Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Diary #3 - Kyoto

Doctors Without Borders currently has ten people on the ground in Miyagi prefecture, conducting mobile clinics and assessing how they will mobilize further to help the areas hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami. You can help their work by donating here. Thank you for your generosity.

Randy and I spent the first week of our honeymoon in Japan in 2000.

Kyoto children hunting cicadas on the Philosopher's Stroll, a trail overlooking the city.

New pet in its cicada cage.

Fairy tale forest near the Temple of the Silver Pavilion.

August 6, 2000. I am in Kyoto with Randy, my groom, my husband. Today we've seen an array of 1000 Buddhas and felt our way through the absolute dark of the maze in Buddha's womb. I drank water from a holy spring and tried to find my way with my eyes closed across the ten long steps from one famous temple rock to another. I stopped too soon, so my journey to love, says the legend, will not be straight nor easy. (Eleven good years and two children later, "Duh.")

We have dinner at a tiny tempura bar, sitting on high stools to watch the chefs behind the bar artfully frying shrimp, clusters of fresh corn kernels. We are the only Westerners in the room. Two businesswomen sitting next to me show me how to mix the mound of shredded fresh ginger, or perhaps it is daikon radish, in the bowl of soy.

A man raises his glass to the room. His glass wavers slowly as he intones in a deep growl of Japanese. The businessman next to us, whose business card said his name was Kawasaki, translates for us, perhaps inaccurately, out of kindness: “In memory of the hundred thousand who died fifty-five years ago today in the bombing of Hiroshima.” Randy raises his glass and offers, “To peace.”

Mr. Kawasaki and his drunk friend tell Randy that they are going to call a geisha. She amazes us when she arrives, charismatic as a rock star, distant as a celebrity. She sits between the men and never glances at us. In no way demure, she flings conversation back at the men, her high-pitched Japanese syllables snapping and musical. Her face is elaborately, theatrically painted, but the skin between the border of her upswept hair and the edge of her lowered collar is left bare. I suddenly understand the sensuality of the nape of the neck. Seeing her naked upper back so close is shocking in its frank sexuality.

Randy and I walk back to our ryokan in the rain. I dodge puddles to save my green silk mules with the embroidered flowers on the toes. We laugh and laugh, talking over our international incident, our adventures, high on excitement, Kirin beer and the beauty of Kyoto.

Our room at Tawaraya, one of Kyoto's fifteenth century ryokans (inns), looked out on a beautiful courtyard. Our room had tatami mats on the floor, paper walls and beautifully austere art on the walls. Lovely and gracious Keiko prepared our futon beds every night, then rolled them away in compartments in the walls every night. Dear Keiko took care of us like we were family. The morning we left for Hong Kong, she came to our room before dawn, beautifully dressed, her face made up pretty, to serve us breakfast and help us on our way. We exchanged thank you notes and bows goodbye.


lila said...

Cindy - This was eloquent and made feel as if I were there - thank for sharing. Smiles, Kat Bethards

Julia Buckley said...

What a beautiful diary.