Thursday, July 8, 2010

Days and days and days go by with not a word on my blog. Then, today, one of these little guys decided to come along and wake me up. This morning as I sat in my office on the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus a Japanese White Eye decided to come for a visit. The bird announced itself with a light thud on the glass (clean windows, a bird's nightmare). I stood from my chair and examined the ledge outside my window.

There lay the little bird. So small and delicate, its little breast rising in falling with rapid breaths. It seemed mortally wounded and near its last breath. I'm a lover of birds and the Japanese White Eye I love above all others, so I felt compelled to stay there with the little fellow in his final moments of life. It was heartbreaking.

But, seemingly just as quickly as this wee champ had gone down, it suddenly sprung back on its two feet. The bird's eyes seemed wide, like a quarterback who's just had his bell rung. The movements of the bird were slow at first, but soon it was looking around some. I continued to watch, giving words of encouragement in Japanese, "ganbare". The bird finally noticed me and we gazed at each other for some time. I sensed that it was a bit embarrassed--a feeling familiar to anyone who has ever accidentally rammed themselves into a door or window.

"I understand," I thought and left my office to run to the restroom.

When I came back the ledge was empty.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spring Snow 春雪

While most of the archipelago is enjoying spring, with summer lurking just around the bend, Ontake-san still suggests winter. Well, at least in form. I'm in Hawai`i, so I have no tactile sense of the mountain, but surely its snows are heavy with water. The sun, in its increasingly long arc across the sky working to slowly dismantle the labors of winter. Winter does not give in so easily however, rearing its head and gnashing its teeth now and again (particularly this year, where there was a snow storm well into April). Nights too, on the mighty mountain, still belong to winter. But, soon the summer sun will prevail, at least for a few months, as it has for so many years. Its lovely, this child-like wrestling match.

*photo courtesy of the blog 水と緑のふるさと王滝村

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

原谷苑の桜 Sakura at "Haradanien"

A short video taken before coming to Hawai'i of sakura (cherry blossoms) falling at Hara-dani-en (原谷苑) near Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) temple in Kyoto.

Sorry, I'm not savvy enough to include some fitting music or anything. . .so it's just video as is, which my wife Aki clarifies at the end.

For those who haven't been to Haradanien is worth checking out during sakura season. . .guess you have to wait a year now.

Haradanien website (Japanese only)

Friday, April 30, 2010





Sunday, February 7, 2010

Walking on water: frozen shintaki

Yesterday Aki and I visited Shintaki (新滝) waterfall with a friend.  Last winter the waterfall froze for only a brief period and we didn't have a chance to see. I'm very glad we've taken the time to see it this winter.

Recently, Otaki has spent more time on the negative side of the thermometer than it has on the positive side, so the ice on Shintaki has continued to grow and grow.

The color of the ice are difficult to capture through the lens (at least for someone as unskilled in the art of photography as I). However, the phantasmal shapes that stand up from the ground and hang down from cliffs overhead are alluring to say the least. Rippled flows of ice spread out in deep shades of blue. One can walk, with caution, over the still movements of the water.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a car with out of town plates parked above Shintaki for about a week. I'm guessing this was a religious practitioner, probably staying a small wooden hut that flanks the waterfall. I've heard that some of the stronger practitioners are able to perform taki-shu-gyou (滝修行)--standing beneath the falling water--even in the winter; though I have not seen this.

Shintaki is a sacred place.
Anyone can walk on water here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter wonders

Evening walk in Kuzo hamlet. One of my favorite places in Otaki. The road we walked on, my wife and I, was covered in many spots in a good 5 centimeters of ice. From the forest above us we heard the "chi chi chi" of macaques calling to their comrades that there are bigger primates about.

Only a few minutes up the road from our house a narrow valley opens enough to allow glimpses of Mt. Ontake. On this evening, clouds clung loosely about the mighty mountain, like down on a gosling. The air was dry and brought a sharpness to the winter landscape, imbuing it with a liveliness that betrayed its skeletal trees and empty fields, which might otherwise signify a scene of lifelessness. The songs of wintering birds struck out from the forest and cut through the frozen silence.
A bit further on and we caught sight of a Japanese serow and his (her?) mate. They stood silent and unmoving on patches of grass occupying the center of concrete squares arrayed to form a larger lattice-work that covered a steep road-cut to ensure stability. I was amazed at how well the serow's coats fit the altered environment. My wife had great difficulty spotting the beasts. Serows are said to have bad eyes, so the four of us stood gazing upon (or failing to gaze upon) each other for quite some time. The sound of a car engine (at leastI presume it was the sound; I myself couldn't hear it) sent the serows scrambling across the slope and into the woods. The car came past us a bit later, "their eyes may be bad, but they sure have good ears," I concluded.

Stars were appearing in the dusk as we turned around and said good night to Mt. Ontake.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Today is the first day of the new year that I've spent in Otaki; I was in Kyoto over the holidays.
Throughout the day I've marveled at the winter light as it plays across the landscape. The low and flat rays of the sun slink through deep gorges of the Otaki Valley, and leap out from ridgelines in the most amusing ways. This interplay of light and earth casts deep blue shadows down the valley, creating a landscape of interloping framents of light and dark. It's a landscape made whole by being broken apart.