Had a wonderful walk yesterday. It seems that my new apartment is just perfect for this, my favourite hobby, and I was out and about for around 5 hours! Nature and traditional culture are out there to be found, in ‘inaka’ countryside. I found some woods very near my place to rummage around in, chancing upon an abandoned shrine-hut and what looked like a wild orchid. The shrine had an eerie feel to it, in contrast to the rich sunlight playing outside. Ceremonial cups and Sanskrit prayer books littered the floor as if it had been suddenly left, the woods around it springing up out of nowhere. It still had a calm about the place, though. Walking further, I found a very strangely shaped flower, which was hard to capture in the bright light, not to mention the need to kneel down very low to get a good angle.
Much of the woods were actually made from very tall bamboo, many of which had either fallen or been chopped down. I found a clearing and made my way towards it, which was full of small wild flowers and other plants. With each passing of the breeze, small leaves and seed-pops flew around, almost as if they were scripted to do so in a film and on such a warm day, the breeze is very refreshing. Later, back amongst the bamboo, I switched to my macro lens and took various pictures of the play of shadows on it, which can be quite entrancing if you stop to look.
On again, I made my way down the street, past farms and rich fields in search of somewhere new. I was in need of a little burst of energy, then who should I chance across, but an old man selling home-made honey at a stall. He asked me if I knew the differences between the types and gave me tastes of 6 of them. Soba and vegetable honey, whilst sounding innovative are actually too heavy and sweet for me (and most people) so I ended up refreshed and with a jar of Acacia honey bought and in my bag! I asked him if there were any shrines or temples nearby and he pointed me towards a couple.
Coming to the shrine, I was surprised to see a Rolls Royce parked nearby it. Opposite was another rare sight here- a Catholic church, with attached school. A taxi pulled up and a couple of Filipino girls got out. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the church has services in either Japanese or Tagalog. I wondered if the girls might be hostesses and the Rolls belonging to someone certainly wealthy enough to be their customer! I sat for a while in the shade of the shrine’s trees, enjoying my drink and the pleasant sounds of birdsong around me, as the maple tree branches swayed in the breeze. Amazingly, despite being spring they have autumn-like colours on the leaves.
I had a closer look at the church and it all looked like a busy little community there, then made my way to the temple, passing by various farms as I did so. I found it, with a small, sweet and immaculately kept garden. Like all these little country temples, there was a house next to it and it was hard to see where one began and the other ended. It was nice to smell the flowers there.
I took another route back and, seeing yet another Tori (shrine gate) in the near distance, I made my way down a small and winding path. By this point I was ready for another piece of refreshment, when what should I see but an orangey citrus fruit that had fallen, just perfectly, onto the gate-post beneath it. It felt as if God had kindly placed it there for me. Not wanting it to end up like the rotten ones below it, it was quickly in my hands and in my bag too! I wandered into the grounds of the little shrine, amazed at how the atmosphere suddenly became so calm and quiet in the shade there. A nearby tree that actually looked quite ancient had prayer ribbons strewn across it, so I took a closer look at that. It had been thoughtfully propped up, a bit like how you might look after an aging grandfather, reminding me just how much the aged are respected in Japan.
Then was the long walk back, involving a conversation with a rather drunk man who had been coaching the local elementary-school baseball team and obviously had some beef in the BBQ after the game. He was intent on telling me about his neighbour’s French wife and how his home had had an American student doing a home stay there 60 years ago, but that he wasn’t American-as he was ‘made in Japan’!
Back home, I bit into the fruit and found it very tasty, but far too bitter… so dipping it into the new honey made for the perfect compliment. I watched the sun set into a deep red from my window, full of good feelings from my walk.