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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

reasons why

There are many reasons why I like Barack Obama, from what I have read of him and heard from him. One personal reason is that he recognises and acknowledges his mother for her guidance in rearing him. Within my own family, and within my own observances, it seems that a mother's input, even or especially if she was the one who did the majority of the child-rearing, is negated and dismissed, or not thought worthy of acknowledgment, by many sons. In fact, mothers wear a lot of bitterness, and obviously not all are saints, but the bitterness is often misguided. I have a post in the works on that concept.

However, the quote below has nothing directly to do with his mother. It is from his Audacity of hope:

...When [the United States seeks] to impose democracy with the barrel of a gun, funnel money to parties whose economic policies are deemed friendlier to Washington, or fall under the sway of exiles like Chalabi whose ambitions aren't matched by any discernible local support, we aren't just setting ourselves up for failure. We are helping oppressive regimes paint democratic activists as tools of foreign powers and retarding the possibility that genuine, homegrown democracy will ever emerge (2006, p. 317).

He further expands and qualifies the topic in a chapter outlining his viewpoints on current (as of 2006) American political attitudes to the world beyond the States. The above viewpoint does not seem simplistic as he devotes nine pages in the chapter to the policies of developed countries which are not applied carte blanche to those countries that are not quite so developed. Throughout his writing he constantly refers to how we are all part of a global economy and a global system, and how the pain of one does ultimately affect another, no matter how many oceans divide. He is a politician, too, obviously, and from all indications he will do very little to alleviate any of the tension that has been outlined in the blog post below. He is not naive in the role he is probably expected to play by the American people, and the role that he believes he should play.

However, I like the viewpoint he expresses and I hope he has the strength, support and clear-sightedness in 2009 for some modicum of decency, awareness, and relief to spread through the world, albeit ever so slightly. It is highly unlikely. He is a politicaian, as stated before, but, anwyay, Happy New Year. May some of the generosity of spirit and compassion that humans are capable of manifest itself in opposition to, and in spite of, the horrendous callousness and terror we are equally able to inflict.

Obama, B. (2006). The audacity of hope. Three Rivers Press: New York.

It's just the way it is

I need to write this. I know that the issues between Palestine and Israel are complex, and I am sure that many of my facts are incorrect, yet I feel there is a story that is not getting told, and I know there is a lot of hypocrisy on this issue, both from the United States, Australia, Israel and the countries of the region. I also know that I have been hypocritical in my life and probably will continue to be so, and that this writing will have as much affect as a languid wind exhaling over the last tailsbreadth of a ripple on a pond. But I need to know that I tried, as ill-informed as I am. I also know that there are many news sources out there which are giving alternate coverage, but these are not the main news sources for people in Australia, at least, and that there are some kind of talks going on at present. I wonder if far fewer than 372 might have died if there had been swifter(or any)condemnation of the attacks, and how many more will indeed perish.

It is about land, not religion, though of course, religion is a good excuse as any, and a good excuse to hold onto or invade a land.

U.S. aid to Israel and here.

facts at a glance

China and Japan : Beijing said it was "shocked and seriously concerned" at the violence, while Japan called on Israel to "exercise its utmost self-restraint" and for Palestinian militants to halt rocket attacks.

The United States : The US has put the onus on Hamas to prevent more violence. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "The United States ... holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza.

Australia : Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Hamas is to blame for provoking the Israeli air strikes which have now killed nearly 300 people in the Gaza Strip.

An Australian human rights activist living in Gaza City says Israel air strikes have killed many innocent people in the Hamas-run territory.

From a popular news site The UN and the European Union have condemned Israel's actions. But the US, the most influential power-broker in the Middle East conflict, has refused to call for an Israeli ceasefire, instead placing the onus on Hamas to end its rocket attacks.

The United Nations says: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

United Nations Resolution 242

The New York Times

The history of this area is messy with occupation seeming to be a fact of life almost back to the 1500s. Though, of course the occupiers have been different, even within the twentieth century, going from Turkish to British to Jordanian and Egyptian to Israeli. Zionism arrived towards the turn of the start of the last century, and Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands occurred mid to late twentieth century. The annexation was based on ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. Further lands were taken in 1967 and occupied. Further reading here .This paragraph I have written has not given the history in any of the depth that it deserves.

I am not the first to wonder, though, about the U.S. investment in Israel in the Middle East. I am assuming it has to do with oil and access to oil and future possible access to oil, not only for the States, but for other countries, too. By that, I do not mean equal access to oil for other countries, but U.S. control of access to oil by other countries. In a 1977 interview Chomsky says:

When Kissinger took control of Middle East policy in the Fall of 1970 (according to his testimony), there was an abrupt switch in official American policy, from Rogers plan rhetoric to Kissinger rhetoric. Under Kissinger's initiative, the United States by late 1970 abandoned even a rhetorical commitment to a political settlement and was clearly supporting a very different program, namely, the Israeli program of developing and ultimately annexing substantial parts of the occupied territories, a policy that led directly to the October 1973 war.

This quote is in the 14th question of this interview. The rest deals in a large part with the first question I posed.

It was not until the late sixties that the U.S. began endorsing Israel's expansionism, and indeed, before that time, condemned it. However, by the late sixties:

Israel was closely allied to the U.S. directly. As a result, ... conquest was quite legitimate. U.S. government support of Israel is more or less in accord with the American perception of Israel's strength. The stronger Israel becomes, the more it is able to assist the U.S. in maintaining control of the region, so the more the U.S. will support it. Though the pretense has always been that we're supporting Israel because it is in danger, the opposite would be a much more accurate statement. American support for Israel is contingent upon its strength and ability to aid in maintaining American domination of the Middle East (my emphasis).

The United Nations does not endorse this position, and it seems that only the U.S. officially supports it.

From this website: Since 1972, the US has used its veto power to prevent the adoption of 42 UN resolutions that condemned or severely criticized actions by the State of Israel. In 2006, for example, the US prevented the adoption of UN resolution S/878, which demanded a mutual ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

In 2002, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, stated that it was US policy to denounce all UN resolutions that criticized Israel without also condemning “terrorist groups.” This statement is now known as the Negroponte-doctrine.

It is of course advantageous for Israel that Hamas got elected, so that they can invoke the "terrorist" clause into any dealings with Palestine, but aggression against Palestine, and expansion into the area has long pre-dated the Hamas government. Also, if Palestine and its governments and its people's rights to its lands had been recognised and respected prior to the rise of Hamas, then there may possibly have been no sharp rise in Hamas' strength and support. The negation of moderates, as implied in the Obama quote in the next post (yes, yes, I edit), leaves vacuums which are easily filled with the zealous. It is true, the nations surrounding Israel are not sympathetic to it, and so it needs to flex its strength if it is going to survive, but it cannot expect people to not retaliate if it goes into their lands. The U.S. backed arming of Fatah against Hamas is another side "benefit", which brings one against the other, discounts the wishes of a people, and encourages a rise in factionalism, reactionalism, fundamentalism and most importantly of all, disunity, manifested at the worst, in violence and suppression. If unity is the hoped for outcome, it will be achieved this way, in the form of a weak people further weakened by civil unrest, an easy target for invasion.

If we look at the election of Hamas from a democratic point of view, shouldn't a democratically elected government govern, whether or not the surrounding countries agree with the outcome? Isn't that one of the cornerstones of democracy? Rule by the people? Hamas were democratically elected. Israel imposed sanctions. Aid and supplies are not allowed into the occupied territories. Access to education and other necessities of life are severely limited. Poverty, naturally enough, increases . In the meantime, Israel receives the most aid from the U.S. of any country in the region. Especially military aid, which the Israeli government decides how best to deploy.

Further to the above, the U.S. supports those sanctions, which have been in place since 2006, therefore, U.S. allies also support them, well Australia definitely seems to. Aid is also given, but as stated above, Israel still receives the most, and it seems a strange game to play, to give with one hand and take with the other. The United Nations does not support the sanctions. The area is crippled. Land is invaded and annexed , a wall is built and being built, imprisoning people in their own land, and dividing it, and yet, they are meant to accept it? According to Chomsky, both in 1977 and more recent writings, Palestine is weak politically, and has been open to negotiation, to a "two-state" solution, despite rhetoric. Even currently, despite the rhetoric. Do the research. The opening newspaper article above also states this. It is not new news. This from Chomsky from the seventies: For years the oil companies have been pressing for this [two-state] solution, on their own and through the Saudi Arabian government, but the U.S. government has ignored the pressure. My speculation is that the U.S. regards the current situation as extremely favorable to their long-term interests. The tension, the high level of armaments, the military confrontation, are favorable, and the strength of Israel and Iran poses a strong military threat to independent action on the part of the oil-producing powers. It's an extremely dangerous policy, but that's the way it is. Who knows if the attitude still holds true on the part of the oil companies, the dangerous policy part certainly still does. Bush seems to talk about a "two-state" solution as if it is a new idea in need of lengthy negotiations.

Chomsky also put forth the view that perhaps those who have invaded could leave the land, but as with my forefathers (who invaded Australia), and the forefathers of many of the people who might read this blog, that is one solution that never really ever seriously gets considered, and at this stage of my generational occupancy in Australia, would I consider leaving? Probably not. Hamas have said from May 2008 that they would recognise pre-1967 borders, maybe even before that. But Israel, officially, will never negotiate with Hamas. And yes, Israeli settlers left Gaza, but they have not left other parts, and settlement still occurs, despite the 2005 disengagement. And did they really leave? Israel is able to enter Gaza at will, and controls air and maritime space. Additionally, the Gazans, or all Palestinians, are not free move, to enter Israel, or to leave their own land (or to return to it). They are still occupied lands as the politicians keep stating when they do a backflip mentioning that Israel has an obligation to protect people who are under her occupation. In addition, the sanctions are crippling and unjust.

This is from a 2003 United Nations report: In resolution 446 of 22 March 1979, the Security Council determined that the policies and practices of Israel resulting in the establishment of settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 had no legal validity and constituted a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East(2003, p. 8).

Some points listed amongst others:

*Israeli occupation forces frequently carried out punitive and violent demolitions of Palestinian homes for lack of permits as well as forcible evictions of entire villages. Since 1987,16,700 Palestinians (including 7,300 children) had lost their homes in this way.

*Israeli occupation practices also affected the natural environment of the occupied Palestinian territory, including degradation of the infrastructure, land confiscation, water depletion, uprooting of trees, dumping of toxic waste and other pollution
(2003, pp.8-9).

The Palestinian Rights Committee was alarmed by the expansion of the Israeli settlements and road network. In its 2000 report, the Committee reiterated its firm belief that Israel’s settlement policy and actions remained a key factor causing great damage to the peace process. Likewise, the General Assembly in its resolution adopted on 20 October 2000 said that all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, were illegal and an obstacle to peace. It also called for the prevention of illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers (2003, p. 9).

All the above has escalated, including the deaths of many, many Palestinians, before this current attack.

I think, maybe it is very hard to be courageous in the face of all that does not get exposed or seen, and even when it is exposed or seen, protests really do not affect the machinations of world-wide policy which seem to operate on profit, and access to ongoing profit. And of course, I have not chosen to live where rockets land on a regular basis, nor is my history based in a land of displacement, or if it is, I am the displacer and not the displacee. This blog is not very courageous of me, and is a safe way for me to blow off some steam, and I will probably back down if anyone contradicts me, and I will admit, as said before, that I cannot know all the facts. Yet, anyone can see the irony in the story of David and Goliath.

If one people annexes another country's land and is continuously aggressive towards the people of that land, then are not the people of the land within its rights to fight for its land and its people? The United Nations has never declared Israel's various occupations as legal and just and has continued to condone its current-day practices.

It is true that the rocks and mortars which have been fired from Palestine have now killed more than the original one Israeli whose death was justification for this onslaught into Gaza. Is it right though that 373 people from Gaza, apparently 62 of them civilians including 39 children, have died and 1,720 have been injured as a consequence. I guess vengeful gods gain vengeance? Yet, either side lays claim to the same God who is equally retributive. Except, one side has more weapons, and more foreign backing.

Friday, 19 December 2008

I've got nothing, but I am still here, and check regularly. Happy something season to you all from the 9th onwards, and even before for the other religions / beliefs I know nothing about. And for those who like sun. And nice pictures. And things. Well then.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


As light as the sky to fly it in, a late autumn filigree tweezered from the hues of childhood.

Trees lose leaves, descent absorbed in the hush of the evening fall. Above cicada-legged helicopter blades birr, swans from Russia complete the last circuit of the Indie Trans-migration. Call and response, land precisely where their brethen paddle and forage, water weeds draped on beaks. Mud-streaked snails slide into the pond's belly, a dank shawl around them, a cloak to obscure them. Ducks and fowl vee away across the water, then flurry back to gawk. Swans nicker and spread their wings and ruffle feathers, shaking out the futon and laying it on the surface of the pond. Welcome home. Lie down, lie down. Rest your weary head.

The moon, fingers splayed on the tops of hills, elbows bent, spring-rockets clear into the sky. Is it safe for birds to travel on such a night? Cats patrol. Lightfooted and stumpy-tailed, one steps out, sniffs around, circles, appetite whet. One waits by a ricefield, peers into a crevice, listening to a frog song, the scuffle of a mouse.

A swan stays for Spring and Summer, its feathers grey with the film of the lake. Its mate is lost, its heart is broken, its wings no longer take it to the sky. Is solitude sought, or wrought upon it? Maybe it likes sushi more than borscht, has tired of Russian rhetoric, circles the pond and disseminates with the ducks, who never leave home. Or Does it yearn for kin and kindred for seven months of the year and is elated tonight?

A stone lies in a runlet, interrupting the flow. Water laps and wears it smooth until it is silt or soil, or a stone with a different name. Motifs are traced and ridges noted. Curvature transgresses the grooves of striation. Hurdles are crafted, a challenge to clear, yet ways are found over and around them, through them, without too much exertion. Often. Not with abundance, but with enough regularity to know that some patterns run counter to the grain.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Godzilla vs Daibutsu; A daytrip to Kurihama and Nokogiri

Browsing the Web it seems that quite a few people have paid a visit to Kenkonzan or Nihonji , or Kenkon temple or Nihon temple. They are actually two different names for the same thing, and most foreigners seem to know it as Nihonji. Actually, even though it is beautiful, and has carved itself out a little bit of webspace, it is not that well known, as shown by the conversation I had with some fellow hikers in the Nokogiri ranges where the temple resides. Despite the sign staring at me and directing me towards the temple (well, I'd climbed masses of stairs, and now it was indicating I had to go down, which meant that at a later point I would have to go up again. What can I say? I was hoping for respite) I thought I would check with them:

Is that the way to Nihonji?, asks I.

Nihongo? says them (meaning, the Japanese language?)

Unuh, Nihonji, and I point to the sign which says Nihonji.

Aaah, Nihonji, they say.

Anyway, this is what my post has got going for it in addition to many of the features also featured in the blogs I have listed below

Around Japan
tyronne in tokyo
japan weblog.

I approached the temple from the backside (hee-hee).
I saw Godzilla first.
I saw a kettle and a bulldozer which I have not seen featured on other blogs.

The north entrance to Nihonji

But first, lets give credit where credit is due. Following coinlockerbaby's advice at the Lonely Planet Forum site, I went out to Kurihama to visit the flower park and see the gigantic statue of Godzilla, and I then took the ferry across Tokyo Bay to Kanaya, from where I climbed Nokogiri to visit Nihonji. Oh, how shall I lay this out? Three separate blog entries on the same day? Perhaps, but then people would read them backwards. Let's start with Practicalities (and end with them, actually. Herewith lies the one and only subtitle!)


I was relatively poor. I wanted to go to Kurihama to see Godzilla (and possibly some flowers as seen in this link in the Kurihama Hana no Kuni, or Kurihama Flower World), and to then cross Tokyo Bay via ferry, land in Kanaya, climb Nokogiriyama and see Nihonji and then return to Tokyo via Hamakanaya JR (Japan Rail). I ended up returning via Hota Station, but that is for later in the post. Well, the quickest way to do all that is by limited express on your return, and get off at Keikyu Kurihama on the way down, which of course also means taking the Keikyu line (from Shinjuku, or elsewhere).

However, I didn't read the maps I had very well, so it incorrectly seemed that Kurihama was the best station at which to get off, and as I was using the Holiday Pass (horidei pasu) I was limited to local JR trains anyway. The result of this is that everything took a long time, but only cost ¥2300, plus the extra ¥680 from Hota to Kisarazu, and the ferry fare (more about that later). This is definitely, at minimum, timewise, a day trip. I arrived in Kurihama at about 10am, and I think I'd left Tokyo before nine. With a side trip to Harajuku, I was back in Yoyogi by 8pm. It is best if you set off early in the morning if you are leaving from and wish to return to Tokyo within the day.

Holiday pass

The Holiday Pass can be bought in the areas specified above and in the picture below. It can be used on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. It is also valid for certain holiday periods. Here is a link. It's a nice deal if you are doing a bit of travel and are on a budget. There is a children's fare as well. Of course if you have come from overseas and have a JR Rail Pass, then using that on the limited express is probably the better option.

The Holiday pass takes you as far as Yokosuka (where Kurihama is), and to Chiba as far as Kisarazu. You need to pay the extra fare from Kisarazu to Hamakanaya, or Hota, which is ¥680 (to Hota). Note this information (scroll down to Nokogiri) about Hota if you choose to come back that way. If you are also going to go out later in Tokyo, or needed to get from somewhere to get to Tokyo, the ticket is not too bad as it gives you unlimited travel within the areas detailed above and below This map below is taken from the JR East site linked to above.

These two train services: Hyperdia and Jorudan can get you train information. Hyperdia is perhaps the better one as you can nominate it to choose local services only.

Those Wiki pages posted before on Yokosuka and Chiba should also help you get your bearings somewhat, as would asking any of the staff at most information booths.

The map below is of Kurihama, and is actually better than the one I was using. Turn right when you leave the JR Kurihama station, left if you arrive at the Keikyu Kurihama train station. The second map is from Keikyu Kurihama station only, I think, which is where I initially went wrong. You will pass the Keikyu station if you are walking from the JR Kurihama station, anyway. Hopefully these maps give you some idea, but it might be best to ask someone when you get there. Keep an eye out for the Japanese characters for the park, you can see them on the bottom of the map, and keep heading towards the (ferry) port. You need to cross the big road, 134, and the road leading up to the park is pretty soon after on your right hand side. This is more clearly indicated by the second map. This is the phone number: 046-833-8282, which I called to make sure that Godzilla was still there.

Yes, yes, Godzilla is still here but there aren't any flowers at the moment.

But Godzilla's there right?

Right. But there are no flowers (dumb gaijin).

No problem. I'll see you then.

Anyway, entry is free, and I got there before 10.30, even though 10.30 -? seemed to indicate the opening hours. This website (in Japanese) has the access map to the park (first link) and the phone and fax number on the bottom lefthand corner. It was also 7-5-3 day , and so I wandered past a small shrine/temple (not the one below) with kids decked out like this:

Samukawa Jinja 7 - 5 - 3
This photo was taken by Kiri-fuda at Samukawa Jinja, Kanagawa Prefecture

The weather was perfect, and it was shaping up to be a wonderful day, despite my having turned the wrong way a few times on my way to the park. Coinlockerbaby suggests taking a taxi from the park to the ferry port to cross over to Kanaya. However, if you don't mind walking, after seeing Godzilla (which is a bit of a hike, anyway. He is in the children's playground, by the way, off to your right after about 1km or a little less, so keep an eye out for that sign. I cannot remember if it is in English as well as Japanese. It may even be called Godzilla Land, if memory serves me correctly - but don't take my word for it), keep going until you exit on the other side of the park and head down towards the port. The second map above more clearly indicates where the parking space nearest the port it (look for the P).

The park is nice, and worth the walk, and must be even nicer when there are actually flowers. As you can see Tokyo Bay from the park, you should be able to get your bearings, and from the second exit (the furthest from the train stations) the port is only about five to ten minutes by foot. There is a map outside the exit to the park (all in Japanese, but with pictures) which will also help you with directions.

The ferries go fairly regularly, but they do have different timetables for different days. Here is a link for the timetables, and a translation of the Japanese names so that you can hopefully figure out the times. Scroll down on the site linked to get the days.The ferry company, or the website, anyway, is called Tokyo Wan. You will have to pay this fare in addition to your train costs, but I think it was only ¥700 one way.

Crossing Tokyo Bay from Kurihama (Yokosuka) to Kanaya (Chiba)

As you approach Kanaya, it is easy to see the ropeway heading up into the hills, but here is a map, just the same (they help me, anyway!). I've put some English indications on it, anyway and here is a link to the original for a better picture, and if your Japanese is better than mine (which is not hard).

The one thing I cannot seem to find on the map, though it is probably there, is the Hamakanaya JR train station. It is well worth your while, if you cannot read some Japanese, to learn this kanji which is eki, or the kanji for train station. Look out for the JR, too, that's usually a give away. I will write it in this post, too, to make it clearer, but have included the image just in case other people's computers cannot read the Japanese characters:

Rather than head to the ropeway, I decided to head towards Hamakanaya train station as I thought they might have lockers (they didn't). I have an unfortunate habit of piling too much into my backpack, but it was fortunate, really, as I didn't return via Hamakanaya. To get to the station, if I recall correctly, go down the main road from the ferry heading towards the ropeway for two sets of lights, and the train station is down the road on the left after the second one. It is a small road, so look out for that kanji above, it is signposted. Or ask someone! I am relying on my sieve-like memory here. Additionally, there is a big map outside the ferry port.

If you want to climb the mountain rather than take the ropeway, this is a really good way to go. From the train station, there are small wooden sign pointers which I took to mean the way to the mountain (see how organised I am!). As said before, there is the large map outside the ferry port, too. Anyway, these signs take you through the town (very pleasant) and then under a road and to a point where it says that the Nokogiri Hiking trail starts. At one point it is a bit confusing, as it says there is 50m until the start of the trail, and another sign indicates it is right there. Keep going the 50m until you see some steps and a guide something like this.

I've included details of the walk I did on the image below. Click on the image for the larger size.

As you can see above, my way was a little circuitous, but all the more interesting for it, I feel. For some reason I thought I could cross the mountains (or granite?) peaks from the top. Even in this map it is not possible, so I'm glad I met the other hikers. At first I was disappointed that I didn't make it to the peak on the left, but considering that the steps were like this

towards the end of the journey (and no, I don't know if those in the first picture are going up or down), and that I was almost touching them with my nose while climbing them, I'm glad that I didn't climb the other peak, as I doubt that I could have done both, despite entreaties from the Julie Andrews in my mind.

This walk to the north entrance is very pretty, actually. More wild and overgrown than the approach from the Hota side, though a bit precarious as the stone steps are covered with moss and the handrails have disappeared in places. I don't know that I would want to do it on a wet day.

Nihonji is famous for a giant Kannon carved into the cliff side, a giant buddha, 1500 boasatsu sculptures, a tree growing from a "cutting" of the Bodhi tree, and a third statue which I didn't get information on unfortunately (it is always the most important pamphlet you lose. I have heaps of information on the herbs in the flower world, and cannot find the one on the temple!).

The whole area has a history dating back to 725 A.D. It was built by imperial decree and is said to be the oldest temple in eastern Japan to have been done so according to this site. Initially it was part of the Hosso sect. Its later incarnations were with the Tendai and Shingon sects. From the Edo period (1603-1868) to present day it has been affiliated with the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism. Or at least I think it has. As such, not just the temple but the surrounding cliffs are carved out (or does it occur naturally?) such as below. Actually, I have just discovered that the area was a quarry, ha-ha, which takes away from the mystery; very sheer cliffs for a quarry, but anyway, I will post on.

and when I went here (excuse the blurry picture), which was a little detour on the way to the temple (see the map above) there were these carvings on the cliff face and seats. Were the seats for prayer or concerts? Was the carving for contemplation? Or are they all there for far more prosaic reasons. I don't know. This part didn't seem to be frequented, and I kept my own company very well.

Apparently it says "safety first", followed by the name of the quarry company. I am indebted to this flickrite for the information.

From the site I linked to just above, it seems that the whole area was used for military operations during the war. I wonder if the kettle, calcified and abandonned, was from those days, and likewise the bulldozer (or from quarry days). It's hard to imagine how the bulldozer got there (but not if it had been a quarry, ha-ha). The paths at this point are not easily accessible by vehicle, and it is not surprising that it has been left there to rust. The Japanese are very animistic, and I wonder just what kind of spirits lurk in these implements forgotten. I guess that is why little altars such as the one below are built.

...and they are the hidden treats of the unbeaten path. I love that they are built to honour ancestors, and the fact that they are outside.

Well, I was getting higher and my trusty branch, picked up by the side of the path, used as a walking stick, was serving me well. Of course I had to take every little sidetrack, because I'm like that, but this was one set of mountains in which curiosity paid off, as it led you to places where you got views such as this:

Looking over Tokyo Bay from Nokogiri mountain.
For those who dig views, but maybe not temples.

It's said that you can see Mt Fuji from here on a clear day, and I am wondering, is that vague white shape...might it be...can you see it? I took a photograph of a family here, for them, though the sun was shining directly into it, so I don't know if it worked out too well. They were duly amazed that I asked them if they wanted their photo taken, and that I could do so, albeit, very poorly, I'm sure. Saaa, well, that's just the life.

Once I actually hit the temple it was business as usual. Well, not quite, as I was impressed. I cannot get an exact date on when Kannon was carved, but reports are saying it was recent, though it may be a recarving; in the way that rebuilding of temples and bridges means that timelessness is maintained through continuity. Anyway, she is one of my favourite deities, and she certainly seemed at home. As I approached the north entrance, the sun spilling on (yet more) steps, and needing to walk through an open tunnel mossy and cut through the rock, she was the first thing I saw after paying my entrance fee (a little more than ¥600, I think). I recommend coming this way for this reason, perhaps. It's actually one of the most serene and satisfying approaches to a temple that I have experienced (once I could stop gasping for air, that is).

Many people climb Nokogiri (or take the ropeway) not to see Kannon, nor the Daibutsu, but to visit the precipice, which is seen as peering into the jaws of hell (it's a very pretty hell, if so, but the view may be so named because the mountain resembles a saw, which is actually what it is named after). There is no shot of me on the precipice, as I went alone, but here is a picture from it.

Click on it to enlarge. Get any idea of how my legs were feeling?

Well, after getting caught up in the congestion that was the crowd who wished to rush to view hell, I wandered down to see Daibutsu, or the great Buddha. If you had approached from the Hota way you probably would have already done this. The signs in the temple give you two choices; to go straight to the Daibutsu, or to see the 1500 Tikai Arhats, or Buddhist carvings of boasatsu, deities, priests and so on (I think! Though maybe they are not boasatsu if I take that definition of arhat). Now, I am from Australia, and I think history can happen in an instant, so something that was carved in 1798 is old enough for me, particularly if the temple grounds themself date from the 700s, and there has been a history of both continued worship and destruction. Oh, for my pamphlet so I could tell you who (and which followers) carved them.

I would suggest going down the paths following the arhats if you are going to take the train from Hota, and not the ropeway back to Hamakanaya, rather than the path leading to the Daibutsu. You will end up at the Daibutsu, anyway. If you go see him first, you will have to reclimb those damn steps, and it ain't easy! The arhats are said to have different facial expressions, and they do. The temple's English guides also say that many were destroyed during the Meiji era. Again, according to the temple, quite an anti-Buddhist sentiment arose at this time from the government, but according to this site it was also the fact that Meiji rulers separated Shintoism and Buddhism (which probably was part of the anti-Buddhist push), and so, I guess, animostiy arose amongst the more devout followers of either religion. I have mentioned before how much I love finding Shinto shrines within Buddhist temples. Away from superstition, polytheism makes a lot of sense to me.

Well, again, referring to the aforementioned site, it wasn't just anti-Buddhists who decapitated and disfigured the arhat, but people keen on increasing their luck. This is copy and pasted from the site: "Kaizan Nakazato (1885-1944), in his well-known novel Great-Bodhisattva Pass , said of the arhat images at Nihonji: "People could always find a face that resembled somebody they loved. If they could take that head without anyone's knowing and secretly worship it, they were supposed to get their wish fulfilled." Taking heads became popular. "The headless arhats at Nihon-ji" was a common saying. In 1915 alI the carvings were repaired, but the vandalism immediately resumed".

The site just referred to, says that restoration of Nihonji, after repeated destruction and statue decapitators, didn't really begin until the 1960s, and when I visited, it seemed that the restoration of the arhat was a lot more recent than that. There were some truly beautiful statues, but many disfigured, and many with their heads seemingly glued back on, and now I understand more why a lot of them are behind fences.

After walking down to visit the many, many, many arhat (in all the nooks and crannies and winding paths) you will come to the Daibutsu. He is taller than the one at Kamakura, but apparently not the biggest stone Buddha in Japan according to some of the blogs I have visited. Who knows and is it really important? Anyway, at about 30 metres, it is pretty impressive, and also the area is a lot less crowded and more beautiful than Kamakura (though that has charm, too).

The cutting from the Bodhi tree is in this area in front of the Buddha, too, and it is a great spot for a picnic. After resting for a while, and buying some postcards (I'm old school) I chose to keep walking down the mountain, thinking I could get to the Hamakanaya train station. More fool me. You'd need to go to the ropeway, or walk back the way you came to do that, which means going up steps in either case. I decided I would try to get to the Hota train station, the stop before Hamakanaya. I had about another hour of daylight, and about another half hour before the temple complex shut for the evening.

The walk down from Daibutsu is peaceful, and the actual temple is tucked in there somewhere, as is a place for tea ceremony, and such. I did pass some of the buildings. You will pass a free carpark as well (if you were coming by car from the Hota side, you could park here). Once at the entrance of the temple there are buses which go to the train station, but there were none waiting and I didn't check the timetable. I don't know how often they come. Likewise, the Hota train is not that regular and it is worth checking out the schedule. Not that I did. It is 1800m to the train station, so it is not close, but the walk is flat, and Hota is very pretty. The roads to the station, for the most part, have views of the sea and rice fields. Look out for brown, wooden signs with that kanji for eki, or station, painted on them (carved into them?) and for JR. They don't steer you wrong, in a way similar to the woman who was walking her dogs just ahead of me. I thought she must be going to pick someone up at the station, but she veered off eventually.

Like seeing the children for 7-5-3, this part of the trip was unexpected. As said before, Hota is pleasing to the eye, the weather was about as good as it gets, and though long, especially after climbing a mountain, the walk was enjoyable. On a good day in autumn, just as the sun is getting ready to set over the ocean, well, what more could you ask for, especially when you know you will return to Tokyo madness soon. Though it is fleeting, the actual train follows the coastline for a while, and that too, is a nice view.

I was fortunate in that a train was due soon after I arrived at the station. I paid the extra for my ticket to Kisarazu, and then set back for a 2 hour journey, transfers included, to the Big Smoke.
And, oh, my battery ran out at the Daibutsu (4 pictures only), so I will post a picture of my train ticket from Hota to Kisarazu instead. Fascinating, I know.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


for a friend whose black dog has turned into a rabid mongrel of late

and so I go

and so I go

and so I go

and so I go

and where I go

I do not know

treading darkness


park rose, (c) 2008

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


the need to know



prickling the skin

like so many insults.

park rose (c) 2008

Friday, 19 September 2008

travel 2 - - people you meet - - august travels

This isn't one of them. This is a galah. A pink and grey galah. Not to say that the people I met were galahs. Far from it. But I like this photo, though the resolution that a mobile phone on zoom comes up with is lacking. Like aesthetics. It leaves aesthetics, or the aesthetic, lacking. The resolution is that there is no resolution. Viva la resolution! Heh.

Being my own interface of late, I forget that people like to talk. . Many years ago I travelled through the States, and I enjoyed it a lot. I was coming from Japan, though, and I wasn't used to people singling me out to converse with, just casually, at the bus stop, in the supermarket, out and about. In the States I wasn't obviously different or scary, see, so I was fair game for all manner of conversation or conversion. It was in Utah that I first saw a kneeling bus, and thought how apt. Though of course, since I have seen many of those types of buses which can tip towards the kerb for the convenience of those in wheelchairs, or those pushing prams.

When it is apparent that you are travelling, too, maybe you are fair game. When you are going to very deliberate tourist spots where everyone, whether foreign or Japanese, is obviously a tourist, it is not unusual for strangers to strike up conversations. Likewise if you are sharing a room in a hostel. However, if you are on a local train, even though that local train is taking two or three hours to get to its destination, it isn't as common and can be uncomfortable.

The first was a woman on a local train, and I think she was slightly mad, but seeking her truth. There is an expression in Japan, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. This expression is similar to the English one of a round peg not fitting into a square hole. I greatly appreciate the smooth running of day to day life in this country that seems to be one of the side-benefits of living in a country that views itself as a monoculture, but it does come at a price. Conformity at all costs is often how it is achieved and those who are different, in whichever way, will have a harder time of it. I am a favoured-different-foreigner, and as such, am not required to follow paths laid down as rigorously as the locals. And if that is not the case, I can always plead ignorance, and generally get away with it due to my favoured-different-foreigner status. Many other foreigners, particularly the Koreans and Chinese, are more confined in the ways they are expected to act, and in the lenience granted them.

This woman mostly spoke in Japanese. I think she was about my age (not too young), and she had travelled to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia to find the truth out about the Aboriginal people who lived there. They were her words. I think she was going to Hokkaido to maybe seek out the Ainu. I'm not sure. She had come from Osaka. Hokkaido is quite far north. Now, Japan is not a huge country, but big enough, and it would probably take a full 24 hours travel, if not more to get to Hokkaido from Osaka using local trains. Do-able, but not really comfortable, and if you are on a short break, as many Japanese are, not necessarily recommended. I was on my final leg to my night's accommodation in Iizawa onsen (well, one more train trip to go), but she sure had some travel to go before she reached Hokkaido. She didn't have much money, so she was camping and buying food from the convenience stores to sustain her. She had her tent with her, and a huge backpack. She said that she couldn't breathe in Osaka. I hope she found a little bit of peace in the North. I hope she got there.

The river through Iizawa. My hotel backed onto this.

The woman at the Onsen was a 1950s, red-lipsticked, blue-eyeshadowed, mascara-clad throwback. She'd travelled through the states for two weeks when she was younger, and her tourist English was excellent. The onsen-hotel itself, Shin-Matsuba, was all faded glam. The reek of cigarettes was in everything. Yet, it opened up onto that river and it must have been very beautiful and sophisticated in its heyday. As were its guests, no doubt, sitting by the open windows, looking out at the water, drawing on their cigarettes deliberately placed in long holders.

The owner plied me with a map as I explored this little town I hadn't heard of. I passed its famous local onsen baths, but the place I stayed also drew its water from this hot spring. Before the rain, I walked through quiet and deserted temples and shrines (it was night), one with a huge waraji (straw sandal) tied to a tree. The place was a holiday town a little beyond its prime. Yet people still holidayed there. The rains came. We weren't out of rainy season yet, though I foolishly thought we might have been. I found the convenience store at the end of my wanders, and bought an umbrella to protect my sodden clothing and skin from the dry skies above. How suddenly it started, the woman at the onsen-hotel said, as I returned.

My Japanese will probably not improve within the limited time I am here, but I do wish that I hadn't been so lazy over the last few years and had brushed up on my reading skills. They definitely improved while travelling, but there was so much information in these little towns pointing to corners of history that the locals and those interested in such things know. Maybe the Dog that sat on the tuckerbox 5 miles from Gundagai is not of interest to anyone but the locals, and those who are curious about Australian songs and folklore, but to be able to read the signs and figure out why a canine statue is plonked out there in the middle of nowhere inbetween Canberra and, I guess, Gundagai, is a luxury I take for granted.

Chris was enjoying himself and quite the traveller. He'd spent some time in Australia during his gap year, an expression and pastime that seems to have become common vernacular, and just common, I guess. He was doing well for himself. I would have guessed him at late twenties, but as I am a little sensitive about my age, or people's reaction to it, I didn't ask. His Newcastle company dealt with the paints that boats slathered their hulls and other parts with, and these paint-slatherers had had a conference in Kobe. I 'helped' him out while we both took a hydrofoil to Matsushima, in that I kind of made myself understood, and I kind of understood what the information booth people said back to me. We chatted on the ferry on the way over, but it was apparent that we wouldn't be hanging out. The newly arrived find everything so different, not necessarily positively so. The ones who have been there a bit longer either have to be reminded of the differences, or find the observations tedious, feel that it is not necessary, perhaps, to be reminded of it. Though it is just a passing observation. Usually. Still. I think I hadn't spoken English intensively for a few weeks, and he hadn't for most of his holiday, which meant, considering he was only staying a few weeks, probably put us on about the same level of rustiness with our communication skills. He'd climbed Fuji-san at night, and also visited Nikko, and swathes of Kyoto. So he'd done well for himself.

Bab from Hawai'i, or somewhere, needed to pop over and say hi to us as well, because she hadn't spoken English for so long, or maybe English to a native speaker, as she said she was with, or visiting family, and needed to go back to them. I did invite her to join us, because it's good for me to talk to people, but it's a bit of a barrage, this, being someone singled out, like travelling through the states again. Even though Chris was English. Though it was pleasant enough, Chris and I parted ways when we arrived in Matsushima. I hope he managed to see the Tanabata festival in Sendai that I steered him towards.

Matsushima is considered one of the three most beautiful views of Japan. I can never remember the other two, though I have seen one. You can google it. It will be there. It's a beautiful area, though, naturally enough, overrun with tourists. I went a little out of season, though, so it wasn't too bad. My favourite places would be the island of Oshima, or Ojima, which was where many Buddhist monks went to practice and retreat.

The next would be Entsuji, a small temple which was next to the larger temple area of Zuiganji, which, unfortunately, I discovered just in its last forty minutes of opening. Not to worry. I actually visited it on my second day of visiting Matsushima, so this entry is not necessarily in chronological order. The monk at the temple did inform me of the matsuri, or festival, however that was going to occur that night. The candles were set up along the sides of the rode to be lit. I assume their flames would either chase away, or invite in, the demons and ghosts of ancestors that come out to play during the time of Obon that the festival was ushering in. On the night of the festival a famous koto player was going to perform at the larger temple.

When you are a thousand miles away from home, why is an hour and half a long time, or closer to two, and an annoyance with crowds important? Well, it just gets to be that way. The hostel you will read about below seemed to close it's baths at 9.30 (I was wrong) and Japanese festivals, though exciting, enthralling and beautiful, are crowded. So I missed out on one that seemed to be more ethereal and pleasing to the eye than the larger, more famous, Sendai Tanabata gig (the one I had sent Chris too), but oh well, there is always next lifetime. Perhaps.

Outside of Matsushima, a couple of stations down the line, is a small town, Nobiru. It is where people come to swim. You know you've hit a small town. The convenience stores connected to the station sell vegetables and little else, and in fact, it seems that they may be the supermarket for the whole area. It seems that this area, it is quite close to the major centre of Sendai, has deliberately been kept beautiful, and it is incredibly beautiful, as so much of Japan is not. I stayed at the small youth hostel there, which was clean and comfortable. The first night I had the 8 bunk bed room to myself. It was nice to go outside and look at the stars, smell the pine. The next day I hired a bicycle and rode around the coast of Miyatojima, or Miyato Island. If you are from Australia, imagine a calmer Esperance. Or maybe some of the coves off Ko-PiPi in Thailand. The beaches I visited were Tsukihama, Ohhama, and I cannot remember how to read the third one. The water was calm, the sand white, and the surrounding islands and outcrops made it seem tropical and serene. These areas are away from the main Nobiru beach which has black sand and which is inundated with summer revellers. Though, as with any country kind of town, the locals (many who were maybe, actually, holidaymakers) give you a bit of an upwards/downwards glance, but it is quite a famous part of Japan, so a few of us gaijin must wander in now and then.

Of course, one of the three most beautiful views of Japan has its own four beautiful views. I think I picked the one that was called the gorgeous view. The others being Beautiful view (Tomiyama), Dynamic view (Tamozan), and Mysterious view (Ogidani). I did wonder which two words in Japanese would be used to differentiate between gorgeous and beautiful. The gorgeous view is called Otakamori, big,tall,forest (view?). The gentle 700 metres you had to climb to get there was worth it. Japan is a mountainous country, so I guess 700 metres is gentle in their mind. Well, it's certainly not Mt. Fuji, anyway.

Riding back home, the lotus were open and the light was just perfect. It seems it would be an easy place to live, not too far from Sendai, and a pocket of beauty, though the lack of amenities might become tiring.

Miki shared the hostel with me the second night. I had gone to explore Matsushima some more (the beaches I had visited earlier in the day were in Otsumatsushima: the gateway to Matsushima). She was very interesting. Again, we mostly spoke Japanese, but her English was excellent. She had spent quite a lot of time in Canada, and she too was travelling around on the seishun ju-hachi kippu, as had been the first woman on the train. This is a fabulous ticket that is available at holiday times in Japan. For about one hundred Australian dollars, it gives you 5 days worth of non-consecutive travel (if you so wish) all over the country. The only hitch it that you need to take the local trains, which are slow.

We shared information about some of the places we had gone to, and why we chose to not visit one or the other (buses are not included in the price of the ticket, so my trip to Bandai -- detailed below -- was not an option for her). It was fun and exciting to meet all these people, Japanese and foreign, who were taking advantage of this ticket that had originally been designed with 18 year old students in mind. On the trains, I saw pensioners, families, older couples, young kids, everyone using it.

Miki had gone to the festival that I had decided I didn't want to wait around for. She arrived late. There was a group of karate students, boys and girls, staying at the hostel, and it seemed that I avoided the times that they were having a bath, which was good, though I seemed to be always running up against full washers and driers (or the driers were full of dried clothes...grrr). The baths at the hostel were very big and very clean. I think I have written before about the fabulous sento and onsen in Japan, and the communal way of washing, and the sheer luxury of the big bath to soak in (you must be clean before you do this). When you consider how hot and humid Japan is in summer, and that I had a flannel stuffed down my back and front in the hope of soaking up some of the guaranteed sweat most days, you can imagine how appreciated these facilities were. So, after her bath, Miki came back, we chatted more.

She lived in Tokyo, but was from Osaka, and she enjoyed both. She was very interested in films. In fact, it was her passion and maybe she'd be making them in the future. I hoped so. She certainly seemed like a gutsy, independent lady. She'd recently scored work on a foreign film festival that was starting up in Tokyo, and was going home on Sunday to enjoy a barbeque with friends. We traded numbers, and she likes sake, for which Niigata is famous, so, who knows, maybe I will see her this way some day.

Her time was definitely limited, but she was taking in Otakamori the next day, and I told her how to get there and lent her my map. She felt she didn't have time to visit one of the close-by beaches as she had to catch a train in Sendai at about 8am, which was a shame, but the following day she said that she was satisfied in that she had achieved that which she set out to do.

Despite the guidebook saying that there were no restaurants really near Nobiru, or perhaps it said they all closed at 9, I found a sweet little place just around the corner. True, though, it closed at 7pm. Again, they must have got enough foreign tourists from the youth hostel, as they had an English menu. I had their teishoku (lunch set) which included a whole fried fish, or grilled, not with batter, and with eyes. That kind of thing doesn't bother me. A fish is a fish, and maybe if our meat and things looked a bit more like the animals they came from, we might be a bit more contemplative about what we ingested. Anyway, it was delicious, fresh and a bargain. That whole area is known for its seafood, and I will attest, except for maybe the massive seared scallop I had on a stick, that it is marvellous. I love scallops, but they are often huge in Japan, and have just a little too much roe (which leaves a mushy, tinny taste) on them for me to fully appreciate them.

Anyway, I had revisited the restaurant the night before and ordered their seafood ramen. Getting to this restaurant before closing was actually one of my reasons for not staying at the matsuri in Matsushima. The ramen was packed with wriggly and crawly things from the ocean (not that they were wriggling and crawling at the time, though this is a feature of some Japanese cuisine), including two types of crab. There was a very small one that we probably wouldn't eat in Australia. The owner showed me how to eat it, cracked it's head open and offered me either its body or brains to eat, mixed with the broth. You ate this from the shell itself, or slurped it up. Well, you gotta do what you gotta do, though it probably wouldn't have been my delicacy of choice. It tasted neither good nor bad, but maybe it was a bit too seafoody, even for my tastes.

The following day I went to Kinkazan which is quite a journey and famous for its shrine, which is on an island which is about as far away from a certain point as it can be. The journey to the train station was 40 minutes, to the ferry an hour and a half, and to the island ( Kinkazan ) a further 20 minutes or so. The island has deer and monkeys, too, and I was looking forward to climbing the mountain, and hiking about.

I should have booked into the ryokan (traditional Japanese accommodation) on the island, but retrospective knowledge is a great thing. There was a panic when I thought I'd lost my purse, then much relief when I found it (placed next to the bus stop as I was checking something out). Disappointing was that I could only spend an hour on the island, as I had really wanted to do a lot of hiking. As it wasn't peak tourist season yet, the ferries weren't running in the afternoon, and the one I was taking back would be the last one. That gave me enough time to see a few deer, climb up to the shrine, climb back from the shrine and catch the ferry home. Oh well. It was beautiful and the bus ride, too, was scenic. Additionally as I had to wait for more than an hour for a return bus, I was able to find a deserted, overgrown shrine in Ayukawa (the departure point for Kinkazan), one of the lanterns of which is shown below.

The woman I met at the hostel that night was going to stay in a ryokan at Kinkazan the following night. I'd had to change rooms to one with four beds as the cheaper rooms were booked. I didn't mind. I had pestered the owner, asking him and asking him if he had an extra bed, as the temple I had wanted to stay at further north was not open (due to earthquakes earlier in the year). He said yes, but I had to pay more. Not much more, and there were three booked into the room, but only one other (than me) turned up. A gorgeous Canadian from Jamaican and Guyanan roots. She was fired up. She, like Miki, took the bicycle out to Otakamori, and rode around some, as did I, taking in the sunset and Tsukishima (Moon beach), and she then joined me at the little ramen- cum-yakitori/yakiniku shop for dinner. She'd been living in Tokyo for a while, and was actively pursuing study of the language. It showed, though she was in the beginning stages. She sang in a jazz band and wrote songs. And she taught English, of course. She was positive, wonderful and breezy. I only found out about her background due to me recommending the fish to her but warning her that it had eyes. Psssh, not to worry, she said.

She was keen on watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics and she'd been to Matsushima earlier where the garu girls had clustered around her as she ate an oyster. She was travelling on the seishun juhachi kippu, also, and was hanging out for her pay cheque. The opening ceremony was pretty amazing, though the screen we watched it on was pretty small, and I wouldn't have watched it at all if she hadn't been interested, and definitely not in the 8 bed room as there was no tv. I had to head out at 5 or 6 in the morning. I can't remember. I tried not to wake her, but it's hard when you are sharing. She said 'bye', rolled over, and went back to sleep.

I had been going to stay at Ura-bandai, a beautiful area which is part of Aizubandai. There are 5 coloured swamps in the area, though they look like naturally brightly lit lakes to me. On my way to Sendai, I had stopped off there and hiked through the humid rain-filled forests (nicely marked with clear, though wet paths). Bought a few flannels to sop up the sweat. My shirts were thin, as is important when it is humid, but I wasn't really keen on the sweat outlining just precisely where my breasts were. I already attract enough attention, thank you! When I'd hiked through the area, I'd booked into the youth hostel there for the Saturday (which was in four days time) as I wanted to do more hiking.

Incidentally, I met a German girl whose mother was Japanese. She was helping out at the hostel I had booked into, and it would have been interesting to get more of her story. On the way back through, though, the connections were all so perfect and saving me time, that I decided to come back home to Niigata. To what, I am not sure, but I did it anyway. Then I procrastinated and didn't head out to an amazing place called Dewasanzan, where apparently a Japanese 'mummy' lurks (a boasatsu [buddhist saint], in this case, a believer, monk, who has fasted to death. Not all boasatsu die this way, mind you). It is an esoteric part of Japan where Shinto and Buddhism overlap, and the asetic pilgrims converge... I have a few days before the semester starts and the cold weather sets in (it is further north, and gets very cold, apparently). I'll see how I do.

The swamps of Bandai Kogen, famous for their colours.

Postscript: I didn't want to lose these comments, but I had to redo this post as I couldn't edit under normal means, I'm not entirely sure why. Sorry if they are a bit jarring within the overall keeping and mood of the post being posted here.

Posted by lizardrinking at Friday, September 19, 2008
Anonymous said...
Hi LD. Excellent travel-writing. Makes my life seem very humdrum, ie: listening to Van Morrison circa 1974 at 4am on a wet Bangkok morning. Leaving for Jomtien in a minute. Dawn will be spectacular as usual. Happy travels!

20 September 2008 05:59
lizardrinking said...
Hey anon, I know you and know your life is far from humdrum :) Using that same system you used, you can select any name, by choosing name/url it doesn't have to be linked to anything.

I'm back now, so the humdrum has set in and I'm fighting (not very hard) to throw off the apathy. Wish I was going down to Jomtien with you. Winter is a few months away, but *shudder*.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

travel one

Pine cones, coins and some other kind of cone or fruit against the door of a shrine

Where to begin? The people, the places, the sound of furin pinwheeling in the updraft of passing trains? At certain train stations the Japan Rail (JR) workers have hung the furin from the platform ceiling. There are a few videos on youtube.

Summer is a lovely time in Japan — if you put aside the humidity and the fact it might rain at any moment — and it is especially so if you travel just either side of the peak period. People start to relax, to return home, to pay respects to their living family and their ancestors. Those who take their holidays enjoy the few days out of the year that they get off. It is a season of fireworks. The Japanese word for them is hanabi, which means flower-fire (hanami is cherry blossom viewing time, which literally means flower-see, or flower viewing). It is a time for ghosts, and dances, festivals, icecream, cold noodles and seafood; girls in yukata, the uchiwa fan and the sensu fan.

If you travel in the right places, plants and trees ooze humidity-wrought fecundity. Your ears fill with cicada-shrill. The sharp cries of birds, passing trains, and the inevitable thrum and hum of industry bring you back to the wider (or is it smaller?) world around you.

How to begin? With an offering, or two, or three, or four, of course.

Sunday, 3 August 2008



from the sacred

is doing

the right thing.

furin on the breeze

park rose, lizardrinking, 2008 (c)

Sunday, 27 July 2008

this entry is brought to you by the hyphen

And the days are not full enough, as I quoted Ezra Pound previously, yet the computer is ever-present. Maybe if it were a little less present, my days would be fuller. A poor craftswoman, or life-liver, perhaps, always blames her tools. It's true, it's true.

Anyway, to belie all that is written above, and to satisfy those who like the bicycle tales and travails, there is this:

and this:

As seen above, I did take my bicycle out to the park the other day. The sun was just setting, so it was 7 o'clock oddish - the shades of the sun, peach strained through muslin. I stayed quite late. It was dark by the time I left. And it was warm. So I had a mango-ice, as they are called here, and said hi to the little green frogs that were jumping all over the vending machines.

Little green frog and lizardrinking's cameraphone.

My point is? Just that I do go out sometimes, but I spend the majority of my time chatting to myself or with my Creepy Internet Friends (you know who you are ). Wonderful as they are, this dearth of companionship needs to break sometime soon.

Anyway, bicycle travails. I wanted to see the fireflies (hotaru). Apparently there are some areas near here where they light up the mountains like a Christmas tree.

Picture not taken by me, and can be seen in its orignal context here.

I was told that the park might have these hotaru, fireflies. They hold a place dear in the Japanese heart, along with collecting crickets, I think, and other insects, in summer. In fact, some of you have probably seen videos of the battles that go on between stag beetles. They, too, are collected and nurtured in summer.

A colleague was interested in seeing the fireflies with me, but as I was cycling (the park is a 40 minute ride) and was not really sure that there would be any fireflies, I went on a whim by myself after work one day. Naturally enough, being the logical person I am, it was leading up to a full moon. In fact, it was very close. In fact, it was so bright when I was walking around the park that I had no need of artificial light at all.

I had heard from only the vaguest of sources that there might be fireflies at the park. Conditions have to be just right (such as there being no moon). That was another reason for deciding to go solo. I had a feeling that a glimpse of the fireflies was going to be even more transient and ethereal than the blooming of the sakura. But I had some hope.

I saw one.

Then I stood very still and I saw another.

Then I stood very still in the way that I did when I climbed the hills just outside of Cairns as one wallaby hopped into view, and another grazed nearby, and if I held my breath another magically appeared and another and another

And I stood very still.

And I saw the original one flashing very brightly like a very miniature Moses in the bulrushes. And I held my breath

And I saw one other flashing in the trees.

And I stood very still.

… … …

Well, you know, it would have worked for Harry Butler.

He only has one video. I'm surprised. I guess he's been superseded by the Bushtucker man, and that ubiquitous and cannonised Steve Irwin.

I wasn't disappointed, though, but was glad that I went alone. The colleague who had wanted to come is Japanese, and I had enough of my own inner monologue to contend with, let alone having her imagined monologue crowd my brain. It would have gone something like this: Stupid gaijin, what makes her think she knows when the fireflies are going to glow? What are we doing walking around a deserted park in the half dark? And we saw one, one lousy firefly (oh well, two really, but the first one was the brightest), and these damned mosquitoes...

Regardless, nature and moonlight is a buzz, and I got to take a photo of a firefly of a different kind:

It's really a very beautiful park, and very Japanese, and kind of freaky and sad to find all these corners lit up with vending machines. By the same token, they probably keep the ghosts away, or help them to slake their thirst when they need a drink. There is a haka (cemetery) just along a side path after all, though it is away from the bright lights.

And on the trip home, travelling through the rice fields which are bright green in ripening (though rather black in the night), here and there I saw an insect or two flitting about - small lights against the sky.

this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr