Hokkaido in the summer, is virtually a garden of wildflowers and lush forests.
It also has the cleanest sea waters around Japan, and it provides the best seafood for all of the Japan.
The Shiretoko Peninsula is located at the northeastern part of Hokkaido.
It is a long stretch of narrow land with the Okhotsk Sea on the Western side, and the Nemuro Straits on the Eastern side.
Before we came to Hokkaido, I did not even know that there was a sea named Okhotsk… (sounds Russian to me)
It is a wide sea that freezes during winter.
The Okhotsk Sea is visited by many swans during the winter, and they create a dramatic and graceful display, as they gather on the luminous ice, or take flight in a large flock into the white wintery sky…
We chose to stay in the nearby town of Shari, and from there to go to explore the Shiretoko Peninsula.
Shari is a small town with only two main streets with a handful of restaurants, cafes, shop and bars and a sprawling area with strip malls and convenient shopping area.
Our hotel is the only eight story building in town, and no matter how lost we can get in exploring the town, all we need to do is raise our heads and see it tower over the town.
Every town, no matter how small or seemingly uninteresting, has a soul of its own.
We decided to walk around and find it….
In Shari, it was located around the ground of a beautiful Buddhist Seminary and temple.
The temple was undergoing a major renovation, so we strolled around the beautiful gardens surrounding it, and enjoyed the tranquility, the wildflowers and the slopping cherry hills.
At a local store, we tried some of the sweets that were made in the area, and later we had a small dinner at a local restaurant.
Our hotel had a wonderful hot spring bathhouse, which is sparkling clean and very beautiful.
I soaked in the bathing area that was outdoors, and felt my muscles relax into the warm waters, that had an especially soft mineral quality to them.
The soft light of the Bathhouse and the hot mineral soft waters, made me remember the hilly garden we strolled in, around the Buddhist temple in Shari.
I remembered a story about a Zen monk, who was an artist, a calligrapher, a poet, a gardener and a tea master.
His name was Takuan Soho.
When he felt it was his time to leave this earth life, he instructed his students:
“Bury my body in the mountains behind the temple.
Cover it with dirt and go home!
Read no Sutras, hold no ceremony, receive no consolation gifts…
Let the monks wear their robes, eat their meals and carry on as on normal days!”
On his final moment, he wrote the Kanji character for “Yume” (A Dream)
Meaning that life in a body is no more than an illusion…. A world of dreams…
He put down his brush and died.
Only a moment does this world endures….before it gives way to eternity…