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.
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!