Tokyo is a modern city, with the ancient Imperial Palace closed up inside of it. It’s an interesting collision of the old and new. The modern Tokyo that we saw yesterday on our train and foot travels was nothing too special — just another boxy skyscraper city center. But the fortress-like walls of the Imperial City, where the Emperor and his family live, is impressive — moats, walls, stately buildings on the rocky outcropping of the hills. We had hoped to get inside and see the gardens, but all access was closed off and so we had to use our imagination for what it might be like to be so cloistered.
Here is my Tokyo-Imperial Palace haiku:
Modern city, guard;
protecting the past from this:
Yesterday, we wandered many streets of the surrounding Japanese cities — getting a glimpse of the Japanese culture far from the well-traveled roads. It’s hard to avoid the observation that this island is cramped, with narrow streets, narrow sidewalks and bustling activity everywhere.
We also visited two important cultural places — a giant Buddha (we even went inside the belly of the Buddha, which should be the name of a rock band, as Dave Barry used to say in his columns) and a beautiful temple shrine complex. Both sites are hundreds of years old. The temple, in particular, was astounding, using the landscape to capture the essence of spirituality.
I wrote this haiku to capture my thoughts of the shrine:
A water whisper:
Music amid the temples;
we walk silent paths
The site is known as Tsurogaoka Hachimangue Shrine and it is in Kamakura.
I am keeping a journal of our visit here in Japan (of course) and my goal is to write at least one haiku each day while we are here. A short poem to capture the experience. I’ll get on here and blog the haikus when I can and when I have time.
This poem is about losing an entire day as we skipped across time zones.
Hurdling time zones
like jumping picket fences
Everything stands still
Please join Day in a Sentence over at Bonnie’s Blog this week while I am away and then look for the call for words over at Anne M’s blog site for the following week. I hope you enjoy your travels as much I intend to enjoy mine (to Japan).
Over at my webcomic, Boolean Squared, I have been exploring the antics of a play written by Mr. Teach and performed by his students. The play is a twist on Alice in Wonderland, with a technological bent to it (Boolean is a virus, for example). This particular comic strip story was one of the first Boolean Squared I had done (back when I was using Strip Generator) and it was inspired by a play/musical that I wrote during my Summer Institute with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The play — called The Note Who Got Lost in the Masterpiece — is not about technology but about music, and I always envisioned doing it with my sixth graders. So far, I have chickened out, in part because of the time needed. But a few years ago, the play won a national competition and was performed by a youth theater group in Amherst and it was an amazing experience to watch the story unfold on the stage.
The comic strip allowed me to make fun of the process of putting on a play with young kids, particularly when the teacher is the writer and an actor is Boolean (he envisions being cloned, with multiple Booleans running rampant around the stage).
The Library of Congress continues to turn out some amazing resources on its Flickr site — pulling documents into the digital age. The latest is a small archive of old Abe Lincoln photos and considering all the hype these days about Lincoln (deserved, perhaps, but between Obama and Lincoln on the covers of my news magazines in the last two months, I have had about enough), it is interesting to see the man in actual photographs from the old days.
It’s been some time since I have written any of my quickfiction, but I was inspired for this short piece by a magazine article I was reading about a child prodigy violinist who used to sit in his room, with rubber bands, making his clothes dresser into a musical instrument.
If you are interested is more of my quickfiction, you can see my site over at Hypertextopia. The collection of stories there is called Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams.
You scan the floor for rubber bands. Underneath the rug. Inside the kitchen drawer. Behind the cushions of the couch. Anywhere you think they might be, you look. Of course, you have learned to be careful. Your mom will take them away, again, and shout at you, again. “Rubber bands? Rubber bands?” Her voice will echo through your head for the rest of the day, crowding out the melody. Someday, when you are older, you will have your own place and your own guitar and you won’t need rubber bands. You will sink into that freedom and know it to be paradise. For now, it is all about the rubber bands. You count them in your hand — onetwothreefourfive. Not quite enough, but enough for now. You close the door to your bedroom and push the chair against the door. The drawer of your clothes chest open reluctantly, as if it needing some oil, and one by one, you extend the rubber bands across the surface of the open spaces, fixing it so that you can adjust the length of the rubber bands as you need by moving the drawer in and out, out and in. One band becomes smaller, lower pitched, while another become longer, higher. It is a full eight minutes of adjustments, getting it all just right in your head until you can close your eyes and begin to play. The melody dances, first through your fingers, then along the vibrating hum of the rubber bands, and finally filling the room with light only you can see. You know it won’t last and it doesn’t. Either your mother will pound on the door, or your brother will shout some obscenity at you from the hallway or the dog will start barking at someone in the street and all will be broken. Today, you are shattered by a string, the snap of the rubber like a shot in the night, startling you with a surprising ferocity. The silence at first is odd and then, almost comforting, until you hear your mother yell: “All right, who took the damn rubber band from this deck of cards?”