Let The Quest For 100 Summits Begin!

Let The Quest For 100 Summits Begin!

My husband, our cat, and I arrived in Japan on Wednesday afternoon so I could begin the 100 Summits project. As always, Japan was beautiful from the air: The patchwork quilt of green fields interspersed with towns and villages, looks similar to other agricultural areas from thousands of feet in the air. But the plane descended, the curved tile roofs, bamboo groves, and sparkling, water-filled rice paddies of Saitama revealed their distinctive details. We passed through customs and animal import inspection quickly, and hopped on the N’EX (Narita Express) for the 90-minute ride to central Tokyo. (Haneda airport is closer to the city

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Fudo Myo-o and the Fudo Hall (Koyasan Part 3)

Fudo Myo-o and the Fudo Hall (Koyasan Part 3)

Founded by the monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) during the 9th century, Danjo Garan continues to function as the heart of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism in Japan. While the entire kōya (mountaintop valley) is considered a single “temple,” the complex at Danjo Garan holds many important historical structures that still serve a role in modern Buddhist worship – including the Fudō-do, or Fudō Hall.   (To read this series on Koya from the beginning, click here.) In Shingon Buddhist belief, Fudō Myō-ō is an incarnation of the Buddha and the leader of the wisdom kings. He protects the living and guides them toward enlightenment.

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We Interrupt This Program…

… for an update on the 100 Summits project and my cancer treatment. I completed my last chemotherapy infusion two weeks ago today. My side effects are mostly gone, with the notable exception of my nearly-bald head, which will likely remain almost completely hairless for at least another week before I start getting “baby fuzz.” If everything goes as expected, I’ll have a little “real hair” within six weeks.

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Kōya, Part 2: A Walk to Danjo Garan

Kōya, Part 2: A Walk to Danjo Garan

Danjo Garan, the primary temple complex on Kōya, sits about two blocks from the “main street” visitor center, shops, and restaurants. Although all of Kōya is considered a single temple complex, Danjo Garan acts as the beating heart of Kōyasan Shingon Buddhism. (To start this series on Kōya from the beginning, click here.)

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A Visit to Koyasan, part 1: Up the Mountain!

A Visit to Koyasan, part 1: Up the Mountain!

Kōyasan, or Kōya, is a natural basin atop a mountain in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The shallow basin (called a kōya in Japanese) sits 800 meters above sea level, and is home to one of Japan’s most sacred temple complexes (also known as Kōyasan), as well as Japan’s largest cemetery, Okunoin. In the weeks that come, I hope you’ll join me for a virtual tour of Kōya and its various sites of interest. Today, we’re taking the journey up the mountain by cable car.

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The Eikan-do Garden and Shinbutsu Bunri (Eikan-do, Part 3)

The Eikan-do Garden and Shinbutsu Bunri (Eikan-do, Part 3)

Kyoto’s Eikan-do Zenrin-ji is the head temple of the Seizan branch of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. The temple sits near the southern end of the famous Philosopher’s Path, and although it’s famous for autumn foliage, the temple gardens are spectacular year-round. The photo above shows the path that leads from the gardens (and pagoda hill) down to the temple’s beautiful lake.

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Once More Into the Breach

Once More Into the Breach

This morning, I head to the infusion center for my final chemotherapy infusion. Unlike so many endings in life, this one is not bittersweet. (In fact, since I gave up sugar entirely during chemotherapy, but brought a box of lemon Pocky back from Japan to enjoy when it was over, I can tell you the end of chemo will be very sweet indeed.) That said, I don’t regret my decision to undergo chemotherapy after my breast cancer diagnosis, even though my stage (1a) made it my choice rather than something I “had” to do.

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Hanami and Cherry Blossom Forecasts in Japan

Hanami and Cherry Blossom Forecasts in Japan

Yesterday at Murder is Everywhere, I posted a blog about the traditional hanami – “flower viewing” – parties that happen at sakura (cherry blossom) season. (Photo credit: Xyrenth – used with permission.) Cherry blossoms are such an important part of Japanese culture that the Japanese National Tourism Organization (and other media outlets) publish an annual “sakura forecast” predicting the date when cherry blossoms will open across Japan. 

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