mandag den 23. juli 2007

Friday Oct. 27 - Buddhist Temple, Peace Museum For "Kamikaze" Pilots

The LP guide describes Kagoshima as ‘the Naples of Japan’. Without ever having been to Naples, I bet the Italians would take exception to that comparison. Too much concrete, and a large red ferris wheel over the central train station. Ok, in some ways the town is nicer than many other large cities I’ve seen here, because there are a lot of arcades, good restaurants, designer boutiques, covered sidewalks and old tramway cars. Of the latter there’s at least one really amusing example, with all sorts of lights, looking like a parade float, or like stall that has run away from a traveling circus.

On my way to ‘The Peace Museum For Kamikaze Pilots’ (go figure….) south of town, I see an impressive modern Buddhist temple. It is not just the building itself, or the 7-8 meters tall Buddha statue inside, that impresses. On my way out the old lady at the entrance insists I go down to the basement first, to see also their downstairs collection of vases, statues and woven pictures. Yesterday I wrote something about not being particularly interested in temples, but here I surrender unconditionally. This exhibition takes my breath away. Mainly traditional pictures, of course, but here and there I also can enjoy seeing something, that can only be describes at photo-realism in woven silk.

Further inland I locate the combined peace- and kamikaze museum. Exactly how one can make wishes for peace and harmony for all peoples of the world – as the messages is carved into stone outside the museum – go together with a tribute to more than a thousand young suicide pilots, remains a mystery to me, as the written material at the museum is in Japanese only. The hundreds of portraits of these doomed young pilots – about half of which weren’t volunteers at all – is disheartening, but this is outweighed somewhat by the sight of five more or less original single-engine military aircraft placed in there. Taking pictures inside is, annoyingly, very much prohibited, so the one I got of a wildly corroded Mitsubishi Zero, picked out of the sea some years ago, is taken from the outside, through the large windows.

A quick walk through an old samurai village not far from the museum, ends today’s sightseeing. Save for a few roof-mounted solar heating panels, the place looks fairly authentic, and people actually live in the houses. It also shows how little Japanese interior decoration style has changed throughout the centuries, with simplicity and harmony being the major guidelines. After this somewhat boring experience, there’s only the sight across the strait I passed yesterday to enjoy, where smoke from the Sakurajima volcano is seen, and once again I will stop at a lumber store to take in the fresh, and for me unfamiliar, smells of newly cut lumber. They have different sorts of wood over here.

I have been here for more than a month now, and have gotten myself into a good routine when it comes to riding about, and how my interaction with the locals is. Nevertheless, this morning I got really irritated about my inability to ‘read’ people, and their difficulty in understanding what I try to communicate, despite my attempts to express myself as simply as possible, either by writing short easy sentences, making drawings or even just pointing at something I want to buy, and take out money for it. In this case it was a woman, who simply could not grasp that her printer had swallowed 800 of my yen, and that I didn’t get any photo copies for them (later I figured it probably wasn’t a language problem, but simply that she was an idiot…). Good thing it took so long before it happened, and good thing that I’m very conscious of the fact, that it is me who is invading their universe, and not the other way around.

Unlike when I rode my Nimbus across the USA back in 1982, and logically had an easy time explaining things or having things explained, and thus was a participant, I really am only an observer here. If I want to know something about – say – their windmills or solar heaters or motorcycles or architecture, my chances of finding someone who can understand my questions, much less know anything about the subject, are probably 0,5 percent. I doubt it would have helped much if I had learned some basic Japanese before going here, because it would have been as primitive and awkward, as is their English. My pocket guide easily takes care of most normal things, like food, hotel room availability and common polite everyday phrases like ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’.

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