Pictures from my trip to Japan, April 2005 (Osaka and Kyoto)

 

Sven spotted this multihued hedge as we headed for the train back into Kyoto:
That evening, I had the great pleasure of inspiring my friends to make their first visits to two key local establishments. Sven and I went to the public bath. Then we all, with baby in tow, went down to the corner izakaya, an almost-private type of local bar'n'grill where foreigners might not necesarily feel welcome. But young Dario was our ticket, and all was well.

The next morning, I was off to Tokyo. I missed, or missed out on, a train wreck on the other side of Osaka the morning of the 25th. The public is understandably very upset that tough work rules and/or inadequate training resulted in a train wreck that killed about 100 people. Only a couple weeks later did I realize that I had been on this train line two years earlier. The affected line goes between Amagasaki, a suburban rail junction, and Takarazuka, home of the Astroboy Museum. (Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum).

After my conference presentations in Tokyo on the 26th, I resumed my inverterate tourism. I looked up my friend Tae and we went off to an exhibit of paintings by Georges LaTour at the Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park. We posed beneath this statue of Sugamo, a hero of the Meiji restoration:

That evening I had dinner with colleagues, culminating in a tiny bar in the 'notorious' Kabuki-cho district. The next day I took myself on a day tour of the mountainous zone near Hakone. The first major attraction up there is the Open Air Museum and its sculpture garden:

Next segment, up a gondola to a volcanic mountain hell-scape:

No lovingly tweaked irrigation for these tough plants, which live on sulphurous exudations and the occasional anguished sigh:

The culinary specialty up here is eggs hard-boiled in the sulphur-laden groundwater; they don't really taste all the special:

As I was walking to the dock for the lake cruise leading back to the railroad station, I met up with four young men in dark clothes, broad-brimmed hats and scraggly beards. They spoke perfect New York English and proceeded to quiz me, in a friendly way, about my Pesach observance, such as it was. I told them with some pride of my membership in a gay-friendly, woman-led Reconstructionist shul back home. They tried, almost to the point of obnoxiousness, to get me to come to their weekly Shabbat dinner at Tokyo Chabad. No thanks, I said, I've a business appointment, and I'm going to a seder when I get back Saturday. While sitting in the onsen at the end of the trip, I reflected that I'd met some fishers of lost souls, and that I'm really not very lost at all. I've got my eclectic approach to spirituality. I've got my marriage, asterisk and all. I'm fine with the paradoxes and contradictions in all of the above. That's life in this here sphere. But one thing. I studied Kabbalah well before it was fashionable, back when my Tokyo Chasidim were still stockbrokers' apprentices. However, I don't like to talk about it much, since a pop star took the name Esther and made KBLH into a fad. I guess this makes me a ............ pre-Madonna!

Sitting firmly on my accrued wisdom, I made the lake crossing on yon "pirate" ship.

Before returning to Tokyo on the train it was time to find the local onsen.