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In our blog, you’ll find information about metaphysics and spirituality from Lazaris and Jach, excerpts from Lazaris recordings and interviews, and travelogues from Jach’s adventures around the world.
Tokyo is huge and the architecture is fascinating. What seems obvious really became more obvious Sunday morning as we made our way to Ropongi and then to Ropongi Hills, a trendy area of the city not far from our hotel. Near the Grand Hyatt, we got our tickets and took the elevator up 52 floors to the City View — a round glass enclosed observation room with a small cafe, a museum, and incredible views — stunning views — of Tokyo. It was another crisp morning, about 60 degrees F, and the winds were gusting, but the sky was powerfully blue. The city sparkled. Towering buildings, patches of green parks, low warehouses and storage buildings down by the piers, and the deep blues of the seemingly endless bay. Captivating. We were there for more than an hour.
Then we explored the rest of that 52nd floor. There were scale models of the city that filled the side rooms. As many as 30 people at a time stood silently peering over the lucite walls marveling at the detail or identifying neighborhoods and buildings. On the walls, decade by decade descriptions of the development of the modern city of Tokyo. It was all in Japanese, but it was impressive even to my eye. The display in any language, was beautiful.
Finally we left the City View and explored Ropongi Hills. It was Sunday morning and already the foot traffic was building. Yes, a huge city with an increasingly huge population. We found a restaurant for an early lunch and then planned to head out to the Meiji Shrine.
Previously at the hotel when we inquired about the Imperial Palace, the attendant at the front desk took a post-it size paper and wrote the words “Imperial Palace” in Japanese characters. Often taxi drivers don’t know the English names of their shrines and tourist attractions. So rather than pointing to a location on a city map, we gave the driver the paper. Easy. Elegant.
We asked the waiter to write “Meiji Shrine.” Smiling broadly, he returned with a small paper and it said, “I would like to go to the Meiji Shrine,” in characters. We were off in the easy flow of traffic to some other part of the city and one of the most famous and most popular Shrines in Tokyo.
We stood several long minutes at the Gate, the 40 feet tall entrance to the grounds of the Shine. Amazing. Almost immediately we felt the reverence; others did too. As we made our way along the walkway, I listened to the “music.” The crunch of gravel underfoot as hundreds of people walked the pathways in silence that was accentuated as kids intentionally shuffled along. Shush, shush, shush. The call of the ravens in the trees that, at times, swooping low overhead. A soft whisper of a breeze playing in the trees. It all added to majesty of the place and to the honor of the procession of people making their way to the Shrine of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken.
The Emperor Meiji is credited with bringing Japan out of the feudal system and out of over 200 years of isolation. He is credited with introducing Western technology and culture to Japan. He lifted Japan into economic viability and vitality as he ended the Edo Era and as he opened Japan to a new world in which the old structures — structures that needed to be replaced — broke down making room for a new way of living and a new way of being. It felt appropriate to be walking the pathways to the Shrine.
The buildings weren’t that impressive, but the energy was. The several original buildings, some still being restored, were traditional Japanese, Shinto. Practical. Symbolic. Not intended to dazzle. This temple is where the souls of Meiji and his wife are enshrined. There’s a reverence and a reverie here that supersedes the physical design. There is a presence here that is available without being imposing.
Meiji and Shoken wrote “Wakas.” They are 31 syllable Japanese poems intended to offer subtle insight or guidance to living a better life. Meiji wrote over 100,000 of them; Shoken wrote 30,000. I purchased two. I reached into the box and dug around and picked one Waka for me and another for our Asia Excursion.
My Waka: “We shall fall behind our fellows in the world if, when we should advance, we make no move at all.” — Emperor Meiji
I smiled thinking about how God/Goddess/All That Is — God, Goddess — are continually growing, becoming more. Our souls and Higher Selves are continually growing and becoming more. If we aren’t, we are falling behind. I like the phrase, “when we should advance.”
The Waka for our journey: “As clear and refreshing as the rising sun — thus might it always be with the human heart.” — Emperor Meiji
Okay, so I am going to begin each morning of our journey through Asia, with my heart open to the refreshing clarity of a sunrise. Focus on the light of a new dawn, of a new day. Always.
It was a magical afternoon. From the Shrine we walked the grounds. The call of the ravens was loud and persistent. One raven swooped low and landed on a fence. We chatted for a bit and then he flew off. We walked on.
The public access to the Shrine closed at 4:00 and we along with hundreds of people began meandering our way toward the gate. Around 4:30 we move with the steady flow of people through the narrow exit. Ahead of us, a grand boulevard of shops: modern shops, old shops, simple shops, and high end shops. Ahead of us, thousands of people strolling along the sidewalks, sidewalks that are 10 to 12 feet wide and the people are moving like an undulating human river. Amazing. Intriguing. It was Sunday early evening and there were throngs of people walking this shopping highway. I got a photo.
We walked or flowed with the crowd for nearly a half hour. It was our “grounding time.” Hailing a taxi, we made our way back to the New Otani Hotel, Garden Tower. A fine day. A quiet night.
Arriving in Tokyo in the evening was a fortunate change in our plans imposed by the airline. I had made our reservations to leave SFO at 2:00 a.m. on November 2 and we were scheduled to arrive in Tokyo at 5:00 a.m. Wasn’t sure what we would do from 5:00 a.m. until we could check into our hotel, but I figured we could handle it. It was Cathay Pacific or JAL that changed the schedule and our departure was pushed forward 14 hours to 4:00 p.m. Arriving in the evening was great because we could be awake for only a few more hours and then sleep. Nice.
Immigration was so easy and baggage claim was fast. Through customs in a breeze, our driver was there with my name spelled correctly. We arrived at the New Otani Hotel and were in our room by 9:00 p.m. Peggy, Enrique’s mother, had flown in from Rome and had arrived mid-afternoon. The hotel restaurants close at 10:00. We rushed down to the restaurant for my last “western meal.” I had a juicy square hamburger with all the imaginable trimmings. $25.00. Ha! I know prices are high in huge cities. I knew prices were high in Tokyo and all of Japan. Still. It’s a bit of shock. $25.00 for a hamburger? $8.50 for a soft drink in a glass?
In Cuba I expected to find only the facades of old buildings and vintage cars. I did. In Tokyo I expected to find high prices. I did and I am continuing to find high prices.
However I didn’t expect to encounter people who are so courteous and so very kind. Gentle people who seem eager to help tourist such as us. Several times we stood looking both curiously and helplessly at our maps. Each time someone came up and quietly bowed and asked if we they could help. Some spoke English fluently with excellent pronunciation while others struggled to find the words and to pronounce them correctly. But each was patient and helpful.
I also didn’t expect to find such a clean city. No litter. None. Really. None. No graffiti (so far?) and the buildings seemed to sparkle in the sunshine. The white bricks were still white. Not darkened by auto exhaust and other air pollution. No paper in the gutters. No cigarette butts. Clean everywhere. We walked quite a bit in the Akasaka area: narrow old streets, tiny shops, many restaurants with secluded doorways, and not a speck of litter anywhere. I didn’t expect to see the streets and the buildings so clean. And then there’s the architecture . It’s wonderfully creative and inventive. Okay, I expected that.
I didn’t expect the tranquility that I felt. I mean, Tokyo is a huge city with all kinds of traffic and highways creating a crisscross maze of concrete. I expected the hectic frenzy of New York City or Bogota or even Cali, Colombia. But no. Loads of traffic but it was all moving in a quiet orderly fashion. Thousands of people, many with those white masks covering mouth and nose, but everyone walking casually and minding the walk-don’t walk signs. There was one intersection where each road was six lanes wide. The cross walks created an X in the intersection. All the lights turned red simultaneously. All traffic stopped. Silence. Suddenly streams of people from all four corners walked in all directions: straight ahead, left or right, or diagonally criss crossed through the middle of the intersection. A massive flow of humanity in confluence. It was orderly. No pushing, no shoving, no congestion, just easy flow. A dance. It was quite beautiful.
The people, the landscaping and architecture, and the tranquility . . . there is something delightful and mysterious about this city. We will be here for four days before taking the Bullet Train to Kyoto. I am eager to explore this city before going to that one. Our Asia Excursion is only 3 days old and already . . . yes, it’s going to be a magic journey.
Friday: Late morning with a walk across the street to find a breakfast place. Found a delightful restaurant called Starbucks. [s] Yeah, all the Japanese restaurant were closed until 11:00 a.m. when they opened for lunch. Starbucks for a coffee and a spinach quiche, then we walked for several hours finding a local lunch place. After lunch we went to the Imperial Palace. We anticipated a going on a tour of the palace. Not so. There are tours of the grounds but none that actually go into the palace. Disappointed we walked to the Ginza area and found the department store Food Court and were astounded. We bought fruit, cheese, crackers — dinner for Friday night.
Saturday: After a Japanese breakfast at the hotel, we went on a 4 hour tour of the city and ended up at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. It is a beautiful garden rich in greenery and powerful in tranquility. We walked for nearly an hour, and then we made our way back to the hotel. We had dinner reservations at Tajimaya Ginza. We had Sukiyaki . . . . incredible. The food, the service, the ambiance, the entire evening was memorable — an incredible moment that lasted nearly 3 hours linearly. Forever beyond the linear.
What does tomorrow hold?
What was that amazing smell? It was seductive for sure. I made my way through the Food Court at Mitsukoshi, the department store in the Ginza area of Tokyo. It was the bread department and the scent of warm fresh bread was almost overpowering. I had never smelled such sensational smells. Amazing. Sensuous scents. The experience on this Friday afternoon was definitely enhanced by the whole of the food court. It wasn’t like food courts in the US. No Burger King or pizza place or even a noodle shop. The foods were prepared as works of art. Usually I don’t take many photos and I seldom take photos of food. This was an exception.
Enrique and I had been planning our Asia Excursion for nearly a year. Initially it was my idea and I suggested that we invite Peggy, Enrique’s mother, to join us. Over the months, what began as a cruise of Malaysia that started and ended in Singapore and included Viet Nam and Thailand grew into visiting Bali again. Of course. We’ll stay at the Komaneka at Bisma again and we will have a day tour with our favorite Balinese guide from the last time. Of course. Oh, and yes, we need to spend some time in Hong Kong. It was late in the planning that we added Japan — Tokyo and Kyoto. We sneaked it in ahead of Hong Kong and our excursion began November 2 — a few days after the San Francisco Bay Area intensive.
The workshop ended Sunday, October 30. We stayed on at the Pullman Hotel because on November 1 Lazaris would be recording an online workshop to be released before year’s end. We finalized our packing that evening and we flew from SFO to Tokyo on Wednesday, November 2, at 4:00 p.m. and we arrived Thursday evening in Tokyo. It was an 11 hour flight with a 16 hour time change, and it was also an elegant way to begin our six week excursion.
From time to time I will be posting messages here. Today it’s food. The horizons will expand but I just couldn’t help it. I had to send off these photos.
From a Series of Sketches of Life in Columbia
He stood at the threshold in supplication. He moved continuously, stepping back a few steps quickly and then slowly forward a step or two. I thought of a well-trained dog that stands at thresholds wondering if it's safe to enter or waiting for permission to come in. He tilted his head this way and that as if asking. For what? His folded hands were also in motion clasped together as if in prayer and then pressed to his chest, his heart, as if to say, "thank you."
I didn't want to watch but I couldn't not. We were at Sebastiana, a simple cafe on the edge of a very busy and very noisy roundabout. Traffic moved with a frenzy around the hub. Homeless men, women, children, crippled and deformed men, moved slowly or not at all around the hub.
We were waiting for our "executive lunch." It's common at such small cafes to offer one option for lunch: fresh juice, daily homemade soup, a tiny salad (mostly shredded lettuce and too much shredded onion with a smattering of diced tomato ( most Colombians don't understand the concept of salads), and a main course of meat, vegetables, and rice, yacca, potato, or a combination of each. Such lunches are different each day and they cost about $4.00 (USD). I like executive lunches and I like Sebastiana. It has a writer's motif with quotations from notable Colombian writers and poets printed on the walls. It's also a fun place for people watching.
He stood there at the threshold knowing he was not allowed, he was not welcome to come in. The soles of his worn out flip-flops were so flat as if to be almost invisible. His too big pants, cinched with a rope, were grimy and torn, and they hung low. The cuffs all but gone. His ragged tee was torn and stiff with grease and dirt. He danced his slow dance of supplication. Waiting. For what?
Ten, fifteen minutes passed. He prayed. He gave thanks. He waited, stepping back coming close, stepping back again. Finally, the waitress dressed in a white uniform of synthetic pants and jacket blouse came from behind the counter with a white plastic bag draped over two outstretched fingers. It swayed back and forth as she walked slowly toward him. His tail wagged had he been a dog. Tentatively, he reached out but did not step or grab. With a tenderness that brings tears to my eyes even now, he took the offering and bowed. He breathed a sigh. Relief.
He turned and walked away. His daily task was done, or had his work just begun? I watched him weave his way through the fast cars and slow people. I wondered: Is he going to find a quiet place to eat? Is he saving his meager treasure for later in the day when the cool breezes of the afternoon come? Will he share his bounty with another, a friend, family? I watched as he disappeared into the crowd knowing I would never know.
Poverty is ugly. It's painful. But here in Colombia, it's visible. No one tries to hide it as too often we do in the States. Many ignore poverty, but no one seems to deny it, and it is not hidden. Further, it is not rounded up and contained in "those sections" of the city. Poverty and its tragedies are more intense in some areas, dangerous areas where it's not safe to go after dark, but poverty invades every area of this metropolis of over three million people.
But it's visible. That feels important to me. I thought of Katrina back in 2005. It exposed the depth of poverty that had been hidden in New Orleans. Evacuation had been ordered but there were so many, painfully so many, who could not afford to evacuate. Their poverty was paralyzing, and it had been hidden. Exposed then, but what happened to it since?
Poverty does not get forgotten here, and ironically that inspires hope in me. If we don't see our shame, how can we end it? If I don't own that I allow it, how can I allow changing it?
So I watched him waiting. For what? Food. Yes. But I think he was also waiting to be seen. I think he was waiting to be heard as he spoke only with his body and his hands.
I hope I saw him as I watched him walk away. I hope I heard him as he disappeared. I probably won't see him again, but I know I will never forget him. The look on his face, the dog-like movements of his body, the pleading prayfulness and gratitude are burned in my memory and in my heart forever. Later that day, I worked a bit of magic for him. I imagined putting something more in that plastic bag. I also worked magic around the poverty that is too much a part of this country and too much a part of the world.
Our executive lunches arrived. It was simple, and it was delicious. "Que rico!" We ate. We continued our day.
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