John Lennon Bread

An hour shinkansen ride from Tokyo station gets you to Karuizawa. A little town surrounded by a picture perfect green ring of mountains. Upon leaving the station, the modern traveller is greeted with two choices. Head south and get stuck in an enormous ring of newly minted outlet malls. Or head north, onto the historic shopping street, and into the green mountains beyond.

Being modern travellers, we opted for both. I mean it was a little chilly being right on the cusp of fall, so we bought some extra layers and then headed for the mountains.

Our hotel, the Pension Uehara, lay just off the main shopping street, kind of built into the woods.An A-frame structure with a couple of floors. A basic ski lodge style facility, with a sweet staff ushering in all the visitors like family.

With our bags dropped off, we continued further down the shopping street. Passing all manner of real estate offices, rental bike shops and restaurants. Eventually we came to a little french bakery called French Bakery, that once famously served bread to John Lennon and his family. Karuizawa makes for a perfect, small town retreat where even the most famous musician in the world could go to be anonymous and blend into the woods.

The sun went down and the shops started closing all at once. We found a modern mini mall that looked like something you might find in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Everything was dark, but we walked to the backside of the open air mall just in case. Turned out a gigantic Italian / pizza place was open. We were the only guests. The realities of the off season beginning to sink in. We ate and talked as our kids danced like they owned the place.

The next day we visited another resort set up along a river in the middle of the woods. The buildings in the complex were woven between and wound around trees like a modern remake of the Ewok village. The buildings were all finished in a beautiful black painted wood.

We opted for the marquee soba shop out of the ten or so restaurants and cafes in the complex. On one wooden landing they had built an outdoor library with wooden columns packed with book shelves. Everything about the place was designed uniquely.

Kamakura, Japan. A town carved from the mountains resulting in a living treasure map dotted in temples and surfer dudes.

Kamakura dragon dawg.

Kamakura dragon dawg.

Timeout deck.

Timeout deck.

Reflection Beyond Capture

I sat in the middle of a garden of sand.
With Japanese maples looking on.
Or maybe they were just maples,
Since I was in Japan.

Only the sand was water.
And the raked circles made by leaf,
Not by monks’ rake.
But the atmosphere was the same.

The leaves fell.
At an even pace.
Not unlike a screensaver,
Designed to relax citizens of desks.

Fiery leaves, falling triumphantly,
Announcing their down fall at half speed.
Pleasing us onlookers.
Letting us exist in ‘a moment.’

A living diary entry. This garden.
With its consistent low wind soundtrack,
And the sun reflecting in perfect watery gleams.
The production level was top class.

A bird chirped every 10 seconds.
Maybe 11.
Water trickled from some mountain stream, unseen.
The hot spring theatre was fully set.

The mountain boulders were precisely placed.
A mystic tutorial in composition.
Every stone moss covered, some with tiny trees blossoming.
I wished to arrange my thoughts like that.

The sky, brilliant blue as if to battle the fire leaves.
I looked up and saw freedom and possibility.
The leaves raced like pirate ships across the pond,
Full of loot and secret wisdom.

I painted the wispy autumn clouds with my mind.
First with a watery ink brush, then with a pencil. Roughly.
I closed my eyes and committed the scene to memory.
For no picture could confine this moment.

Karuizawa, Japan

Shibuya calling.

Shibuya calling.

Ghosts of a festival.

Ghosts of a festival.

The Ashikaga clouds getting all Kurosawa with it.

The Ashikaga clouds getting all Kurosawa with it.

Shinjuku evening.

Shinjuku evening.

How the east was won

The East was won by being first.

By carving enormous beings into the walls of stone cliffs.

By claiming the sun as her own.

By painting legends over the fibres of gold tapestries.

By tangling war with art.

By making poetry the key to religion

and to armies.

By treating language as a sword.

By taking offense to a dirty look.

By severing ties on a whim.

On bad mustard.

By forsaking love for power.

Turning ambition into castles

and artifacts and the kinds of things

that tourists now Instagram for granted.

By respecting tradition.

By inventing tradition.

By inventing numbers.

So that we can all keep score

and understand how much we’re losing by.

By distilling the sun to fire.

And making it a play thing

to celebrate inevitable victories.

By speaking lies with authority.

At gun point and missile tip.

By setting clocks to untruth.

By bending reality in convenient directions.

By organizing.

and memorizing.

and cloning bodies and virtues alike.

And now the sun sets.

The fireworks erupt.

The tapestries stand tall.

Ambition unravels.

Another victory is implied.

Nike Japan - Just Do It ‘Your Step’

Ramen Inferno

Blistering heat

and a battlefield of melted tastebuds.

Drops of sweat

deployed from my brow.

My forearms.

My eyebrows

and other places I didn’t know carried reserves of sweat.

I take the icy rag

barbarically paste it to my face.

To hide and find relief.

Then let it slide down,

Down

Down

Down

Only to reveal the culprit.

My nemesis.

A snickering, red-faced,

powerfully well-fed beast of humanity.

With eyebrows worthy of a Kurosawa tight shot.

He guffaws his indifference.

But the glint in his eye betrays his excitement.

For another nameless gaijin

has been slain at the hands of his infernal ramen.

Cicada Song

Your symphony is in full swing.

But I didn’t sign up for this concert.

I liked some of your early work.

But now your 24 hour drone sounds 

somehow more commercial.

I’ve even heard you in the ambient sound design

of some Sapporo beer spot.

We get it.

You’re the soundtrack of Tokyo summer.

Literally.

This is not new information.

I went to my first cicada concert in St. Louis.

When you guys opened for the 

Lightning Bugs.

That made me feel alive.

But now your violins have grown dull.

You lack the conviction you once had.

Maybe you’ve been ordered around one time too many.

Or maybe you’ve grown depressed

and long to return to summers long gone.

Maybe your annoying assault

expresses the pain and ugliness you feel inside.

Maybe my ears aren’t sophisticated

enough to realize your genius.

Maybe my heart is too calloused

to extract the emotional truth

within your rusty razor’s edge tune.

But in this moment,

over this newspaper,

with this glass of cold milk.

I wish for the cicada intermission

that will not come.

Until winter does.

Morning commute.

Morning commute.

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