There’s Still Time

I wanted to love it, and I occasionally did almost enjoy it.  It had its moments.  Just not enough of them.  It was a blockbuster digital art show presented by the Mori Art Museum called Tokyo Lab Boundless.  It is state of the art of digital technology.  Tickets were scarce, but I got one.  I waited in line to enter as my anticipation built, while knowing instinctually that I might not like the manipulated world that awaited us.

How to describe the encounter?  It was an encounter, because the visual overload was close to overwhelming. Visualize many large overlapping spaces contained within a huge hangar. Within the hangar are rooms with different visual displays, mostly relating to nature.  Rooms ultimately morph into other rooms and the spaces purposely become “boundless,” constantly moving, shifting and reappearing. Hints of eternity?

Envision being in a space where every surface is covered with some of the following in a digital rendering; flowers of all kinds and shapes, a waterfall room where people lounged on a large rock as a digital waterfall cascaded over them.  Butterflies flitted and birds flew, thousands of straight strings of l.e.d. lights  changing colors were the Ultimate Christmas Display in my opinion, alluring and transfixing. At the top of a long flight of stairs waited a room with hundreds of suspended  lantern lamps changing colors as well.

Most of the projections were symbols of the natural world. The images covered every surface including ceilings, floors and visitors.  MIrrors added to the illusion of infinite space.IMG_1092

The spaces were crowded. Optimally, I would have liked being the only visitor. Disorientation was part of the experience, but after a while, looking for a way out of this manipulated world became a distraction as well.  There were moments when I thought “how cool, or how beautiful” but they did not outweigh the discomfort I felt at this whole idea.

With our planet in the throes of seemingly unstoppable and accelerated climate change, was this display the way of the future?  An idealized manipulated version of what was the natural world? Is this what will remain when nature collapses?  Just memories lacking the realness of texture of scent of birth and decay?

Was I the only one to interpret the dark side of this extravaganza?  Maybe to most visitors, this would be a more than acceptable substitute for the real thing.  Just as some climate deniers are suggesting we could all move to another planet?

Suddenly I wanted to be released.  Not so easy to find an exit though the endless rooms. I had to first find a worker who slipped me out of an unmarked back door, after I was insistent about wanting to leave.

Relief!  Light!  A genuine, living, glorious flower presented itself.  There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time.

OH, Japan!

Oh, Japan! Never could I have imagined the impact that a short trip to accompany my husband on a business trip to Japan in the 1980’s would have on my life. The impact was profound and has continued to influence my life in ways small and large.

Suddenly I was presented with a very different way to see and be in the world. It was as if I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a fascinating new world that I had no idea existed. I found an ancient culture that revered its traditions as it continued to innovate creatively. I found people who appeared always to be generous and polite. I found an attention to detail that captivated me. I found a culture that revered nature (most of the time). I found stark contrasts between old and new, the sacred and the profane. Juxtapositions exist everywhere.  It was stimulating and inspirational. It got my attention. In a week’s time, I quickly became obsessed with all things Japanese. It was clearly a case of love at first sight. In the ensuing years, I’ve come back to Japan many times. I now live part time in Kyoto.  It’s become my Source.

My obsession can puzzle those who’ve never been to Japan. I do my best to explain it with the following examples. Continue reading “OH, Japan!”

The Cat and the Mouse

cat and mouse

I knew we were in for a visual fest when we received an invitation to join our friend Masa to visit a garden at the Daitoku-ji that is only open to the public for a short time in the spring and autumn.  I didn’t know that the visit would prompt a spontaneous game of cat and mouse.

graphic guide to Oubai-in
Japanese maples surrounding the bell tower at Oubai-in

It’s been a glorious few weeks. A streak of fine weather prolonged sakura season and the warmth prompted other spring flowers to swiftly come into bloom. I’m always awed by the urgency of spring. The Japanese maple trees were barren a few short weeks ago when we arrived. Now they all are displaying their bright green new leaves of spring. Pops of azalea blossoms and best- of- all -Chinese peonies are vie for attention too.

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The tiny blossoms of the maple cover an entrance gate of the temple.

 

 

Obaii-in was built in the 1500’s at the direction of a very wealthy family as a memorial to their deceased father.  It’s way  off the beaten tourist path so we had it almost all to ourselves with the exception of a few eagle eyed staff who roamed the grounds, knowing all too well, I’m certain, that people like me pose a real challenge to their rules.

 

I was dismayed to see a very visible “no photography” sign at the entrance of the temple. However, I was unable to restrain myself, nor did I try very hard when inspired, from taking photos of  the splendid buildings and gardens. An attentive  staff member spotted me and my i-phone at one point and walked over to politely but sternly admonish me.  From that point on we played a game of cat and mouse with each other.  She seemed to lurk around every one of the many corners, while I adeptly looked around to see if she was in sight, before quickly taking my photos and cooly slipping my i-phone into my jacket pocket.

I know not to take photos of sacred altars and certain works of art, but my bad-ass teen age self emerged in full power when restricted from taking a photo of the buildings or the gardens. I easily decided to disregard such an admonition and my sweet Japanese friend fortunately did not discourage me. The gardens were practically begging to be photographed. I heard them call to me. Each corner turned revealed a new vision of the spring life force as well as the simple beauty of Japanese design.

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As the Japanese do so well because of the influence of the tea ceremony, the layout of the grounds and gardens are  fashioned  to reveal only small parts of the entire scene at a time.  This slows down visitors and invites them to examine more closely what is immediate as well as to anticipate what surprises and delights might lie around the next bend in the pathway.

Obai-in contains a dry landscape garden covered with moss, designed by the most celebrated tea master Sen-no – Rikyu. The placement of the stones is symbolic.

Jikichu-Tei, dry landscape gatden designed by Den-no-Rikyu

What a wonderful visit. I felt my brain waves realign themselves while in that space. Playing my own little game of cat and mouse heightened my sense of adventure.

Kyoto offers an endless vault of these sort of unexpected experiences for which I will always be grateful. Despite the fact that I’m allergic to cats.

 

Cleanliness Redefined

If there was a competition for the world’s cleanest country, I have no doubt that the Japanese would win it hands down, or clothes off.

We just visited the venerable Kinosaki Onsen about a two hour train ride from Kyoto on the West Coast. We traveled with two of our grandchildren, uncertain whether or not they would be up for naked bathing in a crowd. One bravely ventured in and the other declined for the obvious reasons.

The self consciousness that American women feel about their bodies is no where evident in a Japanese bath. It’s liberating.

It took me years to get to the point where I too am not self conscious. Maybe it was just a question of letting go of my foolish pride in my younger dancer’s body. Of course it all passes sooner or later, so to expect otherwise is just a delusion. At some point I realized that no one gives a damn what I look like without clothes other than myself. Bodies come in all shapes sizes and conditions and here there is no judgement by other bathers. If there is, I don’t detect it and cannot understand Japanese, so it’s not an issue!
I have come to accept and be grateful for my relatively functional aging body as is at this time in my life.

The canal running through town is bordered by willow trees just leafing out, and festooned with cherry trees, illuminated at night. The iconic scene is punctuated by the high Japanese bridges periodically crossing the river.

bridge

KInosaki is an old onsen town that has 7 public baths. I’m not sure how the Japanese go from bath to bath to bath because I’m happily cooked well done after one round of bathing. Nevertheless, visitors in small groups of families or friends. promenade in their yukata(cotton bathrobe) through town, clip clopping in their geta sandals on the stone sidewalks, visiting one onsen after another. The sounds lend a timeless sound track to the setting.

Visiting Kinosaki Onsen makes for an enjoyable getaway and a dip into another facet of Japanese culture not to be missed nor forgotten.

Almost Never Enough PINK

Since I was a bit long-winded in my last blog, I decided to cut to the chase today.  As I mentioned in my last blog, one reason I’m in Japan now is to celebrate spring in Japanese fashion.  The arrival of the cherry blossom season here is feverishly anticipated for weeks before the actual blooms appear. Forecasts for every part of the country tell the Japanese public exactly where and when to go to the sights with the most bang for the buck.  I pay attention to these forecast and follow the festive crowds, or more pleasurably find an off the beaten path spot to witness the extravaganza.
It’s a wonderful tradition and everyone gets swept up in it.  Year after year.
Pink swatches

Pink is a combination of the color red and white, a hue that can be described as a tint. It can range from berry (blue-based) pinks to salmon (orange-based) pinks. Its symbolism is complex and its popularity is subject to so many influences.

We can begin an analysis of pink by looking at natural and contemporary sources of this delicate color. First, regardless of your skin color, some part of your body is pink. So are sunsets, watermelons and Pepto Bismal. Depending on your age and culture, you may remember pink Cadillacs, pink flamingos (once considered in bad taste in American culture but now retro-chic), Pink Floyd, the Pink Panther, and the pink triangles of the Third Reich (which were used to identify male homosexuals).  colormatters.com

 

Today I took photos of only things that were pink.  I hope these photos give you a taste of my pink drenched day.  The blooms for the weeping cherries are mostly peaking, many other later varieties to follow over the next week.

Pink Encounters:  From first to last

  1.  Easter bunny in bakery counter of Daimaru Dep’t store
  2.  Ema votive tablets wishes and prayers written by visitors at Kodaiji Temple.
  3. The magnificent weeping cherry tree in splendid solitude at Kodaiji in Kyoto.
  4. More delectables in pastry case
  5. Alstromeria pink
  6. Folk art yarn ball (temari)
  7. Do you need a new purse?
  8. 9.  Better not miss out on Easter

IMG_0133IMG_0135and best of all:IMG_0139