April 30, 2011

Reflection, Center of Ancient Japan

 A gentle sunset reflects on the rails of the ancient Imperial Audience Hall.
 Once upon a time Nara had been  the capital of Japan for a short period、from 710 to 784. Imperial Audience Hall was the center of the capital. Here the emperors reigned over Japan. The hall  was rebuilt in 2010.

The Capital was called "Heijo-kyo" whose Palace Site is designated as World Heritage Site. This place is my favorite and  especially I love viewing a sunset from here.

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April 26, 2011

Farewell Sakura

Early sunset in Nara Park.

Sakura(cherry blossoms) season  almost comes to an end, leaving me many precious memories.  During the Sakura season, people would  take a journey to visit Sakura viewing spots one by one.  It seemed to me as if they made a Sakura pilgrimage to leave burdens of their mind at Sakura.

This is three hundred years old  weeping cherry tree in Nara, which is named "Matabe"  after a  notable Samurai warrior. This magnificent cherry tree is bending its body and reaching out for the people.  Its branches look like saving hands of one-thousand-handed Kannon Bodhisattva, Buddhist embodiment of mercy and compassion.   

Villagers planted peach trees and rape blossoms around the tree
so that it would not be lonely.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the  most popular Sakura viewing spots in Kyoto. The main hall of the temple is famous for its platform projecting over the cliff. The hall is dedicated to the eleven-faced Kannon Bodhisattva. As the platform is surrounded by the lit-up Sakura , it seems as if it is floating  in the vast pink clouds.  But personally I prefer viewing Sakura in the natural light to lit-up ones.
 I especially love to view Sakura in early sunset. Against soft sunlight, the  petals of Sakura start to twinkle and show elegant  luster. The sunset at this time of the year is gently graceful.
The deer in Nara Park are waiting for this special time.  Once a year they eat petals of Sakura. Usually the deer eat grass, leaves or acorns which are rather hard. So soft and fragrant petals of Sakura are spring delicacy for them. The whitish pink carpets of the petals cover gently rolling hills where the deer are roaming,
The petals are on the nose. This adorable scenery  pleasures to the eye.

Both famous and unknown Sakura are beautiful.  No difference. People  label them. 

Nara-no-Yae-Zakura (eight-petaled Sakua) which are indigenous in Nara will be soon in full bloom. They are the last Sakura flowers to bloom in Nara. They are designated as the symbol flower of Nara city and prefecture.

Emblem of Nara city

The deer are going home and I also feel like going home.

This year for me Sakura trees look like Kannon Bodhisattva, Buddhist deity of compassion and mercy. Kannon transforms himself into 33 manifestations to save people in suffering. Maybe Sakura has been one of 33 manifestations.  Just we didn't know it.

Thank you Sakura and Farewell Sakura.!!

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April 23, 2011

Reflection, Running Man is Back In Osaka!!

This is a gigantic neon of Ezaki Glico Co along Dotonbori River lined with restaurants or theaters - the livest heart of southern Osaka City.  Ezaki Glico Co, Japanese confectionery company in Osaka , was  founded in 1922. This big neon sign has been a popular landmark of Osaka.  On March 12h, one day after the deadly catastrophe hit the northern Japan, the lights had been turned out to express the deepest condolences for the victims as well as to save energy . 

This iconic neon "Running Man" came back on April 4th with an added banner saying "We want to send a smile to everyone". Yes,we do believe that  there will be more smiling faces tomorrow!

Look at the sky. The color of the sky is changing form blue, orange, red to black with stars.

 The banner says "We want to send a smile to everyone."

 A sightseeing boat is coming.

The boat is gone.

Did you see American action film "Black Rain" starring Michael Douglas, released in 1989? This neon appeared in the film.

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April 19, 2011

Current Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves

There is an ancient anthology of poems which has been loved for over 1200 years by people in Japan. It is 万葉集 - Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves. It contains about 4500  poems  including Tanka- short poems, and was compiled around the mid-eighth century when Nara was the capital of Japan. The most unique feature about the anthology is that the chosen poems are composed by a wide variety of people, from the emperors to beggars, transcending the social status. The poems are unassuming and dynamic.

These poems are mirrors reflecting the feelings or thoughts of the people and the social conditions of the time  . The emperors and noble people mentioned love, essence of beauty of flowers or glory of the realm. The  poor farmers lamented  the misery of poverty and hunger. The frontier guards cried over  the pain of separation from their families. As the poems are freshly appealing to us , we vividly feel the emotions of ancient people.

In December 2008, one Tanka(short poem) was sent in to the poetry section of Asahi Newspaper by a self-declared homeless person, Koda( or Kuden) Koichi.  Since then he had regularly sent in his poems and  most of them were selected and appeared in the newspaper every Monday. Judging from his poems which described his everyday life, we believed he was a homeless poet. His perspective and the way he lived with dignity as a homeless person  deeply touched our hearts.

百均の「赤いきつね」と迷いつつ月曜だけ買ふ朝日新聞  公田耕一(ホームレス)

I can hardly decide whether to buy Akai Kitsune cup noodle at a 100yen shop
or to buy Asahi Newspaper. 
But  I choose to buy Asahi newspaper only if it is on Monday. 
by Koda Koichi (homeless)

Every time I read his poems, I am moved very much, and  I was especially moved by this poem. Monday is the day when the selected poems appear in  the newspaper. He wanted to read the poetry section on a brand-new newspaper.

Here is the other unique poet who has been regular member of the poetry section of Asahi Newspaper since 1996.  He is Go Hayato who has been serving a life term in prison on a murder charge in California, USA.

囚人の己が〈(ホームレス)公田〉想いつつ食むHOTMEALを  郷隼人(アメリカ)

Even I, a prisoner,getting a hot meal,
thinking of homeless Koda. 
 by Go Hayato (America)

温かき缶コーヒーを抱きて寝て覚めれば冷えしコーヒー啜る  公田耕一(ホームレス)

I sleep holding a warm canned coffee
and sip cool coffee upon waking. 
by Koda Koichi (homeless)

Above two poems appeared on March 30th, 2009 in Asahi Newspaper side by side.  It was the most exciting moment for the readers. This was a miraculously rare chance as every week thousands of people send in their poems to the newspaper and only 40 poems are selected.  Both of them sent their poems and both of poems were selected. It's uncertain, but it seems as Koda is responding to Go while Go is consoliong Koda. This is the only one moment the two lonely hearts crisscrossed.

 Koda appeared like a comet and disappeared suddenly in September 2009. Nobody knows who he is or what happened to him. He has remained enigmatic.

Go published the collection of his Tanka (short poems)  and essays, titled "LONESOME 隼人(Hayato)" in 2004.

The people in the disaster-stricken area have also started to compose the  poems on the earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear plant crisis.  I am sure all of them could be the poets of a Current Ten Thousand Leaves Anthology if it were compiled.  One thousand years later, future  people will read their poems and share their emotions, sorrows, passions, pains as we are now sharing love, misery, sadness and more mentioned by ancient people through the poems.  I believe these poems are more powerful than history books.

Normal life is gradually returning to Japan even though a pile of issues lie ahead of us . Tokyo Disneyland reopened with fewer lights on April 16th. Many notable Japan's musicians such as Gackt, T.M Revolution, Radwimps, AKB48 and more  are contributing to collect donation for the badly affected areas.  If you are a fan of XJapan, this news will interest you. The founder of  XJapan, Yoshiki announced to offer up his favorite crystal piano to the highest bidder for the quake relief. Yahoo Auction (sorry, it's only in Japanese) already started on April 17th beginning with 1 yen and will end on 24th April. Now the bid is soaring up to one hundred  million yen!

Yoshiki, XJapan のクリスタルピアノ、オークションのやり直しをしているようです。60億という値段まで飛び出しましたが、いたずら入札が多かったようですね。とても残念なことです。4月27日

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April 16, 2011

Nothing Lasts Forever, Sakura・・・・

It is said there are more than 300 or even 400 different varieties of Sakura or cherry trees in Japan.  Some flowers of them have already fallen and others have just started to bloom. Petals of Sakura floating in water are admired as 花筏-flower raft. The flower rafts and a reflection of Sakura are on a pond.

While time passing, the reflection is changing and the flower rafts look different.
The flower rafts also tell us the transience of time -  nothing lasts forever. 

This is an aesthetic beauty made by the cooperation of light and Sakura.

Here is my secret place where scarcely people visit to view Sakura,
so I monopolize this view!!.


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April 12, 2011


Sakura or cherry blossoms have been long loved by people in Japan. Sakura bloom and fall. And they love from the beginning (even before the beginning)  to the end, every phase of Sakura. They see beauty in those blooming Sakura, and admire scattering Sakura as 花吹雪‐flower blizzard. Fallen petals on the water are appreciated as 花筏‐flower raft.

A deer is quietly eating petals of Sakura.

Sakura has been synonymous with the word "flower". But at first for a few centuries around the 8th,  noble people loved Ume or Japanese plum blossoms, more than Sakura. While Sakura are native plants in Japan,  Ume were  introduced from China with the latest Chinese culture. So emperors or people of high rank loved Ume as part of the then modern culture. Ume represented  "flower" and were mentioned about in  poems of old more than Sakura.   

white Ume blossoms

In olden days Sakura were considered as the messengers sent by the deity of mountains to let farmers know the time of seeding rice. When the farmers saw Sakura start to bloom, they would prepare for seeding.

Sakura have mysterious power. They give people energy, spreading  merry and  happy spree.The spree is so contagious that the ripples of joy pervade from person to person. They enjoy cherry-blossom viewing.

A boy is dancing on a stump. Sakura are quiet audience.

The season of Sakura coincides with the period of new starts in Japan. School, companies, fiscal year and more start in April. Children with shinny school bags, students in new school uniforms and fresh recruits in brand-new suits are proudly smiling in the photos where Sakura are watching them warmly. Thus Sakura add one more unforgettable happy memory to them.

                                                junior high school students in black school uniform

The life span of cherry flowers is very short, so people feel the transience of life in them - there is nothing lasts forever. But diffferent varieties of Sakura are blooming one by one in one month. When strong winds blow, people worry about Sakura if the winds blow away petals of Sakura. When it rains, people care about Sakura and spend restless spring days.

The famous poet  in the 9th century, 在原業平, Ariwara-no-Narihira, mentioned this poem .

世の中に  たえて櫻の  なかりせば  春の心は  のどけからまし
If there were no Sakura in this world,
how peaceful and tranquil my heart would be in spring.

May this energy of Sakura reach the people in Tohoku.
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April 09, 2011

Reflection, Sakura, Sakura・・・・

At last, cherry blossom season visited Nara and Kyoto. After prolong wintry chill had tightened the buds of Sakura (cherry blossom),  Spring Goddess came to us. All on a sudden, the cherry trees began to burst into bloom. One felt as if he or she could meet a lover who had kept him or her waiting for a long time.

In Kyoto, I saw these mystical  reflections on the surface of water of a trench. The cherry trees were lit up.  The actual scenery was more and more beautiful, yes, more than 100 times!! People were bewitched and just gazed at them.

A wind makes ripples.
reflections and fallen petals on the trench

 In Japan, Sakura,cherry blossom, is synonymous with the word "flower".   Now, the cherry blossom front is travelling northward and will arrive at the Northern Japan, the stricken area soon. May Sakura bring the people energy, courage and consolation.

                                                                after rain

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