It's been a while since I wrote.
I wanted to talk about graves this time.( Collapse )
It's been a while since I wrote.
I wanted to talk about graves this time.( Collapse )
Happy New Year and Merry Christmas! (Although I'm not counting it as 2021 yet until Jan. 20th.) I hope it's a much better year than last year. At least plans won't be cancelled this year as probably we all know better now not to make plans in the first place.
Sometimes one good person can make or break an adventure.
I owe this adventure to the owner of the Irifune hotel.
At first Yossi and I spent the holidays cleaning the house, then relaxing with our relatives. Snow fell lightly amidst a scattering of clouds that sometimes sent sharp beams of sunlight to prevent the white fluff from piling up, and sometimes covered the sun long enough for it to stick. The sun and snow played tug of war for two days while we played hide-and-seek, made skype calls, made cookies, decorated the house in paper snowflakes, practiced piano and calligraphy, and ate heartily. But on the third day, the snow was gone, the kids needed to do their winter break homework, and Yossi and I decided not to overstay our welcome.
We left the house with absolutely no plan whatsoever. I was actually pining for Kobe, struggling with my need to meet up with old friends, versus the fear of Covid. Somehow, in the next hour, we went from driving through the mountains wondering what to do, to being on a ferry heading toward the island of Shodoshima.
Some people say there's a kind of peer pressure felt on social media to have a feed full of fun and smiles no matter how sad or rotten you are on the inside. I don't feel that as peer pressure, but I'm rather reluctant to put anything less than happy and bubbly up for public view. I don't think twice about it, until someone mentions how happy I must be, when I haven't been really feeling that way. Or what a fun-filled life I've been living, when I'm actually just as stuck as anyone else under the shadow of Covid-19.
I'm a very social person, and since I haven't been able to see my real friends for a year now, I've been getting closer with my neighbors and my husband's family. I haven't spent a night anywhere where there have been any cases of Covid in that city. I'm lucky I live near a mountain where I can just go lose myself in nature when I have nothing better to do. And I have hobbies at home to keep me company. And I have a very demanding job that takes up all those little scraps of free time here and there that I used to relax in. So I'm not going to complain that Covid has destroyed my life or anything; that's simply not true. But that doesn't mean I'm living my life oblivious to the disease and that doesn't mean I'm not lonely.
I took the emergency flashlight from the hotel and I'm walking along a creek at 11:30 at night, shining it into the river. I'm wearing a mask with a paper mask cover over it, but not because I'm worried about Covid. I mean, I'm in a resort town in the middle of a pandemic, there's almost no one here! Especially in the middle of the night! But I am in a river valley amidst towering hills, which means it's frigid. The mask keeps my face warm.
I know the Hanzaki (colloquial term for Giant Salamandar) are not going to be out this night unless they're starving. They only have to eat one fish a week, and what's the chance that tonight's going to be the night for fishing. But I'm doing this so I can't say I didn't try.( Collapse )
"Is anyone interested in coming with me to see sea fireflies?"
It was a post made by an older man on a local facebook site. I'd run into him before at a friend's party, but I barely remembered his name. We were basically strangers. But I thought I'd look up, "Sea fireflies" as I'd never heard of that term before.
What I found were fascinating little creatures. They're scavengers along sandy shores and when bothered, they spurt out a fluorescent blue liquid. The light fades rather quickly, like a blinking firefly. And it so happens that they're proliferous in my area during the summer. I love the little creatures of the world and I decided I wanted to see these. But I wasn't sure about getting in a car with a stranger in a foreign country.
I sent him a tentative message. It turns out there was another woman around my age coming as well. That settled it, I was in! Sea fireflies, here I come!
Then he asked if he could pick me up early and we could go visit an art gallery beforehand.
I checked this guy's facebook page. It's all posts of him caring for his aging mother and administering her rehabilitation. He owns a yacht and uses it to give rides to people to help overcome their mental instabilities. He's a licensed psychologist.
I figured I'd give this guy a chance.
Best decision ever.
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.
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.( Collapse )
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.( Collapse )
「はい、ありがとうございます!」( Collapse )
(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."