July 9, 2012


A stormy day in a temple in Nara, where the ancient capital of japan was located at, squirrel was standing with her arms crossing and staring at a series of Buddha statues very carefully and thinking of her own collection.  Fashion and Buddha statues.  It looks like there's no connection between them but she was definitely feeling that the old statues from ancient japan were telling her something very important about what she had to do.

And Caveman and squirrel don't know at this point who they will run into later this day...
you guys wanna know who we met???  You will be literally blown away if you know who we met!!

Hey guys, it's squirrel.

So, right now, You must come up with this question,  "Japan??  Are you guys not in San Francisco?"    nope!  Caveman and squirrel are everywhere.   We are worldwide and world famous caveman and squirrel.

We visited in Japan from the late April to the early May.
During caveman and squirrel's stay in japan, my mom planned a short trip to Nara and Kyoto.

Nara and Kyoto are old capitals of japan .  There are still a lot of temples and shrines remain in there since 5th century or so. I was believing that my mom and my aunties would come with us but the trip was planned only for caveman and me.  It was actually a gift from my mom.   Caveman and I had (have) been so busy that we didn't have time to have a honeymoon so my mom gave us a honeymoon trip as a gift.  My mom always spoils me like this.

Anyways,  Caveman and the spoiled daughter, squirrel visited the beautiful ancient capitals.  The trip was way beyond awesome.   Caveman and I were especially impressed by the old Buddha statues.   You might think Buddha statues look all the same.  (Don't worry, I was actually one of you guys.) but they do not.   What I found during this trip was that it is just so fun to know the deep and unique back ground stories each Buddha statue has.   Once we start researching one of those statues in there,  the researches would be extended to the histories and Buddhisms  in China and Korea,  and sometimes we even have to extend the research to the ancient myth in India.  And again, each of the statues has different stories and there are tons of more statues in there, which means the research would never end.   Eventually they made me feel like we had to live in there for a while to understand them more.  Obviously a short stay like for only  a couple of days was way too short.  

Fortunately we could see an amazing tour guide who speaks English at Horyuji temple where we visited very first in the trip.  He does this guide job as a volunteer.  His knowledge was so profound and his explanation was very easy to understand for the people like us ( like "don't know anything about Buddhism, even basics")  I can tell he really loves the history in this area and enjoying his volunteering job after his retirement.   It just made me happy to see the guy with thick books in his hand telling us lots of details because obviously he looked he loved what he was doing.  I couldn't help saying we were so lucky that we could see him because, after we said good bye to him and walked around the other temples, we noticed that it became so easy to understand and figure out which Buddha statue was who......like,  "oh, he's 'Asura'! he used to be an enemy of Buddha, right?" or "hey, he's' Maitreya'!  He's training to be the next Buddha, right?"    The Buddha statues suddenly started telling us their stories vigorously! 

1. what the old statues told the squirrel.
However I should avoid just listing up those knowledge I got from him here.
That would make this post a lil too long and boring but let me tell you about this special series of statues and my most favorite ones, which are The 12 divine generals in Kofukuji temple. 
They are the guardians of the Buddha of healing and medicine.

Can you see their face expressions?


Let's get a lil closer...

Besides these cartoony, bold and round forms and humorous face expressions, what made me impressed the most was each of the statues is very strong but still twelve statues make one harmony all together, which reminded me of the definition of "collection" in fashion design.  

When I was a fashion design student squirrel,  our design teachers always told us how "a collection"  had to be.  Each of the outfits in a collection has to have a strong statement like these statues do but  they also have to express whole one concept and end up in having an impact with all together,..just like these 12 divine gods.  You know what I mean??

 I am still planning to create 2 more outfits for my st. caveman collection and hope my st. caveman collection will come out like this series of statues...these 12 statues are, for me, nothing but a solid, dense and tight tiny collection created by a carver in 12th century!

2. encounter
Caveman and squirrel moved to the next section.   
They have no idea what they will encounter next at this moment...

"The eight watchmen...hmmm...There should be the famous statue in this section, I remember.
There he is.  'Asura'.  He used to be the enemy of Buddha but Buddha turned him into a good guy!"  

We remembered what the guide guy told us.

ファイル:ASURA Kohfukuji.jpg

 This asura guy is really popular and famous because of his cute face like an innocent boy with the strange form which is a lil creepy unlike his cute face(s). how delicate the beauty this statue has!
We went forward..."Asura",  "Gandharva", "Mahoraga"....and when I saw a statue standing all the way back, I couldn't believe my eyes.   There he was. 

The chicken guy!!!

Do you guys remember the chicken ghost story I wrote in this blog?
check this out if you haven't read it.
click here. → ghosts

This is him.

I couldn't believe I could see him again here.  He looked exactly same as the guys I met in our bedroom.  For those of my friends who got creeped out with my ghost story, I would analyse him that he might be a visualized image of collective unconscious by Jung or something.  (whatever.)

Caveman was so impressed by the statues and bought a book written about this temple even though it was written in Japanese.  So I immediately looked up about this chicken guy.  I found out his name was "Karura" in Japanese ("Garuda" in English or Sanskrit) and the book said he had a chicken head and human body but most of the books I read later describe he must be a kind of falcon. He used to be a god in Indian myth and eventually the Buddhism started to spread out and the gods in Indian myth are involved in Buddhism and he was one of them.  He became one of the eight watchmen on that process.

The funny thing was that the book said "it is said that his favorite food is Dragon."   What was funny about it was just the way the book describes it was so casual like "it is said that caveman's favorite food is pizza."  Let me think about it....finding dragon is so hard.... right??  (correct me if I am wrong but we believe that they exist in legends, right?)  It must be a kind of surprising if we run into a dragon and moreover, he actually even "eats" dragons as his staple food.  (How many dragons out there?)   I also started imagining the view of him eating dragon...the view must be "holy cow ( i mean, holy chicken!)".   but anyway, something like this.  It is so fun to check out the back ground each statue has... reading the adventures this chicken guy had in Indian myth were just so fun to read... According to those stories of his adventures, it looks like He was (and probably is) quite a cool guy.  Like this Karura, each of these statues have this kind of interesting and fun stories on their back grounds and Nara must be the perfect place to enjoy those stories...

In Nara, we can see a lot of statues which were made in around 5th and 6th century and my mom analyses that the reason why we feel some kind of primitive warm feeling in there is because we can actually get close to those ancient japan through the old statues.  Although the statues I mentioned above were all from around 12th century, I see the simplicity in ancient Nara combined with the aethstetic "simplicity and sturdiness (shitsujitsu-gouken in Japanese)" which people established in 12th century and the statues got more life-like (even humorous.) taking over the simplicity which old statues already had.

3. "very interesting" bus tour
It was still raining hard outside so we finally gave up visiting other temples in Nara and just decided to move to Kyoto which is less than 1 hour away by express from Nara.  

My mom's plan for us in Kyoto was really, really funny...She put us into a bus tour.  I don't know if you guys also had the classic bus tour style which have a tour guide in an uniform with a flag in her hand back in 60's or 70's.  We still have those bus tours in japan.  Although it got more sophisticated and modernized, it was still so funny for me to take participate in that kind of bus tour.  Caveman was even horrified because he was the only American (and also a caveman!!) in the tour...He was worried if people made fun of him with the eyes like "what is this caveman doing here??".   I just kept encouraging him like "come on! it's old-school! we love old-school all the time, don't we??"  The tour was awesome.  The young lady who guided us was very professional and kind.  The only problem was the day was the day  Golden Week (early May holiday season in japan) started. So there were so many people everywhere like this picture...

 How could we enjoy "wabi-sabi" in this situation?  We couldn't get out from these crowds in Kyoto because of this holiday season.  No matter how hard we tried to feel a quiet moment in the old temple, a loud voice with a western accent from a lady who dressed like a cheesy 80's look saying "wow! is this the thing called wabi sabi??" was almost like chasing us and ruined everything.  So I just gave up.  Fuck wabi sabi.  Whatever.   The thing that made the situation worse was that it was the boundary for caveman to start missing "American life".  It was too much "ancient japan" stuff going on at once in a couple of days.  It was time to miss pizza, fried chicken and hamburgers for him.  So we decided to be just laid-back.  We were the most laziest tourists in the bus tour, I guess.

At the last spot we visited, which you guys can see in the picture above, we were just tired and went back to the bus a lil earlier than the other tourists and just sit back in the seats and waiting in the quiet and empty bus.  I was watching the view from the window and noticed the mountains were always in my view all the time in this Kyoto trip. I looked up the sky over the mountains. It wasn't raining any more but some gray rain clouds were still remaining in the blue sky and I was thinking. There's no such thing called wabi sabi we can feel any more, (you can try but I assure you that a lady with an annoying high toned voice would come up to you and ruin your effort.) . There are a lot of tourists like caveman and squirrel, who are a lil too laid back and aren't very enthusiastic everywhere. The old ancient capital became just a sightseeing place. People who come here might expect some divine thing in there but there's no such thing exists any more. it is actually empty... I was just tired and squinting my eyes to try to look at the beautiful mountains and wondering how quiet the tops of the mountains were. The mountains just sit over there and looked like they care nothing about what was going on down here...even from ancient history.  I was just keep looking at the trees on the top of the mountains as if I am absorbed in the quietness there and somehow I felt like I could still see some kind of super power spinning slowly and deliberately in the sky right above those mountains.  Was it just my imagination?

epilogue: sanctuary

When I was still living in Japan, I kinda liked to watch TV shows which told us a lot of scary ghost stories. I was always scared of watching those stuff but my curiosity always beat my fear and I just watched it. 
In one of those TV shows, there was a guy who insisted he could see spirits which people cant see.  (of course, that is what the show all about.)  So the TV show planned a trip to go to a "spiritual spot" with him. It was a deep inside of a mountain in japan and they reached some kind of a secret sacred lake or something. Then he started saying, " hey, I can see a dragon god is spinning above the lake!!" Obviously it was a scam. I was drinking beer (as usual)watching the show and just laughing like "oh man, this guy's brain is fucked up...a dragon??? the creature like that is living only in a legend or something." but I had to admit that the other side of me kinda wanted to believe him for some reason. (that is the reason why this kind of TV show can get high rating, right?)

If there is a super power a creature like a dragon emerges still protecting the nature, how cool is it? Unfortunately we never believe those stuff any more. We just believe what we see. especially we "saw" A LOT last year in japan.

But the view of the mountains surrounding this old capital, I saw from the window of the tour bus, somehow, made me feel like there must be "something" which doesn't really care if we believe or not (because they are "super") and it is still spinning rising above us.

And that's how it went in this caveman and squirrel's ancient capital trip....Maybe it was just my imagination but I felt like this...

"the sanctuary is still there."