Sakura, Sakura

As you can see from the latest gallery, the sakura have been
out in force, as have my cameras and yours truly using them! I had a very
therapeutic time being surrounded by these delicate clouds and it’s something I
find myself appreciating more and more the longer I’m here. Reading the
brochure at Hondoji Temple, they say that not only do they possess some of the
few relics in Japan of the Buddha’s remains in the pagoda there, but the very
name of the temple means, ‘Where the Buddha arises’. Seeing those beautiful
blossoms you really do get a sense that something special is in the air, the
whole garden always exudes a feeling of peace and contentment. It was
interesting to see that there was a young foreign guy working there in the
morning, maybe as part of a home-stay or some kind of temple-exchange program?

Another thing they stressed in their brochure was that the
Buddha was there to teach and bring people together, whatever their background.
From my own point of view I’m not sure the Buddha has all the divine attributes
often attributed to him by Buddhists (some put this down to Christian
influences on developing Buddhism), but there is a basic truth that ‘Truth’ is
for everyone and brings us together in recognising this. I felt this democratic
point was becoming clearer to me as I started talking to another photographer, who
was also there on his day off- in his case from a job as a fireman.

He showed me his scrapbook of stamps from all the places he
goes to take photos and a few on his mobile phone, some from friends. I found
it very touching that someone with a ‘physical’ job like that could be so
involved in a sensitive art like photography, and it just goes to show how
popular this is in Japan.
I also admire someone doing something so essential, in a world where so many
jobs involve shuffling little pieces of paper around from one box to the next,
it’s good to meet someone who really is saving lives. With art, also, you never
really know what background a great master will come from- history is full of
examples of talent in the most surprising places.

He encouraged me to take a photo of a certain scene with my
mobile-camera, where the blossoms overhang a small building and I have to admit
that it was one of the best I took that day. So much so, that I went straight
back there the next day to try capturing it again with my ‘real camera’- but
don’t feel I quite got the same effect. That’s the funny thing about photos-
whatever elements you throw in, however much you analyse- what makes a
stand-out shot is something peculiar to that moment and, even more so, your
feeling at the time.

I’ve been exchanging short mails for a while with him since,
with translation help from Yuko and other Japanese friends and he also sent me
a picture of what everyone thought was going to be a now-rare white bird from Hokkaido- but it turned
out to be of a since-decommissioned train by the same name. Of course, I
thanked him for sending it- but here’s another thanks, if you’re reading this,
Satoru!

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