The International Writers Magazine: Travel Moments Archives
Alicia Hunt in Japan
Outside, the gigantic bronze Buddha statue ("Daibutsu") sits meditating, serenely drawing the thronging crowds into its sense of stillness and tranquillity. Ambling tourists and pilgrims calmly weave their way around the ancient temple area offering their hopes and prayers to the antiquated sage-faced Amida. Set against the spectacular backdrop of stunning woodland I found it easy to embrace this peaceful nirvana like atmosphere. Kamakura’s placidity is palpable. Not even the various street vendors dotted around peddling their wares nor the hordes of newly arrived tourists could detract from the uninterrupted calmness of the occasion. Located here since 1252 this imposing Buddha has sat, face turned toward the peaceful waters of the ocean greeting and de-stressing millions of people on their travels.
But that memory and feeling of relaxation and restfulness I had gathered that day all too suddenly became eroded with faint murmurings of the approaching evening rush hour Tokyo train to take me home. The once spacious freedom I had enjoyed earlier on became a distant recollection when the scrum, pushing and shoving set in to fight for a square inch on the train.
Heeding advice from past Tokyoites and early visitors to the city, their wise words echoing in my ears when the doors open to the neatly formed endless queues of passengers ready to fight their way on.
My dear friend Miki had previously warned me “When the doors open, brace yourself and move swiftly to one side, otherwise you will become like sushi in a tin “Sushizume””.
|Believe me these are very astute words if you are too ever experience this method of transport. You are literally crammed in to within an inch of your life. It is hard to believe that even the most aged or delicate of those prostrating pilgrims immediately become quite agile and stealth - like to board these trains before you. All feelings of invasion of personal space immediately become irrelevant as for about 40 minutes harried commuters endeavour to get home as quickly as possible.
To me, Japan really is a land of contrasts; one minute you have placid devoted prayer goers taking pleasure in experiencing solitary periods of Zen like focus and poise. They are ever conscious of disturbing others, for example while on mobile phones the majority of Japanese will cover there mouths to lessen the noise pollution.
On the other side of the yen you have sheer invasion of personal space and an endurance of daily tussle coming to within a centimetre of your face on packed trains.
These are the contracts I love uncovering in this the Land of the Rising Sun.
© Alicia Hunt Jan 2010
hunt.alicia1 at gmail.com