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From Susan

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Hi Everyone! Just a quick note from Kyoto! We're half way through our stay and it's been so amazing. Spent a night up on sacred Mt. Koyo in a monastery of Zen Monks. Experienced our first buddhist morning meditation ceremony at one of the most revered Temples and then wandered through an ancient cemetery where all the spiritual masters, Emperial family and even giant corporations tombs are. Pretty amazing experience doing it in the middle of the night! Could really feel all these old spirits surrounding us! It was the beginning of a recognition of how important their ancesters are to the Japanese which is totally missing in our society. After a couple days in our tour of the various Temples in Kyoto this underlying difference has been even more evident because we were here for the Vernal Equinox when all of Japan takes a holiday to visit their ancestor's tombs to honor them.

For me there is another remarkable experience in this trip , i.e. to see the amazing changes in their openness to other cultures since my last visit in '96. The youth culture especially is so vibrant and self-assured. You would find it hard to discern and differences in the clothing or behavior from any other metropolitan city in the "1st World" countries. But mostly, I see the change in the role of females from being restricted to the traditional "wife-mother" life-roles to being free to take a more equal stance in the work-a-day life in the city's culture. They are very independent and self-assured relative to just 10-15 years back!

Well, I better sign off for now...we're to Nara today. It's the ancient capital with much of the original buildings and temples still preserved and functioning. I've got my zori's on!



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