Monday, March 04, 2013

Nippon Extremities: Okinawa VI

February 28, 2003

Moving at slow motion on 5 hours sleep.  Keiko and I headed north again, stopping first at a Mexican restaurant.  Inside, two men were playing sanshin, and Keiko joined in, picking up some samba and singing.  An impromptu session.  I eventually took out my own samba and began to play.  Later Keiko said, "On Okinawa, no time is wasted.."  I said, "No, it is passed."  (How ironic then, all the GIs stationed nearby, living by the rules of the clock.)  We went to a nearby beach to look at a peace monument.  Sitting at some tables nearby was a group of young Americans.  At first I thought that they were high school students having a lesson, until I noticed that they were soldiers.  I felt old.

Next was Futenma Gongen Shrine.  A yuta was in training out front.  Many more were sitting inside.  We were given special permission to enter the cave, usually open only to those connected with the shrine.  It sat in the back of a small grove, with soft rounded dragon's teeth hanging from the roof, some dripping with water.  A couple of tunnels led off in either direction.  It felt peaceful here.  Strangely, as I walked, my feet felt incredibly heavy, as if rooted to the earth.  

We next went to a small shrine dedicated to Okinawan music.  Well off the tourist route, it was little more than a small platform on the hillside, but it was here that the sound of a culture was born.  On the way up, sounds from the nearby city sounded like music to me.  I'd come looking for two paths -- music and spirit -- and found that they were one.  
After picking up Eddie, Keiko's son, we went to Chichibu cave, site of many wartime killings. It too is set in a beautiful little grove fronted by a small stream, but within the grove was not the usual pleasant cool but real cold.  The air smelled and tasted stale.  There was an altar built next to the entrance, containing a few skulls, and apparently there are still a number of bones inside the cave.  I stepped inside to pray to a small Jizo, then quickly fled.          

Much more relaxing was Zakimi castle, sitting atop a hill which overlooked pine trees and groves of sugar cane.  It was much more contained than Nikijin, and the small, rounded courtyards were reminiscent of Olympic rings.  Inside was all blue above and green below, flanked by a grey perimeter.  A wonderful place to camp.

Keiko and Eddie bickered most of the way back to Naha, he being a typical 13 year old.  Yet it's obvious that he had a good head and a kind heart.  Back in town, I went to Grand Canyon steakhouse, where the guys (the women seemed to only serve the soup and salad) cook teppanyaki style at your table, doing dramatic and artistic moves.  Later, I found a hippie bar for a Chai and some conversation.  The bar was built with a multi-level loft and filled with cool art, heady books, and good music. 

On the turntable:  Keiko Matsui, "Under Northern Lights"

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