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I was so excited to return to Japan for Toyohari training in August/September 2019. This was my fourth visit to Japan and my third visit to participate in Toyohari training. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Toyohari Association in Japan, so it was a very special event. 

Fortunately, I have two wonderful travelling companions in Elizabeth and Lucy who are also Toyohari practitioners. We decided to go to Japan a few days early to recover from our flight and to soak up some Japanese culture. 

Our first stop was Hase in Kamakura, a lovely seaside town about one hour south of Tokyo, know for its temples, shrines and rich historical culture. We stayed in a 90 year old house with tatami mats and shoji screen walls and doors, in contrast to a contemporary art space, a gym and surfboard art. 

Seeing the Daibutsu (literally ‘big buddha’) at Kotokuin temple has been on my bucket list for some time and it was wonderful to finally achieve my dream of seeing this in person. The Buddha is 11.31 metres tall (13.35 including the base). 

We also visited two other beautiful temples: Hasadera and Hokoku-ji. At Hokoku-ji, we drank matcha tea while admiring the bamboo forest. 

Next stop: Tokyo. For many people, Tokyo is neon lights, busy traffic and cross roads and exciting night life. Not so for my travelling companions and I. We always choose to stay in quiet areas and this trip was no exception. Staying in Yanaka was one of the highlights of the Tokyo leg of our trip; we had the opportunity to walk through local streets lined with traditional architecture, the highest concentration of temples I’ve ever experienced, shrines, a large graveyard, and the famous Yanaka-Ginza shopping street with a retro feel. 

The 60th anniversary of the Toyohari Association in Japan started off with a bang with the breaking of the sake barrel and two talented Shamisen performers. Toyohari practitioners from all over the world attended, along with several hundred Japanese practitioners from all over Japan. 

I was very fortunate to spend my birthday in Tokyo. We spent the afternoon in the Asakusa area and had dinner at Gonpachi Asakusa Azumabashi overlooking the Sumeda river. My Japanese friends organised a birthday fruit platter and the whole restaurant sang Happy Birthday.

After our study had concluded, we travelled to Kanazawa in Western Japan. For me, this was a return trip after 32 years! The trip was much easier this time, as you can now travel there by shinkansen (bullet train). Kanazawa is sometimes referred to as ‘little Kyoto’ as it has a similar focus on the arts and crafts, temples, shrines and nature as Kyoto does. Visiting the gardens of Kenrokuen, Kanazawa Castle and Samurai House were amongst the highlights of this leg of our trip.

Attending the Sunday meditation session at Daijo-ji, a 700-old temple about 40 minutes from the centre of Kanazawa was a wonderful experience. I felt the deep calm and of centuries of meditation practice and sank easily into a deep meditative state. 

My trip was so valuable from both a personal and professional level. I’d like to thank my wonderful travelling companions, my Japanese friends, my Toyohari treachers and the many people I met along the way.