions about her life.  it was very interesting.

This will be my last post for this trip.  We left the hotel the next morning and went by bus to Kyoto Station.  From there, we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo Narita.  A little shopping was possible at the airport in Narita and then we boarded the plane for for a long flight to Dulles (IAD).  It was a great trip, with amazing people and lots of adventures.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 9 Touring Kyoto

This is a view of our hotel, the Gion Maifukan.  It is a very small hotel and some of our group stayed at another hotel nearby.  Those of us at Gion Maifukan went to a nearby cafe called Medea for breakfast. The breakfast cafe was also small, and we had to eat in two shifts.  The coffee was terrific, ( though, like at RKK in Tokyo) we had to pay extra for it.  They call it European coffee and it is good either hot or cold.  I had no idea that good coffee was available in Japan.  The breakfast was good, too.

After such a peaceful day yesterday, I think I was kind of overloaded.  The activities of this day are kind of a blur for me!    We toured around Kyoto, a beautiful city, but I didn't make notes.  We went to a large shrine that is also an active religious community today.  I don't know the name of it, and I read that there are over 1600 temples and 400 temples in Kyoto.  I can't just do a google search!  It was raining, and I didn't take any pictures.

We also toured some small shops.  I especially enjoyed Mr. Saiki the fan-maker. He is a sixth-generation business man and explained the history of the folded fan, which was invented in Japan.  It was particularly interesting to see how the wooden fan spokes are inserted into the paper fan, which has already been decorated.

We also visited a tea shop and enjoyed a tea ceremony there before touring their beautiful shop. Afterward, we had lunch at a sandwich shop.

We then had a free afternoon.  I went back to our neighborhood and explored a little around there.  I found another Shinto Shrine that was very interesting to me, but I didn't get the name of it.  I was by myself, so I don't think anyone else would know either.  I reached it by taking a little path off a main street and then saw a mound with wishes on it.  I made one of my own for peace and love.

 This is how the mound looks and I have since learned that I should have crawled through it with my wish to make my wish come true.   I did find information on this shrine on the internet.  It is called Yasui-kompira-gu.  Be careful if you type that error might lead you to aJapanese pornography site!!!!
I actually went to this shrine because the approach was so pretty and the rain had stopped.  I had no idea that I would find something so interesting.

I did a little shopping, but seemed to be more focused on tourist attractions.  I saw a pedicab with a man and a woman in formal kimonos, but my picture was blurry.

Back at the hotel, we had a reflection and discussion about plans for the next day.  It was predicted to be rainy because of a typhoon. It was decided that we should buy some food for the morning breakfast and have it in our rooms in case it was too stormy to go out, but our bus trip to Nara was still "on."

Carol and I went to a Lawson's convenience store and got stuff for an evening casual meal as well as for breakfast.  We had a little time for a glass of wine and a visit, which was very nice.   I had another nice warm bath before bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 8 to Kyoto!

We got up early, had a buffet breakfast (mostly American-style), and walked to the train station to take the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Kyoto.

In the afternoon, we went to the Myoshinji temple complex and were led in a meditation by a buddhist priest  It was a highlight of the trip for me.  It was so peaceful and beautiful.  We sat on tatami mats and looked out on a beautifully maintained garden at Shunko-in Temple.  Some of us had very comfortable stools so we didn't have to sit on the floor the whole time.  Part of the garden is shown in the picture above and the shoji screens were open, so  it was almost like being outside. As the meditation concluded, the rain started falling very softly.  It was refreshing.  We were given some information on the history of the temple, including a bell that has Jesuit origins.  Yes, there were Christians in Japan and this particular bell is identified as being cast in 1577.  We were all permitted to get a close look and ring it, if we wished to.  We also looked around at the hand-painted screens and altar of the temple.  It was beautiful.   Maybe the fact that this was a private visit contributed to the peacefulness.  When we visited the larger temples and shrines, they were crowded and beautiful...but not as conducive to contemplation.  It was just our group for this visit.

We were served tea and cookies before leaving and the rain had stopped by then.

Our next stop was also very peaceful and spiritual.  We went to the Ryoanji Temple, where we saw a famous rock garden.  It is said to have been created by a Zen monk, Tokuto Zenketsu, in about 1500.  I took this panoramic shot.  We had time to sit and peacefully meditate at this garden, which was a real treat and the rain held off.

I have seen pictures of this particular rock garden many times, and it was amazing to experience it in person.

This temple also has a beautiful green garden covered with moss.

That evening, we had special dinners with the youth in the group.  Each young person invited some adults to go with them and to encourage some inter-generational discussion.  My group went with Victoria, a beautiful young woman who was adopted (at about age 4) from Russia.  It was fun to have a traditional Japanese dinner (sitting on the floor) with her and learn about her experiences.  I didn't get a picture, though.

We settled into a hotel in the Gion District of Kyoto.  It was great fun to have a yukata (Japanese Summer robe) to relax in after my bath.  I had to take a mirror selfie.

Another great day with the Heiwa Peace Pilgramage in Japan.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 7, Hiroshima and Miyajima

We returned to the Peace Memorial Park for a tour of the monuments and to explore the Museum.  The weather was much better.  My host family took me to meet the group and we began a tour of the monuments.  There are so many monuments that we couldn't possibly see all of them.  One of the first we saw kind of set the stage.  Because it was the day after August 6, many flowers and gifts had been left the day before.  This is an example.  The mound in the background is called the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound.  Sadly, a vault inside contains the ashes of victims who were unidentified or whose whole families perished.
The most most touching memorial for me was the Children's Peace Monument.  The figure atop the monument is a statue of Sadako Sasaki, whose story popularized the custom of folding 1,000 cranes.  She was two years old at the time of the atomic bomb and she was exposed to radiation, which caused her to develop radiation-induced leukemia.  She set the goal of folding 1,000 and reached it...though she died in 1955.

As a result of Sadako's story, people are inspired to bring origami crane strings to this memorial (as well as other places around Hiroshima).  This memorial, though, is especially popular and this structure was built so that people could hang those colorful strings of cranes.  It's a very impressive sight.

We got a better view of the Hiroshima Dome than the one we had yesterday:

We also presented a wreath in front of the cenotaph, a gift from All Souls Church Unitarian.  Reverend Rob Hardies and Judith Bauer laid the wreath while we sang our song,  "When I breathe in, I breath in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love."  I didn't get a picture, but I did get a picture of our guide just before that little ceremony.

We then visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which is amazing.  It is hard to take it all in, but I learned a lot about why we need to work against any more nuclear weapons.  I did buy a t-shirt and some books.

We boarded the bus and were bound for Miyajima.  We had bento lunches on the bus.  Miyajima is the island where there is the very famous Shinto shrine, Itsukushima Shrine.  It is famous because the torii gate, and often the shrine, too, appear to be floating on water at high tide.

When we were there, the tide was pretty low and people were walking out to the gate, so my pictures aren't as good as the one above.  There are a lot of deer on the island, and they are very aggressive.  They are considered sacred because they are considered messengers of the gods.  I did get this picture of a "messenger" with a man on a bench:

The shrine really is on an island, and we got there and back by a ferry ride.  We got back on the bus to return to Hiroshima and stayed at the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima that night.  The hotel is right at the train station and we needed to be on the train early the next day for the trip to Kyoto.  That night, we had a banquet for our Hiroshima friends from RKK and from Honkawa School.  There were a lot of speeches and promises to meet again next year in Washington DC.  Here is one of our young people, Charlee Mize, sharing her thoughts and her proud dad, Greg.  He should be proud.  She gave one of the best speeches of the night.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 6, the Anniversary of the First Dropping of an Atomic Bomb

It was raining hard as we set out for the Anniversary ceremony and it rained pretty much the whole day.  We were seated as foreign guests and, as we were making our way to our seats, we saw Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.  I didn't take any pictures at all, but went on the internet to get this one of the Mayor of Hiroshima laying a wreath.  Everyone was seemed to be wearing transparent raincoats.  Most people also had transparent umbrellas, though there were some colorful ones.  Each year, new names are added to the victims list, which is stored in a cenotaph that is centrally located in the monuments.  This one forms an arc and the Hiroshima Dome (one of the few buildings that was standing after the bomb) is visible through it.  By the way, later that day I learned that a cenotaph is a monument to the dead in which there are no actual remains.  In this case, it is just the names. It is a sobering thought to realize there are still victims as a result of radiation effects directly attributable to that bomb.  There is a full minute of silence at 8:15, the time the bomb exploded.  Prime Minister Abe and others spoke, including the Mayor of Hiroshima who issues an annual Peace Declaration.  A representative was there from the United Nations.

It was very crowded, even with the rain, and so we split into small teams and held ropes so we wouldn't get separated.  I felt kind of like a kindergartner but also was overwhelmed by the outpouring of sentiment for the many lives lost and the horrible way they died.

After the service, we returned to the RKK Dharma Center for a special memorial service there.  Again, the hospitality was very moving.  Our shoes were muddy from the Peace Park service and those who had sandals had dirty feet.  Our shoes and feet were washed by women of the Center.  We left the shoes to dry and went in for a memorial program, including the exchange of gifts and greetings.  We had lunch there, and those of us who had host families re-connected with them.   There was a nice program that included a tea ceremony, dancing, and a demonstration by a young man of a kind of top that is special to their area.  We all got those tops, called Japanese bilboquets.

We then convened for a learning session.  The highlight of this session was a talk by Mr. Steven Leeper, who made a strong argument for a world-wide ban on nuclear weapons. This talk made a very strong impression on me  The weapons that are in existence now are much more destructive than the bombs used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The Red Cross has come out in support of eliminating all nuclear weapons because they (or any other relief agency) cannot help victims if even one more nuclear weapon is ever used.

We had a brief reflection time with our group, and then could go with the host families to their homes  This is when I got to know the Itos a little bit better.  They prepared a wonderful meal...including very exquisite sushi and some local dishes.  We exchanged gifts and I received a beautiful hand-made porcelain doll and a very special leather coin purse.  My gifts to them were more modest, but included a set of cards made from my paintings.  They were very well-received and, after dinner, we spent some time looking at my website on-line because they were interested in my art.  I spent the evening with the Itos, but some of the group returned to the Peace Park to place lanterns in the river.

Megumi Ito  is a young woman who is married and lives in another town (I think Osaka), but she was visiting her parents as part of the Bon observance.  During Bon, which is in August, adult children return to their homes and spend time with their parents..  Megumi speaks English and until recently she has been a ballet dancer with a European company and so has traveled a lot.  She is very pretty.  Her parents, Yosahikazu and Fumie, live in a very comfortable home and made me feel welcome into their family, though they do not speak English.  Yosahikazu-san can writ e in English, though, and he gave me a very touching letter welcoming me to his family. His mother also lives with them, but she has Alzeimer's and so she pretty much kept to herself.

I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know them and for the hospitality they showed me during my stay in Hiroshima.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 5 Tokyo to Hiroshima

We got up early on the morning of August 5 to board a bus for the train station.  We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) with a change of trains in Osaka.  I didn't take this picture, but pulled it off the internet.  I never saw the train other than in the station and it would whizz by too fast for a picture.  At Osaka, I met a very interesting English couple, David and Agnes Porter.  It was one of those chance encounters that clicked and I gave them my Japanese/English business card.  They were going to Nagasaki and then Hiroshima.  Since then, we have shared our impressions by email, which has been very rewarding to me.  The bullet train was very comfortable and fast.

When our group arrived in Hiroshima, we were met by a delegation and escorted to our bus, which seemed nice.  Little did I know that was just a prelude to an amazing welcome at the RKK Dharma Center in Hiroshima.  It was raining, and we had a canopy of umbrellas to walk through from the bus  into the Dharma Center.  When we were inside, we were escorted (after taking off our shoes, of course) into a big reception room with lots of clapping and cheers and a very warm welcome.  It was truly unbelievable.  I found myself crying a lot.  It was very emotional.  We had a little ceremony, led by Reverend Robert Hardies and Reverend Kataro Suzuki.  After that, we met our homestay families.  My family were the Itos, and they were so nice, and made me feel welcome.   I got a beautiful lei made of origami cranes at the luncheon.

We didn't have much time to visit then as the Pilgrimage Group was going to Honkawa School for a Memorial Ceremony there.   Before the ceremony, we had a bento box dinner in a classroom.

It was one of many bento meals we had and they all were good.  This one was especially tasty.
 Going to Honkawa School was another emotional experience.  The School was very close to the hypocenter of the a-bomb explosion.  The principal, ten teachers and about 400 students died there.   At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, the time of the explosion, the students were mostly on the playground.  The School reopened in February 1946, but the conditions were grim.  There were no windows, and just make-shift desks and chairs.  In the museum, there is a very touching picture of children playing in the schoolyard in 1947--it's the same schoolyard where so many children died.  Today, it is a vibrant place with lots of beautiful children.  Here is a picture of some of the children I saw:

These adorable girls were about 12...very "kawai," or cute.  This school has a special relationship with All Souls Church. Shortly after the School re-opened, members of All Souls Church sent school and art supplies to the children. In return, the children sent drawings to the church.  Those drawings were displayed, but then put away in a box and not discovered until many years later.  They were restored and a delegation from the church returned them to Honkawa School a few years ago, finding many of the people who recognized their childhood drawings.  The originals were displayed in the Peace Museum at the School.  All Souls Church retains copies of those drawings, which are marvelous.   The history of these drawings are documented in the movie, Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.  Just being in that school was comforting to me.  There were ceremonies and gifts.  All Souls Church gave 1,000 cranes and a carved wooden chalice with the inscription,
"Building a world in which all children will grow old surrounded by beauty, embraced by love, and cradled in the arms of peace."

There was a Bon festival, which is fun.  It is a celebration to honor ancesters, but was a very fitting way to bring some fun for the children (and others) after the solemnity of the memorial service.

We then returned by bus to the RKK Dharma Center and were re-united with our host families to go home with them.   I was very tired, and my family very thoughtfully understood that. We agreed that we would get to know each other better the next day, after the ceremonies at Hiroshima Peace Park and at the Dharma Center.  I was happy for a short shower, a comfortable bed and for staying in the home of a lovely family.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tokyo August 4

RKK and Meiji Shrine

Yesterday was all about tourism in Tokyo. Today, we were a little more serious and focused for most of the day on our relationship with RKK.  We celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Grand Sacred Hall with them.  The Hall is a very impressive building with a huge gilded Shakyamuni Buddha at the center of the altar. Shakyamuni is also known as Gautama Buddha, or Siddhartha.  RKK followers believe he was the first human to attain enlightenment, and he is referred to as Shakyamuni after enlightenment.

The ceremony consisted mostly of readings from the Lotus Sutra, which were beautiful.  We were fortunate that our guide Oroiko could translate and we had headsets to hear her translation.  After the formalities, the RKK people (who had come from many of their Dharma Centers for the occasion) split into small groups for "hoza," which is a time that they share their concerns with each other and help each other with issues large and small.  I liked that idea!

While they were meeting in the hozas, we had a tour of the front of the Great Sacred Hall and learned about the meaning of the decorations at the front.  Everything seems to have a purpose!  We also toured other buildings on the RKK campus. The most impressive to me was a museum to honor the founder of RKK, Nikkyo Niwano.  I loved an exhibit of enlarged photographs of his hands.  He was a musician and an artist as well as a spiritual leader.  We also visited a large reception hall with a Dharma Wheel theme.  I spent some extra time in the gardens, which were amazing.  Very peaceful.  The whole time was very spiritual.

We had lunch in the dining hall and then went to the Meiji Shrine, an oasis in the middle of the big city of Tokyo.  Again, we were in for VIP treatment.

Our guide was a Shinto priest.  He led us through the three Tori gates leading to the shrine, which are very beautiful.  It is very woodsy and in a completely natural setting but, if you look at a map, it is surrounded by city buildings.

Along the way, we learned about the history of the shrine and how barrels of beer and sake were donated to raise money for the construction of the shrine, but mostly they were drunk by the priests and students.  The shrine itself is modest, and we learned to bow twice, clap twice and bow again to attract the attention of the "kamis" who are the ones who are worshiped.  I won't go into that theology as I am not sure I understand it...other than to say there are many kamis and they are the oceans, mountains, rivers, trees, and all of nature.  They are the little things as well as the big.  The highlight of this visit was being invited to participate in an actual Shinto service.  It was very beautiful, and very restrained. We couldn't drink water or eat any food on the Meiji Shrine grounds, but we were offered a glass of sake at the the conclusion of the ceremonies.  I found that interesting.

We stayed in the area for dinner that night at local restaurants, and split into smaller groups.  I ate with a group at a restaurant called Jonathan's.  We assumed it was an English-speaking place, but we were wrong.  There was only one English menu for the whole restaurant!  We got it, and ordered by pointing to what we wanted.  The waitress was very nervous about us, and even became intimidated when one of our party ordered sake.  Everyone got what they ordered except for my friend Carol....and she said she thought what she got was better than what she ordered.  I had a hamburger with avocado and it was delicious.  Carol and I split off from the group and took a cab back to the RKK headquarters.  When I handed the driver the address, he couldn't read it. Luckily,we had her number, she was available and could help him with the directions.  He had to talk to her to get to the general area and then called again when we were there because the RKK campus is pretty big and he wasn't sure exactly where we should be let off.  I think a cab driver in the USA might have just left us close and drove off.  The Japanese, though, were very concerned about treating us well.  We got back in time to watch a showing of the documentary, Pictures From a Hirsoshima Schoolyard, in preparation for the trip to Hiroshima tomorrow.  I have to admit that I kept dozing off!  Again, I had a short, late, bath and was in bed at about 11 pm.  Long days, but good memories!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tokyo! August 3

Waking up on August 3, I realized that I really was in Tokyo.  What a city!  It's the largest in the terms of population.

At the RKK world headquarters, they have a cafeteria and our first order of the day was to learn how to purchase breakfast.  Because of the "extreme hospitality" that we experienced throughout our trip, we had help.  It was a unique process.  The various choices were displayed in a cabinet--the descriptions all in Japanese.  We had to purchase tickets from a machine (also all Japanese) and then present the tickets at the right counter. They had someone stationed at the machine so we could describe what we wanted and get help with the ticket purchase.  Although tea was included with meals, coffee was separate and required another ticket.  This is a good time to talk about the money.  Although there are fluctuations, the value is approximately 100 yen to one dollar US.  This seems very inflationary, but it doesn't seem to bother anyone in Japan.  Along those lines, the breakfasts at RKK were reasonable and were about 300 yen.  However, as I recall it, the coffee was 200 yen.  It was worth it--it was so good.  The breakfasts were mostly Japanese and included noodle soup as well as omelets (which the Japanese love) and various fruits. With the help of the RKK people who assisted us, I always got what I wanted.

After the breakfast, we boarded a tour bus for a general tour of Tokyo.  Highlights of that tour were a visit to the Imperial Palace and a tea ceremony.  We couldn't actually go into the Imperial Palace, but we visited the grounds....which are amazing.  This is the double-arched bridge:

And this is a group photo in front of that bridge:

The Imperial Palace is a very popular spot and there were busloads of people there.  Here is a line of buses:

The tea ceremony was special for our group.  It was very traditional, and those who received tea needed to sit on the mats....this was hard, as it lasted a long time.  I did it, and had to keep shifting my weight. At the end, the ones who were seated on chairs were also served.  The whole thing was very formal and very beautiful.  Here is one of the women who served the tea:

We had lunch at the restaurant in the Hotel Okura and enjoyed a meal in the teppanyaki style.  It's very similar to Benihana here.  The beef was especially fabulous.  I took a picture of some of my fellow travelers---Carol, Margaret and Melinda--at the restaurant, waiting for the chef to serve us;

We then went to Senso-ji Temple--at least, I think that is the name.  It is very beautiful and there are several buildings, in the compound  including a five-story pagoda.  We spent a short time there, and I think we all wished we could have had more time.  I think a person could spend a whole day exploring here, but we had other plans.

We boarded a boat for a ride down the river that would get us closer to the baseball stadium where we planned to watch some Japanese baseball.  It was hot, even on the river, but we enjoyed the boat ride.  One of the things we saw was the headquarters of one of the brewing companies and the building is supposed to look like a beer mug with foam on top.  BTW, Japanese beer is very good!  There is also a strange shape in this picture.  It was supposed to be a flame to inspire Japanese youth, but somehow the plans were not cleared and it was not approved to be installed upright.  It ended up on the side---looking sort of like a blob that could inspire many crazy comments, rather than hard work and study.  The boat in the picture is similar to the one we were in.

The ball game was great, even though it was the Swallows.  We had hoped to see the Tokyo Carps, but they were sold out.  I loved being there and drinking Japanese beer.  Japanese love their baseball and follow the heroes who have made it to MLB teams in the USA.  It is especially fun when the home team scores a run.  Fans unfold tiny transparent umbrellas and bob them.  I didn't get a picture, though.   I bought a t-shirt for Griffin and a folding fan for myself.  Go Swallows!!!!!  This picture was taken before the game started.  It actually was very crowded.

We took the Tokyo subway back to RKK and that was a fun adventure, too.  We had to change trains, and I was greatful for the leadership of Gretchen Jones, who knew how to navigate the Tokyo subway.  I really had no idea how to get back to RKK, but she did.  Another hot bath and a sound sleep when we got back to our rooms.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Arrival in Japan

Heiwa Peace Pilgrimage 2014

I embarked on a Peace Pilgramage to Japan with 36 other Unitarian Universalists from All Souls Church in Washington DC.  Reverend Robert Hardies was our spiritual leader.  Here is a link that gives an overview of the trip and some information about Rissho Kosei-Kai, who were our hosts for most of the trip:

I am posting this after returning to Washington DC as there was too much to do on the trip and I didn't always have internet access.

We left Dulles Airport at 12:25 pm on August 1 and arrived at Narita airport (near Tokyo) at 3:10 pm, but it was August 2.  When we arrived, we had to assemble in one spot and then move to the Japan Rail Pass desk.  It took quite a while there because passports for the group had to be recorded and rail passes issued.  I was finding that travelling with a group required very sophisticated logistics.  As a result, I developed a deep appreciation of our leaders who had to make sure everyone got to where they needed to be.  This was a constant throughout the trip and the leaders always succeeded, despite some crazy challenges.  There were 37 in our group, which was inter-generational--the youngest being 12 and the oldest 82.   Some of the group had traveled separately but, by the end of the Japan Rail Pass process (which took a couple of hours), we were all together and boarded a bus for Tokyo.   The ride to Tokyo seemed long.....I had gotten very little sleep on the plane and so was feeling tired.  I still couldn't sleep, though.  I was filled with anticipation

We arrived at Rissho Kosei-kai world headquarters and got our room assignments.  They made us feel very welcome.

I had a nice room with a deep bathtub. Although it was late, we hadn't had dinner and so gathered in a room for bento boxes and reflection on the journey so far and expectations.  It was after 10 when we went to our rooms for the evening.  I took a bath in a deep tub and had no trouble going to sleep.