A wise man for whom I worked shared insight in to my flawed personality during a performance appraisal for the previous year during which all objectives had been successfully achieved. Although worthy of banner waving, he gently explained a concept describing the manner in which I executed the attainment of those goals and coached alternative approaches. The term he used to describe my award-winning tactics is usually reserved for fighter pilots in the heat of combat -Target Fixation.
In the process of accomplishing my objectives I would eliminate, remove, ignore, or run over any obstacle in between me and the objective as I became increasingly fixated on the target, leaving dead bodies and injured parties in my wake. Well folks, old habits are hard to break. The day’s agenda was full, populated with the Hozu-gawa River, the Romance Train, the Sanjusangen-do Temple, the Tenryuji Temple, the Bamboo Forest, and the Golden Pavilion. We hired a cab driver to usher our foursome around until 5:00- a full 9 hours to get our Zen on. My target to see a record number of World Heritage sites during that time frame locked and loaded.
The potential collateral damage sat innocently beside me….
When I left you hanging anxiously awaiting the next pulse quickening post, the boat tour down the Hozu-gawa ended with a protein packed snack in the form of grilled squid. For the other 12 passengers the day was captured, memorialized and ruined by the antics of one Offspring #1, his face blocked out to prevent the Japanese mafia from tracking him down to remove his left pinkie with a finger nail file. Perhaps only the Clampitts and the pink clad man and his wife to the left will savor the following mantle quality still, thinking back on the rapids, the captain splashing us with water and the Offspring’s embarrassment when I retaliated by pretending to push the Captain in the water as he walked along the boat railing to the back.
After much bowing in gratitude and a lunch break, we rounded the corner to Tenryuji Temple- famous for its Zen Buddhist gardens. It was not on the original tour since it sounded so dull, however, Andretti-san kept adding it to the list every time I removed it. Once I discovered its membership in the esteemed World Heritage Club, the arguing abated and the deletion of its stop on the tour ceased. Built in 1335, Tenryuji is the only remaining of the 5 Japanese Mountain Sites used by the early Shogunates to help govern Japan during turbulent times.
One of these would make a nice addition to the living room for use as a foot stool- and to keep the nieces and nephews in line. Just scary enough to illicit a reaction from the littler ones. “If you get out of bed one more time, Mr. Smiley is going to guard the door.”
Rokuon-ji- The Golden Pavilion. World Heritage Site #2. Recently re-guilded as she was losing that fresh-faced luster after 700 odd years. Unknown and unseen by visitors, the lacquered inside was also repainted. Unfortunately, the only recent American given an opportunity to see this site, George Bush Sr, declined the exclusive invitation claiming a hole in his sock. No lie. On my part. Whether it was on his only he knows, however, if so, the cleaning crew at the White House needs a cleaning.
Grandmama- “I’m hot- I’m going to find a shady spot and sit down.”
Ouisar-san- “Ok, Ike-chan can take you to the entrance and we’ll meet you there in 15 minutes- get some ice cream to cool you off.”
When we found her at the end of the trail, Grandmama made a pitiful Eor impersonation, bucket hat flattened alongside her ears, all body parts drooped toward the scorching pavement.
“Just two more temples!”
Glassy, unseeing shark eyeballs rotated slowly in my direction, luckily she lacked sufficient get up and go to bite. This girl was closer to rolling belly up.
“You don’t want to go home do you?”
Her head fell forward on her chest approximating a nod in the affirmative.
We had lost Grandmama.
The cab had more breathing room with Grandmama gone. Our next stop was Sanjusangen-do- the formal name is Rengeo-in Temple. Most people know it as “1000 Buddhas.”Originally built in 1164, lost in a fire, and rebuilt in 1266, the current building is original. Technically it’s a National Treasure. I counted it as another World Heritage Site since it should eventually make the list. Number 3- unofficially. Nothing to look at from the outside….
The inside is a cavernous hallway with a fading painted ceiling, wood beam plank studs, and darkness lit by “candle light,” revealing 1000 solemn Buddhas ( Juichimen-senju-sengen Kanzeonor- Kannon for short) and the 28 dieties placed in front to guard them. The statues are made of Japanese cypress- 124 were made in 12th century, the remaining 876 in the 13th century. The life sized guardian dieties’ marble eyes watch the crowd walk by, ready to pounce at the first provocation.
Can you tell I’m impressed? I can’t even joke about it. How these Buddhas survived 9 centuries without being devoured by the hoards of insect species which were devouring us as we toured the facility was either divine intervention or the incense.
Pictures were not allowed of the sacred images. The images below are from the guidebook “Buddhist Dieties of Sanjusangen-do Temple,” Published by Myoho-in, the Head Temple of Sanjusangen-do, Printed in January 2008, Photographs by Askaen Co., Ltd./Kozo Ogawa, Produced by Askaen Co., Ltd.
Ebisu was the lucky guy- one of the 7 Lucky Gods of Japan – but before he spilled his secrets I received the famous Japanese cross arms of “No Pictures” as I focused on the translation diagram. Offspring #2 recounted the number of times I’d been the recipient of the cross arms – it was a day’s record.
No guts- no glory.
A hash marked list. Three World Heritage Sites. Several National Treasures. All items crossed out with a strong black pen mark. Stuffed back in the purse. One hour left with the cab driver. Ample time for another stop. Temples and shrines peek out from every corner in Kyoto.
“Kids- we have one more hour- we can shop, go to one more site- we haven’t seen a pagoda yet, there’s the place with the famous posing Buddha, and the monkey park, or the sweets- Kyoto is famous for sweets….”
No one turned, just a slow, forward shuffle toward the cab.
“Ice cream. We can stop for ice cream, rest a minute or two in the cab. Then go to Gion street and look for Geisha.”
No response. The cab driver opened the door and gave me an empathetic smile.
“Starbucks then souvenir shopping.”
“Candy. How about candy and then a stop- your pick- I know- a ride in a rick shaw!”
That got a response. Of disgust.
“Are you kidding! Everyone will look at us!”
“Mom- we just want to go to the Ryokan. Please.”
A bell tolled somewhere in the Ivory Tower of a Fortune 100 Company. Three witnesses able to tell the tale that retirement had not eliminated target chaser contained within. Oh well- the younger ones might grow in to it.
The cab driver and I dropped the hostiles at the hotel and spent the remaining hour looking for Geisha.