Tombstone For Old Pens

“I believe in the lives of many things—not only living animals, flowers and so forth, but also a small cup, your camera, your watch, your shoes… everything has its own life. It was born somewhere, and it will be worn out and reborn. In Kyoto you find a very interesting tomb called fudezuka. It’s a tombstone for old pens. Once you use your pens, you cannot put them in the garbage, you have to preform a ritual.” — comments by Hidetoshi Kato found in the margin of Kenji Ekuan’s interview, under a caption entitled “spirit”.

fudezuka mound in Kyoto, image toranosuke

via FOP

This tombstone performs a similar function as the Jamaica Bay Pen Project — treating even the most mundane things in our lives with respect.

You are about to see something strange and very memorable

(Shizuo Kambayashi, Associated Press / March 9, 2012)

“You are about to see something strange and very memorable,” architect Yoshihiro Horii told me as we were driving near the waterfront in Ishinomaki, a city of 160,000 people in northeastern Japan that was heavily damaged by the earthquake and tsunami last March 11.

As his wife, a fellow architect named Shoko Fukuya, steered the car over the crest of a hill, we caught a glimpse of what he was talking about: a giant red metal cylinder, 35 feet high and dramatically mangled by the force of the tsunami, sitting right in the median, with traffic zooming by on both sides.

The three of us parked the car and climbed out to inspect this odd piece of apocalyptic detritus, which the tsunami carried nearly 1,000 feet from Ishinomaki’s port. It turned out to be a fish-oil tank that used to stand outside the offices of Kinoya, a seafood processing company. Painted years ago to resemble a can of whale meat, it was once a popular backdrop for photos by visitors to the company.

In its crumpled form and new location, the tank — which locals simply call “the big can” — has become the object of intense curiosity in this part of Japan, which is struggling to recover from the disaster. It may also suggest an inventive way for Japan to think about the process of designing memorials and monuments to the estimated 19,000 people killed.

via the Los Angeles Times — Rethinking memorials in aftermath of Japan tsunami by Christopher Hawthorne

Shrines Of Ise, Great and Small

When I was in Japan in 2006, I visited the Great Shrine of Ise. Every 20 years for the last two millennia it’s been rebuilt out of Japanese Cypress trees using ancient construction methods, so that it’s “forever new and forever ancient and original”. Only one priest(ess) can enter the central shrine, within which there is supposedly an ancient mirror cocooned in cloth bag after cloth bag. There are tame deer roaming the town, which just heightens the surreal / mythical qualities of the place.

There is an ancient forest there, and it looks like visitors have built tiny shrines to the huge trees. These small shrines were the most memorable for me.

You can’t tell from this photo, but this tree is absolutely huge. I could have easily crawled underneath it.

Out Of Place

Across the street from my doctor’s office in Plainfield, NJ is this Japanese-style house. The houses surrounding it are standard suburban fare, white picket fences and so forth.


And this asymmetrical Buddhist shrine on the front lawn.