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.

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