Osaka & Kamakura

Didn’t love Osaka but did love this neon groceryand this dinerheaded to Kamakura, last part of which journey was on a monorailbeautiful building in which I’m sleeping on a very thin futonkamakura is beautiful and well-off, and with eclectic seaside architecturelots of chatting in Japanese, occasionally translated for me and one other foreigner. We shaved some ice. Easy to sense rural/urban gradient as I approach Tokyo even through language barriertoday walked all aroundbuddha built in 14th centurybuilt 20s or 30s I think. Grounds of the feudal lord. Now museum of literatureyoung men and women hanging out in the beachfront convenience store parking lot. Lawson is one of three major convenience stores, and western-outpost themed.nice day. Tokyo tomorrow 

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Hiroshima, Kagoshima

I found Hiroshima very moving. I’d like to learn more about its post-war development, then I’d like to find work as worthwhile. A beautiful church:

Beware of crows, near a public poolatomic bomb dome. One of few things standing. Very affectingshrine to the children. Between these plastic cases of origami cranes it smelled like the chapel at the UN headquarters, like 1958peace memorial park. Again, affectinghiroshima seems like a nice place to live. Population of just over a millionmy hostel was in a suburb. Found this one man restaurant, so so beautifully decorated. Sweet man cooked me cucumber and tofu salad and beef/onions/egg/eggplant over rice. Then gave me a tottoro finger puppet.this morning took a ferry to a shrinethen a Shinkansen to Kagoshima, the southernmost sizable city on Japan’s main islandsferry to the big volcano. Hawaii, franklylava field turned into barren parklava roadthrough the pines
Back up to Osaka tomorrow, then two days in Kamakura, a resort town south of Tokyo to which Setsuko Hara retired, and finally a week in Tokyo. 

Shimane Prefecture

I woke early yesterday for breakfast before an 8 a.m. train southwest along the Sea of Japan to Ōda, where the woman running the station’s little shop helped me decipher the contents of various onigiri (seaweed-wrapped rice balls). I picked one with some sort of sour fruit and took a seat on a bench at a bus stop in the sticky late-morning heat. I was soon joined by a septuagenarian couple who asked me the usual questions, where was I from and what was I doing. The woman, with provincial quirks to her speech I don’t think I was imagining, kept saying, “All alone?,” and when I couldn’t understand her, to her husband, “He just doesn’t know the words.” I asked if they lived in town–no, just joining friends for karaoke. A small yellow car swung up to where we sat, and we bowed our sayounaras before they headed off for their pre-noon party. As soon as the couple had left the woman from the shop came out with some papers in hand. She asked if I was headed to the silver mines and when I said yes handed me a map and a pamphlet. I asked if she knew anything about the hike along the old transport path from the mines to the port town through which had flowed, in the late 16th-century, about 1/3 of the world’s silver, and wryly and a bit aghast she said, “It takes five hours!” I nodded and smiled. She suggested I speak to the guides at the mines–heavy rains the day before may have made the route impassable. The bus arrived and she ushered me on, telling the driver where I was headed. I thanked her profusely and was driven through rice fields pocked with steaming, piled-rock vents, then on into the rocky hills, verdant in ways new to me.

At the old mining town, I asked a guide at the tourist information center about the hike. He scratched his chin and summoned another guide, who with fabulously congenial mien said hello and shook my hand. He said the rains had broken the road. With a smiling sigh I lamented and relented. Happily the sky was blue, formally extravagant foliage rose all around, and the township felt prosperous in the easy joy of the day. I ate soba in a tatami-floored shop run by a brother and sister who’d spent a few years studying in Nebraska, then headed in the direction of the one open mine. Halfway between that and the town, small, blocked-off openings began to appear in the mountains, and the laborious honeycombs of 16th-century extraction began to be sensed and take form in the mind. Along the road were gardens of hydrangea and wisteria, roses and all manner of things I didn’t recognize, and at the foot of the mountains, conifers grew next to palm trees and over ferns and tall grasses, alongside the occasional stand of bamboo, and all run through with lichen-covered stone steps up to sagging shrines. Two sensory aspects of this trip I don’t think I’ve properly emphasized are the very happy, always near smell of juniper and the nearly constant raucous trill of cicadas, a shrill reminder of all the life that rattles in the trees. Twenty feet from the entrance of the open mineshaft I could feel its very cold exhalation. Inside the ceiling dripped and caused me to stoop. Mosses and small, liverwort-like plants grew on the walls that the lights lit. Unreinforced side passages, with signs barring entry, split from the walk. In front of me, always around a bend, was a Chinese couple and behind me, always around a bend, was a large Japanese family. Lining the exit were drawings illustrating the process of silver extraction and smelting. The first role given to children was the removal of undesirable stones.

On my map was marked a trail leading to castle ruins, leaving from near the mouth of the mine. I put my foot down on the first log step and out jumped a grasshopper and a frog. All along the climb were signs warning of “falling, or fallen rocks,” and the biodensity never lessened, with lizards and spiders at my feet, and huge black butterflies with white wingspots always at the edge of vision. Small piles of mammalian shit buzzing with flies hinted at what else lived there. Thin-trunked trees that left tan, eucalyptus-like leaf litter bent in agreement with the rock-warning signs. Near the summit the canopy cleared, and the sun beat on what took the form of a cornfield but whose nature I couldn’t really determine. A small rock foundation seemed to be the last bit of the castle. In the distance I could see Yunotsu, the port town that I’d wanted to hike to, sinking into its little seam and opening to its little bay. I was dripping sweat, rushing to catch the bus, alert to hornets, rockslides, and bears, and the descent was as beautiful as it gets, the foliage way green, with stands of citrus or citrus-adjacent trees running down each side of a thin ridge tracked with red-bamboo-banistered, very loose stone stairs.

I took a bus and a train, with a group of teen girl jocks in long shorts, of which Japan’s overgrown seaside towns have wonderfully many, to Yunotsu, which prior even to its silver-port heyday had a long history as a resort town with healing mineral baths. A tall, thickly wooded peak rose impassably between Yunotsu’s station and its main street. I took the direction that seemed to more efficiently reach the baths, not knowing it unfit for pedestrians, with barbed-wire shack-ruins and rusting piles of metal beams lining the road, which led to a semicircular stone tunnel. Nonetheless I pressed on, hurrying along the moss-slimy shoulder of the tunnel, past a lone man’s lone house, the sort from whose window, if in the marijuana boonies of northern California, you’d imagine a shotgun peeking, past old women silently pulling laundry from the line, and finally to a main street slightly less ghostly–all the while with the deafening shriek of the cicadas joined by the high, quick, legato, one-note crescendo-decrescendo keening of a new, dutifully eerie insect. I ate a quick dinner at a glum restaurant and headed along the bay, imagining its waters filled with Portuguese galleons, to the train station, where I waited with an old man, a woman in her early 40s, and many, many fat-abdomened spiders spinning their webs across the ceiling.

Today I had a wonderful time in Hiroshima, of which more later.

Pat

Sakaiminato

Left Kyoto and dear friends this morning. Much beauty through the window.the 10-stop 1-car 45-minute train from Yonago to Sakaiminato along a peninsula that I think is called San-In. One of Shigeru Mizuki’s characters. I wrote about Mizuki in the first post. He was born in Sakaiminato and the town has generated a tourism industry from that fact. His most famous series is one I haven’t read. So my fanship was in the glimpses of Mizuki as memoirist and historian. Many fabulous glimpses. pulling into Sakaiminato:eyeball lamps lining shigeru Mizuki street.many statuesgreat little museum with photos, original pages, juvenilia, and dioramasthen went for a long walk through Sakaiminato which happily turns out to be remarkable even without sentimental attachment. The plants felt familiar having seen them drawn.Dipped into roadside restaurant. Empty at first but soon cutepunk teen couple w purple hair arrived, and 3 & 5 year old sons of the waitress sang loudly.was served more food than I can ever remember having been served and here a slot machine emporium. Behind me is the Sea of Japan. The little purpose of the walk was to find the beach, which pilgrimage seemed the easiest way to link place and comic panel. I walked along the shore for a ways, then headed back to the road. In the dark, searching for a way through the tall grass and the pines that shield the Sea from the cars, I caught my foot on a low-slung chain and fell on my chest with a whump. Picked myself up with eyebrow raised. Very good day. Finally I bathed communally in the open air on the 12th floor of this wonderful hotel as a Muzak rendition of How Deep Is Your Love played quietly. 

Last day in Kyoto

Went to the manga museum. Here is one amongst much Mizuki. To whose homeland I head tomorrow.wonderful show of 100 manga artists dressing their characters as geisha. I think three of the artists were women….drawing and plaster cast of hand of Jean Giraud aka Moebius, brilliant French comics artist who died last yearother big show was of Eguchi Hisashi. Hadn’t known him but liked very very muchthen went to the castle were briefly the shoguns lived before moving the capital to Edo (Tokyo)then to the park that surrounds the former imperial palacethen to a magical junk shop across from the parkand finally Nepalese dinner with friends

Day trip to Nara

Lots of very old beautiful wooden structures in Nara. This one apparently the largest wood building in the world.big bronze Buddha in big wood temple. Japan seems less concerned with dates than ‘the west’ (aka than I, etc.) Pamphlet said Buddha had parts from 8th, 12th, 18th centuries. Would have liked to have known which parts of course. Ate soup here, then hopped train to west Nara this pharmacy founded 1907 is called 木のうた which means tree(s) (possessive particle) song(s), so song of the trees or songs of the tree etc. I think best translation perhaps to capture number ambiguity: treesong. The bilingual would likely scoff at this analysis.finally a really old temple complex, built round 7th/8th century. Main pagoda in this one built then was disassembled then reassembled after bombing threat of wwii ended.back in central Kyoto this woman tends to her exquisite garden. Behind me a boy with his grandmother plays PokemonGO with volume high on a tune I know well