Nippon 26. Bruce

Nippon 26. Bruce

His feet look like boiled lobsters. He smiles as we all joke together. We have been speaking in English, practicing. Emi has been speaking about her mum showing her calligraphy, and what fun we had. The man poet has placed his entries in the slot and asks if he may see the girl’s work. He approves.
When his partner arrives he explains to her in perfect English what we have been doing, it’s a revealing moment, unexpected, then again not. I review my mental tape of anything I may have said which might have caused offence while we had sat there chatting for thirty minutes or so before he rose to leave. The tape was blank.
With softened warmed feet in our shoes we float along the the pathways to the bamboo groves. On the way we come across the home of a hermit haiku master of the seventeenth century. Its closed but over the wall theres a link to England, at the time of the Bard.
In Stratford upon Avon I’d stood in front of Shakespeare’s house before entering, marvelling at the thatched roof, which looked like a plumped hairstyle in the basin cut style sitting on the building’s brow. Here was the same thatched roof, under which elegant haiku were written.
We enter the groves, the bamboo sways, the tops forty or fifty feet above, the afternoon sunlight all but blotted out. It’s a forest which has been tended. The stumps of lopped stalks show where the thinning has taken place, though the use is unclear. Perhaps scaffolding material, maybe furniture, no one knows. Small shrines along the narrow roadway and two cemeteries give a sense of the age of the forest. Some newish looking very upmarket ryokans and hotels give the sense of the crowds that the girls say come here for the spring and the fall. I can but imagine the beauty of the autumnal leaf fall or the blossoming which will follow my visit in the next month or so. Nevertheless, the forest and the bare deciduous trees have a stark edginess which matches the crispness of the season.
We stop where the bamboo is densest, and it’s a call for a photo. Somehow the girls sense the need for an asian pose and they obligingly hold up their fingers in the V shape favoured from Korea/Japan, all the way around to the subcontinent. What it means is unclear. It doesn’t appear to be rabbit’s ears. In the Australian usage, the sign is surreptitiously raised behind an unwitting photographic subject’s head in faint mockery. The V used here appears to be more of ” Hi there, hello” and when you see this pic of me I am saluting you with good wishes. Then again I could be entirely wrong. Probably am, my enquiries of the girls lend no explanation.
When we leave the forest we walk the street of the little village which makes it’s living from the grove tourists. One shop is called “Bruce” what the hell could that be about? After examining the merchandise it’s no clearer. Bruce is a fabric man about nine inches long. A pencil case. Bruce has a zipper from his crotch to his neck. Little arms and longer legs have him in a pose not unreminiscent of da Vinci’s proportion of man drawing with arms and legs similarly extended. Bruce though is in every different fabric imaginable. Most likely off cuts, there are all colours, texture, patterns and designs. There are smaller decorative non pencil cases for use as key ring hangers, Bruce as mobile phone danglers, and there in the back of the shop is the Bruce making machinery. I hope they are making money from what strikes me as a bad idea poorly executed, then again this is Japan.


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