Kuzu Jinja 葛神社 to Murōji 室生寺

Ezaki Mitsuru was having another exhibition down at Gallery Mu-un. So it was that Miki and I, along with KJ John and Sage, spend a long morning making our way down to south Nara. There were a few of the usual Yoromi suspects around, including that couple from Fukui who do kamishibai. We passed the afternoon in conversation. It was interesting to see Ezaki's latest works, and how he is continually developing as an artist. He talked about the creative process behind his new fish hanga, and explained the multi-faceted Buddhist philosophy behind one of his earlier works, which up until now I'd taken for an eye chart.

As the conversation shifted toward other ears, the four of us walked through the village and up the hill to the swampy lake, then got lost in the forest on the way down. In the late afternoon John and Sage hopped a train north, to be replaced an hour later by Zach, who was in Kansai on business. He was pleased with the natural and healthy food to come, as he'd been holed up in a dormitory somewhere in the industrial bowels of Osaka and force fed starch and salt. This simple dinner had all the feel of a party, and although we'd arrived worried that we'd brought too much beer, as we staggered off through the dark toward our beds we found it had been just enough.

Dawn marked the curtain rise on a comedy about me noisily rattling a dozen doors in search of the toilet. Giving up, I walked over to Mu-un along a road damp with rain. I sat awhile and looked across the hills toward the bigger peaks draping their shoulders with white mist. It was a quiet morning, last night's revelers appearing one at a time as if making stage entrances.

After a late breakfast, Miki, Zach and I made our way to where we'd left the Hodo a few weeks before. We quickly came across a small shrine that pointed in the direction of Ise. A tiny green frog was balanced on a hollow piece of bamboo, and another was bathing in the rainwater within. Zach picked him up but he leapt away, launching a desperate kung fu kick in our direction as he fell. We followed a paved road around a lake. It was hot day, and below us, a few men under umbrellas had wonderful ringside seats for a good day for fishing. As we crossed a high suspension bridge we saw a school of large grey flat monsters moving toward the baited hooks. We kept along the road, falling into conversation when the scenery let us down. Which wasn't often. The striated lines above the water told the history of the lake and above, birds perched in trees waiting for lunch to swim by. Eventually the water stayed behind as we moved into the hills. After too many experiences of searching frantically for trail markers, we found one that was the size of a small house, pointing into the forest. Just inside, a car came rushing down the hill, chased by what I thought was a deer. On closer approach, it proved to be the biggest dog I've ever seen, probably a Mastiff-Great Dane mutt, out for a 'walk' with its master, running after his car doing at least 20kph. It looked pretty tired, but turned to flash a wet, sloppery smile as it passed.

We climbed up and over the pass, through a forest well used. There was a large sprawling park at the other side, then a village, then Muroji. We had time to kill until the bus, so spent it searching in vain for the ice cream we all craved. Shaved ice just wouldn't cut it. And so the bus came and took us to the train, and we moved west, toward the bigger and crowded cities where people understand that summer's value is measured in ice cream...

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