The bridge and bamboo forests of Arashiyama were lit up by multicolored spotlights. Every turn in the path brought a new hue, an ethereal quality to the air made thick from days of rain. The steam rising from the hot spotlights themselves added to the fairy tale quality. The hillside beyond Togetsu-kyo bridge was lit all across the spectrum, in a way rivaling, yet falling somewhat short, of what nature had done for free a few weeks before. A day of rain had thinned the tourist numbers and some of the more intimate nooks of Sagano were ours alone. The night was cold but the rain had stopped. Amazingly, Starbucks had set up a small kiosk near Torokko Arashiyama Station, warming us all with a free cuppa. During my travels I'd noticed that Starbucks had scored a prime location near every tourist site, but this mobile joe was certainly new. More than the coffee, the light itself warmed us as we wandered the forest, a far cry from the usual cold neon Tanizaki nightmare. If only downtown were lit so well.
On the Solstice itself, we braved more rain to attend a candle-lit event featuring Goma, in a subtemple of Kodai-ji. The event was a mess from the start. The flyers said a 4:30 start, but about 60 of us stood in heavy rain until 5, and the first wails of the didgeridoo sounded well past 5:30. Miki asked about this and was told, No the flyer said doors open at 4:30. So why were we still in the rain a half hour later? The candles were nice, the didge enchanting, but the vibe just wasn't happening for us. Goma went off on a half hour rant about the spiritual qualities of the music, a sound that goes back to a time before words and musical notes. OK, so far. Then he went on about how his dream was to study these meditative qualities using Western science, and I was confused at the contradiction. So Miki and I left then , going back home to a candlelit dinner and "Paris, Texas," a far profounder look at the contradiction between light and dark.
A few days after Solstice was Christmas, and the full moon. Last month, Adam had found some bizarre statue at Kitano flea market. It was a foot high figure of a seemingly Scandanavian shamanic figure, full-bearded and clothed in red like a pagan Santa. He sat in our garden for a month, anointed in falling ginkgo leaves. On Christmas, Miki and I teamed up with JesusChris for a mission to place Santa on a undisclosed mountainside somewhere in the Kyo. Along the way, we met a lone Aussie-Chinese girl walking alone, and she, taking an interest in our quest, rounded out the numbers. We eventually left the trail, following a deer path up to a hidden pond. It was an ominous place, the earth all around it torn open by foraging boars, under a sky going grey toward evening. One particular tree caught our attention, having a number of trunks growing out of a single flat base. We collected branches from the forest floor to build a platform and placed Santa atop it. Then we rummaged around for other bits of forest detritus--pine cones, slabs of bark, sprigs of sakaki. JesusChris left a crystal that he'd found in a cave in northern India. We meditated a while, then finished off with photos and a few rounds of Oms. I can't imagine what this woman we'd met made of us, and I wonder if at some point she feared she might be sacrificed.
Descending into town, a nearby temple had become a film set. The klieg lights coming through the trees threw psychedelic shadows on the pavement, equipment, and everyone's faces. The courtyard on the far side of the temple gate was a bizarre shade of blue, and some of this light flashed off the sword swirled by one of the actors. We stayed awhile to watch them set up a single shot, of a horseback ninja riding up to the gate, who is challenged by a yamabushi that steps from the shadows. You too can share in some of this light as it reflects from your TV set in the guise of an NHK samurai drama called, "Kurama Tengu."
Fade out 2007.
May the New Year bring you much light...
On the turntable: The Waterboys, "Fisherman's Blues"