11 Oct

Japan has an amazingly rich history, something the United States is still working on. When we think of huge anniversaries we think about the bicentennial; when Japan thinks of huge anniversaries, they get into the thousands. In this country you can go from traditional to modern in a moment, and so today I’m going to talk about my experiences navigating between the two.

On Friday, we headed to Namba for an Ikebana (traditional flower arrangement) exhibit. The flowers were beautiful. It was a big event, and some people were dressed up in formal, traditional clothing (including the cutest little boy!)

It was in the middle of a huge department store, where they sold beautiful sweets, books, expensive clothing, and brand name goods. Right outside the exhibit, I came across this (I think the image speaks for itself):

On Saturday, we went on a trip to Nara and visited Todaiji temple, the largest wooden building in the world with the largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana. Its founding dates back to the year 728, and it is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Inside the grounds, they were setting up for an anniversary celebration, as you can see from the photo. I believe the emperor himself was coming to the event (if not, I’m not sure where he was going, because we definitely saw him driving past–no lie).

One of the more amusing parts of this visit was the huge column with a little hole in it. If you can get yourself through the column you’re supposed to have good luck, so naturally everyone gave it a try. It looks tiny but it can actually accommodate some impressively-sized people.

Outside of the temple there are tons of wild shika deer, allowed to hang around because they are messengers of the gods, according to Shinto beliefs. Obviously, the gods are hungry. These deer are nasty–if they think you have any biscuits (there are vendors everywhere selling them) they will start tugging and biting at everything–coats, purses, umbrellas, pants, you name it, until you give them what they want.

All in all, despite some torrential rain, the Nara trip was wonderful. I figured I would spend Sunday chilling out, but I was invited to go out to Umeda for wandering. We met at Todaiji’s modern equivalent (oh, blasphemy), Yodobashi Camera. This photo doesn’t quite do it justice–you need to understand that this building is 12 stories high (3 stories for parking at the top) and at least a city block around.

Once we met up with everyone we weren’t sure what to do, so we went hunting for a small Shinto shrine I had found. This shrine is literally surrounded by concrete, but inside the grounds it is quiet and peaceful, almost as if you’ve left the city.
Of course, when you exit you find yourself in a big alley of stores and restaurants, with lights everywhere. The next photo isn’t the exact place, but it’s a similar spot.
Before we made it to the shrine, though, we made a stop in a huge arcade and took purikura, which is a photo booth on crack. You pick some backgrounds and such, the machine takes photos and does some ridiculous aesthetic enhancement, and then you move to the other side of the machine where there is a huge touch screen. Then you go crazy with decorations, effects, and drawings. Finally, you print (see next photo).
After getting some ridiculously cheap gyunabe-don (pan-fried beef with noodles and tofu over a big bowl of rice) for 280 yen, we made our way to Namco Land, yet another arcade. There was a whole floor of crane games packed with character goods, as well as coin (gambling) games and a new rhythm game being projected on the wall so the entire place could watch you play. Pretty intense, right?
Today was also a day off. Although I figured I would sit around doing nothing, I decided to take a walk. I ended up walking from my town all the way over to the next station, Ibaraki–maybe two miles. It was sort of in between the examples I’ve given you: it wasn’t the bright lights of Yodobashi Camera and it wasn’t as old and traditional as Todaiji. It was concrete, plastic signs, dollar stores, family restaurants, overpasses, pet stores, homeless people, and everyday life.
I have never gone this route before, because it’s so far: normally the train is a much more convenient. But I saw so many beautiful sights. I also discovered a hidden Shinto shrine in a less-developed area. It was so peaceful! Of course, right after that, I went into the big mall at Ibaraki, which I believe is actually three malls connected together. After getting exceptionally lost and doing some hard core shopping, I took the train home.
Kinda feel like a time traveler :3

2 Responses to “昔々と現在”

  1. Lysbet Murray October 13, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Nicely done–some telling turns of phrases in there–the juxtapositions of tradition and modernism can be just breathtaking, can’t it? I’m so glad you’ve got the eyes to see all this amazingness. And you are communicating the experience so wonderfully well; I can’t wait until we can experience it with you.

  2. Mark "MP" Parks October 15, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Wow, What an amazing trip! Shihan and Sensei have received the post card you sent to the dojo. They posted it on the bulletin board for everyone to see. Thanks for sharing. Be Careful. Go Ji Ai Kudasai!

    See you on the mat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: