Friday November16, 2007 12:50 am
I’m going to try to keep this on the briefer side of things, only because it’s late and I have a lot of pictures to post. It’s funny, posting about a trip that is quickly fading into the past. When I wrote the first entry, I still remembered every little detail about the couple weeks I had in Japan, but already in a month it has become a bit more jumbled and I need to look at the pictures to remember where I was, what was happening, and how I felt. Someone once asked me how I could remember where I had been and what I had done if I never wrote anything down. At the time I thought about it and decided I would start writing, but then I realized that for me, my pictures are my notes. I don’t take a thousand pictures a week because I want to show everyone a thousand pictures - I take the pictures like someone with a notebook would take notes. Then I take all my notes and edit them for content, length, and interest, and publish them. It’s a process that is pretty similar to writing, actually. The nice thing is that when I want to, I can go back to every picture I’ve taken and go through them one by one. I’ve got about 15 pictures that I took while I was fishing in this post, but I’ve got about three hundred more that I’m not showing anyone - they are definitely not all good pictures, but if I go through them, in a matter of minutes I am transported back to the day, the place, and the feelings I had. The fact that I rely on the pictures so much to remember things worries me sometimes - I don’t know what I would do if I lost my photos.
Last time I posted I wrote about how I was nervous to actually live with a Japanese family. As I mentioned it was no big deal in the end, but living is a hard thing to capture in pictures. I kind of love the Nakamura house though, because it is so Japanese without being typically Japanese at all. There is none of the spare elegant minimalism that most people think of when they think of Japanese aesthetics. The floor is covered in carpets and there are pictures and newspaper clippings stuck on every flat surface. There is a kitchen table and chairs (none of which are ever used), and there is the beautiful low wood table in the TV room where everything happens. If someone is home in the Nakamura house, there is a very good chance that they are sitting around this table, watching TV, reading, sleeping, or planning what to do next. When I live on Osakikamijima I spent a lot of time around this table, and it was truly wonderful to do that once again. See? When I started writing this, I wasn’t having any of those feelings. But while I’ve been writing, I flipped back to my pictures and looked at a bunch of pictures of us sitting around, eating meals, and just relaxing late at night - and boom, in my mind I am back there, petting the dogs and squinting because I’m trying so hard to understand the Japanese talk show on TV.
One of the first things I did in the days after we went to Naoshima was take the car for a day and go to Takehara. Every single time I drove through Takehara, I would pass this ancient abandoned shrine, and when I went back to New York, as I drove past it on the way to the airport, I felt stupid and guilty for never having taken the 40 minutes it would have taken me to get there. As soon as I was back and had some time to kill, I went straight to the temple.
Truth be told, it was the wrong time of day to photograph it, and the pictures didn’t come out very well. It was this temple built out of wood in the 1500s, and then destroyed by floods and torrential rains in the 1920s, and it had been left to decay naturally. Because the building was built in the traditional Japanese way, there are no nails or screws holding it together, and the years and the weather are slowly causing the building to shake itself apart. One building has collapsed completely, the other ones are starting to be worn down. My favorite bit was the ceiling in the top picture - the panels have been slowly falling out, making this great texture.
The stone basin for water has gotten completely covered in moss, but it is still is full of dark clear water.
Hmm. I was just looking over the photos I just uploaded to Flickr as a supplement to this post, and I realize I like a few of the temple more than I like the ones I chose for the blog. In an unprecedented move, I am bringing this one over from Flickr, because in retrospect it is my favorite picture from the shrine.
Being in Takehara, after I had thoroughly explored the shrine, I went to see the neighborhood of old buildings that haven’t been destroyed by floods. I had been in Takehara countless times, but I had only seen that area once or twice, another thing I regretted when I left last time. In a lot of ways I felt like I was making right the few wrongs about my time in Japan when I lived there.
Just some old house. I wouldn’t mind having this place as a little pied à terre in Japan.
This was a cool little thing - it was in a bamboo garden, and there was a little sign that pointed into a door and said “viewing area.” Inside was a smooth wood platform - you would take off your shoes and sit cross-legged on it - and enjoy this perfectly balanced little vista. The old wall with the perfectly aged wood, the stone arrangement, the sun coming in from the top, the roof tiles - it’s a little living picture that you can just sit and enjoy. It would be different in the spring or the winter, in the morning, at night, in the pouring rain or in the snow. Frankly, I love the idea of having a little view like this that is built expressly for aesthetic pleasure.
Now that I am looking at the pictures and remembering the day, I remember that this day was a scheduling disaster, with two full ferries, a closed restaurant, a missed connection with a friend, and cultural confusion at a gas station that changed from full service to self service while I was away. (Self service in Japan requires what seems to be an extensive questionnaire about your driving history, what type of gas you prefer, how much you’d like to spend, and probably some stuff about your blood type and annual income to be entered in on a touch screen before the gas starts pumping. After trying three times to press the buttons that make the gas come out, I fetched a gentleman and said “excuse me, but I can’t read.”)
The day after the (mis)adventures in Takehara, Mori, Koichi, and I went fishing. We had already been out on Mori’s boat, but because I was visiting all the way from New York, we had something special in store. We were going out on a big time charter boat, jigging for tuna in deep water. In the year I had been gone, Mori had become good friends with the boat’s captain, who we all referred to as I-san (pronounced “ee-san”) or Captain I. Apparently I-san was the first guy to ever try jigging in the inland sea, and for years he did it while getting very little attention and not much business, slowly mapping out what spots were good and what spots weren’t. Now slowly he has built up a name for himself over the last 12 years, and his boat is covered in sponsor’s decals. He does a bustling business with charters and knows every single rock and ledge along the bottom of certain areas of the inland sea. Normally he doesn’t go out with less than ten customers on board, but he took just the three of us out as an extremely friendly gesture.
His main boat, the Aki III - if you want to go Jigging in Japan, look this guy up - here is his website.
Mori and I-san, plus sponsor’s logos.
The first spot we tried was an extremely deep area where we were looking for tuna - they are not easy to catch, and after about an hour with no bites, we scaled down our expectations. (I was kind of disappointed, Mori had sent me the link to I-san’s homepage, and I had been looking at pictures like these.) We went closer to land and fished for Aji - a small but delicious fish that I had caught before - and immediately, they started biting. They are a pretty weak fish, and they don’t put up much fight. In fact, you have to reel them up gently, because their mouths are so soft that a firm yank will just rip the mouth off and you lose your fish. We were having a contest to see who could catch more, and then suddenly my rod bent double and the line started zipping out of the reel - not sure what was going on, I suddenly found myself in a real fight with a fish. It was light tackle and my drag was loose, but I was certainly not bringing in an Aji. As it came up over about five minutes, everyone came over to see what it was. It turned out I had hooked a Saba - a kind of mackerel. They are shaped like miniature tuna and are fast and strong. It was still the morning, and things were looking up.
Ok, fine, it doesn’t look very big - but it fought hard! That’s I-san on the right.
Lunch on the Aki III - Onigiri, fried chicken, and Aquarius. It doesn’t get much better than that. Mori is making a note of (with I-san’s permission) the spot where we caught all the fish - so he can come back with his customers.
After lunch we moved to a new spot for a new type of fish - tachiuo which literally means “sword fish” but translates to English as Cutlass Fish. We were not the only people looking to catch a few tachiuo, and so we found a spot among the other boats. We ended up next to this guy who did not seem to appreciate us with our giant boat, fancy jigging gear, and dozen or so fishing rods.
Tachiuo is traditionally caught handlining with bait. Because I-san is a big proponent of jigging, that is what we were doing - and for what it’s worth, we were pulling up a lot more fish than the guys who were handlining.
I talked about how much I like being on the water in my last post - for me, this pictures captures a little part of what it is that I like so much about being out on a boat in Japan.
We got down to the business of jigging, and soon we were hooking fish! Tachiuo don’t fight very hard, but they do put up some decent resistance and a few strong runs. They are long and flat, so it’s easy to get them pointed upwards and just slip them through the water. Here Mori is getting a bite.
I’ve got a good one!
Isn’t this just one of those pictures that makes you feel good? Actually, it probably only makes me, Mori, and I-san feel good. But that’s enough for me. Things to note: Tachiuo are almost chrome-like in their shininess - look at how mori’s fish is reflecting the sky and the pink lure. Secondly - they don’t have any tails! Just a little point. Weird. Finally - look at the way Mori’s fish is wriggling its fin. They all did that when you pulled them out of the water, and it looked really cool. I guess that’s probably their main source of propulsion.
Koichi catches one - Tachiuo have pretty mean looking faces. I think I can see myself reflected in that fish. That’s a first.
We kept reeling in the fish for who knows how long - three or four hours until the sun started setting. With the sun at our backs we headed to Takehara to gas up the boat. The ride from Osakikamijima to Takehara takes 30 minutes on the ferry, and ten minutes on the fast ferry. On the Aki III it took about four minutes.
Zooming to Takehara.
Aki III, waiting for the gas truck after an excellent day of fishing. We probably caught about fifty or sixty fish all told.
Heading back to the island for dinner and bed.
A few nights earlier, Mori and I went out for a little bit of night fishing. It was my first time back out fishing in Japan, and as we motored out of the dock and under the bridge, weaving between the little rocky islands that we used to dive around, Mori looked at me and said “So, Ben, how is it? How is being back out on the inland sea in Japan again?”
I thought about it, and waited for the wave on nostalgia and emotion to sweep over me, but it didn’t come. At first I was worried that something was wrong, that somehow my memories had fooled me, but since then I’ve thought about that moment when I waited for the rush of emotions and they never came, and I think I’ve figured it out. When I got back on that boat and untied the front and pushed off, it was like I hadn’t been gone a whole year. The memories of fishing and boating with Mori in the inland sea have become such an major part of my life that a year did very little to diminish them. When we got back on the boat and headed out of the harbor, it felt like we hadn’t gone fishing in a few weeks, and so of course we were out fishing together. There was nothing to come flooding back because it had never gone away.
That is even better than a wave of nostalgia and emotion.