Japan, in ten days and 500 words…
There’s something truly heartbreaking about the beauty of a weeping cherry blossom tree as it stands on the edge of a water body casting a tremulous reflection. My ten day trip to Japan was filled with such moving images interspersed with bright splashes of fresh white cherry blossoms preening against bright, blue skies. Delicate pink cherry blossoms coyly smiling at the world. And milky white magnolias defying me to ignore their opulence.
Japan, I discovered to my delight, is both spiritual and technological and the twain live a life of happy compromise. The magnificently lacquered shrines are always busy with people bowing deeply to serene Buddhas flanked by angry faced warriors. Streaks of incense smoke languidly float into the air as Shinto Buddhists clap into the air with reverence. But what rises above this devotion is a sense of pride in being Japanese. It is entrenched even in the high-pitched greetings that shoppers face whether they’re buying a cream bun at a bakery or a piece of crockery at a high end store. It was a fascinating introduction to a culture that for hundreds of years had stayed relatively untouched and cut off from the rest of the world. The rule of the samurai, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the pervading influence of Buddhism….all happened within this cloistered existence.
On the bullet train ride, or Shinkansen, as it is commonly called, I looked out of the window on to a sunny morning and fell in love with the iconic sight of Mt. Fuji with its perfect snow covered cone shaped top. I was fortunate to see Fuji san again. In plain view. Without its legendary cloud cover. I felt lucky and overwhelmed to look on at its calm beauty as it rose into the sky holding so many secrets within it.
From Tokyo to Hakone to Kyoto to Nara to Hiroshima …it was a whirlwind tour, filled with cherry blossom moments. Sipping a cup of coffee and looking out onto cherry blossoms lining the street, throwing tantalizing reflections into the water. Sitting by the riverside in Hiroshima, under a cherry blossom canopy wondering about the devastation of the city seventy two years ago. Walking up to a shrine in Nara framed by cherry blossoms, brushing past the deer as they boldly made eye contact. Like I said, there were so many such moments and yet I couldn’t get enough. Greed is indeed, good!
If a country can be defined in one expression, my expression for Japan will be – perfecteriouszing….you, decide how many emotions have gone into this. From its sad tombstones with beautifully etched letters to the neon-lit vibrancy of Tokyo there is a different Japan in every corner. One that can be as lurid or as classic as you would like it to be. For me, all I can remember of my ten days is street corners in full bloom, gardens with stories hidden under every rock and people who treated me with dignity and politeness. Always.