Here, I fall into the peace of Japan, the gardens, water, and form. It is a purifying place. We spend the night, enjoying a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast. There are many courses of food, all beautifully displayed. We are given Japanese robes to wear. I am in a different time, mood, place. In the morning, I sit with the windows open. listen to the rain, and write haiku.
The next day we are given a tour of a sake factory, which is right off the street and more like someone's home. It is small. We warm by a wood fire as rain has come and it is cold and wet. We are given our sake tasting cups to bring home. The Farmer's Market is small this Saturday because of the rain. We move quickly along like the river that has gone from calm to rushing. We visit here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takayama_Jinya
We enjoy udon noodles each day for lunch, and have coffee in a family coffee house. Starbucks is encroaching in Japan, and the small family coffeehouses are struggling to survive though this place is full and communal. The art of one of the daughters is displayed on the walls.
We travel on a bus to a mountain village, Shirakawago, and see thatched roofs that currently cost $220,000 each to repair. That is one reason it is a UNESCO site. It allows the old ways to be preserved. We learn how these homes knew how to be built in a way to honor the earthquakes that are common here. The structures move with the movement of the earth. There are four homes we can visit. We choose the oldest, feel again what it would be like to live here in different times. The gods feel alive here, Shinto gods, nature gods, wind, fire, water, earth air. Bliss. We also recognize that our area has become this kind of tourist area. Perhaps, one day, we will invite people into our home to see "traditional ways".
We journey back to Nagoya by train on Sunday night.
We arise early the next day to take a train to tour the Lexus factory in Tahara, Aichi. Quite a contrast you might think, and yet, somehow, it's not. It is about a wonderful attention to detail. The workers walk under a Shinto gate to remind them of consciousness, awareness, and presence. They are a family. It is amazing to be there and see how these cars are made. The price does not seem so exorbitant when you see the robotics in action and the attention to the workers, and detail. We go to the port and see the cars loaded on huge ships. Land here is is leased for windmills, and power is generated on land lined with blossoming cherry trees. Again, we enjoy the contrast of modern windmills and cherry trees.
We feel honored to visit here and be given a private tour by two people when we see the factory has ten visitors per week. Thomas Friedman visited this factory in the early 1990's, and described it in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. He used this plant as an example of globalization, and wrote of what we saw, the robot and human working together to install a sun roof, a windshield. and seats. It is odd to see this and then read news "back home" where anti-shuttle protestors are trying to stop busses in Oakland and San Francisco from taking employees to Yahoo and Google. How do we balance movement, fear, progress, vision, preservation, conservation and change?
This morning I read in the International New York Times of a path created in the center of Singapore. A grass-roots movement like the one that saved the High Line in NYC worked in Singapore to create a green space. Again, I wonder how we balance forward and back. No one needs the nourishment of nature more than I, and yet is stopping busses the way to create more open and green space or does technology allow us to even more feel the need to generate the money to create it. The gardens here are formed, are art, and yet they also often imitate the natural world we see when we go up into the mountains. People clearly enjoy pruning their plants into form. It is a meditation. Again, here, I continue to come back to balance. How do we balance ourselves amidst so much change?
People in Japan accept Starbucks because it will now hire full-time workers. They seem to understand the value of employment and an economy that enriches the country as a whole, and, of course, this statement comes from very limited interaction with people here.
I pause now to read new from home and learn of a shooting at Fort Hood.
Where do I put that?
Crime seems rare here, or so we are told and have experienced. It seems to be about honor or perhaps it is tradition or custom, but I am relaxed here about my belongings, and I read of another shooting at home and wonder what is going on. I sit here distanced, perhaps from life there, as well as here.
I am in a bubble of my own and perhaps we all are. What I record here is my experience and interpretation, nothing more.