Friday, March 12, 2021

Scenes along the Road to the Far West


 The town of Yamazaki an interesting mix of Edo, Taisho, and Showa.  The latter is condensed in a shop called Showa TV, well stocked with the obsolete, like a Japanese version of Radio Shack.  In the window of an antique shop stands a trophy, covered in cobwebs. Crossing into the suburbs of the next town, and all charm and signage is lost.

Through the clear morning light, I note snow on Atago.  The bamboo in the hills has more green than it did a week ago.  There's a beauty in my eyes today, awareness drawn to small details.  It is a cinematic way of seeing, perhaps due to viewing Herzog's documentary on Bruce Chatwin before setting out.  

I've done this stretch so many times by train, always finding it ugly.  It's in slowing things down, getting closer to the details, that the beauty comes out.  Eyes also capture fragments, overlapping textures, corners rather than solids.  The way Yamazaki Distillery's "Established 1923" sign hovers over a small stub of a neighborhood.  The way the pink plum blossoms accentuate the grey concrete wall beyond.   

Trains that do roll by are lightly peopled.  The State of Emergency ended days ago, but caution lingers.  

Ancient and enormous kusunoki, ringed in straw, honored as a god.  There's irony in it towering over a temple hall built of beautiful new wood.  Curious the preponderance along here of Nichiren temples, and the abundance of wooden structures.  A kindergarten looks to be a forest lodge; a car dealer ship like a man-cave bungalow. 

Tidy lawn and wrought iron gate before a squat and boxy Showa era nightmare.  Across the road a former kayabuki has been cleverly converted to a windowed loft.  

The road broadens through a post town albeit with the sterility of white bitumin passing underfoot.  The town's shrine tucked away up the hill, its roofs coated with pine needles and debris.    

The sudden sci-fi appearance of the monorail station, life lived high above ground.  

The caretaker of the Kayano Sanpei unwilling to engage.  I sit awhile in the sunshine on the quiet grassy grounds

The surprise in coming across the Minoh Beer brewery, followed by the delight in finding it open.  Then I subsequently float the remaining 30 minutes to the station through a pleasant little bed town. 


Return a week later to Ishibashi Handai-mae Station, only to come out the wrong exit, and thus waste 10 minutes navigating the labyrinthian 'gyoza town' which surrounds it.  I can only imagine the way aroma of garlic must hang in the air during the evening.  

The scents continue, this time of a New York Italian deli lingering over the street of a newish suburb.

Rough and poor looking nagaya.  Two smiley chimpira types dump into their blue truck an tremendous number of bottles from the recycling bins stacked at the head of the lane.   

Detouring into a park that overlooks the runway at Itami.  The airport looks small, and I'm amazed that it once handled all international flights into Osaka.  Rather than orderly Japan, in this scaled down Covid reality, unused planes are spread across the runway as if the airfield of a third world country.  A few old men have cameras primed, massive lenses like tank barrels pointed toward the runway.  I too watch a few planes take off over the proscenium of the city, then with my feet follow their vapor trails west, and south.

Near the old water crossing still stands a shack, the abode of the tinkerer; loads of metal, small appliances litter the grounds.  I imagine his ancestors living in a similar set up, waiting for walkers to come along in need of ferrying.  In the river bed itself are a pair of small dilapidated shrines, as well as an incongruous altar to En-no Gyoza, and a low trio of small statues that may function as graves.  A twin row of deutzia bushes lead me to the water.  A man stands out in the middle of the Muko River, like Jesus when he's off his game.  The day may be unseasonably warm, but I instead detour and take the bridge.  

I guess I'm in Hyogo now, and its bland suburbs do little to focus the mind.  My thoughts traverse time and space, until I regain focus again with a pair of claps before Nishinomiya Shrine, and road's end.


On the turntable:  Neil Young, "Weld"


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