Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Japanese Experience

I thought I might feel very different when I returned from Japan, not just from jet lag or sleep deprivation but from the entire experience. Afterall, it was a great adventure.
I left, feeling a little melancholy, all ready missing the country and the places I had just visited, from snow tipped Mt. Fuji, to the high rises of Yukohama and Toyko, and the temples and shrines in Kyoto, everything, the sights the sounds, the food, the people, I loved it all.

Of course it was time to leave; hauling around luggage and never staying in one place for very long got very tiresome. The unfamiliarities began to take their toll and some people started to long for what they knew regardless of whether it was better or worse, it was familiar. One friend admitted she missed not being able to read anything.
I, on the hand loved the mystery and sometimes the formidable challenge of understanding and being understood. I felt an unusual sense of comfort and ease in a country I neither knew the language or the customs. But I am thinking now that I was enchanted and that this was only one example of the many enchantments I experienced in Japan.

I enjoyed Toyko, especially at night, the Ginza District, Chinatown and the enormous ferris wheel in Yokohama. The City Center bustled in Kyoto full of young people, girls in mini skirts (or short shorts) and tall boots, men with spiked, bleached hair in loose unstructured jackets. And wow the train station!!! A geometric marvel of steel and glass, that spins you somewhere between a Cubist painting and the set of the Matrix movie .

I waded in the Sea of Japan which was surprisingly warm given it was November and I'm a little sorry I didn't go swimming. But it was late and I had over indulged. We had given a concert at Choyo Elementary School with 500 kids that afternoon and their enthusiastic reception was unforgetable. After the performance many children followed us out to our bus helping us with our luggage. It was great fun and I felt light-headed almost dizzy from all the attention. I think everyone did.
That evening I soaked in the Yunohama Hot Springs, before devouring an elaborate multi- course Japanese feast, complete with saki, Japanese beer and an excellent grape liquor. Walking along the beach, splashing in the water and dressed in a beautiful kimono ( kindly provided by the Japanese Inn we were staying at) was a wonderful way to end a magical day (even if I did seriously consider discarding the robe and diving into the waves. I guess I should be grateful I was accompanied by a new found friend, who unknowingly influenced my better judgement...)

I also climbed Mt. Hagura, all 2446 steps up to the Main Shrine passing in route an old 5 story pagota. The climb was in a dense forest with huge cedar trees and exotic birds I heard but never saw. It smelled good from the light rain, moss covered stones, and rich hummus ground and in this forest, on this mountain with all the old carved stone steps and the ancient temples, the presence of something much larger than oneself was undeniable. Perhaps it was a sense of history, an acute awareness of everyone before me and all those destined to come after me. But it was powerful stuff.

So whether it was the land and people, the performances and relationships forged, the purposes and organization, it was a truly remarkable trip and I'm delighted to have been able to participate. Lucky me.