Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
John and Yoko spent time around the Saitama area when they were in Japan and in 2000, Yoko established the John Lennon Museum and adulation center there. It is a nice modest museum located very near the station and can be fully appreciated in about two hours.Despite many many worldview differences and the fact that I find may of Lennon's lyrics (mostly latter solo stuff) totally wrongheaded and occasionally reprehensible, he is still my favorite Beatle...on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I'm a fan, but I never paid too much attention to his personal life beyond the main points. The museum provides a pretty basic depiction of his life and career that may be redundant for true aficionados, but was informative for me. I learned several things about the man (and the woman) that I had not known before, though nothing that changed my overall impressions. As a die-hard Dylan fan, I did note there was only one brief mention of Bob (a cliche reference to him as a protest singer) and no mention at all of him in describing John's transition from pop star to "serious" artist, which was a central theme of the museum. An even more noticeable omission was any narrative regarding his first wife, beyond a cursory mention. Nevertheless, the exhibits touched on most of the significant stuff - particularly where it concerned Yoko and John's deliverance from unhappiness.
The early period, too, was well represented with school aged notebooks and his first instruments lovingly preserved behind glass. I noticed that his handwriting was much nicer as a lad than it was as a Beatle (something I imagine was by design). His artwork, too, was a little more interesting to me when he was a boy, like the shot below, than his later minimalist scribblings that graced his books.I had never realized that, despite coming from a broken home and raised mainly by his aunt Mimi, John grew up in a nice comfortable and spacious home that his fellow Beatles did not enjoy. This combination seemed to make John the least-happy and most self-centered Beatle.
Several display cases covered the early pre-Please Please Me years of the Beatles. The most handsomely laid out display case is shown below. Heavy use of black leather and brown brick convey the atmosphere of the night club days.
Here's the two track recording machine used during the Sgt. Pepper sessions.
Here's a replication of sorts of the zany Yoko ceiling art that played a part with John and Yoko's initial meeting. One must climb the steps to get an insight into Yoko's genius.The genius, of course, was a plain word printed on the ceiling which made the trek up and down the staircase hardly seem worth the effort. Not only did I not fall in love with Yoko upon ascending the stairs, but I was a little resentful that she played me for a fool. I must say, when thinking about Yoko, I'm always reminded of a joke Dave Foley said on the show Newsradio. Foley's character was trying to provide solace for one of the other characters, who considered herself a Yoko-type figure. He tried to defend that stigma by offering, with a studder (quoting from memory): "Well, there are those that think her work on Double Fantasy wasn't...completely...destructive." The stuttering made the joke. I've always thought she was a poor artist, but an interesting character. I can't say I understand what attracted Lennon to her, but I can kinda understand his later obsession with her. She is a weird and fascinating person - probably just as bizarre to the Japanese as she is to Americans like myself. And just when I think I might warm up to some of her antics, I see stuff like "Bagism" which makes me wonder what anyone sees in either of the two.It's impossible for me to separate the irreverent stupidity John often displayed with his irreverent cleverness. Bagism seems to be on the side of stupid. I've often tried to look into John's eyes, but can never get past the glasses.
Here's the Primal Scream book that influenced John's first (and best) solo album. I haven't read the book, but I can't help but think that the way John sang earlier songs, like "Twist and Shout", he was achieving a similar cathartic release.
The "seal" of John's country. Ar! Ar!A pipe John enjoyed while in Japan. I was hoping the picture of John in the background was his own creation but it was not. The spare style of Japanese art - especially silk screens and ink on paper - is infinitely fascinating. Occasionally, John's own scribbles remind me of that.The second to the last room of the museum was very white and had a wall of his lyrics written in Japanese with a clear plexi-glass wall showing the same lyrics in English. This room looked like something John would have come up with (kudos, I guess, to Yoko and her contractors) and was a good place for photos.Throught the displays, I was reminded time and again just how selfish John and Yoko seemed through most of their lives. John seemed to go through phases so fast that today he would be accused of having ADD. And Yoko - I don't even know where to begin with her.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
View from the parking lot looking at the entrance to the temple grounds. This is about one third of the way up Mt. Nokogiri. The daibutsu is to the right of this shot.The daibutsu is 31 meters tall on its Lotus pedestal and is the largest in Japan, significantly taller than the daibutsu in Nara (18.8 meters) and over twice the height of the more famous Japanese daibutsu in Kamakura (13.3 meters). It has had its share of erosion over the years and received an overhaul in the 1960s. Still, you can see scars of the erosion all over its body. Keeping the erosion in check will no doubt be a challenge. There is a small moat running along the front edges of the stone statue. The prayer bell and donation box in front of the statue attracted a steady stream of visitors while we were there and, assuming each prayer was accompanied with a 5 or 50 yen donation, the sect made out well on that day.
The figure is Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha or the Buddha of Healing. The Indian name for this buddha is Bhaiṣajyaguru, which is short for Bhaiṣajyaguruvaidūryaprabha. It was made by the popular artist Jingoro Eirei Ono and his 27 apprentices over the course of three years.
A profile shot of the daibutsu against the mountain. The trail of stairs is not visible in the picture but winds up steeply past the head of the statue just below the forest canopy. As with several of the photos in this post, the vertical nature of the mountain and its trails is not adequately displayed.
Here is the view from the daibutsu area overlooking Tokyo Bay.If you squint your eyes you can make out the small but sacred Bodhi Tree in the picture below. It comes from the branch of a famous Bodhi Tree in India and was presented to the temple by an Indian sect in 1989 as a gesture of world peace.
Another praying area with piles of little prayer statues.As with the prayer bell nearby, there was incense burning periodically.The pathway that leads up to the top is scenic but brutal on the legs. It was a chilly and damp day, and yet, by the time I reached the top, I was pretty sweaty. The daibutsu is below and to the right of these steps.Along the way to the summit are numerous caves and inlets in the rock face which house 1500 Arhats all made by Ono and his 27 apprentices. Each statue is unique. Several of the statues have been worn down by erosion, or too often, defaced by an anti-Buddhist movement during the Meiji Era. Still, enough of these remain intact that I would imagine it would take some feverish radical Islamists several months to deface all of them.The stones used for the statues were brought in from the Izu peninsula. Work on the statues began in 1779 and was finished by 1798.It was rainy on the day of our visit, which revealed how manicured the mountain is. Instead of simply keeping the pristine natural beauty of the mountain, the Japanese, having a hands-on approach to nature, provide impressive bridges and stone walkways along the path to add a human touch to the surroundings. Below, a small waterfall rains over one of the statues. In other parts of the trail you can see where drainage trenches were carved in the rock to control the flow. The overall result is very appealing to the eyes.
The cliff from the summit went straight down and was more dramatic than this photo indicates. The weather was overcast and hid much of the view in the photo.The name of Mt. Nokogiri derives from the word for "saw" and this picture of the section cut out of the mountain demonstrates why it has that name. Like the view from the summit, this photo does not capture how dramatic this view is. To the right of the people in the photo is the second of the large stone carvings on the mountain...Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Mercy. I'm not sure how old this particular carving is, but it is about 30 meters tall and pretty impressive in its almost interior looking surroundings. I expected to see Dr. Jones with a few local guides making their way to this spot.A section of bamboo off the trail during the descent.
This shot shows some of the buildings on the temple grounds housing the priests. There were apparently several other buildings housing priests and monks, but those were not visible from the trail. This is a shot taken from the car showing the scene off the coastal road that leads to Mt. Nokogiri.