Tom's travels

returning; Zen archer on the train; lit-up bamboo; "and so this is christmas" - Zelda's exercise Dec 9

Posted on: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 20:16 By: Tom Swiss

East of Kyoto, on the shinkansen, against the dark clouds just for a minute the ghost of a segment of rainbow, gone by the time I grab my Z to write this down.

On the slow train to Narita (having missed that the express is reservation-only). Across from me a while back, guy with a Japanese bow, wrapped in cloth, quiver with tasseled ropes, older guy maybe 60ish, reading a thin book whose title began with the kanji for "bow" and "way" (tao). Next to him, one of the most cretinous-looking men I've seen in japan, unshaven, a dirty look about him, sucking his teeth, shabby shoes with no socks, arms crossed, disdainful of all around him. The archer carefully maneuvering his bow through the subway-hanger-straps (this is subway-style car, not like the one I rode in from the airport - called a "rapid" but seems to run as a local, wakarimasen?) This movie presented for my entertainment by It. Yes, It - bringing you the Universe for thirteen billion years, just like this.

On the plane. In airport shops, found little scroll-print of "thunder and wind" gods - Fujin - bought for Kyoshi Kate, one for me.

Yesterday. headed out to Kyoto. Had wanted to see a ceremony at Horin-ji, where they brinig old sewing needles and stick them in the "devil's tongue" (and I learned last night at dinner that "devil's tongue" is a dish made with a potato-like vegetable - the same? Don't know.) Looked on the map - ah, Horin-ji is Daruma-dera, previously visited. Great. So I head out there.

zazen Ultraman; just like this; prosperity is not a dirty word; dancing lessons from God

Posted on: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 12:03 By: Tom Swiss

Hmm, am I remembering right and today is that "day which will live in infamy?" How interesting to spend it in Japan, ne? Who would have thought such a thing sixty-five years ago?

A recent thought: it is not that the master does not become ill with the sickness of the mind, it is that when he does, he can diagnose and treat himself. Perhaps, perhaps...

On the Shinkansen now, out to Kamakura by way of Ofuna. Last night, such a reception at the Cellar! The fellow who runs the folk jam has such respect for Kaicho Nakamura that merely by association, I'm warmly welcomed, an honored guest.

Returning now, on the shinkansen. Just barely made my train in Kamekura - evened out my travel karma by having no seat for the first half of this ride, sitting on the floor between cars. Still, daijobu.

The Daibutsu is great. Sitting there out in the open, with the hills behind - powerful. I imagine him there when we are all gone, still meditating. A zazen Ultraman, for all the sense that that makes. And the Jizos at Hasedera, something to see, definitely.

Also, up in the hills, very interesting shrine, Zeniarai Benten, where they have a ritual of washing money in water from the spring. Spending it is supposed to bring many times back to you, a prosperity ritual.

Amemura folk jamboree ga daisuki desu!

Posted on: Thu, 12/06/2007 - 01:35 By: Tom Swiss

...interrupted by nice Nihonjin lady who wanted to practice her English. (Might have wanted more, if I read her right, but not my type.) Stayed out late, slept in, today just rested, browsed Den Den town (photos and notes toward novel potential), shipped home a box of souvenir stuff (cramming into my luggage would have been too much chance of damage - it'll take two months to get home, but I can wait). Dinner at Santana, later to Cellar for Ame-mura folk jam. Tomorrow, I think Kamakura; Saturday, should be good events to see in Kyoto.

1) I am in love again, watching the cute singer of one of the bands here at the Amemura folk jam. Can't understand a word she''s singing, but it it doesn't matter.

2) New favorite Japanese beer - Asahi Black. Porter sort of brew. Nice.

So I'm hanging out at the Cellar now, the Amemura Folk Jamboree, the only white guy in a roomful of Nihonjin. A warm welcome from the bartender and from the M of C, who remember me from my previous time here - very nice. Tonight I've set down the first few hundred words toward the potential novel that's been banging around in my head of late, a story of friendship between men and the entanglements of love and the difference between legal and right, and maybe a few other ideas too by the time it's done (if it ever is). Somehow it seems to me that the protagonists live in Den Den town (gives a nice background for cultural weirdness), so I wandered over there today, taking photos and a few notes.

What a weekend!

Posted on: Mon, 12/03/2007 - 08:20 By: Tom Swiss

What a weekend!

Friday, Atsuta shrine, home to one of the Imperial relics, the sword supposedly passed down from the first Emperor. The shop there was selling shinzens and many many of us bought one for our dojos. I also got some hama-ya, the arrow talismans that I learned about on my first trip here. I got to explain them (and the little bit I know about Shinto) to other Seido members - Kyoshi Akira overheard and said I should be getting paid as tour guide.

Then a shopping trip to the Osu neighborhood. There was a big temple there, the Osu Kannon temple - Shingon, very fancy and ornate, not really to my taste but nice to stop by. Chanted a few rounds of the ten line Kannon Sutra to say hello. Had a good shopping expedition, including a nice scroll painting of Daruma - getting that and the shinzen home will be tricky, think I'll ship them.

The best, though, was a guy I saw in a "bazaar" in the shotengai. A pile of old stereos, a wall about fifteen feet long hung thick with cables and wires and tools, and in the middle of it, an old Japanese gentleman, balding, in tacky sports coat, hunched over a circuit board with soldering iron or files, restoring old electronics gear. a denki Buddha of sorts.

Went out with some of the crew from South Africa that evening, some Indian food and a walk on, the streets, falling in love with beautiful Japanese girls.

Saturday, kata competition. There was a great opening with a local matsuri dance team. I judged in the morning, then competed in the "master's" division in the afternoon. A fantastic dinner party, then when I got back to the hotel I ended up going out with the British contingent to the pub for a beer.

Saturday, kumite. Did my match - didn't win but I gave my opponent a match, which is the goal. Long closing with taiko drumming by a local kids team, demonstrations by the kids group and some of the black belts, speeches by Kaicho and by Kyoshi Akira and Jun Shihan Toshi. A nice closing party, another beer at the pub. Got back to the hotel and packed my bags.

Tojinbo and Eiheiji; equally empty

Posted on: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 08:48 By: Tom Swiss

On the bus back from Eiheiji now. Went out to see some spectacular cliffs at Tojinbo - apparently there are only three sites like in in the world, an underground bubble of basalt exposed by erosion on the coastline. I was able to climb down and tag the water - I've touched both sides of the Pacific.

(Domo arigato Mr. Roboto - we just passed another of the robotic flagmen we've been seeing at construction sites. They have become today's hit with the tour group.)

Then off to Eiheiji, the Zen temple founded by Dogen. Unfortunately we didn't have much time there, a brief zazen session, and all the mandatory photo-taking, only had less than a hour to walk the grounds. Still, lovely. Managed to hike about halfway up the side of the hill facing the temple, a very nice view.

During meditation I here the floor squeak under the steps of the monk wielding the "correction stick" - a reminder that he is just as human as I. Equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha.

Hachiko, Imperial Gardens; lotuses and mud

Posted on: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:01 By: Tom Swiss

So the Capsule Inn in Akihabara wasn't a bad place to sleep. It gave me
just about as much room as my backpacking tent. Just a little hard not to
get woken up when neighbor's alarms started going off.

Got to check my luggage there while I wandered today, around Akihabara a
little (bought a microSD card for the Centro), over to Shibuya station to
see the famous Hachiko statue, then over to the Imperial Palace to wander
the east garden (the only part open to the public, most of the time). Nice
garden and all, might be more impressive in the spring, but one noteworthy
thing was a pair of prune trees in bloom, with other trees bare or turning
behind them. Hope a good photo of that willl come out.

Though the water is muddy, the lotus still blossoms. And it would probably
kill the lotus if you tried to sieve the mud from the water. Accept, and
let it settle.

Which reminds me, tomorrow, Eiheiji. Should be pretty cool, big-time Zen
temple. They've even arranged the option of a zazen session, of course I'm
going to go (though my legs may be pretty damn sore after all the walking

en route to Tokyo

Posted on: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 09:28 By: Tom Swiss

On the plane to Tokyo, closing in now on Narita. Flew out of BWI to Detroit, going from there far far north scraping the ice cap on the arc to Japan. The view out the window...I always try for a window seat

My plane reading - Windblown World, Kerouac's journals. God how it blows on the embers of my writing fire! Blaze forth! I shall be writing on trains and in bars this trip.

flowing through me like broken glass (Zelda's exercise, Nov. 18)

Posted on: Sun, 11/18/2007 - 20:15 By: Tom Swiss

Just a week and a day until I head back for Japan, for the Seido Aichi tournament and for a few days of sightseeing and cultural investigation (including the bars of Osaka...) Got a few more things to do, lining up hotel rooms and renting a phone, figuring out what to pack. (I'm thinking about getting a big new backpack and taking that instead of a suitcase. Need to plan it out a bit more though.)

I found out that there's a new requirement for gaijin entering the country to be photographed and fingerprinted. The video put together by the Japanese equivalent of Homeland Security is a notable example of so-stupid-its-funny, as the proper Nihonjin lady explains to overacting slow-witten gaijin how the new measures make them safer.

Hopefully this week I'll get the house cleaned up, papers sorted and the like, so I don't return to a total mess.

exercise: freewrite on the phrase "flowing through me like broken glass"

and I have heard it said the in the days of American slavery, the child of the cook would be the food taster for the master of the house, because the slaves would often put ground glass in the food of their enslavers

flowing through me like broken glass

glass in the water, invisible, sharper-edged than steel when jagged, smoother than skin when whole

flowing through me like broken glass

a cutting river, internal sandblasting. I grind the glass and return it to sand.

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