Back from mine Motherland

Recently returned from another rompin-stompin 3-month Journey of Japan: up and down this gastro-fantastic, wrapped in plastic, plenty monastic yet rarely bombastic volcanic archipelago… Organic farming in the northern soils, to the day to day Tokyo toil; from the chanting monks in the high Kansai plains, to the 300km/h whip-speed trains; from Bashō’s woodland knolls and airy-mountain scenics to the googly-eyed dolls and kitschy gossamer gimmicks. Oh Japan, you systemic schizophrenic, high-tech modern-mecca; your old-world heart and vitality, you self-contained not-readily-explained proverbial paradox: Otaku yet Orthodox, Wabi-sabi yet Xbox…(to say nothing of its nuclear tinderbox)
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But living among it all, a peoples of the utmost sincerity and solidarity – their hospitality as reliable and true as the Rising Sun.  Everywhere you go, both the old and young, eager to help your hand. Even in the Big City melee, where we’re all lost in anonymity – separated by tongues, by appearances,  by expectations. The labels we give and those we live by, the places we live and the worlds we live apart! The homeless man of Shibuya, standing in his spot day after day in the torrent of people walking past, not begging for alms but like the calm eye of a sapient storm, gazing his faraway gaze with his wry half-smile – Lost and Found in the contemplation of all his miles. Or the post-work businessmen so open to sharing stories over several cold nama-biiru: the puzzle pieces of our lives and the prescribed pictures they can all too readily form; the patchwork quilt of human experience, and the simple pleasure of finding common silk…
 Homeless man of Shibuya
From the mountain temples of Koyasan rises incense thick as milk, people in prayer veiled in a consecrated light. Draped in smoke from the spark of Life itself: the smell of burning leaves, cedar bark, old leather and mountain herbs. Buddhist monks buried here before the fall of the Maya, before Beowulf or Borobudur …Then there lies Kyoto, older still, cradled on all sides by high-hill shrines and mountainside monasteries; Japan’s bosom of Bushido and Buddhism, and most would agree, a shrine to the common heritage of our humanity.
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And to think of Tokyo now – New Babylon! – risen twice from its ashes in one human lifetime; an aberration of activity, an Acropolis for modernity – the greatest megalopolis of all history!
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 Shibuya crossing 3
And on this same Japan yet in another world entire, rises snow dappled Yakushima nearly 2000m out of the sub-tropic Pacific, an island covered in a primordial rainforest home to the oldest cedars in Asia: trees that were teenagers by the time Bethlehem was abuzz with its Messiah, Hydra-like in their twisting, arching, aching shapes that spiral towards the swollen skies above. One of the wettest places on Earth, tethered to a low-pressure belt – a perpetual tempest – manifest in the riotous rebirth of any canopy gap or forest-floor scrap. And like Mother Earth’s own icon, the Yakusugi stand as bastions to the bygone…
 Yakushima 3
Oh of Rice and Zen, a Winter of my Content! Retracing old steps and taking new ones: the pattern of our lives. All of us, storytellers at heart. And we catch them step by step with our butterfly nets, stories al dente and à la carte – savoury, sweet and tarte.The Art is in finding just the right amounts…
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 Yakushima 8
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 Nature for Future