Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kotona (Kyoto VIII)

I don't know if 'kotona' means something in Japanese, but in Finnish it means 'at home'. It's ironic I should stumble upon a sign like that (the photo below) while wandering around Kyoto one night. Because all the time I'm having conversations with myself about the significance of traveling here and the meaning of difficulties I've had settling down to Kyoto. I don't have that much of daily practical issues to solve anymore. Wherever I go I'm accompanied with a constant zeal to dive head first into the deeper meaning of this place but most of the time I end up banging my head against some concrete wall which I thought would be a penetrable shallow image. 

I don't know which gives in first, the wall or my head. Maybe it's like a mirror I'm jumping against at, it's supposed to break my image of myself rather than me breaking the image of this place. It feels like this all is a too beautiful picture that needs to be teared down to see the undercurrent. Like ripping layers out of paintings. But more than me getting under the skin of this culture, it seems that this culture is giving me the orders, to reveal myself, to bow down as deep as I can just to break my image. And I accept that gladly. But it's a process, not a sudden big bang. I wish I have time to end that process here.

Kyoto feels like home but I feel like an outsider. All I say is a lie.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fushimi Inari-taisha (Kyoto VII)

More vermilion structures. Yet another important landmark, attraction and of course religious site in Kyoto. Fushimi Inari shrine's history goes all the way back to 8th century according to Wikipedia and it's the main shrine for Shinto god Inari.

What can I say.. It's beautiful. Thousands of torii (shinto gate) making corridors through a magical forest. I made the whole loop of these toriis, ascending and descending the mt. Inari for many kilometers. The temperature and weather is as ambivalent as my feelings in Japan. "It gets warmer, it gets colder" like looking for a treasure in the classic game everyone has played as a child. I try to follow the right path after the right temperature. Small sentences grow a larger meaning in my mind as I'm looking for my way through the mountain of shrines. Am I on the right path? Where am I going? What am I looking for? What am I looking at? Where did all the other people go?

For me this shrine really was like a monument for the gap between Japan and rest of the world. Animistic religions are beautiful and intriguing, but I, as an outsider of this culture can never have a relation to it even if I wanted. I can only look at it, again, like a child. Even with the knowledge about the backgrounds, history and meanings of these amazing structures, I stay silently mesmerized looking at it as an empty form, as a part of the nature it coexists with. In essence, Shinto is like the most imaginative tribute to nature, to Japanese nature. Shinto grew out of the same soil as the trees around these forests. Seeing these sites with that in my mind I can only try to imagine how it was when the god Inari was born, or showed itself to early Japanese people. 

Something happened and now there's a forest full of vermilion colored gates in beautiful lines, hundreds or thousands of shrines and millions of worshipers coming here every year. What was the moment like when all this started? Where did these forms burst out?