Trilobite

Legends

Imagine living in the Warring States period of Japan, when one day your neighbor swears fealty to your lord and they have a celebration together, and the next day they're sending an army to kill you.  Imagine men growing up under these warring lords, their role models being warriors, which is just another heroic name for murderer.  Finding peace with your own death in battle was an aesthetic principle.  It had to be, or what other way could you justify that kind of madness.  With no beginning or end to war, death in itself had to be an honorable aim.  Imagine being a woman married to a feudal lord, fearful each day that your husband will die in battle and you will be left with absolutely nothing.

On top of Tsuneyama (Mount Tsune), Princess Tsuruhime's husband and sons decide to end their own lives rather than be killed by their enemies.  But the princess is trained in the arts of war, and she decides to go down fighting instead of slitting her stomach with her husband's sword.  She gathers an army of 35 women to challenge the enemy to a duel, a duel that ends in tragedy, but their moment of bravery has not been forgotten.
Now we stamp our feet and sing a song of prayer.  In part, this festival is a way to connect to our past, our roots.  In part, this festival is a way to celebrate our love for this mountain that stands above us.  The people of Utogi and I gather together for an exclusive dance.

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Trilobite

Magatama and the Eclipse

I'm having tea with a friend outside of a Magatama shop.  We walked here from a cafe that had indoor seating, but I'd rather be out in the rain where I feel safer from catching diseases.  Behind us, a glass display shows various stones worth more than my month's salary.

Magatama is similar to Yin-Yang.  They are stones in the shape of a tadpole, with a hole through the center of the "head" and the "tail" curving inward.  Kind of like one half of a yin-yang symbol.  When my friends held the tea party for me, the fortune-teller who read my palm wore two Magatama, one as a necklace and one as a bracelet.  He said they were his power stones.

I didn't really care at the time.

So suddenly these very lovely looking young ladies enter the courtyard.  It's been decorated with a hundred colorful umbrellas both as an art installation, and so no one gets rained on.  As they move together in a group, a filming crew follows them.  They get their pictures taken and make some kind of an announcement.  My friend and I watch idly, but we're engaged in other conversation.  My friend went to a Magatama workshop where she made a necklace and she's busy telling me about how she doesn't like it and never wears it, but her husband wants her to wear it because he paid for the workshop.

She stops talking.  Something's going on behind us.  The filming crew has approached!  Without any introduction or anything, a microphone is put in my face.

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Trilobite

Dake-san (English version!)

This is a long bit of prose about my hiking trip.

They say Mount Dake is in the shape of Buddha, reclining on his side.  His head lays toward the East and the sun rises behind his crown.  Some people who are particularly devout, start the day by facing the mountain and clapping twice toward this figure in prayer and gratitude.

When I set out to climb the mountain, I wasn't quite sure where I was going.  I downloaded a map of the area's topography and hiking trails, but I hadn't taken in to account that roads and homes had been built since then.  Seeing the mountain up close, it was just another hill among the others, and I wasn't sure if I was really going the right way.  Suddenly I saw a statue of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of mercy, standing tall at the intersection of two country roads.  As I made my way toward her, I found a sign pointing up the hill saying that the hiking trail was near.  After a long morning of walking and searching, I'd found it!

All the way up the hill, my eyes fell across the flowering gardens of quaint farm houses and butterflies scattered in front of me.  Soon, large branches of trees began to close in over my head, cutting the heat from the air and letting just the wind blow in.  Cool and refreshed, I was in good spirits when I arrived at the hiking trail.  I don't know if this joyful energy was because of the beautiful countryside, or if it was just my own excitement at being able to navigate to an unknown place on my own two feet.

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Trilobite

嵩山

松江市の赤い土の上を歩いていたとき、本当に山につながっていると思いました。朝日山に登った時、道はほとんど階段踏だったし、海岸で人が作ったまきの上を歩いていたし、溶岩の後も登ったことがあるし、まだ松江市の土ではありませんでした。今回、階段ではなく嵩山を登って、赤い土が道に現れて、うれしい気持ちになりました。

山のふもとに竹でできたストックがあったから、一つ取りました。本当はいらないと思いましたが、何とか竹の棒と歩いたほうが古い山で昔の雰囲気が出るとおもったかもしれません。その時わかりませんでしたが、その棒が大変助かることになります。

駐車場もふもとにありました。他の方が車できたと気づきました。私はふもとまで行くために、3時間もかかりました。朝7時に起きて、急いで弁当を作って出かけようとしたら、帽子がないと気づきました。ちょっと考えたら、友達の家に忘れたことに気づきました。連絡して、一緒に朝ごはんを食べる計画を立てました。8時半に着いたら、やっぱり帽子がありました。

朝ごはんが終わって、山まで歩こうと思いました。きれいな田んぼ、静かな川、個人の庭、歩きながら目のごちそうになりました。 山の近くに来たら、道を迷うことを心配しました。きれいな青空のしたに、私の背中が汗だらけになりました。やっと看板が出ました。

「嵩山登山入口駐車所」

こんな時の楽しさは、やっと見つけたからうれしくなることか、自分の力で何かが成功したからうれしくなることか、わかりませんが、笑顔で歌いながら、道を歩きました。

帽子がなかったら、そんなに長い冒険ができないと思うので、取りに行ってよかったです。 日差しが強くても、帽子の陰から花をみたり、写真を撮ったりしました。

駐車所に着いたら、蝶々が出てきて、いい気持ちがわいてきました。この山の神様が私を見ていると感じました。蝶々がひらひらするのを静かに眺めました。よく、「一人で山に登るのをやめて!」と言われますが、蝶々をすきなだけ見る余裕があるのは一人で来たからと思って、一人でいいのだと決めています。

赤い土の道に沿って、山の頂上に着きました。一番上に神社があります。お祈りをすべきと思って、建物に近づきました。「心が静かになれるように」とお祈りながら、1分ほど静かに立ちました。それで、横にあるメモ帳を見つけました。他の登った人の日付と印象が書かれていました。私も書こうと思いましたが、日本語できれいにできるかを心配して、英語で書いてしました。それで、次の日本語レッスン、ぜったいにちゃんと勉強しようと決めました。ここで、日本語に翻訳しようとします。

鳥の鳴き声

山で緑があふれて

人生の価値がある

神社の裏に、大変素敵な見晴らしが待っていました。大根島と遠くにある大山を眺めながら、お弁当を食べました。

帰ろうとしたら、看板を見つけました。「ハイキングの方へ、熊井滝に行ってみませんか」と書いてありました。「行ってみましょう!」と答えて、狭い道に出かけました。ちょっとしかいってないのに、おじさん一人が向こうからあがってきました。

「ああ!小学生の先生でしょう。こんにちわ」と言われました。

私は小学校の先生ではないですが、ちょっとしゃべったら、その方は私を見かけたことあるらしいです。私は市役所へ行ったことがないですが、そのおじさんはそこで働いているそうです。

「この道は急だから、気を付けて」と言ってくれました。「降りるのよ。降りたらどうする?車は?」

「車はないです。歩いてきました」と返事しました。「大丈夫です!」

「じゃ、気を付けて!」

「はい、ありがとうございます!」

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Trilobite

"Slow Bread"

Hello all.

(The subject is from the package of bread I bought.)

The warring states period of Japan lasted for 150 years.  When I was younger, in college, knowing only my small groups of people, this was but a fact in a book with no emotion behind it at all.  But now that I'm older and I've seen the ugly side of the world, it's unthinkable for me to imagine living at that time, in constant fear that your neighbor might go to war with you the next day.  Even in today's world of relative peace, there are black patches in society where one violent act has spread to cause deterioration and corruption, where instability in one area causes instability in another, where discrimination is fostered to be used for political gains.  At least, I think to myself, in my quiet neighborhood, I never have to worry about anyone killing me, even by accident or by "accident."

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Trilobite

Matsue City

While the rest of Japan probably spent Golden Week in quarantine at home, I headed off to Matsue city where I'm spending two months on a business trip helping out a school that has merged in with my company.

Matsue is squished between two giant bodies of water.  See here:


https://www.japan-guide.com/g17/8150_1701.gif 


Lake Shinji is freshwater but turns brackish as some of the sea water gets up the river from Nakanoumi.  This has resulted in a lot of different kinds of fish, eels, and shells that can be taken from the lake.  There are lots of little clams that people gather and put in their miso soup.  I think the geography is really interesting and I was super excited to go exploring.

On the map, my new apartment looked like a straight line from the station.  It didn't mention the two rounds of stairs and the fact that I'm living on top of a hill.  When I got there, I was surprised to find that my company has put me in a house!  I've got two floors, two bedrooms, a parking lot, a storage shed, and all appliances included!!  Being at the top of the hill, the view is kinda amazing.

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"This door will not open in conductor-less"

(Subject was written on the window of a train.)

There's a legend in Japan called, "Kaguya-hime," or Princess Kaguya.  Inside each segment of a bamboo stalk is a hollow formed by a divine spirit, so that a bamboo tree is simultaneously both a tree and a divine vessel.  Inside one such vessel was born a princess called Kagu-hime who's mother was the moon.


This was the last thing on my mind when I was ripping bamboo out of the side of the mountain a month ago, but recently some local people put on a play where Kaguya-hime isn't just a fairytale, but a multi-dimensional superhero sent from space to Earth to get everyone to stop polluting the earth and use bamboo instead of plastic.

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Trilobite

Happy New Year!

Dear all,

Thanks everyone for all your Christmas cards, birthday messages and emails, and everything.  I've been very lighthearted and not the least bit lonely during the holidays!  My card wall is now full of personal messages, even though they came late!!!


So...

This is a story about my little hero, Haru-chan.

We gathered, as we always do, at the small, local shrine that rests unobtrusively near the top of a steep hill.  This tradition is called, "Hatsumode," the first visit to the shrine of the year.  Yossi and I have a ritual.  We pray at the shrine together, and then we walk once clockwise around it while holding hands.  Then we're served half a sip of sake from the shrine priestesses.  Every hour on the hour, a man sitting by the fire lights a cracker that soars up in to the sky and thunders across the valley, making me jump out of my skin.  Even if I know it's coming, it still makes me jump.

This all takes about 10 minutes.  After that, we jump in our cars, turn on the heaters, and go off for lunch.  Once in a while, we'll run in to someone that causes a bit of a chat for a while, but that didn't happen this year.

This year my 5-year-old niece, Haru-chan, had a camera with her.  I asked what we should take pictures of.  She took me off to the side near a stone stairway and we took pictures of the Shishi stone guardians of the gates.  I looked over my shoulder.  What is this stairway going down?

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