Project and Travel Blog
200 miles per hour, Tokyo to Nagoya on the Shinkansen, Japan's much vaunted bullet train and I am reading Cheri by Colette, a book that I l purchased in Paris at Shakespeare and company in Saint Germain-des-Pres on the banks of the Seine. Sensuous and acute, unsentimental about an amorous courtesan facing the end of her career and falls in love with Cheri, a man 24 years her junior, I will say no more. At the same time I am reading a book first published in 1686 about courtesans on the other side of the world, "Five women who loved love", by Ihara Saikakua a bawdy erotic tale about life-loving in early Japan. My glass of Suntory whisky sits on the arm rest as the Bullet train drives through the countless tunnels so fast that the air pressure pushes my ear drums in then out. Mount Fuji comes into view sailing along with me on one of my own 100 views of Mt Fuji. Katsushika Hokusai, 1760-1849, famous for his paintings immortalized and was immortalized by his immense works especially his "100 views of Mt Fuji."
As we pass through into tunnels and out, into tunnels and out,many tunnels, Fuji, another coy courtesan, shows a bit of her peak, then hides behind the rice fields, then a little of her hip visible in the Sumi-like clouds, then gone completely, until, as though ready to play the game of love, reveals herself in all of her tetonic glory. I am in love.
Rocketing along, sipping my whiskey, I idly roll back time by rolling back the pages of my diary, which is all distorted since I left it in the rain one night, to find this indicator of my mind at this time: 3-14-17, one week till Tokyo, one week since Paris.
RAIN, GRAY, CLOUDY, DULL, RAIN, STEADY, POURING, SHAWLING, DRIPPING, THE HUMID SKY SO LOW THE RAIN ALMOST HAS NOWHERE TO FALL. RAIN CAN EFFECT EVEN THE STOUTEST. ONE NEEDS TO MAKE A CHOICE, BE SEVERELY DEPRESSED OR DO SOMETHING ELSE. MY SITUATION , CALL IT THAT, IS THIS, I HAVE JUST COME BACK FROM A MOST MARVELOUS PARISIAN TRIP AND THE POST VACATIONS BLUES HOVER NEAR. ADD THE THREAT OF THE DARK SKIES AND REMEMBRANCES OF PARIS DRIVE ME TO DARKNESS. I SIT HERE THIS DARK AND DREARY RAIN SODDEN SOAKED MORNING IN MY BATHROBE IN FRONT OF THE OUTDOOR FIREPLACE, THINKING OF PARIS AND ITS JEWEL LIKE FACETS, LISTENING TO LA TRAVIATA THINKING OF VERONA WHERE WE WATCHED THE FULL JULY MOON COME UP OVER THE RIM OF A 1 AD ROMAN COLISEUM . FINALLY AS I WRITE, POOR BLIND POGO WANDERS ALL OVER THE OCEAN OF WET GRASS LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT PLACE. HE WANTS TO PEE, OH MY.
PARIS WHERE ARE YOU?
Well back to the train. Japan runs on time! We found that out this morning as we boarded the Shinkansen. We made it through the maze of hotel, and packing, through the gates to the station, Shingawa, and down and successfully thorough the gates to the Shinkansen way side, found out where the number one car with the green logo was, meaning reserved seating and finally stood waiting for our 9:35 train, which arrived in a moment about 9:30. We congratulated ourselves on wending our way through the various challenges, and boarding. As the train doors closed, and the train accelerated up to 200 miles per hour we walked against the thrust of the forward movement to our reserved seats. Someone was in our seats, I noted this to the individual and showed him my ticket, he looked at it for a moment and said, "we were on the wrong train" Our train was the one immediately behind this train, new important lesson, Japanese trains leave on the second. Many times for the rest of the trip I timed the arrival and departure, they were to the second. However all is well that ends well, to quote the Bard, as this train we were on stops at Kyoto for some seconds as well so the net result was we arrived in Kyoto 10 minutes early. This was an early and important lesson, taxis, trains, planes, restaurants, etc all run on schedule. This I found to be most helpful. Also with the mass of people in Japan it is essential that all play from the same playbook otherwise there would ensue chaos. Paris is similar as well, all on time. but feels much more used. For instance the Japanese taxi has white doily-like covers over all of the seats and feels very clean, also the driver wears a smart dark blue pressed uniform with white gloves, what a difference from New York, or Cuba for that matter.
Tokyo, which we have just left, is a marvel of technology and age combined. Amid the jungle of high-rise buildings there stands the antique imperial palace with its moat. Tokyo is about 14 million souls and everyone of them seems to be on the street or in the train station each morning and evening. Walking and talking with the Japanese involves a lot of bowing, and head nodding a fascinating kind of ritual dance. A bit like the gulls on the beach walking this way and then nodding and bowing during spring mating season. In fact whether one is in Paris or Tokyo there is this ritual dance. This can involve driving or walking. People seemingly in their own world walking along somehow miss running into everyone around them. Cell phone talkers glued to their phones, concentrating intently on the little glowing screen, somehow, ostensibly with out looking, glide through pedestrians and auto crosswalks as well. The city is a fascination for me, I spend so much time on the quiet place I call home. What a crush to enter a department store, even to get in the door requires some dexterity. Add to this that in Japan they drive on the left hence walk on the left. When I meet someone walking toward me they, naturally they go right to pass and I naturally because we drive on the right side, I go left to get around hence, we run into each other, a pedestrian head on. It's all charming no matter what, there is great vitality in the orient.
The Japanese have a wonderful unusual way with American idioms to wit: a music store: JOY SOUND. Restaurant : Happy food, Night delight, Pride potato, Happy hotdog, a shoe store: Pleased foot. The names they come up with are fun and unusual and creative which I like, since I like anything creative. I remember when I first saw a car named Golf. I thought whats this, no Indian name, no Pontiac, no Cadillac, no family names, Ford, Dodge, etc. Ah well it all changes, I now drive my King Ranch, whats the dif?
Tokyo and Paris, what a contrast Tokyo was fire bombed during WW 2, flattened, utterly destroyed. I cry and weep for the lost lives and lost culture. The ancient paintings, homes of exquisite architecture. gardens, collections all gone. As William Morris, 1834-1896 noted: "Kings are remembered for the wars they fought and what they destroyed, artists are remembered for the beauty they create." Small wonder when war is near the artful objects are hidden for unlike many temporal things in this life, antique creative treasure cannot be replicated.
Tokyo was founded, indeed the whole of Japan, and forged in flame and heat and tempering, like a Samurai sword. there was so much pain I find it hard to imagine. Tokyo was a city of single floored exotically carved wood and paper structures. Without going into the reasons, this treasure was slapped down, pushed down, bombed with nuclear bombs, and incendiary fuel air devices. One would think that where this horror took place there would still be devastation apparent. I didn't see it and I didn't hear it. Instead I saw a resilient people, talked with them and they told me the hatred is gone, they have moved on. How impressive. The Japanese have been polite, kind, helpful, of good cheer and conscious of keeping their homes and city spotless.
They are the masters of the small and precious.