I usually visit Japan once a year for the tours, sometimes twice, and in either Spring or Fall. Because of work, I rarely have an opportunity to just relax, be with friends, and explore. I came earlier than usual this year, mid-February and in time to celebrate my 57th birthday. I made two series of events during this time — one in mid-March on the main island of Honshu; and one in mid-April on the south island, Kyushu . The rest of the time, I practiced my Japanese and dissolved myself into daily-life: nowhere to go, no one to be.
One cannot mention Japan without speaking of flowers. The Japanese love their flowers. And there are many and an endless variety in Japan . The cherry blossoms are especially famous and when in their full glory, one understands why. They are a wonder to behold and leave no doubt Spring has arrived.
One cannot mention Japan without speaking of food. The Japanese cuisine, washoku, has to be in my opinion one of the tastiest and most-refined in the world. On this particular visit, it has contributed to a well-rounded “buddha-belly” for me to meditate upon.
One cannot mention Japan without speaking of good friends. And I am lucky to have so many that love and care for me. Perhaps this is why Japan is one of those places in the world I am most “at home”. I feel I have lived here for lifetimes. And who knows? Perhaps I have.
One cannot speak about Japan without mentioning onsen which means “hotspring” in Japanese. One of life’s ultimate luxuries, there can be nothing more relaxing in the world than to soak oneself in these volcanic-heated, mineral-laden waters. It is a national past-time in Japan — and a healthy one, too!
One cannot speak about Japan with mentioning love. Although no word exists in Japanese language which can translate exactly to the English equivalent, perhaps ai comes closest. Ai has many meanings, shades, and nuances. Love in Japan is not spoken directly, a quality I have come to appreciate and understand. Pehaps it is like the Truth according to Lao Tzu: The closer one comes to it the less language is able to exactly express it.
One cannot mention Japan without speaking about spirituality. Here, human consciousness reached one of its highest peaks when Buddhism rebelled against tradition and gave birth to Zen. Osho spoke a lot about Zen. All these things together make Japan one of my favorite places in the world to meditate and work.
My fascination with Japan began as a child on family holidays at the beach. Each year, I would insist on visiting a small souvenir shop. It was run by an elegant Japanese woman who always wore a neatly-pressed kimono and greeted me with a bow. Her shop was full of wonder for a young boy: so many small, interesting things that spoke of far-off lands and stirred something deep in me — like a dream I could not quite catch or remember.
Later in life, I met many Japanese when I lived in India and worked in the Osho Commune. But I can say my connection with Japan crystallized when Osho began the Zen discourse series in 1989. From that time on, it has been a love-affair, an endless discovery and learning, that continues to this day and brings me here so often.
There is a famous Zen poem by the Basho that goes: Sitting silently, Doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows by itself. Well, Spring finally has come, and the grass has started growing, and I can say without a doubt this visit has been one of the highlights of my life. Arigato (thank you) Japan. Otsukaresamadeshita (job well done). And mata, neh ? (see you again).