Remembering Our Japanese Home
Our Japanese Home
For one full year (1981-82) I lived with my wife and children at Takamaru (High Round Hill), San Chome (Third Block), ju-hachi no hachi (18-8) in Nigawa, Takarazuka-shi (Second River of the City of the Lost Treasure) in Hyogo-Ken which is a district in southern Japan called Kansai (Osaka-Kobe area). Our house had three bedrooms with traditional tatami mats and a livingroom with western-style furniture and a big picture window overlooking the city and the Japan Inland Sea with distant, hazy Wakayama Prefecture.
Our home had a small kitchen with a localized hot water heater and a bathroom with an ofuro (traditional vertical Japanese bath). How relaxing it was to experience flotation in a hot and steaming ofuro, especially on a cold winter's eve with an onion snow coating the ground and trees.
A Great Home After Our Day's Work
While I taught at Osaka University and our kids attended the Canadian Academy in Kobe, my wife Maura took correspondence classes from the University of Wyoming and local classes at the Kobe Women's Center in conversational Japanese and in Japanese culture. We all came together again for dinner and an evening of relaxation. We conversed about our new experiences in a foreign land of teaching large classes of 90 students or being a student at the Canadian Academy where there were very few Americans.
On weekends we took day trips to nearby Buddhist temples, attended our own church in Kobe, or we took walks up coastal hills and mountains to gain exquisite views of the misty Inland Sea where only the tops of mountains could be seen, sometimes glazed in yellow mist.
Our modest stucco home, graced with orange roof tiles, stood at the edge of the Rokko Mountain-Inland Sea National Park. A forested hill rose directly behind our house and on weekends Rich, Michelle and Maureen helped me build a winding trail to the top of the hill. We called this area "Adventure Land." From our bedroom window we could see directly into the forest laced with ferns and dense undergrowth. Here is a poem I wrote about this view:
From out my tatami bedroom
window high on Takamaru
at Rokko Mountain's edge
flows a fall of festive ferns
tumbling from ash and pines
strewn with damp, dewy vines
glowing green within my mind.
I loved to wake up on Sunday mornings to the bong of a Buddhist gong at Kanoji-dera Temple perhaps a mile awy. The mysticism of Japan began to creep into our psyches very early in our stay. Of course we frequently visited Kanoji-dera and climbed bell-shaped Kabutoyama Mountain behind the temple. Here is another poem:
The Gong of Kabutoyama
From Kanoji Temple
a Buddhist gong bongs
on green Kabutoyama
rising high in mist
like a giant's bell.
I loved writing poetry in my Japanese home-- with a wee orange tree growing at its side. Sometimes I wrote three poems a day (before and after teaching) and many were published in Japanese journals including Poetry Nippon. I even gave readings at Do-shishan Coffee House in Kyoto or at the American Culture Center in Osaka. Eventually the poems came out in my book published in Japan entitled Bamboo in the Sun: Poems of Japan (SU Press, 1983), illustrated by an Irishman, Daniel Allman.
Nighttime views out the window were utterly phenomenal, especially during a full moon. City lights spread out far below with blinking ship lights in the Inland Sea. I guess I could have spent the rest of my life there without a hitch, but duty called us back to America just one short year later. I close with another poem from my book:
Weird yellow glow grows
to floating full moon
rising like an octopus
with Osaka's blinking array
spreading as arms of night.
During the year of 1981-82 I was an exchange professor of English at the University of Osaka, Japan and during the fall, 1984, I returned to Japan on the lecture circuit.