In japan, travelling on January 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

The Japanese do serene very well, I haven’t been to too many shrines or temples or gardens, as you can get overloaded with the serenity, and become inured to the beauty and distinctiveness of each place as there is a tendency for them all to blend into one. Here are my impressions of the ones I’ve been to.

Himeji Castle is beautiful, peaceful, but cold, windy at the top, walking through with your shoes in a plastic bag, you wonder how did they stay warm in such a place during the winter, no sign of fireplaces, the whole place is made out of wood, so fear of fire was immense.  What was it hot coals in braziers?

The wind whistling whistling through the trees, and the leaves, the only sound you can hear, apart from the caw caw of the crows, flying and landing everywhere, what is it with Japanese castles and crows.? I thought back in august last year that I didn’t want to be a tourist endlessly taking photo’s when I went travelling, but I have become what I vowed not to, but how can you not? There is so much to see, and so much to remember, but the experience of it stays embedded, the feelings, the impressions, the photo’s are to show the rest of you what I’ve seen, but also to keep my eye in, to see if I can show a different version of what has been seen so many times before, to see if the way I look at things actually different or if its still just a tourists eyes view.

Ko koen is a traditional Japanese garden just along from Himeji, lovely and peaceful, and it makes me want “nishikigoi” like no man’s business, the colours, red, orange, white, a blue which is like purple.

I want to turn my balcony into a homage to eastern gardens, complete with water features, gravel underfoot and bamboo. Maybe I should sell the flat and just by some land and create a japanese garden like these ones, Ko Koen has like 12 or 13 different gardens. Hear the wind through the trees/leaves, whispering away, beneath the high pitched shrieks of little birds, a cross between the squeal of bats and the baby killing sound that foxes make when breeding, but the peace and quiet, the contentment, is all encompassing, to listen to the water flowing, burbling, roaring, trickling,  and the crunch of gravel under your feet and others, announcing your arrival but acting as a counterpoint to the other sounds that emerge. To sit quietly in the wooden buildings set in the gardens just contemplating….

nothing really. Just calm, and at peace and the tiniest bit cold, but it doesn’t matter because the garden soothes you, rounds off the edges of the day you’ve had, a delight to the senses. and I still want Koi. And where else but a beautiful Japanese garden would be able to meet a couple of Ninja’s and I just don’t know what to say or do, apart from ask to take their photographs

Fushimi inari, is a shrine to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, whose messengers are foxes are thought to be their messengers. Fushimi Inari is known for the Torii gates which are orange/red and black and usually line the approach and entrance to a shrine, but which at Fushimi Inari, so many have been offered that they line myriad walks in the woods behind the main shrine. Fushimi, like Himeji, and Kinkaku-ji and Meiji Jingu, are lessons in how to create peaceful spaces in the middle of urban insanity, they are so close to the sprawl, but its like you step through a curtain and the city falls away especially at Fushimi as the incense hangs heavy in the air, which is filled with the loud guttural calls of crows, the darkening sky full of flying birds, startled into motion, and the quickly fading light blocked out by the huge swathes of Titan tall bamboo.

The red Torii gates which arc overhead seem to go on forever covering a path which takes you up into the woods, passing shrines along the way, statues of foxes, with red sashes/scarves draped over their necks. As the sun sets the air is swollen with birdsong, as they wheel overhead preparing to roost for the night. Different birds, different calls, guttural, high pitched, moaning, squawking, squealing a plethora of sounds. Every so often a jogger runs past, breath heavy, using this holy place to tune their bodies. Faces focused on the steps ahead, as night falls lights switch on and illuminate the line of red columns, picking out the carved kanji in their curved surface, is every column dedicated to someone loved, victory, praying for something tangible or unknowable. The columns wind their way into the woods, seemingly forever. Even as I tire and turn to retrace my steps down a path which suddenly seems so different from the one I’ve walked up only hours before.

  1. What?! The eternal urbanite speaking of wind in trees and Koi carp?! Mate, by the time you’re back you’ll be moving next door to us in the old countryside, walking the labs in a Barbour with a shotty crooked in the cradle of your arm. arf

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