I'm not sure if the picture really translates, but my heart certainly felt how special the blossoms, be them cherry or plum, really are in Japan. These are the first I've seen this year, or even ever in Japan. First they remind me how much of a northwest boy I am. That means many wonderful things, but certainly not accustomed to the kind of winters that usually frequent the Sea of Japan side of Japan. Seeing these instead of dreary grey days and feet upon feet of snow for the first time since October (except three weeks in a Summery New Zealand:)) is something that can legitimize any sort of grievance in a way rarely experienced. Also, I can't help but relate it to Jolene's arrival in Japan. Since January 1st, I've certainly had a great time in Japan, but it has been lacking in many warm and beautiful ways, something only the girlfriend I love and cherry blossoms can satiate. And to pay homage to Japanese tradition, these blossoms represent the fleeting nature of life. Shogyoumujou for any of those who have read my earlier posts.
Anyway, this is the Tori, gateway, to one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan called the Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) in honor of the emperor at the time of the Meiji Reformatin (beginning in 1868) which was Japan's transition to opening up to and adopting Western "ideas". Shrines are very much ubiquitous in Japan, but this one at the Meiji Shrine is one of the biggest I have seen.
Here is a picture of one of the main structures of the shrine. It truly is difficult to capture its beauty in a picture, at least with my camera and ability.While it was just another day at the Meiji Shrine concerning tourists, briefly viewing and snatching pictures, a procession suddenly passed through the center of it all, with the greatest gravity and silence so wonderfully executed by Japanese tradition. As you can see, it looked like a party of three Shinto priests at the front, a bride and groom in traditional garb, a few more priests, and then possibly parents and best men-ish bride groom-y friends. Among the buzz of the tourists a procession like this was quite a scene.
However, if I can keep it to a couple sentences, I would like to speak to something here. Three years ago when I studied in Tokyo during three weeks in the summer at Sophia University, I visited this shrine with a group of other students, and we attended a lecture by a priest about the significance of the shrine, and then experienced a Shinto ceremony with dances and Gagaku, traditional Japanese music specific to this occasion. It was certainly a privelaged occasion, and I am forever grateful to it. At a moment when giant bells were rang by the priests in the middle of a procession, I felt the deepest and greatest feelings one could call "religious" I have ever felt. Tears and an ocean worth of admiration for what was happening welled up inside of me, and again, I will never forget that moment.
And after that, I turned to fellow students who seemed not to see what I saw, and said things that I wasn't thinking of saying, and we left the Meiji Shrine to Harajuku, a district of Tokyo famous for its outlandish fashion which lies in an incomprehensible proximity to the shrine. That was culture shock.
Now back to this trip, of course I couldn't help but think of my past experience, and only look this time with slight ... disappointment? No ... but something not as cool as what I felt before. I think it really magnifies something in Japanese traditional religion / thought. That something can be so special and religious, so sacred, and yet, so easily stepped over and forgotten. Fragile as a cherry blossom.But enough of that, this time was special enough for its own reasons.
For a small fee, one can go up the main observatory, which is 150 meters high, and for another small fee but a really long wait, you can go up to the special observatory at 250 meters. This time as well as once three years ago, I only went up to the main observatory. Maybe one day I'll go all the way up, but the view from the main observatory was impressive enough. It is quite jaw dropping to look 360 degrees around and see city forever which is Tokyo. In every direction there may be one two or three groups of sky scrapers comprable to the downtown of Seattle ... in every direction. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
And here I will leave you with this fuzzy picture from the tower. Let it be representative of our foggy subjective views of the world.
We had an amazing time in Tokyo, and spent the better part of 12 hours running around the city. At first I attempted to follow the philosophy of a relaxed tour, seeing only what we can at a comfortable pace in order to fully enjoy our experience. But it was soon overrun by the temptation to see as much as possible. We were left exhausted from running between trains and drinking large amounts of coffee, but content with our time. Next time maybe we'll relax.
Tokyo is great, but a bit of a monster. I was happy to get back to small town Kurobe.