Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekending In Sendai

Chuson-Ji temple
This is Chris!  I had work to do in Korea and Japan over two weeks and it made sense for me to weekend in Japan.  Ricky couldn’t join me (Lucy neither), and I decided that I wanted to get out of Tokyo because it was going to be a hot and humid weekend (90+degrees, 90+ humidity).  I went north to Sendai on a tip that I could do some volunteer clean up still remaining from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 
I did a little bit of work at a temple ruin complex 100 km northwest of Sendai at Hariazuma, but, really, most of the work was trying to volunteer for the work in English when everyone one else, EVERYONE ELSE, spoke Japanese.  I’ve seen four westerners in 72 hours.  And spoken probably less than 72 English words. Maybe that’s the way it is outside of Tokyo (many tell me that English has dropped there too significantly from the heydays of the eighties).  Maybe it’s the scare that remains around Fukishima – and still a scary set of outcomes is still in play.

Gateway to Akado Inari Shrine
So, instead I just explored Sendai, Hariazumi and Matsushima Bay – which took a significant hit from the tsunami.  Unlike the other temples that have been posted here, the temples in Hariazmi were not painted.  These were from the 14th century and the wood timbers were allowed to weather.  So, you concentrated on the craftsmanship rather than the appearance.  And, really good craftsmanship it is.
Small Temple where many stopped to pray and give an offering
I am also getting to respect the religiosity of the Asian Buddhist/Zen followers.  They are shamelessly devout.  We got a hint of what they pray for when in Myanmar (gratitude and fortunate futures), but people are praying everywhere.

Sunday was at Matsushima Bay, which got hit with a 10 meter (30 ft) tsunami wave in March.  Yes, plenty of residual artifacts here and there and an occasional empty lo where a shop house once was, but, life is back to normal.
Hitchcock Moment
I took a boat out to run through the area with 300 limestone islands scattered across the bay.  Inevitably, sea birds followed close and these guys were quite brazen!
And, a real gem was a small island of Fukuurajima preserved from development and alive with hundreds of tree, plant, flower, bird, frog and insect species that was sheer music! At about the same latitude as Boulder, Philly, Columbus and Brady, NE, this place is an active temperate rainforest and was humming!
Fukuurajima Island
 Sendai is a big place.  Like Colorado Springs, Austin or Des Moines big.  It’s a university town but a retirement location so very young and very old – and not much in between.  Although Sendai is the place during the quake where you saw people running from buildings and debris falling – there is no indication of any aftermath, sixteen months later.

The Tilley hangs in there

Behind the Bird, a small island, about 40 feet high

This weekend there’s a street jazz festival and while I’ve put up with a lot of “Paper Moon”, and ABBA covers, I’m writing now watching a Japanese guitarist with a great voice and a very talented piano accompanist doing an all Japanese set – no western music at all. “Paper Moon” and “Dancing Queen” was all done by Japanese in perfect American English and pitch. Perfect.
The same island covered with fishing debris following the tsunami
All in, a nice way to see another part of Japan and a part that took a big hit and has moved well beyond it. I sure missed Ricky and her instant perspective on things.  Her love of the Japanese culture would be strengthened by what I saw!

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