The sun comes up each morning in silence;
the moon disappears, but nobody sees.
Flowers dance by the roadside unnoticed;
birds twitter sweetly, but nobody hears.
Peope don’t understand what matters.
People work hard all their lives to achieve
a dream of success that will make them happy;
position or power, fortune or fame
until they are old and they realize too late
the beauty of living has passed them by
while the river travels alone to the ocean,
the wind sings alone in the tops of the trees.
Shinmin Sakamura (1909 – 2007)
Translated by Kazanori Takenaga
Adapted by W. D. Ehrhart
This poem was presented at the Toukouji temple (Soutou Zen) in Amakusa on the last stop of my week in Kumamoto prefecture Japan.
Why am I starting at the end? Not only did the Japanese poem seem to tell the story of why we (or at least I) travel, it was also translated by one of my guides and travelling companions Ken-san Takenaga.
Over the last week I’ve visited Kumamoto city, discovered the fresh local produce in the “fire and water” Kumamoto prefecture visiting the fertile farms, orchards, free range beef growers, fishermen and aquaculture, seen the Kumamoto Castle (where I also tried the traditional royal Honmaren Gozen Palace menu), been to the last Samurai battlefield of the Satsuma Rebellion, explored the volcanic Mount Aso area, revelled in the change of seasons and the colours of the autumn leaves, stayed at ryokan (dinner, bed and breakfast) and minshuku (homestay), watched a master soba noodle maker in action, drunk shochu and sake and the clean safe Kumamoto water, and of course eaten some fantastic Japanese food and local Kumamoto specialties.
From city to fields, from mountains to seaside and beyond, the Kumamoto Kyushu introduction to the culture, history, spirits and wines, and food of Japan has been more fantastic than I can describe in words or images.
Most wonderful of the journey for me was the untouched mountain areas of Gokanosho (where currently less than 100 Australians a year visit.) Can you imagine being the 49th generation of a Samurai family living in your house?
So, while I started this at the end of my travels in Kumamoto, it’s not quite the end as there are more stories (and more details) of Kumamoto to come.