Dinner and a Movie

Perhaps I should skip the dinner part. It was my turn to cook last night and I threw together (literally) a simple spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, dinner which anyone can do without a recipe from me. I had everything timed just right until I realized - just when everything was ready - that I didn't have a sauce for the spaghetti - mama mia! So I tossed peeled tomatoes in a pan and added catsup (we're out of tomato paste) spices and lots of grated garlic (vampires don't come anywhere near our house - the kitchen still smells of it 24 hours later). Tasted pretty good actually.

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The movie was one from my college days and a bit out of character for me. I have watched most of the James Bond films, but I don't think very highly of them as they were created as political propaganda with a naive world view, and portray rather poor values all round - murder as a way of life, obeisance to royal authority, sexism, unhealthy lifestyle choices, etc. But if one is in the mood, the Bond movies can offer some great scenery, action, and well, fun.

The Bond film that we watched is one which makes many Bond fans groan. It is also the only one I own on DVD. The title is "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", which came out in 1969. I can hear some of you ... "not that one".... well just stop that right now and read on.

Yes, this is the one filmed after Sean Connery called it quits (for a short while) and it stars George Lazenby, possibly the worst actor to play Bond. He tried to imitate Connery in the film rather than create his own version of the character like Roger Moore did later on. At times Lazenby even has an annoying lisp. OHMSS also uses speeding up of the frames in fight scenes which comes off rather badly. But one actor, even in the lead role, and a few bad special effects, does not an entire movie make.

What does this film have going for it that could possibly outweigh the bad acting of Lazenby? Well, quite a lot actually.

Movie Trailer

For one thing, the scenery - it was filmed in the Swiss Alps and Portugal - is stunning. For another, there are some amazing skiing sequences shot by a cameraman (Willy Bogner) who at times skied backwards with the camera between his legs(!) and at other times was towed behind a bobsled. Another plus is the actor playing the bad guy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It was Telly Savales of the TV series "Kojak" fame and he did an excellent job.

All the Time in the World

The music was one of the major highlights. The regular James Bond themes were well arranged and matched to the scenes perfectly. The movie's sub-theme "All the Time in the World" was sung by Louis Armstrong in what would turn out to be his last recording session. Hard to beat the old Satchmo.

To give George Lazenby some credit, he did many of his own amazing stunts.

We had some good laughs at the sexist remarks. But nothing in this almost 40 year old movie could match the words of Japan's PRESENT Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Hakuo Yanagisawa, who the other day referred to women as (I am not making this up) "birth-giving machines"! So much for social progress. That remark may, hopefully, cost him his job.

The best element in this film, which makes it rise above many others of this genre was the performance by Diana Rigg as the heroine, Theresa di Vicenzo, the only woman who the Bond character ever actually falls in love with and marries. Diana Rigg is a favorite of K and Panadbonium for her role in the British 1960's TV series "The Avengers" which we have on DVD and watch from time to time. She brought her natural beauty and classical training to this movie, and is no doubt the most talented actress to portray a heroine in a James Bond film.

So if you're in the mood for an action film with dinner and perhaps have missed or "dissed" this one in the past (as I had), give "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" another chance and this time focus on everything other than the lead character. You may find it to be surprisingly good entertainment.

Oh, and try to plan dinner a little better than I did.


Pandabonium's Split Pea Soup

It has been a while since I offered a recipe. Some of my favorite foods are not easily available in Japan such as vegetarian chili, refried beans, or pea soup. Japanese food is great, but we all like a change once in a while. Luckily I have a source for dried organic beans and split peas (Tengu Natural Foods), so I can make my own comfort foods.

For you people north of the equator it is winter (in case you forgot) and I thought you might enjoy trying this vegetarian split pea soup that is practically a meal in itself. It hasn't been too terribly cold in Japan, in fact the warm winter has caused plum trees in Kanazawa Prefecture, souhtwest of Tokyo, to blossom two to three weeks early. Still, it has been cold enough for my tropical blood and I know that Rob up in Michigan is feeling the cold, Snabby in Oregon has seen snow recently, and Old Broad down in Texas endured a hellacious ice storm - beautiful pictures on each blog, but be forewarned - the Old Broad (aka Hill Country Girl) uses some very colorful language in describing her ordeal. ;^)

Pea soup is just the thing on days like that. Sure, you can open up a canned variety, but you know it won't be nearly as good (do you really want to settle for 'onion powder,' 'dehydrated garlic', or 'spice extract'?). Using a pressure cooker this won't take so long to make. Besides, on a cold winter day, what better place to be than in a warm kitchen filled with the aromas of simmering vegetables, herbs and spices? Sure beats driving in snow or hammering a block of ice off your spoiler to get the groceries into the trunk.

Why a pressure cooker? First because the air is pushed out during cooking which saves a lot of the vitamins and flavor of the food. Second, your cooking time will be far less, and third, you'll save up to 70% of the energy you would otherwise use.

What you'll need:

* 1 1/3 Tbsp. olive oil (20 ml)
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1-1/2 cups chopped carrots (350 ml)
* 4 cups vegetable broth (1000 ml)
* 1 cup dried split peas, sorted and rinsed (240 ml)
* 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves (5 ml)
* 1/2 tsp. ground chili pepper (2.5ml)
* 1/2 tsp. salt (2.5 ml)
* 1/4 tsp. pepper (1.25 ml)
* 3/4 cup uncooked brown rice (175 ml)

Some people would add chopped celery - feel free to improvise. Just don't add any form of meat and call it "Pandabonium's", OK?

Heat oil in pressure cooker and saute onion, garlic, and carrots for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable broth, split peas, thyme, chili pepper, salt and pepper to pressure cooker. Cover and bring up to pressure. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam brown rice in a rice cooker, pressure cooker, or microwave rice cooker. Depending on the method, you may want to start the rice first.

Release pressure on the soup (I use the cold water method to bring it down quickly), open and stir in the brown rice. You're done. Enjoy!

I get about six servings from this recipe. Leftovers can be put into containers and kept in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen for a couple of weeks. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave adding a little water or soymilk to get the consistency you like.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....


Chloe Anuhea Has Arrived!

Say hello to my new granddaughter, Chloe Anuhea. She arrived on the island of Maui Sunday afternoon, weighing in at 6 pounds 12 ounces, and was 20 inches long.

Big sister Bailey is thrilled.


Hokule'a To Visit Japan

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Hokule'a approaching Diamond Head as she returns from a voyage

Hokule'a (ho-ku-lay-ah) is the 62 foot long double hull voyaging canoe sailed by the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). The product of the imagination of Hawaiian artist, historian, and PVS co-founder, Herb Kawainui Kane (Kah-nay), Hokule'a means "Star of Joy" in Hawaiian and is the name for the star that modern astronomers call "Arcturus", one of the stars which ancient navigators from Tahiti would have used to find the Hawaiian Islands.

The Hokule'a was completed in 1975 and the following year made a voyage to Tahiti. Only traditional, non-instrument methods of navigation are used, a method called "wayfinding", which, when checked against modern instruments proves to be remarkably accurate. The canoe's purpose is to demonstrate the ancient sailing techniques and in so doing, bring the peoples of the Pacific together with each other and their cultural roots.

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Two thousand years before Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Islanders were navigating the vast Pacific in canoes similar to Hokule'a. With eleven crew, living quarters are cramped.

Over the years, the PVS has sailed Hokule'a and another voyaging canoe, the Hawai'iloa, to the far flung corners of the Pacific, including Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Society Islands, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Aitutaki, Tahiti, and Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago, Rapa Nui, Mangareva, and Nukuhiva.

During the voyage that took place in 1999-2000, which took them to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), navigator Nainoa Thompson was honored by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii as a "Living Treasure of Hawaii". I attended the dinner honoring that year's recipients and watched Nainoa accept the award from the deck of the Hokule'a via satellite on the last leg of the trip. It was quite a juxtaposition - ancient style voyaging canoe and satellite telecommunication!

The Navigator, painting by Herb Kawainui Kane

Not so many years ago, while working at a bookstore on Maui, I saw a man looking through the Hawaiiana section and asked if I could help him find something. It turned out to be Herb Kane himself (well, he is a Maui resident) and I had a wonderful conversation with him (on company time) about his art, Hawaiian history research, one of his books, "Ancient Hawaii", and of course, Hokule'a. A soft spoken man, he was quite surprised, and a bit shy, when I complimented him on his series on Hawaii Public Television about ancient Hawaiian life in which he dressed and lived as they did in ancient times. "Well, I was a lot younger in those days", he quipped.

Approaching Mangareva enroute to Rapa Nui 1999

Last Friday, January 19th, 2007 Hokule'a left Oahu for Kawaihae Harbor, on the west coast of the island of Hawaii, where it will be joined by a new voyaging canoe, the 56 foot Alingano Maisu, and the sailboat Kama Hele (a safety vessel with a powerful engine that can lend assistance to the canoes in case something goes wrong). From Kawaihae, the three will head for Majuro in the Marshall Islands and then island hop through Micronesia to the island of Satawal in the Yap group, home of the Hokulea's first navigator, Mau Piailug.

The Alingano Maisu will be gifted to the 75 year old Mau in honor of his long dedication and service in teaching the modern Hawaiian voyagers how to use wind, stars, seas, birds and other cues to make accurate landfalls after long voyages. The Alingano Maisu will then be based at Yap where it can carry on the tradition. In the local language, Maisu is a term carrying the concept of a breadfruit fallen on the ground which anyone may enjoy. Alingano means "to show". The idea behind the name is that the ancient ways of navigating are being shown for all to enjoy.

Alingano Maisu being placed in the water at Kawaihae, Hawaii

From Micronesia, Hokule'a will make a stop in Palau before heading to Okinawa and other ports in Japan.

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Islands and ports of call on this year's voyage.

The purpose of visiting Japan is to honor Japanese immigrants to Hawaii whose descendants continue to contribute to Hawaii's diverse multi-cultural society. They will visit several cities in Japan where those people came from. Also, the canoe will stop at the port of Yokohama near Tokyo. This stop will commemorate the 1881 visit to Japan by Hawaii's King David Kalakaua who was the first head of state to meet Emperor Meiji following the reopening of Japan to the world (the Meiji Restoration). The King subsequently sent Hawaiians to study in Japan and in 1885 the Emperor signed a treaty regarding emigration of Japanese labor to Hawaii.

In many ways, the 2007 voyage of the Hokule'a is one of gratitude. Naturally, many students in the schools of Hawaii, Japan, and other island nations in the Pacific will follow this voyage with great interest and use it as a tool to learn about history, cultures, and ecology.

The Hokule'a should be in Yokohama sometime in May and I am looking forward to seeing it there.

To follow the voyage and for lots of links about the Polynesian Voyaging Society, visit this blog:

One Ocean, One People A Celebration of Pacific Voyaging, Cultures, and Islands

For the Japanese language version, go here:


It is not a far leap from the voyage's theme - One Ocean, One People - to the concept of One Earth, One People. May we enjoy following this voyage in that spirit and work toward harmony between all peoples and responsible guardianship of our environment (for a change!).


Coming of Age Day 2007

Last month, I promised to get some more pictures of Asami (K's niece if you missed previous posts about her) on Coming of Age Day and hoped to get a smile out of her. As it happened, we missed Asami on Coming of Age Day, but I can share a few of the ones the professional photographer took as well as ones her mother took on the day. Happily, she did smile. So without further ado, here are the pics of Asami and friends.

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The kimono was purchased through Asami's Grandmother's cousin who did her hair and is shown here dressing Asami. Good view of the "obi" sash tied in the back.

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Old and New: Girls may wear traditional kimono, but often have modern hair styles (and colors) and of course wouldn't be without a state-of-the-art cell phone.

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Why is the "V" sign seen so often in Japanese photos? It is said to have become a popular pose after the Winter Olympics of 1972, which were held in Sapporo in northern Japan. American figure skater, Janet Lynn fell during her free style performance, but never let down her smile. She ended up with the Bronze medal, but Japanese viewers admired her attitude. Later, she was frequently seen on TV and print media flashing the peace sign (this was during the Vietnam war) and it caught on in popular photography here.

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While this blog is in large part written with those friends who comment in mind, one of its most important functions is to keep distant family and friends (who generally don't comment) posted on what's happening in our lives. So if you are in the former group, please forgive me as I post a few more.

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Kendo Day?

Well, last month I took some pics of K's niece, Asami, in her "coming of age day" kimono and promised more when the official day came.

The day came on January 7th and we went to Kashima Jingu in the late morning. The Coming of Age Ceremony was held at the Kashima-Shi Kinrou Bunka Kaikan - Kashima City Labor Culture Hall - and we expected the participants to show up at the shrine soon after. We were wrong. Two or three kids showed up around noonish, but Asami wasn't among them. Most others decided to wait until after lunch I guess, and it turned out Asami had skipped the shrine in order to get to a class reunion party.

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A number of kenshi (swordsmen) offer prayers before demonstrating their skills

Meanwhile, as a very long line of people waited to offer prayers at the Haiden, a priest and a couple of assistants came out and cleared people off a portion of the courtyard as several Kendo (the martial art of Japanese swordsmanship) practitioners lined up.

Kashima Jingu is dedicated to the kami (god) "Takamikazuchi no Mikoto" who is one of the two most important kami of martial arts. The other is Futsunushi no Kami at Katori Jingu, which is located on the other side of the Tone River in Chiba Prefecture. There is a dojo (school hall) on the grounds here in which Kendo and other martial arts are practiced. It is not unusual for martial artists to come from afar to visit the shrine. There are about 7 million people in Japan who practice Kendo, and perhaps another million in other countries.

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Two opponents face off.

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Some moves were slow, others very quick. The open mouth was silent with the slower moves, other times there came a shout as one person swung their sword or lunged at their opponent.

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Barefoot on the gravel - ouch. Much of the time, they slid their feet rather than take a step. Notice the marks in the gravel.

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This could hurt.

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The man on the right made some quick moves and his opponent had to quickly circle around to defend himself.

Though they had a Kendo club at the Hongwanji temple in Kahului, Maui, this was the first demonstration of the art I had seen. It was very interesting to watch and made the trip well worthwhile.


Martin Luther King Day

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Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. December 11, 1964

Click to read:
Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

Click to hear: MP3 Audio


Change of Heart

Following Shinran Shonin's footsteps, we went looking for another temple where he had spent some time nearly eight hundred years ago. This was not easy as his tracks have long be convered by paved roads, a rail line and new construction. The area is not densely populated, however and unspoiled mountains and rice field predominate the scene.

I had studied as many maps as I could, as the temple we were looking for is off the beaten track. I would not have even known where to begin had it not been for the fact that Rev. Thomas Okano, head of the Buddhist Study Center at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, had written about visiting there last year with a group of "pilgrims" from Hawaii, California, and Belgium. Complicating our navigation was the construction of a new highway in the area and resulting detours and changes (read lack) of signage for the highway we needed to find.

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We finally assured ourselves we where headed in the right direction and as we neared, the bright BLUE tile roof of Daikaku-ji revealed itself, no, shouted its presence against the lush green backdrop of Itajiki-san.

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The bare branches of trees cast their shadows on the temple wall in the afternoon sun.

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A phoenix and dragon adorn the front gate.

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The wisteria crest design delicately cut to form a grill above one of the windows. This temple was rebuilt after the war, but the woodwork and craftsmanship is superb and well worthy of the temple's history.

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The garden is designed after the Zen temple Tenryu-ji in Kyoto with elements of the style of the Katsura Rikyu (Imperial detached palace) garden. These are both places which Pandabonium and K have visited, the latter requiring at least a month's prior permission from the Imerial Household Agency. (Perhaps I'll post about them in the future if I can digitize those photos.)

An interesting incident took place involving Itajiki-san (Mt. Itajiki) which is depicted in a scroll with 15 panels made by Shinran's grandson Kakunyo in 1295 that illustrates the life of Shinran.

Shinran declared himself to be neither priest nor layman, and said he had no disciples, only friends who walked the same path. Yet, as his following grew, it made some jealous. One such person was a yamabushi (mountain dwelling ascetic monk) called Bennen. Bennen had become so jealous that he want to kill Shinran. He lay in wait many times in a gorge of Itajiki-san which Shinran frequently traversed in his travels, but did not succeed in ambushing him. Frustrated, he decided to go to Shinran's hermitage and confront him.

The upper panel of the scroll depicts the story. Bennen came to Shinran's house, but the moment Bennen saw Shinran’s calm and composed face, his evil intent disappeared. Bennen wept tears of repentance, and became the Shinran’s disciple on the spot. Shinran gave Bennen a new name, Myoho-bo.

Engraved on a rock on Itajiki-san, there is a poem which Myoho-bo wrote in his later years regarding this experience. It reads:
The mountains remain the same,
As do the trees and streams...
All that has changed
Is my heart.

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It was time for us to return home. Our one day pilgrimage had offered beautiful vistas and encompassed Shintoism, ancient history, ceramic arts, and Buddhism; filling our hearts with joy and our minds with stories and memories to contemplate and discuss for a long while to come.


In the Footsteps of Gutoku - the Foolish Baldheaded One

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Shiran Shonin - Saint Shinran (1173 -1263)
This portrait was painted when he was 83 years old.

Our next stop was a temple serveral kilometers out of town in an area that used to be called Inada village. Sainen-ji was founded by Shinran Shonin (Saint Shinran), whose teachings formed the basis for the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) sect in Japan, Japan's largest, which is part of the tradition or school of Buddhism known as "Pure Land". Its followers seek to be reborn in "the Pure Land" after death and thus attain enlightenment through the grace of Amida Buddha.

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Shinran called himself Gotoku shuku Ran - "ignorant short-haired disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha (Shin)ran", (or foolish baldheaded Shinran) for he saw himself, even after decades of study and practice as a Tendai monk, as totally incapable of attaining enlightenment through his own efforts and so entrusted himself completely to the power of the wisdom and compassion Amida Buddha who promises it to all sentient beings who sincerely ask. His teaching caused political worries and upset some priests of influence, so he was exiled for a time from Kyoto to Niigata on the West Coast of Japan. Some of his followers were even put to death. After his pardon 5 years later, he moved to what is now Ibaraki, refining and spreading his beliefs. Many of his followers were commoners - fishermen, farmers, people who worked with hides, and also the lower ranks of Samurai.

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He lived in a simple thatched hermitage at Sainen-ji for most of the twenty years he spent in Ibaraki, during which time he wrote his most important work, the "Kyo Gyo Shin Sho" - Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment. At that time, there were temples on the grounds of Kashima Jingu and he visited there to study the scrolls they held. He also rebuilt another temple in Hokota City, called Muryouju-ji, which I wrote about in "The Way Home". In 1232, at the age of 60, he returned to Kyoto.

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I'm not sure when the presesnt temple building was constructed or rebuilt. The one we saw looks relatively new. Other structures, the gate, gate keeper's house, well, bell tower, and a small hall on the hillside above, are various ages up to five hundred years and more. In any case, the setting and woods are beautiful and command a view of the rice fields and mountains.

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Stone steps lead up the hill above the temple where we found a small hall. It dates to the 16th century when the local Lord of Kasama was defeated in battle and came to Sainen-ji to commit suicide. The priest there at the time talked him out of it and arranged a truce agreement with his foes.

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In appreciation, the Lord of Kasama made a generous donation and had this hall built on the hill. It is called Taishido (Prince Hall) after the Prince Shotoku (574-622) who brought Buddhism to Japan from China. Prince Shotoku also appeared in a dream that Shinran had when he was 29 years old. The dream caused Shinran to leave the monastary where he had been training since age 9 and seek out Honen, who would become his mentor in the Jodo Shu path.

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Further up, at the top of several flights of steps, behind an iron gate is a rokkakudo - hexagonal building. In it, a small portion of Shinran's ashes are interred (most are in a mausoleum in Kyoto).

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Above, the graceful roof of the temple and the pastoral scenery of Sainen-ji. I would like to learn more about Sainen-ji and spend more time there, but once again it was time to move on. We had one more place to visit as we now followed the footsteps of Gutoku Shinran.


Gone To Pot

After leaving Kasama Inari Jinja, we headed up nearby Mt. Sashiro, which overlooks the city. On its slopes is an old ryokan/hotel - Hotel Yamanoso. Looking rather like a castle, and in fact being located near the ruins of Kasama Castle, the hotel has a most intersting lobby. In a window display case by the entrance, one is greeted by a mounted polar bear, two meters tall, but what we came to see was inside.

The hotel has a wonderful collection of perhaps 50 or more suits of Japanese armor, a beautiful laquer planiquin, saddles, muskets, portable Shinto shrine, and other historical objects. The suits of armor are lined up in glass cases surrounding the lobby. At the front desk, K asked for permission to look around which was enthusiastically granted.

I imagined how spooky it might be to wander into this lobby at night with no one around and feel the empty stares of the suits of armor..... Good thing I don't believe in g-g-g-ghosts.

Some of the suits had multiple family crests displayed. That seemed odd, but we learned the reason for it: wealthy warlords would rent out suits of armor to their less wealthy counterparts who had a battle to fight. Something like renting a tuxedo today, I suppose. Don't know if they wanted a large deposit - just in case.

Three of the suits were owned by members of the famous "47 Ako Roshi" - aslo known as the 47 Ronin (masterless Samurai) who avenged their master's death in the year 1702. They became legends and have been much glorified in books, movies, and television shows.

One particular suit of armor was of special interest to me. It had belonged to a warlord of the Satake Clan, the same family that sponsored Satake-ji temple in Hitachi Ota City that we visited on December 3 of last year.

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Satake-ji founded in 1177

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Satake Warlord's Suit of Armor (center)

As I mentioned in the previous post, Kasama is noted for its pottery. In fact, the new Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum is there, and that's where we headed next. We enjoyed our picnic lunch in the parking lot of the museum.

The museum has huge aluminum doors at the entrance that automatically slide apart just as you approach them and close behind you, two meters inside there is another set that do the same thing. They reminded us of the beginning sequence of the 60's hit TV comedy series "Get Smart" which you can watch if click on the name.

The museum has modern and contemporary pottery, some of which was executed by artists with the distinction of being "Living National Treasures" of Japan. In one section there is a large screen where you can watch six short video presentations showing how different types of pottery is made. I think K was hoping to find some older examples of the art, but generally, the oldest we saw were from the early 20th century. There were several I would have liked to take home, but they wouldn't fit in my jacket.

After we left the museum, we browsed the stalls of artists offering their wares in an open air market.

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Open air ceramics market.

Soon it was time to move on. Our pilgrimage was not over yet by a long shot.

To be continued....