One year ago Japan experienced a horrendous earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale. Beyond the immediate structural damage from the quake and the reduction of tourist travel to Japan, parts of the country were devastated by a massive tsunami. In addition to the heart-wrenching videos of the massive waves destroying towns, the tsunami took out cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, thus setting in motion three nuclear reactor meltdowns that forced the continued evacuation of a 12-mile area around the plant. Today Japan remembers the earthquake, the tsunami, and the 19,000 people who lost their lives.
At the same time, Japan is encouraging people to come back to visit. Most of the country is more or less back to normal. I visited Japan recently and found it to have the same quaint charm for which it is known, and vibrant in both its old traditions and new modernity.
Today I’ll highlight the tradition. As I toured the temples and the old gardens I was struck by the contrasts. While there were many young women wearing very short skirts and stockings, there were also quite a few women of the same age wearing traditional kimonos. Near the Kiyomizudera Temple in old Kyoto I encountered the following couple.
At first I thought they were simply actors dressed up to encourage tourists at the temple. Then I realized that there were many dressed traditionally who were tourists themselves.
That’s not to say that there weren’t people in traditional garb placed conveniently for tourist photos. After all, Japan wants travel dollars (and rubles, rupees and renminbis), and geishas are one of the things that tourists come to see. So wandering the narrow lane of Chawan-saka we encountered these two geishas.
And in homage to our hosts, a fellow traveler shows her appreciation.
There is much more to Japan of course and I’ll explore more aspects of my visit in future posts. So while Japan continues its recovery from the earthquake and tsunami of a year ago I bid you a temporary Sayonara.