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Chasing Happiness- A Memoir -Part 7



Mount Fujiyama

 

 In the shopping mall, Hiroto Sensei treated us to very  expensive  green tea laced with gold dust, and as we waited for the  steaming bowls of tea to arrive, the old Murai  Sensei entertained us with origami, creating exquisite planes and swans and whales and cars from paper squares he carried in his pockets.

Tea was served, bows exchanged.

“Where are we going today?” asked one of the two men in our group, who had been noisily slurping his tea.

“Mount Fujisan,” said Hiroto Sensei.

“I thought that’s Fujiyama,” I whispered to Akira.

“We add ‘san’ out of respect.”

  “Oh! Gosh! We’re actually going to see it!” I said.

“If you’re lucky,” said Akira. “It’s often covered with clouds at this time of the year.”

As Hiroto Sensei drove us through the countryside, I saw a flash of the white bullet train and wished I could travel on it. Everything seemed so neat, even the shrubs on the tea estates were trimmed into rounded shapes. We whizzed through tunnels cut into hillsides. The hills were small and neat and green and I noticed pine and fir trees and some familiar flowers such as canna, goldenbeard and marigolds growing wild. Here and there small houses with pagoda roofs cropped up like mushrooms.


Beautifully Sculpted Japanese Gardens

 

By the time we reached the beach after three hours, we had already prayed to  Roubo,the Mother of All Creation (embodiment of the force of nature) to clear the clouds from Fujisan. When it drizzled, Akira told us the hi-tech roads of Japan drank up the rain and never got wet and slippery.

 

Mount Fujisan was indeed shrouded in clouds. The sky was a dark blue-green, the sands black. I had never seen black sand before or been lashed by chilly winds that almost blew me off my feet. I picked up a handful of sand.

“That just tells you that Fujisan is really a dormant volcano,” said Akira, smoothing her poker-straight hair away from her face.

“Now I can believe I’m on an island,” I said, looking at the blue-green sea.

After a few minutes of picking up smooth black stones from the beach, both Akira and I let out a yell of surprise. There was the pale blue peak of the mountain with its crown of snow peeping through the clouds.

“So our prayers are answered,” said Hiroto Sensei.

 

Mihono Matsubara
 

After a beautifully packed sandwich  lunch – the way the Japanese decorated and arranged food never ceased to surprise me – we arrived at the small town of Mihono Matsubara known for the legend of Haguromo, the Angel. A legend that had much to do with Sentendaido. 

 

 



  Me and Akira San at Matsubara
 
 

“Matsubara means pine trees,” said Akira as we alighted from the spacious Toyota to walk into a small plantation of pine. My waist and joints were beginning to ache. The green sea glimmered through the tall ancient, crooked and gnarled trees. 

 

A stone engraved with Japanese script stood before one of the trees, the tallest and straightest.

“There’s a Sentendaido story behind this tree,” said Akira.

The rest moved in closer. Even Hiroto Sensei was attentive although he obviously knew the legend of the angel.

“This angel from heaven came down to this lovely place and decided to stay,” said Akira. “She hung her cloak of feathers on this tree.”

“And then?” I asked, staring at the tree. Maybe I could spy a feather or two from the cloak.

“A boy saw her, fell in love with her and hid her cloak. So she had to marry him and lost herself for a while till she found the cloak again and returned to heaven.”

“What does it say about Sentendaido?” I asked.

“The cloak stands for the Three Treasures we speak of in the Kyudo Ceremony. Since she lost them, she could not return.”

And then she whispered into my ear, “The story reminds me of your husband and you. You are the lost angel, Anita san.”

“But I will return.”

“I have no doubt you will.”

“But my waist hurts,” I said.

 “I think it’s the cold.”

 

By that evening, my knee joints and back ached so much, I could only climb the many stairs in the temple very slowly one at a time.

 

Akira san took me to a room with an interesting bed-like contraption. Zennin was sitting beside it. I was surprised. Akira hadn’t told me where she was taking me. We bowed to Zennin, who was dressed as always in her elegant navy blue skirt and jacket and she graciously bowed her head in return.

 

Zennin said something to me in Japanese and Akira said she was telling me to take off my jacket and lie down.  I obeyed, aware of my clumsiness.

They covered the lower half of my body with heavy  cushions and covered me with a blanket.

“Relax,” said Akira. “It will massage you.”

Warm  rollers massaged my back. A mini roller-coaster, lifting me up, so that my back hurt and made me wince, bringing me down, making me giggle. Zennin sat by me for a while and then left the room, saying I could have that massage twice or thrice a day.

“She’s so kind,” I said.

“She  suggested I take you to the public bath – a leading water spa, but I told her you’re too shy. How do you feel?”

“Much  better  Akira san, thank  you.”

“Do you want to come with us to the Inuyama branch temple tomorrow?” she asked, helping me up. “It’s my hometown.”

“No pain s going to stop me,” I said. I had to see my best friend’s hometown.

Akira opened a cupboard and brought out a bundle of clothes.

“These are for you,” she said, giving the bundle to me. “Zennin gave these for you to wear under your clothes. I’ll give you a pair of warm  leggings  too.”

My eyes grew moist. “You are all so kind to me.”   


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