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This is historic! That is historic? pt 2

May 7, 2010

Exploring our own backyards can be exciting and at times feel like micro managed observation, or like an O.C.D. archeological dig in your house’s crawl space.  Or maybe I’m just desperate to connect with something in Philly.   While we were in Japan I got to explore Motoko’s neighborhood and while I’m sure she found my exclamations of interest amusing.  The impact of growing up around your own history with well taken care of national treasures has definately had an impact on what I can divine of Motoko’s thought structure.  I would never discount her parent’s influence but her childhood environment is impressive.  Motoko grew up at the base of Mt. Hiei, which is the birthplace of Tendai Budhism and also considered the home of the Shinto gods and demons as well as Kaihogyo.  Kaihogyo are monks who can, and do, run between 30 to 84 kilometers A DAY.  Wikipedia that one.  There is also Hiyoshi Taisha shrine which is reportedly the progenator shrine of Shintoism.  Motoko and I held our second marriage there as well, the first being at Philadelphia’s City Hall… which isn’t quite as old at barely 109 years.  Hiyoshi Taisha has been around since at least the 8th century.  Philadelphia’s city hall was once the “tallest habitable” building and is the 2nd tallest masonry building, hence its 20 foot thick base walls.  Back to Japan now…

The most historic Japanese totem pole.

This was one of the first interesting things I saw walking around Motoko’s neighborhood.  I think the totem pole was made by the local girl scout troupe.  I know a lot of Japanese people think most things American are cool and fashionable, and its reciprocated at home in the U.S.  but I found this interesting on a different level as well.  The Toba Catastrophe  supposedly brought the human population down to 1,000-10,000 breeding pairs about 70,000 years ago.  According to the book First Americans, geneticists have established that the peoples of Asia and the Americas were from the same population group 20,000-40,000 years ago.    That is a big circle.  Further still, for me to have European ancestors with, a very small fraction (1/64th), that of Native American… our relationship isn’t East meets West but East meets East meets West.  Finally after all of these thousands of years we are back together again.

Hiyoshi Toshogu

Hiyoshi Toshogu. Part of the Hiyoshi complex a few minutes walk from Higashihongu, the main shrine.

Looking back towards Lake Biwa.

Higashihongu Gate.

The top of Higashihongu.  This is where the Sanno Sai festival begins.

The top of Higashihongu. This is where the Sanno Sai festival begins.

The top of Higashihongu from down the street.

Earlier this winter, back in Philly, Motoko and I had the pleasure of over 80 inches of snowfall over the course of a couple of months.  We were ready for the warmer weather and the early springtime buds and blooms began to show themselves.  Springtime in Japan = cherry and plum blossoms, so here you go!

Now that's fresh and naughty.

Finally a sign winter is over!

All of the early bloomers were white or light pink and reminded me of the dogwood trees along Prince Avenue in Athens, Georgia.   While the main area of the Hiyoshi complex was about a 5 minute walk from Motoko’s house… on the street behind the house was the neighborhood shrine that is one of the community meeting places for the neighborhood.  I imagine just having a place like this encourages community functions.  Would you not want to hang out at a fire pit there and grill out hotdogs and talk shop about how to make your neighborhood better?

Motoko's neighborhood shrine.

Returning back to Philly and its littered streets, the disparity of its income gap, its non-appreciation of what it has started to get to me.  Philly has some great potential, it’s still listed as 9th on the worlds to cities for GDP, 5th in the U.S.  To give some perspective Tokyo is rated #1 and New York #2.  Philly has some of the biggest  beautiful stains of history concerning the U.S. and the homes are some of the best preserved with their stone foundations.  I began to wonder if we should just pack up and move to some place that knew what it had instead of being in an exploited city.  But I’m going to run into that everywhere here, be it NY, Chicago, San Fransisco, or Atlanta.  They all have their issues of carpet-baggers, negligent mega corporations, ocean oil slicks, education, etc.  I think it can boil down to our sense of self-worth in the reflection of how we treat our home.  I see a lot of territorial pissing going on in claiming our neighborhoods instead of a community helping each other out.  I think two of the great American exclamations are, “Stay out of my business and I’ll stay out of yours.” and “Procrastinate now!”  We don’t have a high tolerance of allowing someone to help us, it feels like interventions.  Maybe because we wait until it has come to the point of intervention.  So to get to the short of it, we are going to stick it out and start helping our neighborhood by volunteering for clean up duty.  We’ve got to start some where. We plan on hugging trees next Saturday.

O.K., so back to Japan… and my envy of her parents neighborhood.  All around were these walls, some as tall as 20 feet, that were made of hand laid stones with out the use of mortar.  Moss growing along the sides of many of them.  I still can’t get over the size of the streets in her neighborhood!  My mom and aunts tell me it reminds them of  small European town streets.  The picture below sports a two-way street.  On the left hand side you can see a channel for the mountain run off to reach the lake.  Just about every street had this and the amount of water from mountain run off surrounding you is amazing.  Makes for some humid Summers though.

Look out for children playing, (or walking their dogs) please!

I’ll post some new paintings soon and go into a little bit about where Motoko and I get a few ideas from…  and I just found my Harbrace.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tara permalink
    May 7, 2010 2:24 pm

    How’d you get so smart??! 🙂 I commend you, fellow introvert, for your observations of the world/environment around you AND actually getting out there. It can be so easy to remain in our “shells” (i.e. neighborhoods) of safety and comfort. “Make the world a better place no matter where you are.” I like it! Great insight into Motoko’s heritage. Intriguing.

  2. Joyce Lytton permalink
    May 8, 2010 10:24 pm

    Everyone sees things with their own unique perspective. It’s neat to read your blog and get an insight into your feelings and sensitivities. I see this when I travel with my sisters and we share pictures. Our pictures reflect our perspective of our surroundings and trip. You are very observant – far more than I. Kudos to you.

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