Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kyushu Expedition Prologue

It really started with the plum blossoms, seen from the window of the farmhouse-cum-office of Walk Japan.  This was the first color I'd seen on the landscape for months, though the reality was that I'd spent most of this particular winter chained to a desk.  Those little buds on that skinny insignificant branch held all the significance in the world.  Spring was here, and I was about to walk out into it.

The company was sending me out on my own to learn the Kyushu Expedition tour, as I'll be leading clients along it in about a month's time. But it took me a few days to get out on my own.  A potential new guide had come over from Nagasaki to climb a few of the ridges in Kunisaki, and to visit the office.  He and I later wound up back in a familiar Bungo Takada eatery, finding connections on many levels, including a shared love for walking in some of this country's wilder places, and the utilization of aikido and shakuhachi as a means of making contact with those inner places wilder still.  

A slightly surreal taxi ride brought us to candle-lit Momokusa, where a group of about twenty grassroots activists were getting inspiration from famed thinkers, Abe Yoshihiro and Tomita Takafumi, discussing the struggle against TPP and nuclear power.  It was refreshing to see the audience after this heated talk, the sparks of discussion having spread themselves throughout the room.  How refreshing to see discourse in Japan, the lack of which I frequently bemoan.  Ironic then, that I left it, feeling pretty exhausted after a long day's journey, thus choosing instead to go outside to stare into the embers in the firepit bringing glow to the night.

I awoke early as I do, and walked up the hill to pay my respects at the shrine.  Though now a cafe, Momokusa was once the home of the priest of the shrine, but having moved to more modern digs somewhere else, he has allowed my friend Mario to look after it.  After walking awhile beneath the tall cedars which towered over the shrine, I walked back down to watch the sun rise between plum branches, bringing orange to a sky thick with pollen and Chinese smog.  Mario showed us around the property, with a glimpse at the work that will fill his next few months.  I found work of my own, and sat awhile with my laptop at a table out in the warm sun.  Later, we drove around the peninsula, past a split boulder the size of an office building, eventually winding up at a Beppu Project event at a beach, where I ran into a few people I'd met on previous visits.  I've been down to Kunisaki five times now in the past year, and am beginning to feel like I make guest appearances in their community there.  

The next morning I was supposed to have gone to Yufuin to climb Mt. Yufu, but the winds that had rattled the windows of Momokusa all night were now blustery and dangerous and I was warned against going near the mountain.  So I rode down to Oita city with Mario to a 3/11 event that he'd helped put together.  Part market, part peace march, part candlelight memorial service.  I walked the booths and ran into a few other Kunisaki acquaintances, as well as meeting new ones here and there.  I had a brief chat with former Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi, then joined the protest march against nuclear power. It was the first march I've joined, and assume that the government has now added my photograph to their ever-widening collection.  I ran into one of the Walk Japan staff at the event, and carried her preschool aged son through the city as we marched and sang.  The memorial service for the victims of the triple disaster followed, but the winds were too high to get the candles lit.  After the minute of silence, I walked quietly away, toward the station, and the train that would take me to Yufuin and the start of the tour.  

On the turntable:  XTC, "Black Sea"
On the nighttable:  Julia Llewellyn Smith, "Travels Without My Aunt: In The Footsteps Of Graham Greene"

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