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Hello from Kyoto! After a 2 hour and 20min bullet train ride, we arrived here yesterday. In just about 24 hours we have done and seen so much! Almost directly after we checked into our hotel, the entire group made our way over to a nearby park to have a little workshop about a holiday song Francisco is writing. He wanted to know what the holiday season means to us. Many people came up with the idea that the holidays are more about spending time with people we care about and less about the materialistic world we live in.

Just as our conversation began to roll, we saw a bolt of lightning in the distance. A few seconds later, under darkening clouds, we heard a thunderclap, and a few of us felt drops of rain. We decided to leave the park and head back to our hotel before heading out to dinner in small groups.

This morning we boarded a bus for a day full of touring, sightseeing, and experiencing Kyoto. By 10am, we arrived at a Buddhist Zen Temple. Onoyama-san’s close friend, who lives here in Kyoto, is friendly with the Master Buddhist at the temple, and was able to get us time in the temple to meditate. Apparently, it is nearly impossible to be able to go inside a temple and meditate with the Master Buddhist, but all 30-some of us were able to go in for free! We had a 15 minute meditation session before taking a small tour around the tiny temple.

After the temple and meditation, we went to a tea ceremony demonstration, where we were shown how to make green tea, and how to serve it to a guest. A “tea master” performed a demonstration on how to make tea, before allowing us choristers and staff to make tea for one another. There is so much detail and elegance that goes into making tea. It was great to experience that part of Japanese culture in an area known for making great tea.

We then boarded the bus again, and headed to Onoyama-san’s friends’ tea shop, for lunch, a Japanese culture/language lesson by Onoyama-san, and rehearsal. Our hosts were very gracious and provided us with a delicious lunch which included inori, cucumber rolls, salad, KFC chicken, noodles, and watermelon. After lunch Onoyama-san spoke to us about what certain parts of culture mean to her, such as language, religion, and love. She told us that to her, love is really the amount of time people spend with someone or something, for life is short, and if one spends a lot of time with someone or something one loves, one must care about it deeply. She told us she was glad we all love music so much because it is something not to be lost. I believe were all really touched by her speech; I know I was almost moved to tears.

The group took a look in the tea shop owned by Onoyama-san’s friends’ before heading back on the bus to go to the hotel.

Tonight we have sectionals, and then dinner on our own. Our third concert is tomorrow night here in Kyoto! I hope we can do as well as we did in Tokyo!

– Nora