Asia | Japan – Takachiho: A Beautiful, Strange Place
after the kenka…
Walking down the winding road —-cars that zoom around the curvy corners, almost getting hit by the cars, and everyone looking at us through suspicious local eyes. T with his hippie clothes, hand made knit hat from India, glasses, and right red backpack looks much more like a European tourist than Japanese. And with my pale skin and hair in braided pigtails, I might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, ‘gaijin.’ But I am used to that.
we reach the bottom of the hill. It’s very odd. Unearthly quiet. A little windmill and some cute paths are all the makings of a dutch village and there is some strange chime music playing. A pond with some koi fish finishes the scene. It’s utterly deserted, and terribly quiet —–I feel like this place is in a vacuum, it’s the stuff of dreams (or nightmares), for sure, it doesn’t even exist in reality.
great big rock cliffs, look manmade, fake. Water the color of turquoise, unreal. T rowing the boat—–the sound of the oars so loud, it was echoing in my ears. Everything else seemed deathly quiet, just the roars of the oars, a big lion who just got woken up from a nap.
Getting off the boat, the people at the dock know something is weird about us, can feel the strangeness seeping out of our skin into the into the air and the water.
Some very important person crossing the bridge. T hates famous people so he wants to walk right through the crowd. The entourage of people trailing the VIP stare at us. T pays them no mind—-the flashbulbs go off for some Japanese dignitary and T pushes his way through. ‘k-chan, kite!’ (come on, already!)
We discover some beautiful things—-poetry is oozing out of the atmosphere and the clouds are moving at incredible speed. I realize that there are invisible webs between the trees that we can only see right now at this moment. Incadescent webs of light that I can see for one second, and the next, are gone. Then, I realize they are everywhere.
A broken bridge. The energy at the broken spot is like nothing I’ve ever felt. The whole place is like a castle that nature had made and man had destroyed. There are many bridges, actually. Not just one. I stand in the very center of the bridge, feeling and hearing the sounds of others, nature, people from the past…..I would say ghosts, but it sounds too cliche. There is something too sad and broken for me to name it. I feel though that whoever IS here, wants to be remembered. Not in a sort of historical, factual way, but in an emotional very real way. Reverence. That something terrible had happened to them and it wasn’t their fault. It’s not my imagination, I know. It’s the strongest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.
T knows too. He already understands about it all. It’s something Japanese remember in their blood, their ancestors.
Now I do understand why we are getting such dirty looks from the local people; they are protecting something sacred. As a gaijin (foreigner), I saw something that I wasn’t supposed to see. I know something now that I’m not supposed to know.
I feel incredibly blessed at that moment of realization. I am so lucky that I have had this chance. It has changed my life and my perspective. It has strengthened my faith tenfold.
We hurry back to the car, now we know we are being followed. We came here to see ‘o-kagura’ the Japanese religious theater, but we both agree it’s best to split.
We speed off at incredible speed for mount Aso and with a sigh of relief, find the nearest onsen and take a bath, then settle into our hotel room with some inari sushi and chips from the Lawson across the street, and watch a tv program about Japanese fans of Elvis. Back to normal life.
But …….while watching the Hound-dog shake and shimmy, we glance over at each other shyly, we don’t have to say anything…….we know we are forever changed.