Erakokyuu Nakameguroten with Friends

Lots of Lights

A few of the students from TT 2012 wanted to organize a Yakaufune outing on the Tokyo river but bad weather forced us to make a change of plans.  We met instead for an outrageously fun and amazing feast at Erakokyuu Nakameguroten a traditional Japanese seafood restaurant. After a rendezvous in Nakameguro one chilly evening we walked under a canopy of budding sakura towards the restaurant which was situated on the canal of the Nakameguro River. After coming upon a the brightly lit exterior, we entered a rustic and lively setting primarily constructed out of wood. Expressively painted murals of sea themed images, including a rendition of Botticelli’s Venus–covered the walls, hand drawn banners listed the daily specials and colorful paper lanterns hung from the ceiling.
Today's Seafood Specials

A price is set per person for all-you-can eat and the meal was served at a steady pace throughout the evening.  We started off with a hearty miso soup flavored with fish bones, heaping bowls of sashimi and daikon, squid, crabs, salmon and roe, enormous clams, and Japanese fried chicken, mugs of beer and green or oolong tea.

Ensun Ahn Fusae, Natsumi, Mikiko in front of Venussaid that everything is caught and selected that day and even the scraps of seafood are used in the soup stock.  I stretched my culinary boundaries to eat some things, mostly raw, but couldn’t muster up the strength for others–particularly the “crab brains”–the innards of the crab which are considered a delicacy.

The meal evolved into laughs, stories and an exchange of gifts. One gift, scented eye pads, from Akie Asahi, heated up immediately once they made contact with the skin. We squealed with laughter as she explained their use the then said— “1 2 3 “zzzzzz!!!”  I used those eye pads a few nights throughout the training and they do put you to sleep immediately!  Mana Sasagawa gave me goody bag filled to the brim with treats and Tomoe Honjo, an illustrated book on kimonos.  She explained that she was one of the youngest experts on kimonos in Tokyo and carefully wrote out translated segments in key sections of the book. I looked around the able and realized that my students were now friends, and even felt in some ways like family especially since I was so far away from home.

For a good nights rest, gifts from Akie Asahi

I told them that I would always be able to offer help with their careers in the years to come. We made an agreement to meet at Nozomi Kadokura’s new venue Tulsi Yoga Studio in the weeks ahead, which included the presence of a few more students. That too was a special evening where we practiced teaching and gave informal evaluations and feedback followed by a pot luck, treats and gifts.IMG_2113Goody Bag from Mana...

Having a Great Reunion

(Left to Right) Nozomi Kadokura, Charlotte Kasumi Kabe, Romy Phillips, Mana Sagasawa, Eunsun Ahn, Akie Asahi, Mikiko Goto, Mimura Fusae, Tomoe Honjo, Natsumi Ishikawa

Shinjuku Lights

During my last two weeks in Tokyo, I taught evening classes exclusively at YogaPlus, Shinjuku. I would take the train from Gotanda to the busiest subway station in the world, maneuver my way through the maze of stairs, tunnels and people and then walk out  towards the bright glowing web of flashing lights.  I explored the narrow the streets of Shinjuku enveloped in a persistent kinetic hum but  was surprisingly able to tap into my own inner silence and walk in solitude.

Kabukiza with Keiko Tanaka

Entrance, Imperial TheaterLike last year, my final week in Tokyo was packed full with teaching, events, outings, and preparations for the last sessions of the teacher training. Keiko Tanaka, the director of Yoga Plus treated me to Kabuki. I’ve always wanted to see a live Kabuki performance and was really excited to meet her on a Tuesday morning at the newly re-opened Kabukiza in Ginza. I remembered all of the hoopla from last year’s unveiling of the newly remodeled theater and there has been a constant, steady stream of visitors since then. The original Kabukiza dates back to 1889 and has been rebuilt five times over the years due to fires and natural disasters.  Now towering sky- scrapers have blossomed up around it in the midst of bustling Ginza.

Our program for the afternoon started at 11:00 a.m. and consisted of the following: “Tsurukame” (The Crane and the Tortoise); “Terakoya” (The Village School); “Sannin Kichisa Tomoe No Shiranami” (Three Thieves Named Kichisa).  Two more programs would run throughout the day—2:40 p.m, and then 6:00 p.m. Tickets could be purchased for the entire day or for separate programs.

Once we entered the grand theater and found our seats I looked out over the serenely lit auditorium with a sloping ceiling.  Soon, the orchestra began to play as a boldly striped scrim lifted to reveal an expansive stage with a backdrop of an abstractly painted landscape.  Fortunately, I was able to get earphones with English commentators to help me follow along.  I discreetly tried to take pictures of the fantastic characters moving across the stage in grand kimonos, but only managed to get a few shots before I was promptly told to put my camera away.

At intermission, many people suddenly produced bento boxes and began to share lunch in their seats. Keiko and I got up and walked around surveying  the concession stands that lined the corridors and found some really delicious warm waffles filled with sweet azuki beans.  Black and white photos highlighting the lineage of great Kabuki actors adorned the hallways– all of them quite famous and known as household names. Keiko told me about some of her favorite actors and how much she loved Kabuki particularly the expressive acting, elegant costumes and sets. I certainly had to agree with her.

Kabuki which dates back at least 400 years, has been the primary form of popular theater in Japan and a venue to reflect fashion, cultural tastes, political and socio-economic trends of the time.  Many of the stories are part of a repertoire that actors memorize and perform routinely.  However, there are stylistic distinctions made with pieces associated to different periods over the years from the Edo and Mejii periods to the present.   Nevertheless, there have been long held traditions that apply to Kabuki. First of all, only men and young boys play a range of roles, from grieving mothers, wives, to samurai and emperors.  Male actors train for many years to perfect their impersonation of women which is called—“onngata.”   I will admit that it was impossible for me to tell that the female actors were in fact men!  However, there was a time when women did perform (early 1600s) and their provacative performances were later banned from the stage due to social morals enforced by the “shogunate “in 1629.  Young boys would systematically replace women, however, prohibition would routinely apply to them as well.  Ultimately, Kabuki flourished with older actors, all men depicting subjects on serious drama.

The costumes throughout all the programs were of course stunning and the actors wore them with graceful ease. The kimonos, which are made with the finest materials, can be quite expensive. I also found it interesting that men in complete black (kurogo), are always on stage,  blending into the background as they move sets and props or assist with costume changes. They sit huddled around on the sets or behind main characters, squatting or in other positions for long periods of time without flinching or twitching. I told Keiko that I couldn’t believe their physical discipline and stamina. We jokingly laughed and said, “Now that is yoga!”  The actors also had an impressive physicality that met the rigorous demands of their roles.  Elegant stage sets are austere and suggestive of real locations, but also engineered to move around, collapse or emerge in an instance. For example, in the “Three Thieves Named Kichisa,” a woman is tossed into an undulating river and drowns in the waves!

Live music is played with traditional instruments such as Japanese drums, shamisen, and flutes while members of the audience occasionally shout at the actors. This is another unique factor of Kabuki. The “presentational” stage action is directed towards the audience and they actors may actually be situated in or enter the stage via the audience. “Mie”—a strong pose struck by male characters to express a powerful emotion or conflict– is accompanied by loud beats of wooden clappers. Finally, spoken word, diction are also categorically stylized.

After seeing three shows that day, I appreciated the historical and cultural significance of Kabuki theater and felt so grateful for this generous gift from Keiko. It would take quite some time to see the breadth of performances and study the volumes of scholarly material written on the subject. But if you’re ever in Tokyo, you must make a special trip to the Kabukiza— you will have a rare and truly remarkable experience in the performing arts.

Romy outside of Imperial Theater


Japanese Weddings, Pt. III: “The Hall of Beautiful Ladies”

The final installment on the subject of Japanese Weddings is the “Hall of Beautiful Ladies” at Meguro Gajoen.  These portraits are uniquely distinctive because they illustrate, much like the figures in the wood panel murals, the exquisitely stylish variations of Japanese women’s fashion. Furthermore, I have learned that there are long held customs on the proper wearing of kimonos that are very similar to traditional wedding attire.  (The fascinating subject of Kimonos will be addressed in a future post).

These captivating vignettes of  “Bijin”– “beautiful” women that show so much personality and flair,  were salvaged from the old Meguro Gajoen.   As I slowly walked around looking up at the alluring medallions on the shimmering gold-leafed ceiling panels, I found myself wondering who were these stylish women with so much vivre? Models?  Or, notable women of their time?  (early 20thC, circa 1920’s-30’s)—their true identity is a mystery.

Complimenting these figures is the dramatic “Serial Mural of Trees,” —tranquil and graceful landscapes of flowers and trees transitioning through the seasons—winter, spring, summer and fall, that run along the upper wall spaces of the corridor and also reclaimed from the old Meguro Gajoen.  In addition, each woman’s portrait also represents a characteristic detail of a particular season.  I found out later that the landscapes were painted by artists who were members of the “Seiryu Shah Group.”  I did write down the name of the artists who rendered the portraits and murals, but I could find scant information on them:


The Seiryu Shah Group

  • Kano Sanraku
  • Anzai Keimei
  • Kimura Shikanosube
  • Obata Teiko
  • Sakagre Isso
  • Satu Mokuso
  • Hamade Siesho
  • Yamazaki Yutaka

Throughout the halls of Meguro Gajoen are breathtaking depictions of humans existing in the natural world. The timeless stories based on the constantly evolving cycle of life are displayed in a successive range of seasons, emotions and vividly colorful artistry.

Japanese Weddings Pt. II: Meguro Gajoen

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The setting for many of the weddings in Tokyo is the magnificent Meguro Gajoen, which I discovered by coincidence one day as I strolled along the Meguro River.  I was walking back towards Gotanda and suddenly came upon a massive, towering building that seemed out of scale for the neighborhood.  Curious, I revisited the site on my day off and discovered an extravagant world of art, design and architecture.

I first entered the slick Arco Tower with its serene white, glass and steel interior eventually leading to café in an adjoining building that featured a soaring wood beamed ceiling with the corporate offices of Amazon, Tokyo situated on a deck above. The café overlooked a garden courtyard and small pond with a graceful shrine–like structure connecting the buildings.  After a brief snack, I continued on and entered a large hall and was surprised to see a long curving wall lined with over 300 ft. of fantastic wood carved murals!  The elegantly dressed figures of Japanese women rendered in motion, rapt with expression, were characters illustrating various narratives played out against a panoramic backdrop of the seasons.

I followed the glimmering hallway which led me towards delightful wonders revealed at every turn—restaruants, wedding halls, an indoor pond and waterfall, a luxurious hotel, gardens and art–lots of it–all housed inside a looming terrarium-like habitat. I literally spent two afternoons exploring this vast richly decorated building–a perfect place to spend a rainy day.

After some research I was able to find out some history on this unusual compound. Meguro Gajoen was established in 1931 as a social outlet consisting of lavishly decorated banquet, wedding halls with other related services and amenities on a much smaller scale than the current grand incarnation. Extensively adorned with hand crafted wooden panels, murals, portraits and gilded ceilings and more. Many of the images are based on the Japanese fairy tale “Palace of the Sea God.”  Now a popular setting for weddings in Tokyo, Meguro Gajoen was meant to be a refuge for the citizens of Tokyo during a difficult time.  Viewers could be visually transported to an idealized world of imagination and fantasy. After successfully existing on this site for more than fifty years, the original building was torn down to allow for commercial development along the Meguro River. Fortunately all of the artwork was salvaged and restored–even the antique rooms have been seamlessly re-installed, including the “100 Stairs” on one of the upper floors.

I continued to walk each floor transfixed by so many marvelous treasures. Finally, exhausted and over-stimulated by sensory overload and a dead camera battery, I returned again at a future date to take it all in.  On my second visit there, I was fortunate to be there on a quiet afternoon and a courteous attendant let me to enter the foyer of the glorious chapel to take pictures, but I was not allowed beyond the threshold. Yet, still a rare opportunity to snap away un-inhibited and also by chance, to see a couple being photographed for a wedding portrait.

This monolithic compound is now a valued cultural asset of Japan. Overall, I found Meguro Gajoen brilliantly presents a balanced and harmonious unity of modern architecture and traditional imagery. The scale of the contemporary architecture provides a clean and spacious backdrop for the lavish weddings and rich art on display, allowing the viewer to absorb the fine details of the visually compelling works or festivities.   In addition, the self-contained environment provided a comfortable place to leisurely spend time, host a wedding or an event, or perhaps stay a while in the luxurious hotel.  This tremendous project must have taken years to complete, especially if one considers the respect for artifacts, consideration of cultural traditions and the collaborative efforts of many individuals involved in creating an enduring showpiece.

Japanese Weddings Pt. I—Style and Tradition

Japanese Style Wedding promo  European Style Wedding

Weddings became a surprising diversion from yoga with the emergence of a number of interrelated events. First, the discovery of Meguro Gajoen, a popular and spectacularly decorated wedding hall; next, the chance encounter of a couple of wedding photo shoots; and the timely marriages of Yuri Nakamura and other Yoga Plus teachers and students. Weddings around the world are typically joyous and  festive celebrations highlighting customs unique to a culture. In some cases it may be mandatory that a ceremony embrace many aspects of the past. However, for weddings in Japan, a youthful desire for modern, stylistic touches are in contrast with a splendid heritage associated with marriages. The solution?  From what I see,  a delightful compromise that presents an extravagant pageant of colorful finery and dazzling rituals.

Wedding Photo Shoot, A

On my way home from Hanami viewing at Shinjuku Goyen, I walked over towards a group of women peering into a storefront with “Innocently” printed  across the glass window.  I stood amongst them and saw a young couple inside being photographed for their wedding. The bride and groom wore stunning clothes.  We all gasped as an attendant removed the bride’s towering satin white headdress to reveal an elaborate, ornamental hairstyle….Wedding Shoot, B

Curious about what I’d seen, I later mentioned this incident to Sari (Sahoko Matsuo) who shared insight on the details and customs of traditional Japanese wedding attire.  She conveniently had pictures of her sister’s recent wedding on her I-phone. Sari told me about her sister’s rigorous lessons in the months prior to the event, learning how to walk, move and pose in the very heavy gown and headdress, while teetering on zori. Furthermore, all of the women attending the wedding, especially relatives, wore kimonos made especially for the occasion, some being handed down through generations. The ceremony is usually held in a Shinto Shrine (Buddhist).

Women's Traditional Japanese Wedding Outfits

After additional research and discussion with Sari, I found out that the  wedding attire and ceremony are laden with symbolic details:

  • The traditional Japanese wedding dress for women is a simply designed white kimono shiro-maku (“shiro”- white, “maku” – pure).
  • The headpiece is a tsuno kakushi, which covers the elaborate hairstyle, bunkin takashimada, signifying obedience to the husband.
  • The golden accessories, kanzashi, that adorn the hair symbolize horns of jealousy.
  • The bride’s face is dusted in white powder, indicating purity. Black outlined eyes and red lips complete the dramatic look.
  • She will also wear traditional Japanese footwear (tabi and zori) and array of other fine accessories.
  • For the reception the bride will change into an Uchikake a lucky, red silk kimono embroidered with flowers, cranes or natural scenes.
  • Nevertheless, a Japanese bride may change at least five times throughout the entire ceremony finally ending up in a Western style dress if she pleases.

marriage-japanese, traditional

The groom also wears a formal black kimono montsuki, with a family crest on the back, tucked into gray or white pinstriped Hakama pants.  The ensemble is covered with a haori coat that may be black over gray.

Getting photographed

A Wedding Portrait seen at Meguro Gajoen

Yuri Nakamura who recently got married in July, cheerfully kept me apprised on the developments of her wedding throughout our training. I enjoyed hearing stories about outings with her mother in search for the right dress to fit her small frame. By coincidence her wedding would also be held at Meguro Gajoen.  I mentioned how I discovered this amazing place. She was so excited and said that almost everyone in Tokyo had a wedding there. These photos from Yuri’s wedding show a harmonious weaving of traditions and style. Note the kimonos worn by her and the groom, the lucky accents of red, later contrasted by his shiny suit and her western style gown covered in a cascade of roses.


Yuri Nakamura & Tatsuhiro Hayashi


Tatsuhiro Hayashi & Yuri Nakamura with a “lucky red” Higasa


This is just an overview on the subject and there is so much more information to reveal, but hopefully one can get a glimpse of the complexity and significance of wedding ceremonies in Japan. I’ve included a few, wonderful photos below of the recent nuptials of Yoga Plus teachers and students.


Ayako Yoshioka & Shinji Oba


Aki Kagoh’s wedding party with (Kosai Kato, Yumiko Unno, Emi Aoi, Yuk Takiyanagi)


“Kii” Maki Sonobe

Meet the Translator: “Sari” Sahoko Matsuo

Sari at Shinjuku Studio

Sari, Yoga Plus Shinjuku

Sari against yellow green










I had the opportunity to work with a lovely new translator this year: Sahoko Matsuo “Sari,” whom shares unique traits seemingly inherent to other yoga translators: she is a yoga teacher, well-traveled, and speaks more than one language.  Sari has been practicing yoga for approximately seven years, completing a 200 Hr.  teacher training in NYC in 2011 and currently teaches at Yoga Plus, Tokyo. I was fortunate to have her translate for my classes at the Yoga Plus, Gotanda and Shinjuku studios.

Prior to pursuing her current profession, Sari was a researcher in Japan and then moved to New York  where she spent  2 1/2 years attending English language school and a yoga teacher training.  Additionally, during that time Sari volunteered at Soup Kitchen and NY de Volunteer,  a great experience where she was able to make lots of friends. Her work at these organizations was an effort to fulfill an ongoing special interest in social work and social welfare that she has had since high school.  She is always thinking of a way for everyone to be affluent and happy.

Sari is from the Aichi prefecture and speaks Japanese, English and loves cooking,  baking,  and traveling.  Although very young, she has also journeyed to: Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Mexico and Jamaica.

Lithe, with a graceful & calm demeanor,  I found Sari to be impressively hard-working and tenacious; translating two classes a week at the Gotanda studio and once a week at Shinjuku, all while maintaining her full-time teaching schedule.  Nevertheless, she was a delight to collaborate with–and very generous–I really enjoyed her thoughtful gifts of home-baked fruit breads!


Last year I profiled the translators for my classes and the teacher training: Yuri Nakamura, Kosai Kato, Mayumi Yamashita “Souffler,” and Tomoko Kawahara who are all, with the exception of Tomoko) were working with me again this year. You can read their stories in previous posts under, The Tokyo Diary, 2012.

A Tuesday Morning at Tsukiji Market

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During the last week of April, Sachiko Inomata also invited me to join her for another outing on a Tuesday morning at Tsukiji Market.  Sachiko said that she goes there several times a year to stock up on special items.  The market opens to wholesalers at 3:00 a.m. and to the public after 9:00 a.m.  We started out early and took the Toei Oedo Line to Tsukijishijo Station, which features colorful murals and the pungent odor of fish which fills the air way below ground.

Boisterous and sprawling, the Tsukiji Market (Jonai Shigo) covers over 56 acres of land bustling with bikes, motorcycles, small trucks, machinery, throngs of people, amidst mounds of styrofoam crates and cartons.  As we walked amongst the aisles of stalls in the massive warehouses, I saw fish and seafood that I never knew existed, nor could I imagine eating.  Apparently there are over 450 types of fish and seafood represented and a visit here is not for the squeamish or vegetarians!  Yet, the market is a popular tourist attraction and I did enjoy the energy, excitement, visual and sensory stimuli.  The outer lying market (Jogai Shigo) is composed of blocks of restaurants, vendors and food stalls selling: fresh and frozen seafood, including sea vegetables; cooking utensils, especially knives and dishware; dried foods, such as, bonito, grains, beans; pickles, nori, ocha, seasonings and dozens of other delicacies.  Moreover, it was fascinating to see a multitude of exotic sources from the sea that are the basis for Japanese cuisine.

Sachiko and I of course had fresh sushi served up on large banana leaves at one of the narrow food stalls.  After our morning meal, Sachiko  picked up bundles of fresh bonito flakes to take home to her family.  She said that this particular bonito were the best quality and gave me a few packages as a gift. I have to agree with her–I have been sprinkling the flakes on salads or mixing them into soup broths, adding a delightfully distinct flavor to my meals. To my surprise I get a burst of energy,  which I’ve found is from the rich source of B vitamins that are inherent to the flakes.

As we set out to explore Jogai Shigo, we briefly visited the Namiyoke  Inari Shrine (c.1657)  which has been a fixture in the  marketplace for almost 350 years.  Namiyoke–“protection from the waves,” and Inari — “God of commercial prosperity and safe operations at sea.” Nevertheless, this shrine is designated as the unofficial guardian for the marketplace and traders.  The red and black male and female lion heads  (incarnations of Inari) are the highlight the annual “Lion Festival.” Sachiko lamented that the entire market and environs would soon be relocated to another part of Tokyo. This I couldn’t imagine, as there seemed to be so much history here.

Later, around twelve noon, Sachiko and I somehow ended up at a traditional Japanese tea house in Ginza where we had bowls of delicious sweets beans with cups of green tea. A very healthy dessert at the peak of the day!

Oki Yoga with Yuji Oishi

Yuri Oishi, Oki Yoga

Yuji Oishi

Yuji Oishi, CrescentYuji Oishi, Eka Pada Rajakpotasana

Yuri Oishi, Upavistha Konasana Variation

Some of the Yoga Plus teachers mentioned Oki Yoga in the studio one day. Their descriptions of this traditional Japanese style of yoga sounded intriguing to me.  Oki–“Do”—“path, or way of searching for truth in life,” was developed by Master Masahiro Oki, who was influenced by many different disciplines and religions—eastern & western–including Hatha Yoga, Yin-Yang Chinese philosophy & Japanese Zen traditions.

I finally had an opportunity to attend a private class at the BMSI in Gotanda earlier this week.  Yuji Oishi,  who teaches regular classes at Oki Yoga in Tokyo, led us through a two-hour practice. We started with traditional Oki Yoga breathing movements that were synchronized with a series of spinal rotations and shoulder openers. The practice progressively moved from rhythmic and dynamic standing to seated asanas, addressing every part of the body from head to toe. We gradually worked our way into Eka Pada Rajakpotasana.  Although I have very tight hips, I was able to get deeper into this pose than usual without props!  In fact, props are not used and nor does the practice focus on alignment. Instead, the emphasis is placed the release of muscle tension through expansive, flowing transitions.  In addition, periodic parts of the practice also included light self-massage to the feet, chest, shoulders and after savasana, the scalp and face. In some ways, I was reminded of Viniyoga, Yin and perhaps Tai Chi.


Yuji Oishi was an impressive teacher who’s body had a notable balance between strength and flexibility (evidenced in the photos above).  He said that the overall philosophy of Oki Yoga is not only for body and mind, but, for the whole life– “Total Life Yoga.”  Yuji also pointed out that Master Oki translated B.K.S. Iyengar’s renowned book, “Light on Yoga” into Japanese, which is now being used in our teacher training.


Overall I found the class experience grounding, meditative and calming.  After the practice, I actually felt “re-aligned” and had a sense of physical spaciousness while walking around later that day.

After Class with Yuri Oishi

Ryusenji Temple (Meguro Fudon) with Sachiko Inomata

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One day after at the Yoga Plus studio in Gotanda, Sachiko Inomata offered to take me to lunch and off we went by cab to an Italian restaurant in nearby Meguro.  Italian food is very popular in Japan and Sachiko said that the pizza was especially great here. She was right; we enjoyed light, fluffy pizza topped with the freshest ingredients made in a brick oven before our eyes.

Salads before pizzaPizza in TokyoRomy in front of the brick oven

Sachiko suggested we make a quick visit to see a temple in this quiet neighborhood.  We walked for about a mile and came upon the Ryusenji Temple (Meguro Fudon).  I’ve seen at least eight temples or shrines during my visits to Japan and marvel at the fact that no two are exactly alike.  I later found out that the temple’s grounds were designated in 808 a.d. by a Buddhist missionary, “Jikaku Daishi Ennin” and since then, “divine water” has been flowing from this spot for over 1200 years.   A statue of Fudo (God of Fire) is placed in a fountain of water, which is said to have healing properties. It is customary to splash water on Fudo before moving forward.

Ryusenji Temple is nestled deep within a “village-like” neighborhood in the middle of bustling Tokyo. The rambling temple grounds have a rustic naturalness with a liberal mix of fountains; ornamental, mythical and sacred statues including a great bronze Buddha behind the temple that Sachiko said had a “Japanese” face.  After cleansing our hands, mouths and taking off our shoes, we were able to visit the lavishly impressive ornamental altar inside the temple, but no pictures were allowed.  The best I could do was to zoom in and capture an image from the doors of the entryway.  I was also instructed on the process of lighting a bundle of incense to place in a bronze urn outside as an offering in prayer. It was nice to have someone highlight traditional rituals that are a mystery to a westerner like me.

Meguro Fudon seemed especially intimate since there were very few people there.  In fact, I had no idea that this compound was within a couple of miles walking distance from where I’m staying in Gotanda.  Sachiko told me that sometimes she comes to the temple at sunrise when the city is quiet and the air is fresh.