By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #47
And so its off from a somewhat familiar world to a relatively unfamiliar one. Immediately the level of complication inched up by a notch. We had fully expected to fly due north from Cairns, Australia to Osaka Japan on JAL (Japanese Airlines) to continue our bicycling in Japan. Instead, for reasons not entirely clear, we learned that we would fly Malaysian Airlines, and that JAL (who control landing rights for all airplanes coming into Japan) would not permit Malaysian Airlines to land in Osaka with our bicycles. Negotiations with JAL failed to resolve the issue. As a result we found ourselves flying to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, where we left our bicycles and stayed overnight. The next day we continued our journey to Osaka a day behind schedule (and without our bicycles). Because of the detour to Kuala Lumpur the air miles turned out to be more than double what a direct flight would have involved. It was kind of like flying from Boston to Miami by way of Greenland. Without our bicycles the Japan experience became what many of the "bikers" considered to be a long boring bus ride (too many hours on the bus and not enough sight seeing). It was definitely a disappointment to most. The two of us found it easier to adjust our expectations because we were fortunate enough to have been in Japan some few years ago and had a high quality visit at that time.
Among the places we got to visit on this trip were Kyoto, Amanohashidate and Hiroshima. While on a walking tour of Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, we experienced the tremors of an earthquake. What was strange was the variations on how it was felt. Some of us were oblivious to it (including Larry), some felt it mildly (including Joan). Some others happened to be sitting in a cafe and felt the building shaking, with hangings popping off the walls and dishes falling off the tables. Since the epicenter was at a location we were scheduled to visit in a couple of days time, our itinerary was changed to bypass that location.
Our tour of Kyoto included several Buddhist temples, including the important central one (the administrative center for all of them). Our guide told us that it is the largest wooden structure in the world. That seems unlikely to us so perhaps he meant the largest wooden Buddhist temple. Buddhism began as an Indian religion and it came to Japan by way of China in the 7th century. Shinto is the historic Japanese religion. Both religions are part of Japanese life. Many Japanese pursue Buddhist philosophy but turn to Shinto traditions for accommodating to life's passages (i.e., births, marriage, funerals). At one of the shrines (Tajokoni Shrine) we were shown a bell near the 400 year old gate which we were told is the heaviest bell in the world (82 tons).
As was the case in Chile, the professions and trades are located in common areas (e.g., furniture shops, pottery shops, etc.). This commonality is practiced in many places, even in the US, but not to the extent we have seen in Kyoto. One interesting visit took us to a fan shop. Fans are said to be the only product invented in Japan, and are apparently manufactured only in Kyoto. The fan making operation gives some idea as to how Japanese industry has functioned for 500 years. It is also a good example of the "division of labor." Each step is done at a different home (cottage industry style). For example, the wood (bamboo) cutting operation is done in one home, the printing in another, paper cutting and folding in a 3rd, and assembly (gluing & testing) at yet another location.
Continued on Update #49
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