Continuing my series of reflections from my first time in Japan (2002-2003), here is another entry, re-posted from the web journal I had going at the time:
Saturday, December 2, 2002: Reflections on Kyoto
… The lady who guided us is a student here, and was a great host. In fact, she spoiled us, insisting again and again on paying for parking, admission and meals — and there were five of us, uncluding her! One thing I have learned in my three months here is that when a Japanese person wants to give you something, it is very hard to say no. Maybe I shouldn’t generalize so much, but I have found the Japanese in general are very kind, giving and hospitable. The people I am meeting here are perhaps the best thing about this place, and are what I will remember the most about my time here.
While in Kyoto, we visited three different large, famous shrines or temples. From a cross-cultural, architechtural and historical perspective, this was very interesting. From a Christian perspective, it was kind of sad. At one place, Sarah (a fellow teacher) said she felt uncomfortable, but I said I didn’t — I felt sad. She asked if it was breaking my heart, and I said “maybe a little”; what I should have said is “not enough”. As a Christian, it is sad to see people turning to idols; and that’s what we saw — idolatry in its most literal sense. Very sad indeed.
All in all, it was a good day, though. We were definately experiencing Japan and seeing the Japanese in their cultural particulars. Eye-opening, in a way, and part of a year-long experience that is, I believe, going to be looked back on as a time of great learning; perhaps, even life-changing.