Daniel in Japaniel

The World’s Smallest Buddha

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Today I saw the world’s largest Buddha and then the world’s smallest Buddha. Whereas the former would seem muyo impressivo, actually the knowledge of the thousands of iron working slaves it took to make it takes from whatever sublime majesty it first strikes you with. However, the latter Buddha was simple enough. You take your shoes off at the base of these wooden steps. Friends from the program answered “what’s up there?” with “the world’s smallest Buddha.” Julian and I laughed, assuming sarcasm. Sure enough, upon the raised tatami mat, past the meditation bowl, between the standard incense holders, sat the tiny man in full lotus. There is a catch, however. Some people say they can’t see him.

The places we visited were Nara (about an hour out by train to see big Buddha, and, actually, the world’s largest wooden structure) and another temple 20 minutes down the line, Horyuji.

Nara has about a few hundred tame polka-dotted deer harassing the local tourist population, as they diligently search your body for food, smelling your hands. It was prime baby picture taking I am happy to say. Actually, you should take a break from reading this and check out the updated pictures.

Here is some incentive:

Sorry Mom.

The rest of the day was spent walking into every souvenir shop available. The thing here are cell phone key chains. I didn’t really understand them before, seeing them draped once and awhile on American phones, but after seeing everything from Pokemon, Mayonaise Mascots, the assorted cartoon noise, Horses, various bells, bobble headed baseball players, to even a golden Buddha holding Hello Kitty (four dollars) I started to weigh my food stipend against decking my backpack in the jingling cuteness. Reluctantly though I’ve been fine enough with BunBun-san (Mr. BuzzBuzz). He’s the Japanese equivalent of Baxter, the library cat. He comes in many different outfits. Mine, however, is probably the best.

There is story too, if you can believe it. I was picking up some Murakami books at Kyoto Tower’s bookstore, checking out, all that stuff, when the cashier who’d been helping me out put a open blue box in front of me. Now I am familiar with BunBun-san. One of my KEIO students this summer had a similar one. I also know that you only get these if you buy a book that’s on his list, which I wasn’t. So, she was sticking her neck out for me so I could get my first key chain (of this trip). I made a spectacle of it. Harassed her for stealing, etc. After getting three other employees to tell me that it was okay, I pointed at the BunBun-san I wanted. They all shook their heads, explaining that it’s random which one I get. I laughed, held my eyes with them and released my BunBun-san from his baby blue plastic womb. Sure enough, it was 1950s BunBun-san, all set for a day at the beach in his one piece striped one piece, and, more importantly, the one I called out.

Preternatural senses aside, he hangs out with my camera, since I am cellphone-less here.

One last thing. Bath houses.

Now bathrooms here, in a similar way home, are always an adventure. You’re not sure what you’re getting into. While in America, however, this uncertainty is based on the bath’s level of hygienic facilities, Japanese bathrooms are a plunge into the mysterious immaculate technological world. They are truly a microcosm of Japanese culture. You have the traditional aspects set aside hyper-techno-saavy culture. Standing back seeing the options of a straight up squat toilet versus the various -lets (Warmlets, Washlets) bidet fashioned sit downs with infrared sensors programmed to search for your poo-shute, completely changes your concept of what is possible in this life. Meanwhile, environmental consciousness remains as there are hardly ever paper dispensers. It is either hot air (rarely) or nothing (common). Similarly, some toilets run their tank water through a sink that runs after flushing. All I can say though is after receiving a warm shot of plum flavored water up my bum, I only wish Isaac Asimov were still alive to advise me on the ethics of Robo-rape. I mean, it was consensual, I was asking for it when I pushed the button. But these days when I pass that library bathroom goosebumps raise, and my eyelid’s own bidet leaks a little.

*Anyone who reads this, prepare yourself. I am incommunicado starting wednesday until sunday this week (hits me a day earlier than you people). I will be living in the mountains at Hokoji. Living is so ritualistic that monday we have a 3 hour lesson on how to eat rice gruel properly. Send your e-mails now, or… you know a postcard.*


Written by Daniel

September 14, 2008 at 11:35 am

Posted in temples

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