Wednesday, July 21, 2010

turn around...

I don’t know when I first started looking the other way in the presence of places being photographed by everyone else. It has become the norm. Not consciously, not out of habit as such, it just happens. Contrarywise…

I’d taken a trip second trip to Nara while on business in Japan in 2007 – my first had been inundated, and while this had its own watery appeal, I wanted to revisit Tōdai-ji for the light I’d seen years earlier.

The Tōdai-ji site is famed for the Daibutsu-den Hall – the largest wooden building in the world, containing the largest bronze statue of the Vairocana Buddha. A magnet for cameras, even though here size matters, and it actively prejudices meaningful images of size itself – both Buddha and Hall are too up there to make any photographic sense - everything gets sqaushed.

Anyway, I’d arrived at the top of the steps to the Great Hall, surrounded by a throng of cameras, when I turned around and saw this space, inhabited by an acolyte and her shadow… And I'm not a people photographer. OK, it's voyeuristic, but I think you can see where I was heading.

But I had first visited Nara with a close friend back in 2003. Then we took pathways that first lead away from the Great Hall, haunted by eerily whistling deer, then slowly meandered back to meet the crowds, passing more humble shrines, some, seemingly so ancient, they were now just scrapes in the ground. We came across a shrine decked with votive papers - a man and two young boys approached, he bowed, then clapped his hands to wake whatever deity resided there. He bowed again, as did the boys, his lips moved silently, he bowed again as we had discovered an impeccable shrine on the other side of the path.

So I suppose the moral of the story is firstly, look the other way; and secondly, take the other path. This seems appropriately Buddhist...

A magical opportunity awaits you as you leave the Great Hall - you can sponsor a roof tile (constantly needed for renovation) with a personal message. Which I did...

Nara is easily accessible by train from Ōsaka and Kyōto. It is well signposted in English...

2 comments:

Teep said...

Sad to see when you travel that so many people are happy with just the popular spots. Okay they became popular because they are generally worthwhile, but they are not the only points of interest.

Your title "turn around" reminds me of my fascination in a theatre (or recently at a cabaret) where I just love to watch the audience watching the show - see how they are reacting, concentrating, be affected.

Adrian Bregazzi said...

the title came from a song (Enigma) as much as from what I actually do - "Turn around and smell what you don't see, close your eyes... it's so clear" - not from 'Turn Around', but from 'The Gravity of Love'