Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 5 - Imperial Palace (Tokyo)

Kusunoki Masashige in Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens4th February, 2003 - On our way to the Imperial Palace. An interesting insight into the contradictions of modern Japan occured on the way to the Imperial Palace. In the gardens on the approach (in Kokyo Gaien) there is a statue of an imposing Samurai warrior atop a charging steed... sword at the ready to take your head in one foul sweep. His name was Kusunoki Masashige (1294 -1336), and he was a loyal samurai for the Emperor Go-Daigo. If you remember (from Kamakura), he was the Emperor that finally put an end to the Kamakura shogunate of the Taira and the Hojo. Kusunoki was instrumental in that battle with the anti-Imperial forces.

The strange thing was - that as we stood admiring the scary (kowai) attitude of the statue, an ancient woman (she might have been 150 to look at her) was standing before the statue as if in prayer. It was only as my wife listened that she could gather that she was reciting an oath to the Emperor (at least she thinks).

It was the fervent seriousness of her stance that was so unsettling... I understood then and there that Kusunoki had never had to come up agianst anyone as scary as this small, determined obaasan. It also reminded me that Japan in the midst of it's economic tidal wave (both up and down) still held onto it's old beliefs. It made me think, how far below the surface did these feelings of a previous better time, and of loyalty to Japan (whatever shape that took) lie?

The old spirit remains strong.
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