I wrote an email to my good friend and fellow artist, Anne McCaughey, asking “Are you back?” After her maiden trip to Japan, I was dying to find out what her impressions were.
She replied “Japan was beyond words. Mark [husband] and I both loved it so much and I can quite see why you are so in love with Kyoto and the world of the Geisha and Maiko. I couldn’t quite believe that Tokyo, which is so vast, could come across as such a gentle and gracious place. Even being in residence in Shinjuku with its bustling hub of a station and 2.75 million people using it daily, it was much less intimidating than I had expected. What a beautiful nation!!”
I met Anne for lunch. She told me that during her Japanese holiday, several times when she and her husband looked lost, it wasn’t long before somebody approached them to ask if they needed help. I have also relied of the kindness of strangers. Here is a recent example:
Recently I was en route to Kyoto from Kansai Airport on the Haruka Express train. It had glided away from the station and I was expecting a trouble-free trip. About 20 minutes into the journey the train came to an unscheduled halt. We stopped at a tiny station – and sat – and sat. Eventually a white-gloved and black-uniformed conductor entered our carriage. He removed his hat, bowed to the travellers and proceeded to gravely explain the problem. After his speech (for it was a speech) he bowed again. He glanced at me. I gave a sort of hopeless smile and said “wakarimasen” (“I don’t understand”). He acknowledged my simple communication and walked off.
After a short interval he was back, accompanied by a passenger. The young man introduced himself and told me that the conductor had asked him to explain what the reason for the delay was. There was an accident down the line. We would probably be able to commence our journey in about half an hour. Transfer to buses had been considered but it was decided that we would wait. Well – where else would a conductor search for an english-speaking passenger who could explain the situation to a visitor from abroad? Probably nowhere else. Even in a country as keen on order as Japan, unforeseen things happen. Here was a typical example of the courtesy of Japanese people.
I ask myself why I continue to draw Kyoto. I have such happy times there and this is a factor in wanting to mentally relive the experiences as I work at my pictures over here (in Perth). I’m an outsider looking in plus I don’t speak the language. At the same time I feel quite at home there. I had thought that perhaps I had gotten over it (especially when I was working on Paris for two years) but Japan’s lodgement in my heART appears to be permanent.
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