HOBART HUGHES ........home

I had left Tokyo somewhat suddenly and thought I just had to get some experience of rural Japan. I'd read about the ancient Nakasendo Highway and how It still functions in some small sections all be it as a way for the Japanese to re Japanese themselves and for tourists like me to modify their westernness. It is more or less as it was between the towns of Magome and Tsumage. It’s only about 8.5Ks but with taking a still every seven steps it took from 10am to 2pm. I did skip taking photos for a couple of sections where there was nothing much but the path running along the road but most of it’s here. I found a section of the river that split from the path so I rock jumped up a little way and stripped off. There is something to be said for nakedness in a wildish forest. It was hard however to just surrender to nature when I kept hearing families bounce their way along the path or Italian lawyers on holiday laughing. Then it hit me this is exactly what so many travelers had most likely done before me. OK maybe without the Italian lawyers but quite likely many Japanese travelers of old had a quick skinny dip at this bend in the river in on a stinking hot summer day.

Further along the highway I came across a circle of rice that was burnt in the middle completed off with an ash trial that was obviously stalks. Just a tad further I found some vegetables that had been turned into animals munching on rice flour balls. These two ceremonies are part of the funeral rites. I never did quite figure the exact function of the rice circle nor of the animals. What I did find out was that the recently dead relatives can in this way come back to feed. I was not sure if they became the animals or that the animals were there for them to ride. The little strand of noodle on the eggplant is a saddle. You will have to stop the footage at that point to see it . It does point however to the connection to the old gods and a direct connection to the landscape and it produce that still flourishes in Japan. I think the Japanese love of boxes is no mere accident. They are the true masters of containment. They can with apparent ease hold the ancient land rites intact. This is probably what is perceived as the reserve in their nature.

Down the road I caught up with the Italian lawyers or rather they overtook me after a rest they'd had. We all ended up at the same Ryokan (a somewhat more up market inn) sharing our various travel stories and trying to figure the question of why the world sees the Japanese as being somehow emotionally inhibited. Giaimo and Juliet both had had the same sense of incredible sweetness and patience from nearly everyone they met. Yet I know that there is in many Japanese a deep intolerance to some other races and an inability to see a different perspective. But I just don't know yet how deep these divisions run and what is stereotyping and what is cultural practice inherited from the time when Japan was closed off to the world for three hundred years.

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