京のキー The Venice of Japan

The Venice of Japan

When I was younger I was pretty lucky to have traveled more than a couple of times to Venice with my parents. Tokushima is criss-crossed with rivers and canals, the sea plays an important part in the culture and industry of the city. Fishing boats crowd the waterways and tourism provides a hefty chunk of Tokushima's annual earnings. But there is no similiarity that I can think of that would connect the two cities in anything but a madman's mind. I know that for domestic holidays the allure of something more exotic and international is always a big pull (thus the odd theme parks scattered around Japan that try to recreate other countries and cities...Parque Espana in Mie and Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki to name a few), but to compare the uniqueness of these cities is to miss the point entirely. People travel here because it is 'Japan'.

The trip away from home was good for the senses. Not sure if I can see clearly now, but always nice to let some fresh air into the noodle and return to Kyoto with a different perspective on Japan. One creepy experience happened on the last day. I convinced Rhod, Erina and Dale to take a taxi to the foot of Mount Bizan where there is a small Buddhist temple called Zuigan-ji. On one side there is a small, red pagoda sticking out of the forest, on the other peaceful gardens and sober buildings, almost swallowed by the trees. Whilst peeking inside the temple, Kitty said she could see an old man sitting and writing at a low table. Later she said he was following her and laughing, running after us as we left. There were no old men, we saw no priests. An explanation could be the statues of jizo and buddha, but they certainly weren't running after anyone. An overactive imagination, or a glimpse into some other place? It was suitably chilling, and rounded off our time in Tokushima nicely.

We were away for a couple of days and returned to a rush of news. Mitsuko, my crazy house-mate when I was living in Kobe, is getting married. She told me about Yoshiteru (used to be a pro-baseball player) in March, which means that he has proposed in under 6 months. Nice going. At first I though the rush to travel up to her parents in Fukushima and organise the ceremony for early next year might be to do with the tiny patter of feet, but my concerns have since been laid to rest. Mi-chan has dated some serious two-timing fuckwits and I am so happy she found a guy who will treat her how she deserves. I have a selfish twinge of regret that she may settle down to be a typical Japanese housewife, but hope that the insane spark of humour in her isn't put out. Congratulations Mi.

The sun setting these past few days has been violently beautiful, the skies scratched with clouds and stained with colour. As the summer lingers with its last breath, the trees begin to shudder off their leaves for the long haul of winter. It must be Autumn, because walking back along the tree lined thoroughfare beside our apartment, swarms of men were stripping the trees bare. Only a few leaves have fallen, yet the city sends out a small team of gardeners to quite literally pluck every last leaf from the branches. No matter that the trees are not quite ready for the long sleep, that the leaves are still green or that the weather is still not cold enough to close the windows of a night. That matters little in comparison with the psychosis that takes ahold of the public. Leaves if left to fall would be messy and dangerous. Disfigured and managed trees look much better. Yet again the Japanese obsession with trying to manage nature. If only the trees could fight back. Autumn is coming, but because the government tells us so. How would they like it if we stripped off their blankets mid-Winter and told them that Spring had arrived early whether they liked it or not?
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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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