Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Things which will make me go back to Japan

The introduction to Werner Bischof’s ‘Japan’, which was the subject of my last post, is written by Robert Guillain who is described as the Far East correspondent of Le Monde. It is a fitting, poetic introduction to Bischof’s extraordinary photos. I particularly liked a section where he describes ‘Things which will make me go back to Japan’. Reading them, I realised that I do not have a list of ‘Things which will make me go back to England’. Having a Lithuanian father and English mother has smudged that feeling of belonging to one place. I feel more empathy reading Guillain’s list as any I might make for another place…  Here are a few things from his list that resonate with me:

I will go back – to put it at its lowest – to see Japan without the Japanese, that is for the sake of the country’s very individual local colour; for the astonishment of seeing the originals of those images of nature that the deft brushes of the Nipponese artists have painted on silk; for the pine-tree with its twisted branches, the flight of the wild geese over Tokyo bay, and the thatched villages in the misty valley at the foot of Fujiyama; for the blending of mountain and sea, and to watch the smoking volcanoes; for an island off Tokyo, which is a basket of red camellias floating on the edge of the Pacific…
I will go back to enjoy the strange Japanese way of life. The nudity of its comfort, its simplification of existence and its search for contentment in frugality and closeness to nature…
I will go back for the sake of the children, who are like live dolls; for the girls with their laughter, their Mongol eyelids, their brilliant black hair, their bare feet in wooden sandals and the pure metal of their hearts ensheathed in softness; for Japanese women, who seem to belong to a race different from that of the men, and are the country’s finest achievement…
I will go back to assure myself that the West can learn certain lessons from the East; I will go back, so that Japan may teach me the refinements of the artistic sense and the gift of communing intensely with the mystery of nature; to reacquire from the Japanese that respect for the past, and the people of the past, that we Westerners have lost; to confirm that no-one knows what politeness is until he has experienced Japanese politeness.

Image by Mattias

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond