Friday, May 16, 2008

新緑 "New Green"

The hills around Otaki are fully green now. One can easily distinguish squared patches of planted pine trees among the more brilliant greens of the broadleaf varieties. The snows-lines on the Southern Alps and on Ontake-san creep ever higher, as if enticing me to see what lies in wait.

The few paddies in Otaki are now being prepared and planted. The rich, muddy waters, having been thoroughly stirred with the stern whisks of tractor rotors, sit in contemplation, reflecting the azure of the sky and the slow crawl of the nimbus clouds. Playful shoots of rice, unsteady as fawns, wiggle in the breezes that flow down off Ontake-san's smooth slopes.

Earlier in the week, I attended a lecture by an older resident who is a history buff and has, over the years, amassed a vast knowledge of Otaki's past, as well as a trove of artifacts. During the lecture I attended T-san talked about the history of Ontake-san as a religious mountain. Ontake-san was first "opened" as a religious mountain (meaning a deity was identified and named) in the late 18th century by a monk named Fukan 普寛. From this time on Ontake-san has been revered as a reihou 霊峰--sacred mountain--with pilgrims, who dress in white, coming each year to visit the mountains many shrines or to stand beneath frigid waterfalls as meditation. T-san had brought with him wonderful artifacts that revealed part of Ontake-san's sacred history: notebooks containing orders for stone tablets to be erected; logbooks signed by devotees; and woodblocks depicting the gods that dwell in the mighty mountain itself.

This week also brought my first interview. It went well enough, but I think I should revise some of my questions. Also, I've only been able to get through transcribing about 10 minutes of the 50 minute interview!!!

My next interview will likely be with a gentlemen whom I met during the drinking party after the festival last weekend. He invited me to his house to introduce the work of friend, an ecologist who works in Kyoto. Both the friend and the man who invited me--Tan-San-- seem like very fascinating individuals and I look forward to being able to talk with them both. I met with Tan-san in his home, an old two story farmhouse. His entryway was as large as my living room and led into two tatami rooms divided by rice-paper screens. A set of screens at the back of the room opened up to a wonderful garden with a pond. I was very impressed. . .I've always wanted to live in an old wooden house.

OK, it's getting late, so I'd better say goodnight.

Goodnight Ontake-san!

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