Thursday, June 9, 2016
Sayōnara 12-19 Shinkai Gokanosho!
I still go to Uji once a month for acupuncture. There is an amazing bakery there called Tamakitei around the corner from where I used to live. Today I decided to pick up something for lunch following my appointment. I was happy to discover they had moved to a larger space down the street. Their popularity is undiminished.
On my way to the train I had a look down my old street. I was surprised and saddened to see the house at 12-19 Shinkai Gokanosho had disappeared. Not a trace. Even the beautiful old pine that had been so carefully groomed over the decades was gone. The foundation for a new house had been laid.
This was never my house, but for six months in the autumn and winter of 2013/14 it felt like it. I made it my home. My life in Japan began here. I was an absolute beginner when I alighted from the train at Obaku Station that September. I knew nothing. My self-guided education in Japanese culture was centered here at this address.
One of my greatest paintings was completed on the second floor of that house - my atelier. The wrecking crew would never know this. They would never know an American artist lived here, that they were dismantling a brief but significant part of his life. To them it was just an old house.
I live in Katsura now. I've lived here much longer than I ever lived in Uji. But Uji is special and always will be because it is a marker, a watershed for me. My life took a different direction when I arrived there. One I wasn't expecting. That shift is (or was) inextricably tied to that wonderful mid-century modern house.
Wabi-sabi is something I was introduced to while living in Uji. At the core of this concept is the impermanence of things. Everything disappears eventually. What we are left with is memories, a vague outline of what used to be. And memories too fade.