May 6, 2014

10 Things I love about Japan.


When I was a boy–perhaps inspired by watching Kurosawa films at the Boulder Public Library with my best friend, Noel (we also watched our share of Marx Brothers films)—I was Japan-crazy. To the point that…well, I remember once I cut my finger, and immediately and gleefully made a red circle on a white napkin. You know, the flag of Japan.

Samurai-loving Boys will be boys.

I studied Japanese, briefly–and growing up in an American Buddhist community greatly inspired by the Zen tradition, I practiced kyudo and ikebana, and appreciated both.

Anyways, I was an all-things-Japanophile.

20-some years later, here’s 10 things I still cherish about Japanese culture.

shakuhachi flute japan japanese sad sound musicZen Buddhist Temple Japanjapan_toriijapan-fishkites

1. The traditional Japanese aesthetic. The architecture. Elegance, simplicity, and an exacting (sometimes too exacting) appreciation for detail.

2. Wabi-sabi. It’s just right when it’s just shy of perfect. A good philosophy for life, not just pottery.

3. This poem.

Bonus: the sound of this instrument.

toshiro mifune

4. Toshiro Mifune. Combining humor, humility, braggadocio and fierce warrior spirit, Mifune rose above my Western father figures (Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Redford & Newman…all of ’em) by being thoroughly, fully committed to being his awesome self.

5. These five films.

6. Ikebana. A beautiful meditation-in-action surprisingly accessible to boys and girls, men and women…whether or not we’re interested in meditation. Bringing together the principles of human, heaven and earth, it helps us understand love, interior design, and business–and life itself–from a fundamental point of view.

Also: kyudo, another meditation-in-action, which I studied as a child, mostly, with the master, Shibata Sensei.

7. Oryoki. Eating as meditation? A practice illuminating beginning, middle and end, as well as showing formality to be full of humor, intimacy and environmental responsibility—oryoki is something I miss doing every day, in a way.

Bonus: the bow.

8. Musashi. One of the most inspiring and epic characters in human history. A Buddhist teacher, a warrior beyond compare. Read the book, watch the trilogy.

9. The food. Rich yes simple, healthy…there’s nothing I love more than sake, sake, sake and rice, edamame, sushi (I’m vegan, these days, but) and teriyaki chicken (now, tofu 😉 ).

10. Did I mention Sake? I did. Okay, then, I’ll go with this gentle-man.



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