To the Temple
Last night I had returned from late dinner at the
yatai, the distinctive
Fukuoka ramen stands, to find all my roommates drinking
some liquor they had found at the local shops.
I was staying at the Fukuoka Hana Hostel. Everyone else in my room was part of a group from Taiwan who were there for a special service at their Buddhist sect's regional temple. Then they would contine northwest to the sect's home temple on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji.
They had invited me to accompany them to the service.
Morning was here. They were ready to go. They got me out of bed. Time to go to the temple!
That's me on the right, in the front passenger seat of the van they had rented.
Buddhism was founded in India between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, based on teaching attributed to the historical Buddha.
Today there is Theravada Buddhism, in southern and much of southeast Asia; Vajrayana Buddhism, in Tibet and Mongolia; and Mahayana Buddhism, in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.
My roommates from Taiwan were of the Nichiren Shōshū sect. That is part of the larger Nichiren branch of Buddhism, which is in turn a part of the Mahayana branch found throughout eastern Asia.
Nichiren Shōshū teaches that you can reach personal enlightment in your present form and lifetime. It's based on the teachings of the 13th century Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222-1282), spread through his disciple and secretary Nikko Shonin (1246-1333).
Nikko Shonin then founded Sōhonzan Taiseki-ji in 1290. It's now the head temple of Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism. It's near Mount Fuji, a short distance west of Tōkyō.
At the temple my new friends bought locally made prayer beads and votive plaques, and signed up to get certificates of their participation in the coming service.
The service largely consisted of an hour and a half's chanting of Nam-Myōhō-Genge-Kyō. It's done to expiate bad karma and, one hopes, achieve enlightenment. But the primary point is that in the process, you hope to lead others to an enlightened state of being.
So, a Taiwanese Chinese speaker used Japanese katakana phonetic transcription to write down what I was supposed to be chanting. After a while, I was acceptably close. There was plenty of time to work on it.
I attended a teaching by the Dalai Lama in New York's Central Park in 1999. Yes, that was the Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, entirely different in some ways. But, with many parallels.
His teaching expounded on a Tibetan scripture with very obvious parallels to the Sermon on the Mount in Christian scripture. In his conclusion, he said that that had been why he had chosen that specific scripture for the teaching.
The Tibetan Buddhist teaching back then, like this east Asian service, shared an ultimate goal of helping others.
The home temple on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji is home of the Dai Gohozon, the sect's supreme object of veneration. It's a plank of Japanese camphorwood inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters forming a calligraphic mandala image.
After the service we left the fairly nondescript temple and went to the adjacent lunchroom.
Here we are after lunch. I'm at the upper left. That is, your left. In the brown and white flowered shirt.
They dropped me off near the train station, then swung past the hostel to pick up their bags and head north to the main temple near Mount Fuji.
I wandered central Fukuoka some more.
To the Tachinomiya
Late in the afternoon, I went back to the tachinomira, the stand-up bar near the hostel where I was staying.
The left-most of these menu strips on the top row offers <kanji><kanji> ウイソナー, or uisona–, for 二〇〇円 or ¥200.
Then there's some all-kanji mystery for ¥300.
Then ハバネロ<kanji><kanji> or ha-ba-ne-ro-something for ¥300. Mmm, habeñero.
And then, ウイフイ
or wi-fi, with the serious WPA2 pre-shared key
And so on, on down the wall. I see おぶソいねし or o-bu-so-i-ne-shi and so on. I see, but I don't understand...
I had えだまめ and ハイボール, or edamame and haibōru.
To the Izakaya
Then I went farther up the side alley to a different izakaya for another light starter.
People worry that these taverns are frequented by ruffians. Not so much.
The proprietor recommended something, and I agreed. She explained it, confused me, and gave me a written label.
Kamaboko is cured surimi. It's pureed deboned white fish, steamed, pressed into loaves and sliced, then served with dipping sauces. Thank you, Wikipedia!
It's a little like the pressed "sea leg" crab-like product we have in supermarkets in the US, but with way less corn-based sweetener.
Don't be English. Have something to eat, not just a drink.
To the Yatai
Back to the riverbank yatai for a late dinner!
I got a seat at the end of the front counter, looking down the cooler case.
I got yakitori and Kirin.
Soon I moved on, searching for the best soup stand.
Here's a stand with a back-corner seat.
Large pots hold broth that's been boiled for hours.
Small screen baskets let them heat previously boiled ramen noodles.
Above those pots is a grill.
My tonkotsu rāmen arrives.
Later I cross one of the bridges over a branch of the river.
This building has bars and clubs on floor B1 up through 7F.
The above is specific to Fukuoka. Or maybe you want to explore other places in Japan.
Akihabara, Tōkyō's Electric Town
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Travel through Kyūshū, the Harbor, Temples, Shrines, the Samurai Path, and a World War II Bunker