29 October 2015
I was in Japan from 2 October 2015 to 25 October 2015.
Over the coming weeks, I will publish stories, poems and pictures from my trip.
the crickets sing:
"Ah! The temple precincts."
This poem I wrote after a little meditation in the grounds of Genku-ji, a small temple I found between my hotel and Ueno Station. Most of the grounds are well maintained, but it is a relatively modest place. I was happy to find a park bench in an unkempt corner where I could sit and just enjoy the atmosphere.
After only a few days in Japan, I feel there is a stark contrast between the often restless and dissatisfied nature of other large cities, such as New York, and the tranquility of Tokyo, even amidst its streaming throngs.
This, or you can call a city a mirror of a man in time.
Walking through the backstreets of Ueno, I notice every little piece of common foliage striving to add a note to the song of beauty which is Japan.
Of course, this is only evident because the space exists within to observe such things, so all credit goes to my meditation experience in the temple grounds of Genku-ji.
Looking around, one does not see, but, perhaps, here in Japan, there are centuries of ritual, layer upon layer of custom, seemingly designed to preserve the sanctity of the space within.
You can say this is just Western mythologizing. Custom is only custom. And yet...and yet!
Temples are ubiquitous in Japan. Like churches in Italy. So, what's the difference?
In Japan, the highest expression of beauty is nature unpolluted, cultivated, yes, but barely contained. Stone, wood, water, metal are placed together in an elegant sufficiency and then encouraged to harmonise with their environment.
Still, with so many temples, eventually temple-fatigue becomes a reality. There's no solution for this but to spend some time shopping, visiting gardens and eating as the mood takes you. All good things to do on a holiday really.
The Daibutsu at Kotoku-in in Kamakura is one temple I was happy to visit many times.
I even stayed at a Zen Buddhist temple for four nights too.