間 – ma (space between)

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ways in which difference is held together in Japan, and the Japanese understanding of beauty and stillness. I have been struck by the number of people from other lands who have made Japan their home for so many years, as well as reflecting on my own story, and why I returned to Britain after living here for four years. There is a mix of ancient and modern, secular and sacred, stillness and disturbance, each held in such close proximity.

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There can be invitation alongside hostility…

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…it can feel like two parallel universes; equally as a foreigner here, all that I have known can feel like it is from a parallel universe, one that is presently inaccessible.

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Rituals and respectfulness can demonstrate the beauty of the soul.

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Often blue sky and sunshine can elevate the soul.

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Equally, without warning, unfortunate events unfold; those that you would much rather leave behind or not have to receive, like ‘bad fortunes’ that can be left in the safety of the shrine rather than accompanying you home.

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Then there are customs which bring you to your knees, like these prayers for children – especially those who did not have very long with us – given hats and bibs to keep them warm, as well as windmills to offer relief from the sun.

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It seems that there is nowhere quite like this wonderful place of contradictions amidst harmony – where space or stillness is sought after within a busyness that I may never truly understand….

Shaking the Dust

Ancient custom decrees shaking
shoe dust at unwelcome faces.
Unspoken communication
such as this seeks to acknowledge
hostility which replaces
delightful hospitality,
where shoe shakes supersede handshakes!
Such tradition comes not without
trepidation, hesitation
before final demonstration
of submission to one’s wishes
What brought me to stand at your door
and desperately shake dust off
my shoes, with the bitter taste of
betrayal tainting highlights of
our history – our childhood and shared
experience? What? Where? When? Why?
Why use this powerful method
of communication to end
all future destructive attempts?
Few know how to truly hurt me,
yet you have long since scrutinised.
I marvel at such attention.
The impact of pain, exclusion,
petty point scoring runs so deep…
Such consideration deserves
the response long meditated
upon, negotiated for.
A shame those involved knew nothing
of your game, such acquiescence.
Of innocent participants?
Mere cannon fodder to you now
And yet I still forgive you – yes…
but to forget would be foolish.
So I shake the dust off my shoes,
turn away never to return.
As this ritual requires.