Matsumoto or the Crow Castle – in external appearance the opposite of Himeji, still bird like, but a more ominous version, a crow, is probably the most evocative of violent feudal times. All these castles tend to have a very stark, spartan interior of wood beams, small windows barely letting any light in, dark wooden floors and walls and weapons as the only decorative element, no furniture, nothing that would indicate a more stationary, domestic and peaceful existence. And that lugubrious interior seemed to have seeped through the walls into the exterior, equally dark and somber. They were built as defense citadels and inhabited by daimyos (feudal lords) and their numerous samurai army. And like Himeji, despite its might and strength in feudal times, it was exposed to near extinction by modern interests, in this case a banal attempt to demolish it for other redevelopment. But public conscience pulled it from the brink of destruction. Most interesting it is associated with the legend of Tada Kasuke, a farmer who led the Jokyo Uprising against the shogunate to lower excessive taxes (70%) on the farming community who were already suffering from rampant poverty. Like most peasant uprisings during feudal time, this, too, found its end in public executions of 27 farmers, including Tada Kasuke, its leader. But apparently that harsh punishment caused a rift in the minds of the citizens and they attributed the lean of the tower to his curse instead of the actual structural problems.
The gold, the glitter, the perfect mirrored reflection in the pond, its beauty enhanced from every angle by a classical Japanese garden, trimmed vegetation, flowing branches – judging by how mobbed it is at any time of day, its fame is self explanatory. Kinkaku-ji, a amalgam of three architectural styles, one for each level, is built of wood under that shimmering golden façade. And like all wooden buildings, the preferred construction element in Japanese buildings (less reliance on stone as in other parts of the world), it is vulnerable to fire and has been its victim many times, the last in 1955 being also the most interesting as the fire was set by a novice monk suffering from mental illness. It was both a cultural and costly loss and yet eventually the society found the ability to forgive and understand an act little controlled and released the culprit from prison. It is a hard decision and many nations would be less forgiving, so it is impressive that the Japanese courts and possibly public opinion was willing to accept the loss and not continue down a punitive but little justified path. Interestingly, the gold leaf that now gilds the building in heavier layers than originally (overall the reconstructions tend to stay true to the first design) was used as mode to purify one of negative thoughts towards death. Well, with all the stunning reflection in the surrounding pond and the location within gorgeous gardens it sure mesmerizes and traps one in the moment, most certainly oblivious to the ephemerality of one’s existence.
Too purposeful concentration for an 8 year old. The bus stopped and a short little fellow climbed pounding steps, partly informed by his mission, partly because he was too short for the height of the stairs, so the steps landed hard, uncertain. He went straight arrow towards the front of the bus and set on the edge of the seat, perched forward, scanning the road as if this was a temporary arrangement on the way to his final purpose. I got curious: what was he after? Two stops further the question got elucidation. The bus barely pulled into the station when the little man was already headed back towards the entry door waiting with tense expectation. A little girl with short hair and a huge bandage on her knee climbed up, gingerly walking up with a smile on her face knowing she was waited for. His face mellowed and acquired a gentle look. He made room for her and followed her to the seat. I don’t know how aware she was of all these expectant preparations for her arrival but she did seem to intuite the granted favoritism because she lowered her head and eyelashes and smiled from beneath, a content smile. They sat talking for the rest of the ride,their faces obliquely turned to each other, occasionally a smile flashing for the other calibrating their reactions to each other and accommodating the other, her more so as he was busy intently scanning her face with lots of care, a lot for a kid his age. The innocence and honesty of emotions at an age when little taints relationships. They got off and my bus pulled away. I looked back and somehow their perfect bliss unaware of how fragile it is is still haunting my memory. Most adult interactions across the gender divide I saw in Japan seemed to have lost this ability to open up to each other, the older counterparts congregating separate and, when a girl happened to break the divide (mostly women would do that), she was relegated to a somewhat isolated spot, vaguely acknowledged because the ease of talking to each other got lost on the way. So those little creatures had an advantage that societal norms or existential deterrents will eventually handicap in uneasy relating. #kyoto#japan#streetphotography
A relationship with perfect timing: one companion starting out, still clumsy and with partial understanding of the surroundings, more in a state of continuous puzzlement and curiosity, in need of patience and guidance and the other, knowing, experienced, with all the time in the world to slow down and match her rhythm to the slower and smaller partner, attuned now to appreciate better the value of emotions and the time they take, ready to explain and offer the accumulated knowledge with an outpour of tenderness, the circle of life bending at the end to meet the beginning. The pair would take two steps then stop and wonder, exchange words and smiles as if they were onto something belonging just to them, and although the interaction was triggered by the external, their world was very personal to the exclusion of the rest, not on purpose but because what they shared was enough and more than everything around, their all fulfilling privately shared magic moment.