February 14, 2005

Pure Land

So as we finished our short hike on a section of the Kumano Kodo, I asked Nick as we reached the shore of the Pacific Ocean if he had ever read or heard anything about priests in the Koya-san / Kumano region who many ages ago set out on boats from these shores to reach Amida's Pure Land, out beyond the sea. These priests never returned to the shore. I thought of this story as I looked out across the sea, the sky a bit pale, the wind a bit weak, the waves fatigued of their constant flailing and flowing. That was the end of my stay in Nachi this weekend.

How did it start? I went to Osaka on Friday morning, bought Sumo tickets for a ridiculously expensive price (5,600 yen per ticket) and a 5-cd collection of Erik Satie's ouevre for a ridiculously cheap price (1,500 yen). That's 300 yen per cd folks! As you can see, I am sticking to math that I can handle these days. After spending lots of money in Osaka, I hopped on the Kuroshio, or the black current, for a3 hour train ride from Tennoji in Osaka to Kii Katsuura. En route, I sat next to a young woman named Noriko Tanaka, a fashion designer from Osaka. We ended up talking about a range of things, from poetry to pop music, arts and crafts to "chance" encounters, and finally to the attraction of living near the sea. She was bound for Kushimoto, the most southerly point on Honshu, where she was going spend the weekend with her grandmother and father making a table and relaxing in the inaka. In Nachi-Katsuura, I spent Saturday at the 厄年祭(Yaku-doshi festival), an event honoring young men who will turn 24 this year (25 on the Chinese calendar), a year supposedly full of trouble and bad luck. Great, it is my year "the year of the cock," and now I have to worry about being a yakudoshi victim. Let's hope all of the extremely hot sake with fugu (blowfish) fins added (to give it an unmistakably marine taste) will ward off the bad luck that faces me this year. After watching the shishi-mae dances and other splendid festivities, I got to make my comeback on the karaoke scene, with an uncompromising array of horribly-rendered Japanese pop and enka tunes. I even found myself back in a reunion with an old friend, Mr. Hapa.

On Sunday, I woke up late, thirsty, and a bit heavy headed. I ate a nutritious breakfast of granola cereal, convenience store pre-processed pancakes, and a day old slice of fried chicken from the supermarket. Yum. Then we hiked through a small portion of the Kuamano Kodo near Shingu, throwing rocks into the bamboo forest and listening to the sounds that would be produced. It was wonderful to go on a hike after so many days of urban life. I must search for more opportunities to go out into the woods. Even though there is always the impure mark of civilization--trash, roads, power lines, dams, etc. it is still somewhere I would travel never to come back.

What does that mean?


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