An early rising with the cicada. The heat and sunshine already pouring into my apartment. The Sunday train platform is quiet. The walk from Kitaoji station along the Kamo River is pleasant, the sound and smell of the river somehow makes me feel cooler.
I arrive at Kamigamojinja sometime after 8:00. The temple grounds are already buzzing with vendors setting up shop. I realize immediately I am a rank amateur among serious professionals. Giant, mylar picnic tents, sandwich board signs, easels, tables with table cloths, director chairs, multi-tiered shelving, bust-forms, racks, hangers, mirrors. I unroll my tatami mat on the gravel with the large black ants and place my moku hanga T-shirts in six neat stacks. Open and ready for business in 5 minutes. This is the Zen approach to business. Exactly and only what you need, nothing superfluous.
I am happy to see my neighbor shares the same minimal aesthetic. He sells musical toys made from found and recycled materials. I become slightly less self-conscious.
I am grateful for the clouds that periodically block the blazing sun. It is my only respite. One must suffer silently, I suppose. My other neighbor, a jewelry maker, graciously offers me the shade of her tent. I fear I may ruin her business if the passerby see a gaijin, so I place my chair at the back of her space.
One hour and 35 minutes pass before anyone stops to look at my T-shirts. The seeds of doubt have been planted. I am reminded of the pop-up gallery I had in Red Hook. The hours and hours of doing nothing. Only here there are hundreds of people expressing their indifference to my creations. In Red Hook simply no one turned up, so the insult was less bruising.
I am glad for the ¥1,200 folding chair I bought.
The horrible "Engrish" mall T-shirts parading by are salt in the wound.
On this sweltering day mostly people just want something to drink, or maybe a fan or hat or tenugui to mop their sweaty brow.
The musical toy maker sits stoic on his little stool waving his fan like a Buddhist monk doing zazen.
I busy myself by shaking the dust from my T-shirts and sprinkling the gravel with water.
I study the people passing, try to pick out the ones who might be interested in a limited edition moku hanga T-shirt: a young rock-n-roller, a stylish mother, a hip dandy. But no, but no. Everyone walks by without a glance. I think I could have a sign that reads "free T-shirts" and they would still pass by.
Hot, tired, dirty and disappointed, I close shop at 2:00.