I feel such sorrow for Japan. I've always had an affinity for all things Japanese. The music, the food, the over all design aesthetic. There is so much beauty and spirituality there. So much that I have longed to see first hand. Japan has long been a place I have wanted to visit.
When I still lived in Los Angeles, there was a small street near where I worked in West L.A. called Sawtelle. There is a small capsule of a Japanese community there. I frequented a couple of the restaurants, as well as the Japanese market. A collection of shops of various kinds dotted the street on both sides. One inparticular that I used to visit frequently. Japanese pottery, kimonos, wall art, stationary, saki sets, and the list goes on. In the back there was a small tea garden. Down the street from there were a couple of nurseries, one exclusive to Bonsai. That was a favorite stop. I would get an Oolong tea at the market and kill some time walking among the various Bonsai trees they had for sale. So beautiful.
( Geisha & Kabuki Actor)
The main thing that struck me on my lunch time and after work trips to those businesses was the people. Yes, many of them were of Japanese decent, but the large percentage were from Japan. Some of the warmest people I've ever met.
( Ikebana (flower arrangement) & Bonsai tree )
In addition to Sawtelle, there was a Japanese restaurant near the Beverly Center just a bit south of where I lived in West Hollywood. A dear friend of mine and I were 'fixtures' there. The restaurant Japon was run by Koji-san, a wonderful cook with a bright and smiling face. The moment Kathi and I walked in and headed to our regular seats at the sushi bar, he would put on the sauteed asparagus I loved. He knew what I liked and would change up his recipes to cater to my tastes. We had lots of laughs and would share a Sapporo on occassion. I have a lot of fond memories associated with Koji, and Japon.
I know it might sound odd my sharing a few of my Japanese based memories given what Japan is going through. They probably seem a tad insignificant. It's just that seeing the horror and destruction happening on that island country has put me in mind of all those Japanese people that I have met and have known. Koji returned to Japan in the mid-90's. I worry about how he is faring even after all these years. The people that I met in passing have families, and I'm sure that some of them are over there. I have gone through a few earthquakes in my lifetime, and one was in the mid-7 ranges. I can only imagine what an 8.9 would be like.
( Left: Yoshikatsu Hiratsuka grieves in front of wreckage where the body of his mother is buried in Onagawa on Thursday. Hiratsuka kept crying out, saying "Sorry, Sorry" that he couldn't have saved her from the tsunami. Right: Tsunami waters over taking the Japanese Coast )
The above photos really struck me, especially the one on the left. A man on his knees in front of a destroyed building grieving for his mother who is buried within. Such unfathomable grief. My heart aches for the Japanese people. Blessings to them all.