Houkokuji Temple: Princess Kaguya

In my last post, I introduced some recommended temples, shrines and tourist attractions in Kamakura (which if you’d like to read, you can here!). I mentioned that Houkokuji Temple was quite special to me, and this is why.

The following would probably be best described as an anecdote which I can’t quite seem to shake off.


 

I can’t help but think after precious moments like these that, some things are meant to remain in our memories for a very long time.

My friend and I had just finished taking photographs in the small bamboo grove that we planned to circle for the second time (because, well, we couldn’t get enough of its beauty). I slung my camera on my left shoulder along with my unnecessarily heavy rucksack which I seriously regretted bringing with me that day, and we began to walk back towards the entrance to the small wood.

As I looked towards the light streaming past the bamboo canes, I lowered my gaze to the shaded area which the bamboo trees began, when something small and pink caught my eye. It was a girl. She was probably about three, and had somehow managed to wander into the forest alone.

It wasn’t long before her seemingly angry parents noticed and called for her to return to them, but in those few moments I was overflown with such nostalgia that I couldn’t help but be fixated.

Flashes of pictures from Studio Ghibli’s 「かぐや姫の物語 」(Kaguya-hime no Monogatari) appeared in my mind; beautiful streaks of watercolour and traditional Japanese-inspired brushstrokes. The scene before me was stripped into a simple drawing with dashes of green and the girl’s pink figure was replaced by the similar-looking main character, Kaguya-hime, as a child.

e7a2b1b8481d7edc6583df5febf2210cKaguya-hime no Monogatari, meaning The Story of Princess Kaguya (also known as The Legend of the Bamboo Cutter), is an extremely well-known legendary folk tale in Japan, which is also considered to be the oldest known Japanese prose narrative. Studio Ghibli presents the story a little differently to the original, but it is wonderful.

Centred around Kaguya-hime, the mysterious protagonist who was found by a bamboo cutter in a glowing bamboo stalk, her life quickly unfolds in a series of wonderfully illustrated scenes. She encounters love, but also sadness; the narrative is compelling, with many implicit denotations that possess such rawness and beauty. There’s just no way my explanation can do the story or movie justice! If you haven’t seen it already, please do.

The music is also so beautiful, just like every other Studio Ghibli movie. Here‘s a link to the theme song, 「命の記憶」(Inochi no Kioku), directly translated as ‘Memories of life’.

When I saw the girl, after the scene had transformed into a series of watercolour illustrations, this music started playing in my head. And I just can’t seem to forget it.

Japan: Artistry

It was beautiful. I had never thought that so much thought went into the art of tea

Since I arrived in Japan last week, I have experienced so much, yet, I feel this was one of the experiences that really encapsulated the essence of traditional Japanese culture and authenticity. 

As with most customs in Japan, deep thought is put into every step of almost anything you could think of. It is at times overwhelming, but extremely refreshing. 

Here are some photos I took!

   
    
    
 
Taken with the Nikon D7000

Drawings of my Secret Garden

 

Olive trees and lemon trees were painted across a rustic landscape as I made my way to the secret garden. As I drove, the summer-coloured fruits of the many thousands of fruit-bearing trees streamed past my vision, like vivid dashes of watercolour on the pages of my sketchbook.

I really miss those views. Sometimes, I think that all I have left of them are old pictures and the paintings in my crumbled notebook that I took with me so often upon visiting.

When we arrived, I sat in my usual spot: under the aged, now withering grand olive tree. He had looked over me for almost two decades growing up. I dug out my sketchbook and started, as I always did.

I can never quite forget my last glimpse at him. There was a sense of betrayal. His impenetrable resistance to my attempt of conciliating his anger pained me.

As time went by, I had produced pages filled with oblong leaves, dotted with its ovular fruits. Splashes of rich green and yellow hues, and flecks of gold coalesced to create its form.

I one day wish to return there, to my secret garden. But for now, I will relive those moments through my drawings.

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Mediums used: watercolour, pencil

Reading Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, I was reminded of the symbol of my childhood – my olive tree. It rests in my old countryside home in Sicily, and I wish to draw it once more.


 “Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.” -Rumi

 

Travel Memoirs

A nameless boy, a two thousand year old city, towering landscapes; memories – found in the simplest of things.

I found myself rummaging through one of my mom’s old boxes, when I came across some of her travel memoirs from two decades back. Packed in a grey, dull looking box, I initially put it aside. I eventually opened it, and I found photographs. They were in the form of slide pictures – the kind that are inserted into a projector, so they can be displayed for the world to see.

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_DSC3730They were beautiful; a hundred photographs from the unknown land of Petra, Jordan – a place I long to visit. Rustic, sandy and arid colours were exposed, with a wave of reticence. These photos were concealed away in the depths of her memories. I sat qualmishly for a moment, hesitant, wondering whether I should have seen these pictures of her travel memoirs.

That's me. I'm marvelling at one of my favourite photographs.
That’s me. I’m marvelling at one of my favourite photographs.

_DSC3627I don’t think my photographs or words will do them justice, but here are some of my favourites with a collection of my thoughts.

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A portrait of a boy. A nameless boy, lost in the abyss of oblivion in my mom’s memory. “I wonder where he is now; what he looks like, how he is…” she says as we stare at the small image together. I wonder the same. And that’s what I write in my journal. I wonder if this is how fictitious characters are created: from lost memories and a portrait. Bringing back to life what once was lost, perhaps. His gaze tore straight into my heart; I could feel the captured emotions running through his face, though indiscernible to me.

The boy in the photograph reminds me of a young character in ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, by Khaled Hosseini. (I’ll be writing more about that marvellous book soon!)

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My mom standing by the towering landscape, leading into a two thousand year old city of the past.
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Though slightly blurred, the deep hues of gold pigmented in the landscape caught my eye. I yearn to see them for myself.
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Carvings and ancient construction in rocks that once overlooked a civilisation of the past.

Photography – sometimes considered a menial and an all-too-common pastime, but there’s something about the reveries and pleasant thoughts that something so small can leave you in. I can only wish to capture photographs with so much meaning and emotion, as my mom did.