Day 6 – The wheels on the bus go round and round

We were off to another early start this morning. Mt. Fuji is about 2 hours away driving and apparently many other folks in the country had the same idea as we did. Traffic was heavy. It was a beautiful day and our first glimpses of Fuji-no-Yama (ふじの山) were absolutely breath taking. Because of the haze, the only part of Fuji that is visible from a distance is the snow covered top. The view makes it seem as if the top of the mountain is floating in the sky.

Fuji is the spiritual center and often times symbol of Japan. I can certainly see why. I believe it would be impossible for someone to see the mountain for the first time and not be in absolute awe of her grandiose beauty. I feel very fortunate to have been able to see this first hand. Because of the traffic and our tight schedule, we were only able to stop for about 30 minutes for lunch to observe Fuji. It’s suffice to say that I did not eat and spent every last second trying to capture the beauty with my camera that I was seeing with my eyes.

The most memorable moment for me at Fuji was meeting an elderly couple who was also photographing the mountain. The gentleman had a Mamiya medium-format camera mounted on a tripod so high that he needed a ladder to look through the view finder. His wife had a 5DmkII which is the camera that I use. I tried striking up a conversation with them using my limited Japanese language skills and unbelievably we were able to understand each other.

The art of photography is it’s own form of language. I showed them some of the images I had captured and they told me one of the only English words they knew, beautiful. He was gracious enough to allow me to look through the view finder of his Mamiya and what I saw was an absolutely striking image of Fuji, artfully composed in a way that I was attempting but couldn’t quite realize. As I said goodbye, I said arigato sensei and both he and his wife smiled widely. I still have a lot to learn. I could have stayed here the entire day and probably many more but I know that there are many more beauties in Japan waiting for me to see.

It took several more hours to reach our next destination, a family tea farm and castle named Ninomaru Chashitsu in Kakegawa. It was interesting to see how they harvest the tea leaves. Apparently the cut only the tops of the shrubs so it looked like there were several rows that had just recently gotten a buzz cut. The farmers are able to harvest three times in a season. We next went to the factory where they process the leaves through an intricate drying process. Finally we traveled to Ninomaru Chashitsu to sample some of the finished product at a traditional tea ceremony, my first.

This is Mai, Keiko’s niece. She was too cute and we later found out at karaoke, a spectacular singer. She reminded me of my kids so I enjoyed her being around.

These are the steps leading up to Ninomaru Chashitsu.

Ninomaru Chashitsu was actually really nice. They had some nice gardens that we were able to walk in and enjoy.

The tea ceremony was interesting. It was my first time trying freshly brewed green tea. There are actually two little tea pots, the second one with boiling water had not arrived yet in this image. The bowl in the middle is actually a cooling bowl.

Here’s our group trying to figure out exactly what we’re supposed to do. Luckily we had some help.

Here’s Mai again. I think she been photographed before. She knew exactly what to do and smiled right on cue.

Our evening ended with karaoke in Roppongi. I’ve never done that before and let me just tell you, if you haven’t, you’ve got to try it. They have individual rooms that you rent out so that you’re only singing to friends and family meanwhile food and drink appears magically on the table while you’re singing the chorus to Fire and Rain by James Taylor.

Next stop, free day and the Tokyo Giants baseball game.

– Tony Llerena Photography

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