It’s raining in Osaka.
Since we began living here officially — now some nine months ago — we’ve experienced an earthquake, a flood, the hottest summer on record, the strongest typhoon in decades, and today the city is well soaked from days of rain, and it’s still pouring.
But in between these extreme natural events, have been strings of moments as beautiful and eye-opening as anything one could imagine.
At times Japan seems to operate in a parallel universe, and during these times, when one can catch the current and ride along with it, one is allowed to dip their feet ever so gently, into a history, an expanse of cultural ways of knowing that defies the truths they may have grown up to know as otherwise unassailable walls; trickling through these walls, this current finds all the cracks and crevices, it climbs up with the bean vines to peek over, it filters through the underground springs and aquifers, and then sprouts up on the other side in the breath of fields of wildflowers, sided by kusunoki (camphor), leading to forests of sugi (cedar), and hillsides topped with sakura (cherry) from which an expansive view opens, to a country of coastlines, rice paddies, Buddhist temples, and Shinto shrines tucked within forested hills.
This experience, this feeling, and this view, is one I wish to convey as much as one possibly can, through art, through writing, through conversations, through daily action. The history of this country and its people has so much to offer the world, especially in our current time of ecological duress.
Every country has their sour points, each one finds the tarnishes on their brass fittings. On the other side of the hill from the well-forested Shinto shrine is, perhaps, a mountain devastated by mining, a nuclear power plant, a countryside Aeon Mall sucking what little life is left out of the ageing, dwindling villages filled with empty, decomposing houses. Such complaints follow our way of life wherever it goes.
In the best moments however, there are synergies between human progress and environmental wellness here in Japan that have been accomplished nowhere else in human history. These lessons are not technical ones; they are not cut and paste manuals, innovative machines, or groundbreaking software; they are not dictatorial demands, spiritual rites, or religious mantras — though they may involve elements of all of these. At their roots, these are fluid, living, pulsing, cultural lessons. They are lessons in knowing our place as individuals and communities within this living ecosystem.
They are lessons, ultimately, in how to use this knowledge of self and place, in true, good, and beautiful ways.
If someone might ask my why I am here in Japan, I suppose I could only tell them that I am here to learn and know such lessons, which can be learned well only from the act of being, with place and people.
It’s still raining in Osaka, but I’ve seen the sun here too.