Monday, October 16, 2006

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."

5 comments:

ACM said...

yes, it seems so obvious...

py said...

His nickname is not mishi. It is michy surely.

Fortuitous said...

Corrected! Thanks, Py.
(Posts of our trip to Odawara coming soon.)

David M said...

I would really like to visit this temple someday.

This spring when I was checking that the name "Fifteen Stones" would be an OK name for my business, I was pleased to find the association with Ryoanji. (Also pleasing: various megalithic ruins in Britain.)

Say hi to Paul for me. It's been too long since I've talked to him.

michael said...

Summer 07 I had the same kind of Magritte/Seurat experience at the Art Institute, another with Miro and Kandinsky in 03 at the Kroller Mueller in Arnhem, the Netherlands.

Art Transcends.

Hope you're well...