Circling Japan - Summer 2014 travel blog

wine tasting punch bowls

BBQ lunch

Hinomisaki light house

Izumo Grand Shrine

Izumo Grand Shrine

hand washing trough

Izumo Grand Shrine

Izumo Grand Shrine

Izumo Grand Shrine

rocky coastline

wedding ceremony

You can read and reread a tour description and still get the wrong impression of what to expect. That happened to us today. The most important fact the description left out was that it was a two hour drive each way. If we’d known that we wouldn’t have gone. Although the guide spoke decent English, she talked about things we knew nothing about and sometimes used different words than we would have used. When we showed up at the Shimane Museum, we were not sure what it was all about or why we were there. All sorts of old stuff that looked like it came from archeological digs was on display. We guessed that it must have come from the site of the Izumo Grand Shrine, which was located nearby. There were lots of signs and videos, but everything was in Japanese. The museum had lots of models of pervious iterations of the shrine, some on very high pillars. I imagine it was a fine museum, but not a spot to take the likes of us.

The Izumo Grand Shrine was even larger than the Shinto shrine we visited in Tokyo. It is a major pilgrimage site and dedicated to the god of marriage. From the distance we could see a wedding ceremony being conducted. Lots of tour groups roamed around the grounds, stopping to get group photos taken by a professional photographer in front of a strategic spot. Japanese love to get their photos taken in front of things. They nearly always flash “V’s” with the fingers while they do. The guide said this practice began during the peace and love times of American hippie culture, but these days the young people just do it without knowing the reason why. Nearly all the buildings and their decorations were made of natural materials. It is the usual custom to do a major restoration on such temples every 50 - 60 years and this has been the practice for almost a thousand years. It is believed that the building restoration also gives renewed powers to the gods that it honors. We are glad that our guides have been sparing us from too much god talk. Depending on who you talk to, there are 600,000 gods worshipped in Shinto temples. Many of them are inanimate objects.

Then we went to a new vineyard for a Japanese BBQ lunch. We sat around hot grills with platters of raw materials and no instruction. The meat was rather greasy and searing bean spouts and large cabbage leafs was not appealing. Eating them with chop sticks was a challenge. We got a glass of the vineyards’s wine. We understand that viniculture is new to Japan. We suggest they keep working on it. The tasting room was a real hoot. We circulated around ten pedestals that each had a punch bowl of wine on top. We got little plastic cups and were supposed to ladle out the punch bowls ourselves. When the wine was almost gone, someone would come with a wine bottle and pour in some more. Considering how much the Japanese value the tea ceremony, this was a real shock.

The drive back to the ship went along a scenic, rocky coastline and we stopped to wander around the tallest lighthouse in Japan. As Ken said, “Give me Maine any day.”

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