Saturday, November 4, 2017

Finding Inspiration

Everybody has something for which they hold the opinion that, "If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all."  For example, the summer I moved to Korea for the first time, my parents took my younger siblings and I on a road trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Now, if family road trips are challenging as kids, trust me when I say that they are even more difficult when you're adults, because everyone has an opinion and they all feel entitled to them.  My opinion was that I wanted to visit the art museum in Minneapolis.  My mom, on the other hand, had the aforementioned belief that as she'd already been to a few galleries in her day (mostly on my account) and thus, was good.

I bring this up in my Matsuyama interlude because I went to - you guessed it - more temples in Matsuyama (and - guess what?!? - there will be one more in Hiroshima.  Don't shoot me).  I had a really good reason for visiting so many temples and shrines.  Of course there was the pilgrimage and the fact that spiritual seeking is one of my things, but there was a little more to it than that this time.

I was hunting dragons.
I've mentioned my painting course in passing a couple of times, and I'm planning to eventually write about my body of work for the semester, but this is not (really) that post.  This is relevant because the subject of my second work is a kawaii pink dragon.  He has been a pain in the ass because I can't seem to get the back legs right, and to be honest, I'm not entirely happy with the front legs, but it's not exactly like I can call up my neighborhood dragon, and be like, "Yo D, my homes - come over and help me re-enact that scene from Titanic!"  So I've trawled the internet, the National Museum, and more than a few temples looking for source material.

Now, if I wasn't dragon hunting, temple hopping might get a little boring.  If, you know, I wasn't me and digging the atmosphere and taking shit tons of photos.  But because I had something to find, it made me take a closer look, really noticing what was in each shrine and temple.  So the moral of the story is that if someone you love is annoying the everloving crap out of you by dragging you to five bazillion things that - as far as you're concerned - are completely and totally indistinguishable, try and find something to look for.  Make a game out of it.

Or else you could ditch them.  I mean, either short-term or long-term - up to you.  One of my favorite things about being single is not having to pretend to be interested in other people's stuff, and this includes traveling, although I guess the argument could be made that you miss out on opportunities.  Really, the ideal travel buddies the ones that you can confidently leave to do their own thing at times - I pretty much refuse to go anywhere with someone who doesn't meet this qualification.
I was also trying to find ema - the wooden plaques you write your wishes on at temples and shrines.  In the last post I talked about the paintings I saw on some, and I've been toying with using them for my final painting project to create an installation of self-portraits about wishes.  The dragon at the front on the left was a particularly good score, since it references my current work. 
I can squeak one more dragon reference into this post, and bring up Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli's masterpiece about a girl who falls in love with a dragon in a bathhouse.  (Yes, that makes it sound sketchy...I prolly did that intentionally).  I've read in more than one place that Dogo Onsen was Miyazaki's inspiration for the bathhouse in Spirited Away, and after checking it out, I can believe it.  Dogo Onsen is one of the oldest in Japan (a country that loves their public baths), and their spring is known as kami-no-yu - the water of the gods.  Its facilities aren't as extensive as some I've been to, but you can feel the history etched into the walls as you soak away your train-induced weariness.  Considering its long, glorious history - everyone from empresses to Japanese literature's greatest writer have visited - the 410 admission seems pretty reasonable.

Speaking of Japan's greatest writer (according to some...) I coincidentally started my first Natsume Soseki book in Matsuyama - I Am a Cat, although I realize (now) it should have been Botchan if we work on the same principle that led me to re-read Kafka on the Shore this trip.  It's interesting, but so far my vote is still for Haruki Murakami.  I'm sure that will come as a surprise to nobody who both a.) has read any of his books, and b.) knows me.

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