japonisme: 7/12/09 - 7/19/09

16 July 2009

the bath, part 1


Washing Kai in the sauna,
The kerosene lantern set on a box
outside the ground-level window,
Lights up the edge of the iron stove and the
washtub down on the slab
Steaming air and crackle of waterdrops
brushed by on the pile of rocks on top
He stands in warm water
Soap all over the smooth of his
thigh and stomach
“Gary don’t soap my hair!”

—his eye-sting fear—
the soapy hand feeling
through and around the globes and curves of his body
up in the crotch,
And washing-tickling out the scrotum, little anus,
his penis curving up and getting hard
as I pull back skin and try to wash it
Laughing and jumping,
flinging arms around,
I squat all naked too,
is this our body?

Sweating and panting in the
stove-steam hot-stone
cedar-planking wooden bucket
kerosene lantern-flicker
sierra forest ridges night—
Masa comes in, letting fresh cool air
sweep down from the door
a deep sweet breath
And she tips him over gripping neatly,
one knee down
her hair falling hiding one whole side of
shoulder, breast, and belly,

Washes deftly Kai’s head-hair
as he gets mad and yells—
The body of my lady,
the winding valley spine,
the space between the thighs
I reach through,
cup her curving vulva arch and
hold it from behind,
a soapy tickle a hand of grail
The gates of Awe
That open back
a turning double-mirror world of
wombs in wombs, in rings,
that start in music,
is this our body?

The hidden place of seed
The veins net flow across the ribs,
that gathers
milk and peaks up in a nipple—fits
our mouth—
The sucking milk from this
our body sends through
jolts of light; the son, the father,
sharing mother’s joy
That brings a softness to the
flower of the awesome
open curling lotus gate I cup and kiss
As Kai laughs at his mother’s breast he now is weaned
from, we
wash each other,
this our body

Kai’s little scrotum up
close to his groin,
the seed still tucked away, that
moved from us to him
In flows that lifted with
the same joys forces
as his nursing Masa later,
playing with her breast,
Or me within her,
Or him emerging,
this is our body:

Clean, and rinsed, and sweating more, we stretch
out on the redwood benches hearts all beating
Quiet to the simmer of the stove,
the scent of cedar
And then turn over,
murmuring gossip of the grasses,
talking firewood,
Wondering how Gen’s napping,
how to bring him in
soon wash him too—
These boys who love their mother
who loves men, who passes on
her sons to other women;

The cloud across the sky. The windy pines.
the trickle gurgle in the swampy meadow

this is our body.

Fire inside and boiling water on the stove
We sigh and slide ourselves down
from the benches
wrap the babies, step outside,

black night & all the stars.

Pour cold water on the back and thighs
Go in the house—
stand steaming by the center fire
Kai scampers on the sheepskin
Gen standing hanging on and shouting,

“Bao! bao! bao! bao! bao!”

This is our body.
Drawn up crosslegged by the flames
drinking icy water
hugging babies, kissing bellies,

Laughing on the Great Earth

Come out from the bath.

Gary Snyder

“The Bath” from Turtle Island. Copyright © 1974 by Gary Snyder.
No Nature: New and Selected Poems (1992)

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14 July 2009

la vie en rose

The passion for mountains and mountaineering has a long tradition among Japanese printmakers. The ascetic Hiroshi Yoshida is maybe the most famous one. He was a passionate mountaineer and world traveler who had portrayed his personal experience in many woodblock prints of mountain landscapes.

During his short stop-over in Europe Hiroshi Yoshida had made sketches for two famous prints of mountain views in Switzerland - Mt. Matterhorn at daylight and a second version at night time - both made in 1925.

His son Toshi Yoshida had inherited his father's love for the mountains. Also quite a few of the sosaku hanga artists were avid trekkers like the arduous Azechi Umetaro or the less ambitious hiker Masao Maeda ("The finest panoramas are down in the middle heights.").

Passionate hikers and mountaineers know that each mountain region has its own individual character. A mountain landscape in Nepal is different from Switzerland. And the mountains in South Tyrol have their own specific personality. 1

katatsuburi soro-soro nobore fuji no yama

little snail
inch by inch, climb
Mount Fuji!

The highest and most sacred of Japan's peaks, Mount Fuji, was the home of the great kami-sama or gods. Buddhists believed it was a mystical gateway between earth and heaven. Climbing it was a sacred pilgrimage. However, not everyone could make the climb. Therefore, imitation Mount Fujis (small, sculpted hills) were built at various temples so that one could reap spiritual benefit by climbing them. Issa's snail is climbing one of these pseudo-mountains. 2

it fascinates me, how if an artist is about to represent a mountain range, they will often focus on the same peak. as in the grand canyon. here is the astonishing 'horn' of the 'matter' (meadow) -- it's unmistakable. then there's the awfully similar 'yari' (spear) gataga (mountain). and the two-peaked landmark in the jungfraubahn (young woman's way).

and how similar are the styles of the western posters and the eastern prints.
were the aims of both as similar as they might seem? as we've seen, many of the prints coming out of japan, particularly during the meiji era, were 'selling' a japan of the past. and the travel posters were often selling similar dreams as well.

it has been said, Switzerland doesn’t exist but is rather an invention of the Swiss graphic designers. 4 as long as dreams sell better than reality, i guess the world will continue to be rendered for us in rose.

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12 July 2009

Yarigatake: The Matterhorn of Japan

The first person to stand on the summit of the 3180m Mt Yari was the priest and mountain ascetic Banryu in the late Edo Period (19th century).

This was the first recorded ascent of the peak which is now revered by climbers across the country, and it occurred in July 1828; some 37 years before Wimper became the first person to climb the Matterhorn.

Then in 1880 an Englishman named Gowland reached the summit before dubbing the mountain panorama that lay before him “the Japanese Alps.”

It was this name which would later be popularised by Walter Weston, another Englishman, who first summited in 1892. Weston spread news of Mt Yari to the climbing fraternity around the world.

Although not renowned for his mountain-climbing prowess, the well-known author Ryunosuke Akutagawa [Rashomon] has also climbed Mt Yarigatake.

On the 12th August 1909 the 17 year old Akutagawa reached the top together with 3 classmates. You can read about his exploits in the mountains in works such as “Diary of my Mt Yari Ascent” and “Mt Yari Journal.” 1

Recreational hiking in Japan is relatively new in the nation's long history: the mountains were con- sidered foreboding and inhospi- table, the realm of mountain priests and the gods, until a pair of Englishmen, William Gowland and Walter Weston, climbed them in the late 19th century.

Gowland dubbed the region "The Japan Alps" while Weston's lectures and books introduced the region to Japanese and foreigners alike. 2

Banryu scaled Yari-ga-take and other major peaks as part of his religious devotion. 3

a statue of him stands today.

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