1st week (and a half)!!

Yes, we’ve made it through finding a place, moving-in, cleaning up, renovating, opening and dealing with our first walking O-Henro san!!  It does feel like we have accomplished soooooooo much in these 2 1/2 months.  And really, the 1st week and a half of opening has given us a good taste of what life is going to be like (but hopefully a lot busier).  The opening day was sort of a “trip”…of course expecting no one.  Then one of my ex-students (atsuya) contacted me a couple days before opening asking to stay on the 1st night; cool, 1 guest.  Then, we get a booking online, 2 Spanish travelers…awesome, 3 guests our first night.  Then, Nori’s uncle-in-law makes an unexpected appearance (he’s a Buddhist monk and was attending some monk thing in town, BOOM, 4 guests.  Then, 2 former occupants of this place (semi-pro baseball players) just happen to be in town from Okinawa and need a room for that night…yes folk, thats right, 6 people our opening night. I was also my birthday, so we had a bit of a party!!

It slowed down during the week (the opening day was a Sunday) we had between 1-3 guests each night…an especially cool Fin Olli.

This slow week was really nice, it was really the first sort of break that we had in 2 1/2 months of going non-stop…so we had some me (us) time which was really nice (and very needed).  This was all building up to Saturday, which, by the grace of good Jesus himself, we were full.  Maybe the most beautiful word in the English language for us right about now.  We had a good mix of folk too, big Japanese group of uni students right about to graduate, cute American couple teaching in near Niihama, 2 single Japanese guys (each in a single room) and a last minute booking of 4 foreigners (us, canada, thai) that filled us to the brim.  It was fun, everyone was cool and Sunday we cleaned.  So this week has been slow again so we had a bit more down time and we were able to explore the place I dubbed “cat temple”.

My friend Derek and I were able to go there about 3 weeks ago and I’ve been recommending it to everyone that has asked about a hike in the area.  There are a lot of cats, but it’s not a temple, as we found out; it’s actually a mandala.  A mandala is a (according to wikipedia):

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. According to the psychologist David Fontana, its symbolic nature can help one “to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises.”[5] The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as “a representation of the unconscious self,”[citation needed] and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

Mandalas can also be represented architecturally, and that is what this place is.  It’s really interesting inside, with all of these amazing weird wooden statues of various gods-can’t really be described, must be seen.

The garden and surrounding sculptures themselves are no joke either.  It’s a beautiful, if slightly unkempt Japanese garden with crumbling Buddhist and Hindu sculptures strewn about.

50 meters after the mandala and weird statue garden is a cave that leads to ishiteji temple, the 51st temple of the 88 temple pilgrimage.  Definitely the best way to approach this powerful and important temple.

Next Saturday is our opening party, which is going to be much fun (and probably quite a bit of work on our part).  Nori’s uncle is a jazz producer/performer who will be playing a couple sets with friends.  Our friend, Christophe is going to be taking photos and he has agreed to let us hang a collection of his photos also.