I am nomad. Hear me roar.


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Ichigaya & Ueno

Today I set out to become a member of the Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers, I traversed on the trains once more, successfully I might add, to Ichigaya. I found the premises after circumnavigating the same block 3 times, in a building undergoing renovation, and traipsed up the elevator to the fifth floor, only to discover that the association designed to assist persons with working holiday visas in Japan with finding work and accommodation recently closed due to lack of funding. Bugger. This is going to make things just that little bit harder. Upon suffering this disappointment I cross the road to a hole in the wall coincidentally called Cafe Crie, because that is exactly what I feel like doing right now. Instead I order a drink to collect my thoughts, it feels like I am in the midst of performing that little conjuring trick where you flick the tablecloth out from between the table and its contents above. I am teetering on the brink of where I have made that final tug on the cloth, but cannot yet tell if the crockery and glassware will remain standing or come crashing down. It remains to be seen.

Not to be discouraged by minor, or what right now feels like major setbacks, I set of back to the train station, on my way accidentally discovering the picturesque Yasukuni Shrine, something I never would have found if the association had still been in existence. Silver lining. The Shrine is the housing place of the ancestor-deities that have passed in wars and conflict protecting the motherland Japan and is dedicated to the maintenance of peace. The name itself, 'Yasukuni', I understand from the information provided at the Shrine, means 'Peace of the Nation' or the like. Along with the enshrined ancestors there are statues dedicated in memory to the war horses, dogs and carrier pigeons who lost their lives in service. I sit in the gardens for a while watching the Koi in the pond, and butterflies spiralling each other in courtship, unable to remember the concerns of minutes before. The Shrine for the peace of the nation has brought peace to one at least. So much so that a completely enamoured butterfly mistakes me for empty space and collides with my head. The silence is broken by my own laughter.

I pass on through the main shrine gates, there is construction happening in preparation for an upcoming festival next week, bright yellow lanterns are being hung, each bearing the name of one who is enshrined here. Those who are lost, but who guard and guide those who remain. The Shinto faith that is practiced here is easy to respect. Even those of Christian and similar faiths have trouble accepting that once deceased, they that we have loved ever truly leave us. Here is a faith birthed from the idea that they never do, that they remain on earth to benefit their families. It is not so hard to believe.

I catch the train next, to Ueno, an area known for its parks and museums, the Tokyo National Museum is my next destination, but I have been distracted. On a stone bench, I sit, in the park here, in sight of the main fountain, and in sound of some buskers. Their windpipe and snare driven notes are weaving through the fir and rubber trees. Thankfully my key-clacking has disturbed, only a few particularly bold sparrows, who have skipped up for a closer look at the gaijin tapping away. An earthy aroma engulfs me, inhaling deeply, it feels enriching, revitalising, comforting. I don't know where this journey of mine will lead, but the destination has always been irrelevant.

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