This morning after breakfast in the hotel (If I say "tamago" I get an American breakfast.) I decide to take a walk and do some shopping at the Okaido Shopping Arcade. Walking has become a bit difficult but I am the maimed hero of my own narrative: This is Japan and my time is limited. Walking is not simply a pedestrian act I can wait to do, here, tomorrow. I am too early to shop and so I keep moving and looking until the shops open. I buy a coffee at Starbucks, sit for a while, savoring the world in which I am suffering. I must meet Kim at the hotel at noon and so there is plenty of time to amuse and abuse myself.
I am a stone in a stream
The stream effect is reinforced by the fact that it seemed all the bicycles were heading in the same direction, which was opposite of mine. When the shops open I go into a bamboo craft store and buy what I think is a kind of cricket cage/jewelry box for a good price. I intend to give it as a gift to my wife's grandmother. Only later do I realize that I got it at such a good price- and it is so intricate- that it cannot be bamboo. An investigation confirms it is a kind of lacquered plastic, but a neat item nonetheless, and if for a while, I feel a little foolish in believing it was bamboo, it was I who bamboozled myself. My dictionary says the origin of "bamboozle" is unknown. It gives the following definition: "to conceal one's true motives from esp. by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end." One must wonder if it had derogatory origins, but I think there is a magical quality about the word that deals with illusion and delusion. I was the willing victim of a beautiful piece of work, plastic or not. That I believed it to be bamboo despite its low price reflects on me. The duplicity here is one of "bargain hunting" and "naivete" resident in the fortunate fool, two crickets of a different color singing in a single cage.
I love my little plastic cricket cage.
Not much to say. I listened to a lively discussion in Japanese, some of which was translated to me by Kimiyo Tanaka. David Burleigh, Tsukushi Bansei, Murakami Mamoru, and Janine Biechman were on the panel. Those who were not there missed the event of a lifetime. I witnessed it but I still missed most of it.
OZU-UCHIKO (Nanyo Ginko)
On the way to Uchiko (on the tour bus) I ask Nanae Tamura (my lovely guide for the day) about the gathered rice stalks that stand in the fields like the grass dresses of invisible spirits. They have fascinated me everywhere I have gone but I do not know what to call them aside from "gathered rice stalks." She tells me they are called wara zuka, which means "straw tomb."
the straw tombs outwait
the mountain's shadow
the straw tombs aboard
the mountain's shadow
a red dog sniffs something near
the wara zuka
It is raining when we reached Uchiko grey morning-
a dozen umbrellas bloom
from a tour bus
In Uchiko we go up the Street of the Meiji era. The Street of the Meiji era has old storehouses that are unchanged in the grip of time. There is a candle shop and a museum showing the original factory where the candles were made in quantity. Today only one person continues the process and we stop to watch him work. The candles are made from the berries of the haze tree, which- for those of you who don't know- are the berries of the poison sumac. The berries are dried for a year, crushed and then soaked in water at a certain temperature that makes the wax separate from the powder. Paper is wrapped around a bamboo stick and then rush grass is wound around this. Several applications and dryings are needed to build up the wax to candle size. The process is done by hand and while the man we saw working appeared to have gloves on, in reality it was a build up of wax. The berry processing eliminates the poison from the wax, so don't be afraid to order your Uchiko candles.
from the Uchiko roof
(the wax doesn't drip) late autumn-
the wax master turned
(museum display of the wax wax master entertaining a wax guest) unfinished candles-
the wax master's hands
encrusted with wax
the merchants' street
now a national treasure
a drink of egg
(It looked like orange juice. It tasted like egg and vinegar.) autumn rain-
the sound of checkers
By the time we get to the teahouse my sciatica and et al exacts a toll on my comprehension. I listen to the guide who takes us through Garyu Sanso but all I want to do is crawl into the No stage, said to be hidden under a floor of Garyu-in -- where I can be privately miserable. The mossy garden of Garyu Sanso must surely be a dwelling place for a venerable kami. Every stone on its path emanates the aura of perfect stoneness. At the tea ceremony we are presented with a bowl of what appears to be algae. It was to tea as espresso is to coffee.
at the tea ceremony surrounded
by the cry of cicadas-
Leaving Garyu-Sanso, Nanae veers off the path and leads me to a huge statue of a sleeping Buddha. A smaller statue is also reclined there and one is supposed to touch it where one would wish to be healed. I tell her not to look.
As the others board the tour buses to return to Matsuyama, Hiromi introduces me to my new host -- and presently I am on my way to Misho.
Okamoto Mikiko teaches English and consequently there is little communication problem. On the drive to Misho she and Keiko, a welcome host who lives in Uwajima tell me a little about the area. Misho is a small fishing village with a population of around 10,000. It lies at the southern end of Ehime Prefecture. There is a plan to link several small communities in the area into one modestly metropolitan city in order to solve some of the problems of each. This is an area where oyster farming is abundant and apparently an attempt to increase production resulted in an ecological setback. I don't understand the particulars, but an effort is being made to assure that the ocean remains the source of life and revenue it has always been. It was not far from here that a man named Mikimoto Kokichi produced the first cultured pearl. The first pearls were semi-spheres and later someone in Misho perfected them into spheres. Mikiko's husband is the honcho at some kind of construction firm and is away on business. They have two daughters, Yuko and Ritsuko. After dropping my luggage off at the house Mikiko, Keiko, and I have lunch (egg salad sandwich and tea) in a railroad car that was converted to a restaurant. I thought those were only to be seen in Appalachia. Afterwards Keiko is taken to the bus station where she boards a bus to Uwajima.
Meikiko takes me to a kind of local product store where I look at a bunch of dried fish. There are even cookies containing fish. Later we pick up Ritsuko and go to a restaurant where the fish is wonderful. Mikiko tells me about the Rohnin, samurai who lost there leader and therefore became toy makers in order to support themselves. The kamihusen (paper balloon) and kendama (a cup and ball) are two examples of their ingenuity.
That evening I sleep really well for the first time in a long time, but have many strange dreams, in one of which I was a statue of a horse atop Ishizuchi. In another I was a tiger carrying a rosary in my teeth that was dripping blood in the thoroughfare of a shopping mall.