Thursday, January 2, 2020


THE NEXT DAY, I arrived at Okuiya Niju Kazurabashi, or the twin bridges. I walked down a hundred steps to the bridge are still visible spectral-tangle of vines stretching over the river rapids. Local residents believe the bridge is higher and long known as the man, and the lower bridges and short are known as women. Floating fog, blurring the panorama of hills and surrounding areas.

Of all presented in the Iya Valley-mountains, temples and hot springs-this is the place I visited as recommended mandatory Fumiaki. "The bridge was reportedly built by the Clan Heikie in the 12th century, when they fled from Kyoto after losing the civil war to the Genji clan," he said. "Heike live in the interior mountains, and they built this bridge for protection. This
Shikoku relics of the past. "

A gust of wind shook the bridge, the rain made ​​the slippery wooden boards. Giddy, I set foot on a wooden board first. I regret using the sandals, not proper footwear. I stepped up and took a deep breath, step foot next to a wooden board. Hap!

I slip up, sat down, and my feet wedged between the wooden planks. I tried to pull it out, and the rough tangle of vines hurt my feet. Suddenly everything seemed so close: Wood, fog, spirits of the Heike warriors.

"Yeah residents still believe the gods lived in the mountains," Fumiyaki once said to me, and now I understand why. I seemed to hear them giggling from behind the trees.

Finally I managed to get away from the tongs wooden planks and vines. This time, I was extra cautious step and both hands clinging to the rod of the bridge. Focus, focus. I walked slowly, swaying and creaking bridge. After 10 minutes of heart is pounding, I reached across and spontaneous jumping for joy. I imagine Fumiyaki and pray to the god of the mountain.

ROOM ON MAIN temple complex in Zentsuji, hanging spiral incense and monks sang solemn hymns, while a half-dozen parents bowed and prayed; outside, the young monk sweeping the yard. At one point, a group of Japanese tourists admiring the five-story pagoda towering: four women with chic hairstyle murmur audible ooh and aah  at the front of the cinnamon tree which looked older than the temple.

Zentsuji is the cradle of Buddhist and leaders Kobo Daishi, who built this temple in the early ninth century. It is recommended Kuniko father, Ojiichan. "To understand Shikoku," said Ojiichan, and pilgrim-o-henro-san-walking from temple to temple for virtue and chastity. As a child, every time the pilgrims approached the house we will hear the sound of the bells ting-ting-and they bring mom told me to bring rice and oranges for them. Therefore, we cordially welcome the stranger in Shikoku.

In this complex there is a gift shop that sells books, beads, crutches, and other pilgrimage equipment. I carefully read the picture book tells the journey of Kobo Daishi legend, until he felt the time passed so quickly. When I came out, looked everywhere for pilgrims using conical bamboo hats, jackets and white pants. I approached the couple and the child's seizures. When I asked their trip, the girl grabbed my backpack and pulled out a book bound in red silk and gold. "In every temple, the priests wrote the name of temple on one page and affix seal of the temple," said the father. Her fingers turn a page. "Every time a pilgrimage, I feel enlightened. This pilgrimage reminds me of the meaning of life. After the pilgrimage, I was able to do everything, "he continued.

"Of course," said his daughter, "It's only the fourth round. O-henro-san over there "- he pointed to an elderly man wearing black clothes and colorful belts-" he made rounds to 333! "
I am sure, the pilgrims thankful for Shikoku. They walked slowly in humility, reminding us not to make a fuss and commit to a higher spiritual purpose. I realized the truth of the words Ojiichan tradition hospitality and kindness of the island.

I circled the island for two days, to feel the texture of old hay and straw-clay material village house, lounging in a quiet fishing village, bow pilgrims pay homage to the people I have met. In hot water spa, a half-dozen middle-aged women were friendly, forced to pay my dinner. When I got lost in the intersection, the truck driver was kind enough to drive me. At a roadside snack stall, the owner asked me if I was on a pilgrimage, and when I said no and claimed to have been looking for the heart of Shikoku , he exclaimed, "Then you are also a pilgrim!" And presented me with strawberry shaved ice.

In the afternoon, on the fifth day, I arrived at Johen. Family Kuniko was awaiting my arrival. We enjoyed dining Katsuo sashimi (fresh raw fish meat) and grilled fish, as well as mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers fresh from the garden.

While sitting on tatami mats around a low table, Obaachan look with sparkling eyes. "All right," he said, "the success you find
Shikoku heart?"

"Of course," I replied, and all eyes looked at me expectantly. "But I do not only find it in one place. I found it on lading agriculture, fishing village, also on the pilgrims who would not stop to give thanks for the gifts of the day. And again I found it on the people around were greeted with enthusiasm and friendliness. "

For a moment, I was not sure Kuniko family understand my words in Japanese just were not at all fluent. But then they nodded and smiled.

Ojiichan poured beer for us all and raises his glass. "Don-san, glad you are finally back home. Kanpai! "

Together we sipped drinks,
then obaachan raised his glass again. "And this time I'm glad you're not stuck in the ditch again!"

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Heart Shikoku

Heart Shikoku

Far from the bustle of Tokyo, Shikoku Island offers wisdom traditions and hospitality unique to Japan, text by Don George, pictures taken from Google, executive summary by darmansjah

I sat on the steps of a 300 year old wooden house in the
Iya Valley, Japan, as he watched the verdant expanse of mountains packed cedar trees. Morning mist coiled creeping valley. There was no other than the house. The only sound that caught the sense of hearing is the rest of the rain early this morning dripping of twigs and a roof made of straw. Vague smell of charcoal hearth rest overnight. The atmosphere is depicted here is like a monastery in the 17th century.

"Incredible, is not it?" Chirps Paul Cato, expats and manager of this village-style inn. "Quite often when waking in the morning, I was amazed at the era of when."
We are located at Chiiori, house owned Alex Kerr, an American writer's. In the 1970's, while still a student in Tokyo, he explored the Iya Valley and found this house that makes it fall in love. He bought it as an effort to preserve the tradition.

Iya Valley being in the cluster of mountains of Shikoku, the smallest island of the four main islands of Japan, is flanked on the west side of the island of Kyushu and Honshu main island, separated the Seto Inland Sea in the north and the Pacific Ocean on the south side.

MY LOVE TO Shikoku also in the 1970's, when visited with a lover, Kuniko. We are a long way from the campus in Tokyo to meet his family who live on this island. This trip opened my eyes about Japan that I never knew: Rural farming and fishing villages, places of worship and temples in the mountains by the sea, coral beaches and forested valley, tradition and hospitality unique to Japan. Thirty-two years later, I returned with Kuniko to celebrate the anniversary to commemorate the 28th as well as a special place that ever existed. Kuniko while mingle with his family at home, I did a solo trip tracing the winding path to find the other side of Japan.

Kuniko hometown, Johen, it is wonderful. Located on the southwest side of Shikoku and inhabited by about 9000 people. Shikoku tooi Inaka still considered rural, even though the main island. There are many well-known destinations and Kochi Matsuyama palace relics of the 17th century, the park Ritsurin Koen in Takamatsu, and spa Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama. For most Japanese people, Shikoku implies mystery, although access to this island already qualified, with the construction of three bridges linking Shikoku with Honshu (first opened in 1988). As for foreigners who rarely visit remote areas, Shikoku scratch the deeper sense of mystery.

Kuniko parents house flanked by ditches and streams. When I tried to turn on the narrow road, the car rear wheel slipping ditch. That was the beginning of my meeting with the prospective in-laws. I asked for his help to move the car out of the ditch. Mother Kuniko. Obaachan recalled the incident 32 years later, when the whole family gathered on the porch celebrate cheerful September. "Don-san, stay away from the ditch," he called in Japanese made ​​me spontaneously shifted.

I marvel of Cape Ashizuri at the southern tip island. Last night, I asked the parents and two sisters Kuniko where the heart of Shikoku. Kuniko's eldest brother, Nobuhisa, proposed Cape Ashizuri, the same place he showed on my first visit. "Make sure that taking this path," he said, tracing a graffiti with chopsticks. "For me, it is a great way to see what we refer to as aoi Shikoku kuni: 'blue city Shikoku.' Blue sky, blue mountains, fields blue, blue sea." Rice blue? He realized the confusion on my face. "In Japan, first, aoi means blue and blue-green."

After several hours of driving across a row of green trees, I stopped in a village where there are about two dozen wooden houses. Summer air still felt.

"Wow!" Said grandmother behind the bakery counter. "Foreign guests!" He was about 1.5 meters tall and dressed in traditional regional dress blue shorts and Kasuri (made ​​with patterned fabric dye techniques) are white. Her tanned and full of wrinkles seemed happy.

I asked him if he was born and raised in the village. "Oh, yes, I was born and lived here all my life." He counted on his fingers. "Seven decade."

Ever think of staying anywhere else?

"Oh, no!" She retorted quickly. "Why would I live anywhere else?"

What about the young people, I asked, do they stay here? "Ah, young man," he sighed, "they do not think much can be done here, so they went to Nagoya or Kobe. They prefer to live in the city. But I love living here: peaceful and close to nature. I have no reason to leave this place. "

When I handed the coin to pay for the coffee cans, she refused. "I am honored that the arrival of foreign guests," he said. "Thank you for visiting Shikoku. Have a nice trip! "

Arriving at the tip of Cape Ashizuri, standing right where Kuniko, Nobuhisa, and I've stood 32 years ago. I stared at the white lighthouse, coastal cliffs, cedar trees covered mountains. I called Kuniko and preach this beautiful panorama. Over the years, images of this place is embedded in my heart and mind-offering the widest charm of authenticity, peace, purity, and a panorama that will never be found in any urban area in Japan.

"Yes," said Kuniko, as if he already knew, "that's why I married you. Shi has opened your hearts and minds, and there is no other place in Japan were able to do it. "

I spent the night at the inn that serves a panoramic expanse of rice fields, mountains, and one of the longest sandy beaches in Japan pith. "Welcome to the Lodge Kaiyu" Mistu Ohkada, the innkeeper greeted in English when I entered the lobby. He started the business after working at an inn standard international hotel in
Bali. "I enjoy the tranquility here-and of course natural. Do you know about aoi kuni Shikoku? "Yes, I know.

The next day, I hiked up the slopes of the green valleys and steep yes. Looks countryside in the mountains, farmers were plowing a field. Dusk until my arrival in Chiiori, renovated village house into an inn. Kuniko sister, Fumiyaki, insisted I should stay here.

Chiiori have material wood and thatched roofs, like the village described in Japanese books.

"Irasshaimase! Welcome! "Paul Cato, manager of American origin, say hello while sliding doors made ​​of wood inn. The interior of the inn looks airy and beautiful, 12 meters long and six meters wide, polished wooden floors, thick timber, paper lanterns, paper and curtains. Set foot in the doorway like a lodge foot into the past.

"True," said Cato. "Chiiori indeed ancient house is 300 years old. Author Alex Kerr fell in love with architecture and traditional Japanese aesthetics. He restored the house resembles a farmhouse Iya three centuries ago.
"Not only is the architecture: also a way of life. Look it up, "said Cato. On the palate, I see black beams. "First," he explained, "tobacco was the main crop. Due to the humid climate, farmers hang tobacco leaves on the blocks, and dried using smoke fireplace. They are skilled in a different way. "He raised piece of wood on the floor and showed a pile of potatoes stored. "Alex liked the custom of the ancient farmers and tranquility Iya, once defend it. Many volunteers from Japan and foreign countries live here, farming, maintain farmer's house, as well as local farmers to teach traditional techniques. Iya really a piece of classical Japanese. "

One characteristic of modern Chiiori Wi-Fi is extra fast, and I saw an e-mail from Kuniko. "We follow the journey," he wrote. "How is Iya and Chiiori? Fumiyaki say, this is the quietest place in Shikoku.

 At dusk, I and Cato cut once boiled turnips, onions, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and squash from our Chiiori garden to eat  near the fireplace. Afterwards, say lay down on the futon (mattress, bed traditional Japanese) thick under the 300 year old wooden beams and 25-year-old hay. I was typing an e-mail to Kuniko: "Convey my thanks to the recommendation that Fumiaki topnotch. Staying here makes me understand the relationship between nature and man. "