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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Shinjuku Gyoen Park and a Japanese Poem


Chatting under a tree in Shinjuku Gyoen Park.(At right) Chatting under a tree in Shinjuku Gyoen Park. (Click pix to enlarge.)

Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen Park has to be one of the world's most beautiful. This huge tract of land in the middle of Tokyo's most hustling bustling districts is in every way the denial of its environs. Although, when you're in there, the city outside seems less something that you've escaped from, and more like something that the magic of the park atmosphere has transformed into a pleasant backdrop. The hot hum of traffic - still very audible from inside the park - becomes a swooshing akin to wind through branches, or the sound of water falling. The sharp points and edges of the architectured skyline - still visible through and above the trees - are softened, framed and beautified by the foliage of the park, much like ruins are. Escape from the city seems complete, in spite of it actually being still hot upon your heels.

Autumn leaves in Shinjuku Gyoen.I strolled through it this fine autumn afternoon, along with the scores of tweedy old men with big black cameras on stilts, bag-holding pump-heeled old ladies making interminable oohs and ahhs, couples arm in arm, families with dawdling toddlers. The sky was purest blue, and the last embers of autumn were still smouldering on trees and in reflections. I was reminded of an autumn poem by the (rather obscure) nineteenth century writer Arashi Hideo, originally of Sado Island. Roughly translated it goes:

Pond in Shinjuku Gyoen Park.

Cast off your careful
Of the propitious
Points in the here and there

Grove in Shinjuku Gyoen Park.

And cast yourself with
Lips undrawn and teeth at home
Into the facts of things:
The autumn clouds of gnats
The airy littering of leaves
The unforeseeable seconds hence,
The pond light's winking random

Roses in Shinjuku Gyoen Park.

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