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Japan 2012

In this pilgrimage to lands of art and culture in honor of my 60th birthday and described below, I made it to new places and revisited old favorites, Japan ranking high among the later. I first arrived in Japan in 1982 and have been returning with love ever since. To say there is no place like it in the world is so true and yet so inadequate to really convey my feelings for the land, its people and culture. Luckily a picture is worth a thousand words and I invite you to take a look. What made this visit so satisfying was the observation that fully half my life has been in a deep relationship with Japan, with friends and places that I have held close for more than 30 years. And this time I was particularly pleased to be introducing my friend Kristal Hale to all the wonders, from ultra urban contemporary to the best preserved ancient temple structures and wood sculptures in the world.  

Shared with you here are images of the Meiji Shrine, a most important nature reserve and Shinto complex in Tokyo with some images from Modern Japan, including on the subway to show you a small taste of Tokyo as one of the world's greatest metropolises. Note the billboard for and exhibition of Dutch Master Paintings in Ueno Park, uncommon to our eye to have a Vermeer covered in Japanese script. 

The scenery switches to the environs of Kyoto, beginning with rice paddy farming on the way up to Miho Museum near the town of Shikaraki. Designed by I. M. Pei and nestled into a forested mountainside, this building houses one of the greatest collections of Classical Mediterranean, Silk Road, Chinese and Japanese art in the world, dedicated to the principle that from beauty comes wisdom and from wisdom comes enlightenment...not a bad philosophy for all of us! And speaking of beauty, Kyoto is celebrated quite rightfully for its early temples, fine tuned gardens of giant trees, banzais and bamboo groves, the “dry landscapes of Zen rocks and sand, the Gion, an old geisha and arts neighborhood juxtaposed with a more contemporary fish market and other treats all waiting to be discovered. Among the temples too numerous to cite by name, I would mention the Golden Temple and the Silver Temple recognizable in my photos and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine with 1300 orange Torii gates markers of land with great Shinto potency, home of kami spirits! 

Nara is the oldest and arguably most sacred site in Japan, the capital from 710-784 after which the Emperor moved to Kyoto. There are many famous temples in the area many of which offer not only fabulous architecture and brilliant works of sculpture but also the fun of feeding deer, revered by Buddhist tradition and now quite tame. These places include Todai-ji, Saidai-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gango-ji, Yakushi-ji, Toshodai-ji and  Kofuku-ji, the later having a small gem of a museum on the grounds with some of the greatest sculptural works of art ever carved by human hand and each a thousand years old. These masterpieces have been maintained through the centuries by an extraordinary people who contribute mightily to our world heritage and I thank them for it!