A picnic in the rain

The weather forecast today for Tokyo was for rain and a maximum temperature of 6°C. It helpfully added that 6°C would feel like 1°C. So where was I at 12:30? In the Imperial Palace Outer Garden, eating a picnic in the rain, on a plastic sheet, with no shoes on. Yes, you read that correctly; I had no shoes on. To be fair, the food was both tasty and filling.

Tokyo cherry blossom picnic 170401

And we were, too, under a magnificent cherry tree in almost full bloom. I am sure this will bring me enormous good fortune over the next twelve months, just as soon as I’ve recovered from the pneumonia. We sang a song about the blossom

“Sakura, sakura, yayoi no sarawa miwatasu kagiri

Kasumika kumokanioi zo izuru, izaya izaya mini yukan.”

In the morning we had visited the Tsukiji fish market. This is made up of an outer market, which has unrestricted public access. It’s a maze of literally hundreds of small retail outlets, which are not food stalls exactly, but I struggle to call them shops, as they are completely open to the street at the front. They sell fish, fish derivatives (like flaked bonito tuna), fruit and veg, processed fruit and veg, and general small items. And there are lots and lots of micro-eateries mostly with disproportionately long queues. It’s crowded.

Tokyo fish market outer 170401

The inner market is where the serious business takes place, with £15m of fish being traded every day, and a where a large tuna can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. Public access is restricted to a period after 10:00, when the busiest time is past. Again, it’s crowded. It’s also hazardous, with motorised trolleys whizzing unexpectedly round corners. They have de facto right of way; pedestrians must dodge! The visit was very worthwhile, because it gave us a view of some of the things that happen behind the scenes to enable visitors like me, and of course the residents of the city, to enjoy our daily life. Here are people working in cold, wet, crowded, hazardous conditions, for not very much money. For them, life is hard, and we could see that it was.

After our picnic, we strolled in the Imperial Palace Eastern Garden.

Tokyo cherry blossom 170401

There are castle ruins, a pond with koi, and a small museum with woodblock prints. And some of them are beautiful, indeed, one of them is amongst the most beautiful objects I’ve ever seen in my life and I shall never forget it. It depicted rain at dawn on a shrine. The light from the rising sun was wonderfully captured, and the shrine glowed translucent. Utter perfection!

In the moment – Three worlds

wp_20160127_11_48_12_richI wrote this poem late one August afternoon, sitting in the sunshine beside my fishpond. I thought about living in the moment – but which moment in which world? Sometimes, if we wish to be in the moment, we have to look beneath our surface feelings into a place that may look dark; but may, too, be a home of beauty.

Three worlds

The koi, red, black, white, metallic gold, slip through the water,

Their paths traced by slow ripples that roll across the pond

To make a panelled lattice of silver, through which the fish

Slide, now visible, now unseen,

Hide, by light, by movement.

A vine’s reflection, leaves hard-edged against

The black and silver water, seems more solid than the plant itself

As it strives sunwards from the same root in the bank.

The moment of reality shimmers.

Red, black, white, metallic gold, appear – and vanish.