Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kumano Prologue III

We picked up the Kumano Kodo, (here still called the Kyo Kaido) at the base of Otokoyama. Leaving the road, we followed a quiet trail through the forest toward Iwashimizu Taisha, above a series of inns which once housed the pilgrims who once stopped here to worship. Today, the inns look well past their expiration dates, rotting slowly back into the damp hillsides. The final ascent before the shrine was up a series of moss-covered stone steps, looking warped in the middle due to generations of footfalls of pilgrims. The main hall had a unique construction, stacked up like one of those Heian period hats that nobles once wore. The slatted box into which worshipper's toss money had chipped paint from a million striking coins. It was colorful place, some of the outer buildings with ornately painted eaves like Korean Buddhist temples. Nearby, a calendar hung, painted the red black and green of the Rasta, and marking this years inauspicious birthyears. This was a unusual place, with interesting statuary, the figures looking more Asian than Japanese. Bare earthen walls ringed the whole site, and in one corner squatted a beautiful storehouse built of stacked logs, protecting the treasures within. The trees overhead were treasures themselves, dwarfing this courtyard with their proud and incredible height. The whole top of this mountain was shaded by tree of sizes rarely seen in Japan anymore. The forests in this country can be breathtaking if left alone. In fact, such beauty goes a long way in restoring my faith in this place. Reading back over my posts of the past-half year, it's apparent that I've lost a lot of faith in my adopted home. Yet in my recent walks, I have been reminded how much beauty still remains, and those feelings of peace that overcome me at such moments are far more powerful, more resonant, than fleeting moments of crankiness which are essentially reactionary. I do indeed love it here, and will long for this beauty once I've gone.

We found a trail and followed it down again through the forest, unsure of our direction but hardly caring. Our feet somehow brought us back to the Kyo Kaido, running here as the main street of a small village, presumably a buraku area due to the predominance of butcher's shops. At the next signal, we reentered the current century. Pressing on now, through apartment block ghettos, a shopping mall, a train station, and a golf course, before finally meeting the Yodogawa again. Turning left, we were a full days walk from Osaka...

On the turntable: Dexter Gordon, "Bouncing with Dex"

On the nighttable: Bert Cardullo, ed., "Akira Kurosawa Interviews"

On the reel table: "An Inn at Tokyo" (Ozu, 1935)

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