Osaka 2  KL 05This picture was taken at the loveliest spot I’ve seen in  Japan – it may be the loveliest spot I’ve ever seen – the plum garden right next to Osaka castle. Rows upon rows of  small plum trees, gnarled branches carefully pruned. When we happened upon it, at first I thought the trees were deep in winter sleep. Coming closer, I could see the buds and a few flowers here and there. It was like magic! Coming back the next day there was more color visible already. It was like walking in a van Gogh.

I think the garden moved me so because it is as if something dead is coming alive again.  Also, the garden layout is self-conscious, not done for effect: see how this resembles the mountainside,  see how closely this resembles the see. It is just a summation of tree after tree after tree after tree. We were there at just the right moment,  too – just when the promise of spring was given. Of course it will be totally lovely when all the trees are in flower, but I think the promise more exiting than the real thing.

Anyways, I may go back today for a third time – it is the wonder of the world.

Public space in Japan (at least – in Osaka) is totally different from South Africa and from the Netherlands. For starters, there is a lot of it. Streets are very safe to walk and the transition from private space (house and yard) and public space very fluid. Like the traditional house where every screen can be opened for acces or closed for privacy. The city has many many layers, a thing that I find confusing for I never know what floor I am on. Highways go over covered walkways that go over rivers that go over parking garages that go over subway stations. Maybe there is no such thing as a uniform ‘ground floor’ in a city that’s built in a hilly area. I miss the ‘ground floor feeling’ and feel disoriented without it. Disoriented not as to the horizontal but as to the vertical.

We make our way through the city – especially when guided by our friends Harumi and  Yoshi – taking trains and throughfares and covered walkways and underpasses and shortcuts through shops – if it rains I’m sure they can  find a way to get to their destination and never get wet. Made me think  of Asimov’s Holes of Steel,  the covered-up cities he describes so well in his  novels. Japanese people might feel right at home there. The food in Osaka is much much better than in  Asimov’s cities though – he feeds the earths population from yeasty cultures, the Japanese do much better things with rice, noodles, vegetables, fish and meat.

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