Looking out into Another World

If I were to design a character building programme, it would involve solo hikes starting with a wild abandonment ... leaving the unsuspecting participant at a foggy trailhead with the company of a huge sign that warns of bear sightings. I would also intentionally forget to provide a bear bell.

Some film captures from my solo travels in Japan last October. I am not one to shoot film, but I picked a disposable cam up anyway just so that if I were to get lost in the forest or fall off a mountain there might be some form of documentation of my folly.

Looking through these photos brought me right back to the moments when I faced an adventure far bigger than myself. 

Traveling solo is not a new thing to me. I embrace the idea and I do oddly, crave for it. This short trip to the countryside in Japan redefined what it really means to be alone. From boarding an hour-long bus ride where I was the only passenger, to alighting the bus in total darkness. I found myself in a remote part of the countryside where roads were not exactly pedestrian-friendly. With one hand dragging my bag, and the other frantically waving my phone (which doubled as a safety light) at passing cars, I made my way to the hostel in hopes that Google maps would not fail me. Arriving at the hostel was another story, where I was put through a crash course on Entomology. I spent the next few days negotiating my comfort zone with these winged and multi-legged life forms.

I'm still waiting for my certificate till this day.

Koya Backpackers

2147-500 Nagakura, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun 389-0111, Nagano Prefecture
 

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The day starts early at 6 a.m. at the hostel. This is my favourite view that refreshes me as I brush my teeth

  Saying goodbye to the hostel while it closes for Autumn break, and the owner goes on a 3-day hike in the mountains

Saying goodbye to the hostel while it closes for Autumn break, and the owner goes on a 3-day hike in the mountains

  Yusuke-san, owner of Koya Backpackers, striking a pose for my camera before he packed me off and sent me on my way to the train station   It made me laugh when I saw this photo, partly because I forgot that I took it. Also because I could almost hear Yusuke-san's jugdmental remarks about my huge four wheeled luggage bag.

Yusuke-san, owner of Koya Backpackers, striking a pose for my camera before he packed me off and sent me on my way to the train station

It made me laugh when I saw this photo, partly because I forgot that I took it. Also because I could almost hear Yusuke-san's jugdmental remarks about my huge four wheeled luggage bag.

  Taking a local train to Matsumoto, embarking on another part of my adventure to the Japanese Alps

Taking a local train to Matsumoto, embarking on another part of my adventure to the Japanese Alps

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  I found a make-shift studio near the entrance of the camp sites.

I found a make-shift studio near the entrance of the camp sites.

  At Kappa Bridge with the magnificent Japanese alps towering over me

At Kappa Bridge with the magnificent Japanese alps towering over me

  Taisho Pond

Taisho Pond

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These amazing colours captured on film

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  I discovered that acrophobia and strong winds don't quite go together

I discovered that acrophobia and strong winds don't quite go together

  Scaling Mt Fujimidake

Scaling Mt Fujimidake

  Atop Mount Fujimidake, I walked on clouds

Atop Mount Fujimidake, I walked on clouds

It would be exaggerating to say that I have been completely transformed due to a single experience. But I definitely departed a braver soul than when I first embarked on the trip. Perhaps one day, I will be able to put this into a good use to pack three sets of clothes for a month-long travel.

(vignettes of my adventure on Instagram  one, two, three, four, five)

Blush

  Kanazawa, Ishikawa 2017

Kanazawa, Ishikawa 2017

Glad to have made the acquaintance of Kanazawaさん this trip. First impression didn't fare too well with his unusually early bed time of 8 p.m. and a lack of night life. He may be slightly old fashioned, but in his quiet and unassuming ways, he wins you over like a charm.

His unhurried demeanor tended to me like a fallen petal, even when the warm rain threatened to wash away the blush. I know I'm safe here, in this new season we call Spring. 🌸

A Poet Reading

I

She is the sunlight, standing by the pool,
In a garden we laced with flowers
And songs, as we walked into ourselves.

Enshrined within a tactile moment,
With no beginning, with no end,
Her brow, lifted gently by rising lotuses,
Receives the sky's deep reverence
As her eyes watch seven golden koi
Swim serenely into provinces of silence.

Then, on the left side, where the heart
Resides, her hand lifts, reluctantly,
As if compelled by lingering strands
Of bitter, ancient winds, now sadly
Come together, taking her
In ways that only harsh things can.

There is always darkness to elide,
Some purging of black light,
After which she is again

Sunlight waiting to be poems.

– Edwin Thumboo
 

Connecting the Dots

"I have a theory that we are always triangulating ourselves against three points, one of those being home or our sense of home. Sometimes another person can feel like home to us; as we travel, we often compare the sights and experiences to how they are like or different from home. And yet, if we travel long enough, sometimes the home point on the triangle is replaced with something or someone else, which feels like floating into an endless universe of possibilities. I love the way we operate to find out who we are in the world. That general search for who we are and what feels like a point in the triangle is what much of my work is about." – Rebecca Rebouche

Borrowed Words

Poem by Frank O’Hara (1926-66)


Light clarity avocado salad in the morning
after all the terrible things I do how amazing it is
to find forgiveness and love, not even forgiveness
since what is done is done and forgiveness isn’t love

and love is love nothing can ever go wrong
though things can get irritating boring and dispensable
(in the imagination) but not really for love
though a block away you feel distant the mere presence
changes everything like a chemical dropped on a paper
and all thoughts disappear in a strange quiet excitement
I am sure of nothing but this, intensified by breathing

From Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems (Carcanet Press)

*Much of Frank O'Hara's poetry was based on his life in New York

Time Travel by Jetlag

[February 25, 2012 at 04:30]

Do we read to escape from loneliness? To fill the void that people have left behind with words penned by a stranger, the feelings that we are unable to articulate, all transcribed beautifully on coarse brown paper. Or do we read to reveal that emptiness within - glaring at us like the gaps in between words and the empty pages that follow after the last sentence in a book.

「 Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness? 」– Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Humans are made to experience loneliness, whether or not we have friends or are in a healthy relationship with a partner. The capacity to feel lonely is not removed or superseded with companionship, but rather, I feel that it is minimized? You feel lonely when you don’t have anyone to miss, you feel lonely when you miss someone. And quite honestly, I am not sure which is harder to bear. Sometimes, even if in a happy relationship, one may sought to discover loneliness, in order to gain that convoluted assurance in that one’s entirety of being is not hinged upon the existence of someone else.

These are some things that keeps me awake as the night recedes into daybreak.

World

On the other side of the world,
you pass the moon to me, 
like a loving cup, 
or a quaich. 
I roll you the sun.

I go to bed,
as you're getting up
on the other side of the world.
You have scattered the stars
towards me here, like seeds

in the earth.
All through the night,
I have sent you
bunches, bouquets, of cloud
to the other side of the world;

so my love will be shade
where you are,
and yours,
as I turn in my sleep,
the bud of a star.

– Carol Ann Duffy

 

Town of Cats

While waiting for the last ferry to get to another island, I headed back towards the playground surrounded by pine trees (one of my favorite things besides sliced bread, and donuts and pancakes and ...) in Megijima. Blame my squirrel instincts for my penchant for pine cones.

As I was trying to kill time with a photo shoot of pine cones in ~*natural lighting*~, I spied a creature lurking in the distance from the corner of my eye. And I wasn't quite sure what to do when it started running towards me at a speed that compromises the island speed limit. It did not help that I was a surviving target/victim of copious sneak attacks by the friendly bookshop cat where I used to work. Since then, I have developed a slight fear towards skinny and agile cats.

I soon decided that it just wanted to be fed and is probably harmless. Unfortunately my lunch consisted of a can of royal milk tea so that was basically all I could offer. Strange enough, it attracted more and more cats as they came slinking out of the shade. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by cats waiting to be fed, as other festival goers looked on in curiosity. (Perhaps wondering the cats were part of the triennale – "これ私はフィード猫" artwork.) It was a strange experience as I have never once been surrounded by so many cats before and that almost got me into trouble.

I got so distracted by the cats – when I abruptly checked my watch, it told me that my ferry was about to leave the port. Panic-stricken, I left the cats and ran for all that was worth leaving them with what little I have and quite upset that I didn't bid a proper goodbye.

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 The look of abject disappointment

The look of abject disappointment

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I thought about how I could have been left on the island with the cats and Murakami's short story 'Town of Cats'. I couldn't help but associate his works with the Japanese islands that I have visited as they give off the same sense of mystic as portrayed in Murakami's works (most of it accounting to the fact that I was by my own). I have read and reread the 'Town of Cats' a couple of times, and I love how it hits a poignant note about truth, loss and life.  I hope you will enjoy it as much I did.

When a vacuum forms, something has to come along to fill it. That’s what everybody does. / Haruki Murakami