Sunday, October 29, 2006

Paul Simon goes to a love hotel . . .

. . . in Shinjuku, Tokyo. He sees this sponge . . .

. . . and his head explodes.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Local cuisine offers sustenance for the final ascent.

Orange gateway to temple on a steep hill.

Washing hands before entering.

School kids on a field trip.

Most temples will have someone on duty to inscribe temple books with calligraphy. A visitor can buy a book at one temple and then have it filled with inscriptions from each temple he visits.

Insensitive tourist tries to pick up local girls.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ginkakuji Temple

The next day, Paul and I hit some more temples on our own. First, we pick up supplies.

Ginkakuji was more my style again. Zen gardens and amazing landscaping.

Very Important Moss.

Your narrator.

Paul contemplates nature.

A block away, we return to "real life."

Ninnaji Temple

Five minutes down the road from the Ryoanji Temple lies the Ninnaji. Bigger, and with a generally different aesthetic. I didn't love the pagoda here, but Paul did which made me happy.

Ryoanji Temple

After three weeks of gradual disillusionment with Tokyo, I finally got myself onto the Shinkansen and visited Kyoto with my friend, Paul Weaver.

Would I find the "real" Japan in the city regarded as its spiritual home?

We were met by the delightful Michy, one of the top backgammon players in Japan. He suggested visiting the Ryoanji Temple, which was fortuitous as I had my eye on that one from the guidebooks.

We approached the temple through a breath-taking landscape.

The pond was filled with giant carp and strange lilies. At the temple we removed our shoes (of course), and entered the rock garden.

It turns out this was not just a zen rock garden, but one of the first ever zen rock gardens, highly influential to the development of the art. It's hard for me to describe how perfect it was. (Perhaps I need to describe three weeks of bustling pseudo-New York in Tokyo.) The garden hit me in precisely the way it had been designed to do, some six-hundred years ago. It was pre-conscious. I smiled and was at peace.

It reminded me of a time ten years ago, when I was wandering through the Art Institute of Chicago after gorging myself on Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I entered a room and saw a painting of a forest with a glowing red sun . . . only the sun was in front of the trees. I was grinning like a madman before I knew what hit me, before I even truly parsed the image. I walked over and of course it was a Magritte which I had somehow never seen before.

This rock garden was my first blissful aesthetic experience in Japan. Nothing could distract me. Not the crowds, nor Paul's semi-serious joking around that he didn't "get" it.

On our way out, we passed through the calming and exotic landscape again, and while thinking about how all this would look in Winter, I saw this . . . (Be sure to click on the image -- any image, in fact -- for a larger view)

. . . and thought to myself, "Of course this is where Haiku were born."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Day Tripper

Ruko and Py take me and Sam and Paul for an outing to Odawara Castle.

Everyone's happy to get out of Tokyo.

The castle is impressive on the outside. But the inside was gutted and rebuilt in '60s-modern. Ugh.

Photo Ops at the local museum.

Sam and I contemplate the ocean.

(Thanks for the photos, Py!)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Trip to Tokyo Tower

An illustration of the different aesthetic at work in Tokyo. They built a model Eiffel Tower . . . slightly larger than the original. Sounds nice. Who doesn't like big things?

Here's the base of the original, just to refresh your memory. (Hi Saryn!)

And here's the base of Tokyo Tower.

Why yes, that is a giant tube extending through the center, and yes indeed, that is an uneven rectangular building sitting below. That's where you find the MacDonald's. Or school kids on a field trip.

The Tokyo skyline. This extends forever in all directions.

Installing a glass bottom was pretty cool, I must admit.