The Spring of 800 Earthquakes
Today I’m thinking of Japan. Land of the Rising Sun, and birthplace of my grandfather, Giichi Tagami.
I’ve had several business trips to Japan over the past 24 years, but none so special as the one March 2011. It was sakura time — cherry blossom time — and all of the shops had pink blossoms in the windows and all of the food merchants had cherry flavored products — from sakura manju on the Shinkansen to Starbucks’ sakura macaroons and Sakura Frappuccinos®.
Big snowflakes slowly drifted and filled the Ginza neighborhood outside of the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of Japan the first day of our olive oil Aisatsu, but fair weather followed us the rest of the week in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kobe.
The tremendous earthquakes which we experienced while we waited for our flight home to California on Friday afternoon were truly surreal and turned sideways everything we knew and felt.
After Jim-san rescued me from Narita Terminal 1 Saturday afternoon we spent time in nearby Narita town where everything was slowed down. It was like being in a quiet bubble. We stopped at a small inn and had some sake — the innkeeper did not speak English and we only spoke a little Japanese. Although the streets were broken up, life carried on around us.
On Sunday we hiked up the hill behind our hotel to Shinjoji Temple and heard the priests chanting. We walked the grounds for a few hours and lit incense for everyone who was suffering.
Time slowed for us that weekend while nearly 800 earthquakes kept a steady wave of shaking throughout the village and rolled or snapped the flexible wooden hotel where we stayed. The earth was heaving and breathing the reminder of our impermanence — a global zazen experience which kept us in the moment.
Banzai, Nippon. Banzai.