Thursday, July 21, 2016

Our Epic Trip

In June, my wife Beth and I visited Athens and Geneva---Beth had business in both cities —and then we visited Japan where our daughter Emily is studying. What a great trip! So many miles traveled!

We walked the Plaka of Athens, visited the Acropolis, and also toured the islands of Hydra, Dephos, and Aegina. The beginnings of missionary Christianity came to mind as I thought of the Acts narratives, but I especially reflected on the heritage of Greek philosophy and democracy—-subjects that I’ve taught in survey courses over the years—-and also the theology and heritage of Orthodox Christianity. Just around the corner from our hotel was a religious book and gift store called the Philokalia (the beauty of wisdom), and just up the street was an icon store and a historic Orthodox church.

It is nice to know that the New Testament Greek that I took in college forty years ago (that famous Gershon Machen textbook!) still served as I tried to read street signs in the modern Greek.

We made a stop in Geneva, where Beth had other business. I walked down the hill to the UN headquarters, where a demonstration of Tamils called for greater rights for them in Sri Lanka. I thought of demonstrations in the U.S. related to the Black Lives Matter movement and also the outrage of Trump’s presidential candidacy: the need for public assemblies and discussions about pressing issues. Across the street, I noticed a memorial for the Srebrenica massacre, coincidentally twenty-one years earlier almost to the day.

Walking back up the street, I enjoyed visiting the World Council of Churches headquarters and remembered the freelance-writing project I did in the 1990s on national and state ecumenism.

Flying from Geneva back to London and then over Scandinavia and Siberia to Japan, we spent a great week in Japan visiting Emily. She is enjoying her year abroad, and speaks Japanese well so she could help us check in to our hotel. We did a lot of shopping around the area where we stayed, but also visited temples and shrines, a wonderful experience which helped center us —happy but tired from our travels and a bit overwhelmed by crowds, a different culture, and the language barrier. Shrines can be found in some of the busiest areas of Tokyo, and we appreciated the chance to spiritually focus at these places and to enjoy Japan's religious heritage represented by the statues and architecture.

We visited three museums that we highly recommend if you're in these cities: the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, the Reformation Museum in Geneva, and the Tokyo National Museum.

The Acropolis
The Parthenon

Porch of the Caryatids, the Erechtheion

Byzantine Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, Plaka of Athens


Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

Tomb of the Unknown Greek Soldier, at the Parliament in Athens

St. Pierre's Cathedral, Geneva

A favorite restaurant, Taverne de la Madeleine, Geneva

Chapel, World Council of Churches, Geneva

Geneva: John Calvin has his own beer 

Another favorite restaurant, in Geneva

Tamil demonstration at the Broken Chair monument, UN hdq in Geneva

Memorial near the UN in Geneva

Mount Blanc makes a rare appearance

Cappuccino, Peter Rabbit Restaurant in Machida

The bodhissatva Avalokiteshvara, Tokyo National Museum
Senso-ji, Buddhist temple at Asakusa.ō-ji

Yokohama from the Landmark Tower

 This one and the next three: Machida Tenmangu shrine.

Yakushiike Park in Machida. 
Cemetery and Sohoin Buddhist Temple, tucked away in a busy area of
Machida. The red on the Buddhist statues
symbolizes life.

The cat cafe Neko no Mise, Machida.

Chillin' at the 100 Yen Restaurant in Fuchinobe

Shrine in Machida

Political candidates 

Fukurokuju, God of wealth, happiness, and longevity,
one of the seven lucky deities of Japanese Buddhism.

The family and Koko Kondo, Hiroshima-bomb survivor and
international peace activist. 
Relaxing at the coffee shop back home in St. Louis. 

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