The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Time Flies

Had a nice (but very short) weekend. Friday night was a welcome-back party organized by some students in my class. 8 of us went to a seafood restaurant, had a really great 7-course meal of sashimi, crab, roast fish, seafood salad and other delicacies, and then convened to the English pub around the corner. It was kind of nice (although also a bit uncomfortable) to be the "guest of honour" and therefore the center of attention all night...

Saturday I realized that I had better clean up a bit, so I tended to the mundane chores; did laundry, dishes, cleaned and tidied, took my dry cleaning in, etc. That didn't take too long so I went for a walk, but it was actually really hot (over 30 degrees) so I came home after a couple hours.

Sunday, I wanted to check out an "old Tokyo" neighbourhood called Yanaka that survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake (and subsequent fire) of 1923, as well as the Allied firebombing during World War II. Although it has modernized somewhat, it's still an oasis of tranquility and old-style houses in the middle of Tokyo. It centers around a huge cemetary which houses (among other notables) the last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu who died in 1911, I think. I asked the groundskeeper whether there are still any surviving Tokugawas; he said that there were some but he wasn't sure where they lived. That must be like being a direct descendant of Czar Nicholas II or something; your ancestors were famous, but it doesn't mean much anymore, unfortunately.

I also found the grave of Yamaoka Tesshu, who was a great kendo instructor in the late 1800's. He was famous for the incredible tests of endurance that he subjected himself and his students to. These usually took the form of 3-day marathons of kendo playing, pausing only to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. I can't play kendo for 10 minutes, let alone 72 hours... He is also famous for the following story: When a student in his class vomited on the floor, he scooped it up, ate it, and in true Zen fashion, said "There is no difference!" ... meaning that there is no duality between clean and unclean, light and dark, true and false; in other words, get back to practice!


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