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Monday, 30 December 2013

Bridge & Tunnel: The Real Japan - Page 6

Written by Scott Haas
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    On the walk down, we saw an enormous statue of a Buddha, in a sitting pose, about six stories high.  A monk, looking beatific, explained its history.  He had a shaved head, a constricted facial expression, and beautiful black slip on shoes.

    After the talk, we drove to a small fishing village and ate fresh fish and whale.  We grilled the whale at the table.  The whale tasted like grass fed beef.

    Then we made our way to Saitama City, which is the capital of the prefecture or state of Saitama.  We were there to see the very remarkable bonsai museum.  With galleries and a courtyard of miniature trees, held at one time in esteem by the aristocracy, the impression was meant to show the power of cultivation.  I may have been distracted by private thoughts unrelated to botany, but I felt sad as I imagined that the plants had been tortured to represent not their natural state, but the state desired by those who had power over them.

    I was wrong, of course, misguided, for the trees were lovely and shaped, in a few instances, by hundreds of years of care.

    Saitama itself was much the same: A quiet place to gather thoughts, outside the center of Tokyo but close enough to drive in for work or dinner, a show, and shopping.  

    That night a few of us left our hotel to enjoy a typical Japanese bar: No signage, down an alley, third floor, King’s Arms had old school jazz flowing through speakers, cold cocktails perfectly stirred, and a Japanese crowd that didn’t mind our quartet.  We were the only foreigners in the place, and as the drinks arrived and we settled in, thoughts of fancy pants Tokyo faded.  

    I looked around the room and thought of the past few days: The reverent faces at the temple, the super abundance of food, the big shipping malls and the lavish family resort, and the relief that the hard working people of Japan felt in enjoying life outside the big city.  

    This was the real Japan, and I had been part of it.  


©Scott Haas


(Page 6 of 6)
Last modified on Monday, 17 February 2014

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