I understand, now, I think, sitting on this commuter train from Ise to Nagoya, after the (sacred) white and (clean) black stones of Ise Jungu, and the fastidiousness of cleansing before entering a shrine, and before every meal, why the Japanese wear such dark black suits. It is because black is clean, and clean is reassuring and good for business, and respectful.
The journey from Ise to Nagoya on the local train passed swiftly, and I then caught the Shinkansen again, this time to the vast megalopolis that is Tokyo.
From Tokyo main station, two subway trains to my hotel, at Iidabashi, to drop off my bags, then four to Kawasakidaishi. Standing waiting for the third of these, I took a look at Facebook – 4G on the subway is perfect here in Tokyo – and learned that Trump will be President. It should’ve been Bernie Sanders. Asian markets are crashing. After Brexit it seems like the world is tanking. It will be France next and the EU will collapse. The Paris agreement will be dumped and we’ll hit 2’C or worse by 2030 and the flooding will start taking out the major coastal cities: London will go under, I shouldn’t wonder. It’s all so sad. So much hatred, ignorance, fear, and gullibility. It seems, at moments, like this, that all we can do is do our best to save ourselves and our loved ones now: that the chance to save the world is lost. But I guess we shouldn’t lose hope. He’s only got four years, and a system with checks and balances that will hopefully hamper the worst of his whims. I think it was Churchill who said you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing – once they’ve exhausted all the other possibilities.
So on my last day of holiday before conference, I went to pay my respects to a very special little shrine in the south of the vast city, at Kawasaki.
Kanayama Shrine, in the precincts of the Wakamiya-Hachimangu Shrine, was all I could have hoped for. It brought a great smile to my face and feeling of deep contentment to have made it here. (Readers of my blog will know of my interest in these ancient forms of worship.)
All I can find on the web about this place is “Legend has it that when Shinto goddess Izanami no Mikoto gave birth to a fire god, she suffered great injuries on the lower half of her body. It’s said that Kanayamahiko-no-Kami and Kanayamahime-no-Kami, two gods enshrined at the Kanayama Shrine, healed Izanami’s injuries.
According to some sources, Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime were both originally gods of mining and blacksmiths. But because of this myth involving Izanami, those seeking help with venereal diseases, fertility, safe childbirth, and matrimonial happiness began to pray to the two gods as well”.
It is quite reminiscent of the stories around Shiva, both ascetic and erotic, both healing and virile. A very special place where I could put into practice all I had learnt at Ise Jingu. Well worth the visit.
Then three trains for Shinjuku, via Shinagawa, to go to work for a couple of hours, helping recruit international students for Salford, and finally back – via only one further train, to Iidabashi, and my hotel, for dinner and sleep before the conference in the morning!
On the final leg, the jetlag has me more like a zombie than a tourist, dizzy when I stop and try to buy train tickets from the machines. One thing that must be said about Tokyo – indeed about my whole experience of trains in Japan – is that the bewildering number of train companies, different lines, and different ticket offices, has me almost completely baffled. When you can’t buy a ticket at one office for a different train is actually clearer than when you buy a ticket for a specified destination from one machine that then doesn’t work at the gate, and you have to get a refund and buy a ticket from a different machine, that actually costs more, but at least works. Capitalism in action, I suppose, though if they worked together better and you could buy a pass that would get you from place to place it would all be so much easier. But no, to get from one place to another you need often two or more different companies, and therefore two or more different tickets, from two or more different ticket offices/ticket machines. It’s quite mad!