Nature and Culture — the title of a presentation I’ve created about my visit to Japan — is epitomized in this photo. Taken on the shore of Lake Ashi, with Mt Fuji rising in the background, the juxtaposition of the modern Honda rider and ancient Torii gate is symbolic of my perception of Japan.
Ancient and modern, spiritual and material, dynamic and peaceful — these dichotomies coexist throughout Japan. Uniting a respect for both nature and human endeavors, Japanese culture developed under the threat of numerous natural and man-made disasters. The people’s stoicism in the face of the recent appalling natural disaster shows their strength as a society. As the tragedy (human caused, in the truest sense of the word) of the nuclear power plant failure continues to unfold, I help as a I can and look forward to the resolution of the problems. I hope to return one day and pay my respects to this amazing country and its resilient people.
Our day in Hakone, about an hour southwest of Tokyo, began aboard this garish “pirate ship.”
After a 45 minute cruise across Lake Ashi, we boarded a cable car to Owakudani.
An active volcanic region, steam vents on the mountains’ slopes reminded me of Yellowstone NP.
A worker pulls a wire basket full of blackened eggs from the hot sulfur spring. Tradition says that eating them promotes longevity — a bargain for 500 yen ($6 US). The acrid odor of this place was almost overwhelming, irritating eyes and throat — I was astonished that people worked here without respirators. I suppose it would be disconcerting to the tourists.
A raccoon dog statue, tanuki, stands outside a souvenir shop. A type of wild dog indigenous to the islands, the tanuki displays eight traits bringing good fortune in Japanese folklore. Hat: protection from weather. Large eyes: seeing danger. Sake bottle (missing from left hand): virtue. Large tail: steadiness. Money bag (rt hand): trust. Belly: bold decisiveness. Smile: friendliness. And last but not least, large testicles: financial luck. Western versions of this statue often either omit the last feature, or cover it modestly with trousers… The mock classical urn standing on a tiny patch of astroturf provides a bizarre counterpoint –an unintentional commentary on mixed cultural messages.
My heart goes out to the people of this amazing country. A Buddhist Monk prays at Nara, November 2010.