My Essays in ‘To Japan With Love’
Five years ago the local Rotary district (6960) sent me and four others to Japan on the Group Study Exchange program and a year later I submitted essays to be considered for a travel anthology/travel guidebook called To Japan with Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur , part of the To Asia with Love series by Things Asian Press.
My contributor copies arrived last week and I’m extremely excited! The guidebook contains three of my essays and a travel tip. Essay topics are visiting Hell’s Valley in search of monkeys, helping my traveling pal Matt find a piece of gay Tokyo, and losing my body fat with a very interesting spa technique.
For those living in Southwest Florida (or those wanting to travel to Southwest Florida) I’ll plan a little gathering for a reading and (finally) properly launch this travel blog. Stay tuned. For those wanting a copy of the book, you can pick up a copy on Amazon or check out your local bookstore such as Barnes & Nobel and Borders.
While I won’t be posting essays from the book, here’s a submission that is not included because, well, it no longer exists.
Finding Spring in October
Sakura, or cherry blossoms, bloom with radiant beauty over the Japanese landscape during March and April, or so I was told. Visiting Land of the Rising Sun during October was well past sakura season. Sensing my disappointment, my Japanese host arranged for me and my traveling companions to see the most beautiful sakura in Japan at the Sakura Fine Arts Museum in the town of Nagaizumi Cho of Shizuoka Prefecture.
Walking into the gallery was like stepping into an enchanted forest filled with magical cherry trees. It was as though the sinuous tree branches were reaching out and hugging me while winking with twinkling blossoms.
The most dramatic pieces of art were life-size and painted on four to eight panels, folded slightly to add depth and dimension to the scenery. The ceiling was mounted with vibrant cherry blossoms, too. Kyoto-born Kimura is the artist and all seasons of the sakura inspire him.
A four-panel painting of the beloved Fuji-san (Mt. Fuji) mesmerized me. I felt as if I were atop a nearby hill looking up at the great mountain and down on the valley below during sunset. Golden hues danced off the purple, snowcapped mountain. Sky was filled with warm tones and a hint of cloudiness. Tall, amber grasses framed the bottom corners of the landscape, bent inward towards the painting’s center. Grasses seemed to wave at me. A green and golden valley glistened at the foothills of Fuji-san.
Being my third week away from the States, my homesickness was eased when spotting an oversized painting depicting the base of a waterfall. I commented to the curator that it looked like Niagara Falls and sure enough, indeed it was. The painting seems out of place among the paintings of sakura and Fuji-san, but the artist was deeply inspired by a visit to the Falls. Deeply gazing into the painting, I could hear the intensity and rush of water.
Paintings glisten because Kimura uses natural minerals mixed with animal fat and gold leaf. Minerals are extracted from various sources, including rocks and seashells. The artist uses more than 1,400 colors and some were on display in tiny vials.
Unfortunately, the Sakura Fine Arts Museum once located at a complex called Clematis-no-Oka, closed in 2008. I’ve been in contact with the Japanese Office of Tourism but it is not known what has happened to the paintings. Enjoy the images.