Friday, June 27, 2003



This latest from one of the dinosaurs running the Japanese government:

"Gang rape shows the people who do it are still virile, and that is OK. I think that might make them close to normal," Seiichi Ota, a 57-year-old House of Representatives member, actually said these words during a debate with fellow parliamentarians. Ota was elected to office and no doubt considers himself representative of his constituency. He's as close to normal as any gang rapist.



Well, with Keech back from college in the States and Kasumi and Kaya now living just across the Lake, visiting every day and often staying over, it's getting to be just like old times around here with several dozen things going on at any given time, small hard toys underfoot, kids' voices all over the air talking about all the new news, totally new music never before heard by me on the box, new hairdos and haircuts and colors and clothes and fashions and styles and have-you-heards, somebody always on or answering the phone or at the computer, shower always busy, refrigerator overflowing with unusual foods, table overflowing too, for multiple and diverse appetites (Kaya eats the most, of just about anything), exponential laundry, and then at night and in the morning extra beds filled with extra sleepy heads... I'm not complaining, mind you. Once you gain the promontory of grandparenthood, these things last for only short whiles, not for 20 straight years like they used to.

Thursday, June 26, 2003



Those who understand place-- those as open to the spirit of place as if they were on a vision quest-- know a that place is very like a living being, has its own personality, its own habits that change like water flowing, that flow through time at the speed of growth, as we ourselves do. They know that place is a crystal of spirit that reflects back to us the things we carry in ourselves, putting them in light of day or night that is new to us, but old to eternity. There is a reason we are always new and moving either through space or time, always moving, changing place in time and space. This relation with places and things, this mothering and nourishing of us by place is one of the great realizations to which we must not fall blind (so many modern world constraints seek to blinker us in that regard); thus the worthiness of the place-blogging effort, far more important, to my mind, than the chronically blinkered warblogs that get all the press as they whiz into obsolescence. Place endures, and the task as I see it is to share that endurance, pass on that infinity to the many who are stuck in the moments they've been given by tv or whatever other time thief they've entered into dark bargains with... the world is the biggest place we've set foot on thus far, but there's more to place than space to occupy--how much of place is the spirit of all that has gone before, that each of us carries within, that each of us must find.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003



A dose of antibiotics (duramycin, neomycin, it's a long list) is just ONE of the many hidden surprises meateaters have been getting in their favorite food for the past 40 years. This particular inclusion explains a lot about the sudden emergence of strange new diseases, and increased germ resistance to the old antibiotics. McDonalds touts this publicity-forced change as a tremendous gift to the consumer. So the past 30 years of double-antibioburger consumption has been what, a minor oversight? Double bovine-growth-hormone burger with cheese, anyone?


Still here after a night of rain that, were it not for the vast green sponge of the forest, would no doubt have made a reasonable replica of the Mississippi. Sounded like most of the sky Mississippi fell on our roof. Great fun, surrounded by a whole sky of thunder and lightning stretched around right in front. In the cool, cool morning a slab of mist is sliding over the mountain, nightingale calling, frogs singing in their brand-new theater, hawk slipping suddenly out into the air abyss between the house front and the rest of the world, wings outstretched, only an arm's length away... we too, what could we not do, stretched thus in certainty in our lives, at each abyss between us and the world...

Tuesday, June 24, 2003



My favorite Japanese baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka, for whom I have rooted in vain lo, these many years, and who always lost handily whenever I went to one of their games (but who were always great to watch), pretty much had a lock on the lease to the league basement until this year, when all at once they have become the supermen I always suspected was hidden somewhere inside those striped uniforms. Last year they started out really well and then in keeping with tradition dropped like the stone of yore, so I expected much the same this year, but they never turned back; they're taking three games at a time from the fearsome Tokyo Giants, their old rivals. As of now they are 11 games in first place, and look set to win the pennant [current standings]. They look so good, in fact, that the Governor of Osaka is already toying with the radical idea of cleaning the Dotombori River. Whatever it takes.

Monday, June 23, 2003


Darkness, as one might expect, is a lot darker out in the country; it's pretty much actual darkness out here where we are, except for a small light out on the island and a few sprinkled far across the Lake that go out one by one as night deepens. Until a hundred years ago, city and country everywhere were pretty much the same at night; now the city has a 24-hour day. But though we all know this, even out in the country what has been lost to us with the loss of the dark tends to slip the mind when one has recourse to bright light at a switchflip. Easy light has made us lazier than we know, has let us drift from attentions we were born to give the darkling edges of our lives, taken us farther from the forebears in our eyes and from 99.9% of our evolutionary history. Living in familiarity with darkness is in fact fully natural to us. So it was like seeing an old friend last night when we came home to a dark house, went inside in the dark, lit some candles, a small kerosene lamp, and proceeded to prepare and eat dinner. Kaya was quiet, more thoughtful and studious of distances than her usual brightlight boistery night self. She was intrigued, instinctively contented with this new face of things, the space closing around her like a soft blanket. The food was different, the faces were different, the rooms and the house were different. We talked about darkness and history; we talked about how you don't have to be afraid in the dark, because in fact you can see in the dark: see? We talked about how humanity had until just a few decades ago always been familiar with the dark and lived in close adherence to the cycle of dark and day, and how loss of the night may have deeply affected us humans, who have evolved through eons in bond with the natural cycle of dark and day; how light has changed us, how dark has changed us, and how the loss of one-half of that equation must have unbalanced us in ways we do not know. We noted how things had a new beauty when shaded by the night, acquiring depths that light cannot impart, and how without electricity conversation gained importance and intimacy. For her part, Kaya watched the candleflames flicker and laughed in ancient familiar delight. Darkness was good.

Sunday, June 22, 2003


to own
a chestnut tree

Saturday, June 21, 2003


Tomorrow night is No Electric Light Night for those of us in on it in these parts, when we will use only candles and lanterns and show ourselves and the kids what darkness is and means, and how much a part of life it is and true, and how familiar it can be and not to fear, so much has been forgotten of where we were and whence we came and how-- Already it recalls to me one moonless night while we were living on an island off the coast of Spain, out on a point with the ocean at our front, with no electricity, not long after we'd moved there with as it turned out only one candle to cook and eat by there was a knock from the dark at the dark door, it was an old man without light who had come round the point from the sea and had walked the long dark road to our candle to ask the way to the village over the mountain, and would go into the night and over the mountain without light and how would he see, I city-wondered. Before long we too were walking over the mountain along stony paths even on moonless nights, seeing fine by the light of the stars and the ancient light-finding strength that had been in our eyes all along unasked for, and so never received until now. More than ever, we need to learn what darkness has to teach us that we do not know we already know, from long before our own lives. We should share this knowledge with our children, that the world may be the simpler place it is, both day and night--


Right out in front of the deck we have a big rich patch of Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), for some reason the only patch around here. That's also close to where I do all my wood chopping, and despite the ground being trampled in the late summer and fall, the Red Clover comes up bright green and purple each spring and grows apace, competing with yomogi for the empty space, but here I must admit I side with the clover and mow down the yomogi. There's a sweep of White Clover next to the red, and White Clover can be seen all over the open spaces on the mountain around here. But this is the only Red Clover, and the bees and butterflies love it, so come from all around on droves of buzzing and wafting wings to party in the roly-poly-blossomed Red Clover patch. Being of the Bs myself, I love Red Clover too. This morning when I looked there was a crowd of butterflies of all descriptions there, nectaring their fill, with a couple of bumblebees trying to elbow in. As I watched I imagined the taste of clover honey, so I know what I good time they were all having. In herbal medicine, Red Clover blossoms are reputedly good for everything from coughs to cancer. But when the Red Clover gets too overgrown, I harvest a lot of the purple pom-poms just to use as-is (or dry) for tea. A few Red Clover blossoms in a pot of any tea impart a nice honey flavor. Can't buy that at the grocery store.

Friday, June 20, 2003



Get the hair-raising story of how the leader of the world's most powerful nation decisively proved that the Segway is not idiot-proof after all.

[With thanks to Ken for directing me to this little-known insight into the likely future of world history.]

Thursday, June 19, 2003



I don't know why and can't see how, but in resurrecting PLM from its dismal week in their arrant cybershredder, the tech wizards at Blogger transformed all this month's earlier posts into italic, which makes it all look a lot frillier and pinky-in-the-airier than I had ever intended, I assure you. But no way am I going to re-do all that in proper forthright fontly form. Last time there was a revolution at blogger they put me all in bold, so I suppose a little lace is better than a little cast iron.


It's been raining every day of course, this being the rainy season, so every once in a while I go outdoors to enjoy some soothing rainshine, see how the lettuce is doing, what the tabascos think, how the greenbeans feel, tuck in the firewood, pull up some weeds, let the splendid thistles be, recall that splendid thistle poem by Ted Hughes, go around back and find some strange new and very interesting mushrooms growing on one of the shiitake logs in the mist, a new mystery for my day; see if the nascent ginger has anything green to say yet, nope, still too early; want some sunshine, the ginger roots indicate with a blank soil look. Then to the deck to check the plants in flats, the St. John's Wort Elixir doesn't seem too excited, but then that's a hybrid for you.

Out under the low gray-silk sky where it slides over the mountains there's only a sprinkling of light spray now, Lake barely visible, great gouts of mist rising from the many vales where the streams run down the mountain, the vapor taking advantage of this lull in the water's relentless fall to get some water back up there again; from out of the gaps in the bright green the fresh clean swathes of vapor rise pure and playful, like children running to their parent, the whole clan moving slowly and ponderously over, on its way to the Pacific.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003



If your house is mortgaged, here's some wise advice from financial advisor Rodney Cook of Obscene Prophets: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Sovereignty:
"Unwind your structured finance position. Buy nothing on margin or with debt. Pay off your mortgage, lest you find yourself upside down as this debt may survive foreclosure. If, like nearly all of us, you prefer not to rent and can't pay off the mortgage then you should off-set this debt with a small amount of gold bullion. Effectively, a position in condensed real estate. Dirt. Should deflation hammer the price of your home, the coincident currency crises should buoy gold sufficiently to pay off the debt. In a localized hyper inflationary environment gold would serve the same purpose: We've all heard the story of the dirt poor German bus boy who bought his employer's hotel with a single Double-Eagle received just months previous. Gold bullion can serve well as mortgage insurance for us debt slaves. Maybe even offer financial freedom."

Excerpted from Cook's excellent financial article Dirt Poor. Entire article and others here.

[Check out the Health Headlines in the sidebar, too.]

Tuesday, June 17, 2003



I was a traveler for many years, started young (perhaps there's a traveler's gene that somehow got very turned on in me), have lived and worked in many places, and would no doubt be traveling still if time's road had not in the nature of things turned me toward having a family, which is travel on another scale altogether. Starting early in my travel time, though, I began to keep a journal (I think travelers come to need their own company perhaps more than stayers ever do), and one of the recurring questions that arose was: what is different, really different, about this place I am now, as compared to my home town, or to where just I came from? Why did I want to leave there and come here? With the variety travel exposes one to, one sees rather quickly that the external things, the cultural, the human adjustments, only comprise a small part of the big nature of a place. The real power of a place is time, and what it has done with the geography, the history, the culture of a place; its traces can be felt everywhere. I could see that dwellers in certain places were in love with places I did not find very appealing, whereas others disdained places I took to be paradise. I learned that much of our place relations are illusions that we bring to bear from whatever source we've gotten them. And when at last I learned to seek right away for the roots of a place, its deepest, truest roots, I found that each place required a change in me, a devotion in a way, an erasure of preconceptions, to be able to see the place as it truly was. That has become for me the value of places: we may change them, but they change us more. And to remain subject to change, and thus the possibility of growth, throughout life-- who could ask for more? Especially a traveler. So it was really quite organic for me to write about place, in this case Pure Land Mountain where I live, beside Lake Biwa in Japan, and to bring to that endeavor what I had learned. I hope it is of some use to others.

Posted on the collective Ecotone blog, where Place Bloggers gather to offer and share their thoughts on the spirit and mystery of place.


So many things to post, but all pre-empted by this astonishing ad in the Japan Times on Monday June 16, from Japan's "Institute of Cetacean Research," in which ad 5 individuals (a mayor, a "commentator journalist," an actor (trustee of the "Panda Protection Institute of Japan"), a comic artist and the "Director General" of said "Institute," seriously make these amazing statements:
The Mayor: "...By protecting only whales that are at the top of the marine ecosystem, humans are destroying the ecosystem. Who on earth is going to take responsibility for this?"
The Commentator Journalist:" Left as it is, the ban on whaling--an overprotective measure--will allow whales to consume all the fish..."
The Actor-Panda Protector: "Considering the future of mankind, I believe it is our responsibility not only to utilize whales as a food source but also to resume sustainable whaling in order to regain the balance of the ocean."
The Comic Artist: "This is what the whales in the waters surrounding the Japanese archipelago would say: 'Our numbers have increased a bit too much, we have to scramble for fish, as things stand now we're worried if we, whale species, will be preserved for the future, it may seem a radical measure but we were wondering if someone would balance up the situation by whaling.'"
The Director General: "The world is beginning to understand that overprotection of whales is an inappropriate management strategy that has a negative effect on fisheries industries and may lead to a destruction of the ecosystem."

This is the biggest mental black hole I've seen on one page of newsprint since Dubya's last unscripted press conference! What a team! The W-Men!! All that vapor and not a word even hinting at the fact that it's human predation that has brought the whales and the fishes and the ocean and the earth and ourselves to these very ruinous straits, and these dits (no 'pun' intended) think the solution resides in doing more of the same!! Sounds like blinkered big business to me. I have never knowingly used whale products, but I for one am henceforth carefully boycotting all whale and fish products.

My apologies for the past few days of no text on PLM, it's BLOGGER'S fault, and not a word from them in five days so far (I don't know how many more there will be, I'm posting this into a whiteout...) but I'm going to start posting anyway...

Saturday, June 14, 2003


rain and leaves
taking turns
becoming each other

It remains a constant source of amazement to me that so many people believe that illness throughout life is inevitable; and even more amazingly, that drugs and surgery are the prerequisite approach to these varied illnesses, tacitly accepting also that illness is best treated by doctors with perhaps decades of experience, and not by the body itself, with a lot more than several million years of experience. Also tacitly agreeing thereby that modern treatment, not ancient prevention, is the way to go. Colds are inevitable; allergies are inevitable; doctor consultation is inevitable; hospitalization is inevitable; surgery is inevitable; and the older you get, the moreso.

The medical industry just loves this illusion profoundly, and of course will always seek to preserve and deepen it (witness monthly ultrasound examinations on healthily pregnant women), will never do anything to change it, indeed will fight and discredit those who try. As a very simple example, I hear and read often of people who have been laid low for days, even weeks, with severe colds, and are only now recovering at last thanks to long bed rest and the drugs their doctor has given them or that they bought at the pharmacy, a regular shopping stop. Such 'colds' occur twice a year or more, and nothing but this can be done about them: only doctors and inactivity and drugs and lost weeks, throughout life. It's inevitable, they believe.

I, who am only a minor-level health nut who makes it a policy to break the rules now and then, have in the past gone for up to 10 years without a cold. I have not had a full blown (no pun intended) cold now for several years, and when I do (always as a result of aforementioned rule-breaking behavior to excess) it begins with that tickle and then I prevent it.

The last time I was in a hospital for treatment of illness was 57 years ago; my parents took me. In the collective 163 life-years of my immediate family thus far, not one hour has been spent in hospital for treatment of illness. My kids had all the childhood illnesses invisibly; they were unaffected while for example their schools were closed for 10 days for chickenpox, their classmates staying in bed for 10 days with sores all over them and no sleep, high fevers, doctors and lots of drugs to worsen the unnecessarily traumatic situation. All this when illness can be minimized, even prevented, very easily! And at way less expense than medical insurance and doctor bills, not to mention the permanent invasion of surgery!

Over the years I have been governmentally forced to pay millions of yen (tens of thousands of dollars) in medical insurance I and my family have never required, never used; I was subsidizing all the illness believers. I could go on about this endlessly I think, and will herein rant about it now and then as the bile requires. I wonder, though, if people don't perhaps in some way enjoy their illnesses. What else could explain it?

Friday, June 13, 2003



Be careful if you're a foreigner coming into Japan who is kind (and naive) enough to carry someone else's luggage for them: when immigration discovers the drugs hidden there, you're likely to get 14 years in the slammer like this innocent British architect did, more than some Japanese are recently getting for murder, under the one truly inscrutable thing about Japan, its judicial system. Guy was kept in solitary for 10 months because he wouldn't plead guilty!!


Tsuyu (rainy season) appears to be upon us, heavily upon us, and in no uncertain terms, my ears tell me at the niagara roar on the roof in the night, and my eyes confirm in the morning as they attempt to discern the world through occasional gaps in the rainwall, and it begins to get really humid, erasing the difference between inside and outside; soon there will be fungus growing on anything organic that doesn't move. The air is still, everything is still, except for the steady falling of the rain, and if you are not careful, in time you'll hear voices from out of that silvery structure, voices that convey very important information like racing tips and hints from it's good to stay busy and not fall too still yourself if you don't want to be totally fungoid; and if you want to hear something, try a long slow conversation with others or yourself, or listen to the muses...great weather for that, and for staying at home and reading. As for gardening, this is the garden's vacation, till further notice.

Thursday, June 12, 2003


The strange, cold tale of Takako Konishi.


This morning as I dressed I was looking out the window, checking out yesterday's progress on the new log house being built just up-mountain from us, when who suddenly swooped into the unfinished window opening on the far side but Dr. Crow. He tucked away the big wingspread and settled himself comfortably, looked around at the interior of his new place, saw that it was good, then flapped down to the still-plywood floor and began walking around inside, checking out his new digs, looking for scraps of the workmen's lunch or anything else he could find, quite content to make the place his own, all in good time. He came to the undoored doorway and stood there slowly scanning his kingdom like a corvine Mussolini, then went back inside. I hope I can be there to see him on the morning he swoops in great blackness to reenter his new palace and discovers that the window has been glazed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003



(June 20, 1995 entry from my housebuilding journal) Received word last night that the Japanese kitchen company whose kitchen components we decided on months ago and ordered because of price and height and the fact that we could get the stainless steel counter in the length we wanted (which 'fact' was later refuted by the same woman who had said 'of course you can get the stainless steel counter in the length you want'; 'it was a mistake,' she now said, when it was too late for us to back out), has gone bankrupt and now we have not even an imminent kitchen, though the cuisinal horizon is not absolutely kitchenless, I trust. There is of course a kitchen somewhere in our future, is there not? Perhaps somewhere over there by the national lottery prize with our name on it; but then who needs a kitchen? I was born without a kitchen, and I have every confidence that I will die without a kitchen. I don't mean to sound like sour kitchens; things could after all be worse: we could have paid already, and our kitchen could then have fallen from the delivery truck and broken into kitchen fragments, or we could have received and installed the kitchen and been about to pay when another, ruthless company might have taken over the suddenly defunct kitcheneers and demanded a kitchen's ransom for the thing.... But it appears that nothing pertaining to our order had been going on in the busily bankrupting company all the while we were waiting; nice of them, I must say. So now we are in the ranks of the kitchenless minions that have peopled history since man first walked erect and gave meaning to the concept of stovetop height, that to us here today is but a cruel mockery...

Sunday, June 08, 2003


narrow road
through the village
long story

Saturday, June 07, 2003



This afternoon I heard then saw a small troop of monkeys going ape, yelling and flailing in the trees, clearly over some sizable misfortune. They were across the road at a safe distance from my garden, so it took me a bit of the simian equivalent of eavesdropping to determine why the rambling thieves were practically tearing their hair out in utter flabbergastion as they swung despondently from pointless branch to even more pointless branch: they had just confirmed the rumor that I have no more onions, and that in their stead I have Thai dragons and tabascos and jalapenos. I did, however, get a care package of sweet white onions from Yuri, Ken Rodger's very kind wife, who has no monkeys and took pity on my onionlessness; the monkeys do not like this one-sided largesse, however, though they like the Thai dragons less, and keep their distance. Even now they go wild.

Friday, June 06, 2003



A US State Department talking torso said just now that North Korean WMDs are financed in part by funding from Japan's yakuza. Somehow I can't picture the yakuza funding anything with as low a vig as WMDs, let alone in another country run by an even bigger gang. But the US bureaubabble on this (those desk careers know all about what's really going on on the world) is oddly remeniscent of the extended froth over the Iraq-al Qaeda link, and look what happened to Iraq, for not even a single WMD. So apart from the truth of the accusation (how often does truth get in the way of government?), after the Bush coalition has invaded and occupied the entertainment districts and the pachinko parlors, are there any statues of famous yakuza they can pull down?


The average fertility rate in Japan fell to 1.32 this year, the second straight year-on-year decline. Nearly 17,000 fewer infants were born in 2002, a greater drop than expected by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, whose minions will be hard put to increase their bonuses. Average age of first marriages for women is also up, at 27.4 years. Gone are the days when a woman was over the hill at 25, marriage-wise (back in the sexually oppressive days they used to call such women 'Christmas cakes' (after the 25th they're unmarketable). You go, girl!!). Fading too are the days when one might expect such lifelong things as pension, health care. The few young grownups around in 2025 won't cover it for all the elders. Details and varied discussion here.

Thursday, June 05, 2003



In my end-of-May post about the Shiga-cho mayoral recall petition, I mentioned that they still needed 850 signatures to reach the necessary 6000 plus-- by the deadline they had gotten over 7000 people to sign. Now the real fun begins, of getting over half the voters to vote the old mayor out and a whole new, clean, honest faction in. Now to find a whole new, clean, honest faction. Shouldn't be too hard. Am I being ironic? I'm not sure.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003


Tonight we chased a sliver of a moongrin across the big bridge over the Lake to take Kaya (2 1/2 years old now) to a famed hotaru (firefly) stream far through the soothing dark of narrow village roads sparked here and there with houselights all the way to the path lit by tiny lights that could not be mistaken for fireflies but were just enough to get you safely to the steps down through the deep dark to the firefly kingdom along the stream in its place beneath the tall trees, where the even deeper darkness was lit like a microstarry night with nothing but wisping flights of limegreen, surprisingly bright flashes rising, swooping, curving, softly floating, flitting here and there going on and off, sparkles resting in their hundreds on the leaves or falling sudden to the ground, kids, mothers, fathers and grandfolks trying to coax the little green stars to their hands, everyone glowing with the mysterious green fire that reflected in the eyes, the faces lit with awe and Kaya too was wide-eyed watching light walk in her hand