dazaifu…

this a bit out of synch, seeing as I wrote about last night first, but anyway:

Chris has turned me on to Dazaifu. I catch a pretty suburban feeling local train fromTenjin to Dazaifu. When I get there and hit the main street it seems such a tourist trap I almost get back onthe train, but it is Sunday after all. I wander up the street and find a pleasant restaurant and have soba and vegetable tempura. It is the very first time in Japan that I have to explain that I am vegetarian all by myself – up to now friends and organizers have been babysitting me, spoiling me rotten. Armed with my 5 words of Japanese, which fortunately includes “Yasai” or vegetable, they quickly get the picture. In Kyushu people are so eager to help out, it is really a pleasure despite the formidable language barrier. A red bean paste bun, which seems to be a local specialty, from some crack cooks who are working a dozen double jaffle irons in super quick time (half the pleasure is just watching them crank it out), is dessert.

Eager to get away from the hordes, I go to Komyozenji temple, a Zen experience Chrishas recommended. It is a wonderfully quiet, the gardens at the back a haven. My camera’s mirror makes so much noise when I shoot I feel like throwing it away. I miss my old rangefinders, quiet, discreet. Be great if NIkon took the processor out of my D3s and put it into a rangefinder!

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What I like about the temple, so in character, is that none of the monks are visible. You just feel their presence, in the big assembly hall in front of the Amitabha Buddha altar, in the meticulously kept garden, in an empty room designed just so…. On the viewing balconyJapanese tourist sit quietly, taking it all in in the truly zen spirit –or at least so I think: some turn out to be snapping pictures with their cell phones

Then on to Tenmangu Shrine, the Shinto shrine which is the main attraction of Dazaifu for Japanese. It is, as usual, a combination of beauty, piety, superstition and a lot of lucky charm stalls. Every kind of person is here. I happen on a small blessing ceremony at the main shrine, the priest and attendant completely formal, the family struggling to maintain posture and composure.

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I am glad I went to the Zen shrine first, which is less popular with the masses. I ask Chris about the aggressive merchandising at Shinto shrines, and he shrugs it off as due to being run by committees who have big maintenance and rebuilding budgets to fund.

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In the Zen temple there isn’t even an obvious donation box….

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Back in Tenjin, it’s late afternoon and once again we have a parade of styles and looks. It seems the pressure of conformity and robot like work in school makes everyone into a fashion rebel once they finish their formal education!

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