Being a lover of beauty, I try to come to Japan each year in April for cherry blossom season, and in spite of dire warnings after the natural and man-created disasters in the North of Japan, I did my research and found out that Osaka and Kyoto where I planned to go, are well away from the danger zone.
And so here I am. I will share with you some highlights. At the time of writing I am in a hotel near to Osaka airport in Japan, getting ready to fly back to England after a three-week holiday. I have just emerged from a delightful onsen, (a natural hot springs, therapeutic public bath) followed by a vibrating machine, which gives a mechanical foot reflexology treatment. Naturally, I am feeling very relaxed, a great way to prepare for a long flight.
I stayed primarily with my friends Champaka and Ramya, He is Japanese and she is his German born wife. Champaka is a healer extraordinaire, a macrobiotic chef, a professional photographer and a long time meditator. I consider him to be my Japanese brother. And I call Ramya my Sakura sister, since we both share a passion for the beauty of the Sakura (cherry blossoms). They really went to great lengths to host me in having the best and most relaxing holiday possible.
We travelled around, visiting numerous Zen temples, exquisite gardens and nature areas overflowing with the splendour of cherry trees in full bloom. Lake Biwa is the biggest lake in Japan, a veritable sea that appears to have no end. There, we visited the hundred and fifty year old traditional farmhouse of an artist couple. He makes stunning pottery and she uses natural vegetable dyes for cloth. The forest where they live is alive with wild bears.The name of the lake, Biwa, means Loquat, which is the name of a sacred healing tree. This tree exists in many parts of the world, but I think few people know its venerable history nor its amazing healing qualities. The following healing technique was prescribed by Gautama the Buddha himself, and has been used by Zen monks and healers since Buddha’s teachings first came to Japan.
A freshly plucked leaf of the Loquat tree is placed on an afflicted area, which could be an area of the body that has pain, or swelling, or any other type of problem. The leaf is then heated, by using burning Moksa sticks, or setting fire to Ito Thermie incense sticks and fanning the heat and smoke over the leaf. As the leaf heats up, it pulls toxic elements out of the body and dispels negative emotional or psychological states. As toxins are released, the leaf turns black, and when this happens, it is replaced by another fresh leaf. This continues till there is no more blackness appearing on the leaf.
I received a session from Champaka for some shoulder pain and was amazed by the powerful effectiveness of this treatment. Champaka informed me that during Buddha’s time, the original method was to write a healing mantra on the leaf before putting it on the afflicted area, and then to use burning charcoal to heat it up. Apparently, it is known that such treatment can cure any and all disease.
We also visited many wonderful onsen (natural hot springs). Towards the end of my trip, we went to one, which has been in continuous use for the past 1,500 years. One of the baths is outside overlooking the river, where the branches of a cherry tree hang down over the flowing water. Blossoms float in the breeze or on the river. The water is a rich reddish hue, full of iron and other minerals. I was amazed to see an altar next to the steaming hot women’s bath, on which was sitting a large stone carving of an erect penis decorated with a ribbon. It seems this particular hot springs has been used since ancient times as a fertility shrine.
After relaxing in these healing waters, we went for a 10 course macrobiotic feast in the spa restaurant and then staggered home and slept for three hours. I woke up feeling completely reborn, not even remembering what the word ‘stress’ means anymore.I was really spoiled by Champaka’s culinary skills. Each day at their house, we feasted on endlessly creative macrobiotic meals. One of Champaka’s recipes is included in my May newsletter (To subscribe, enter your email address at the bottom of the page). He is also a photographer, and so he captured our many adventures on camera. You can see a selection in this blog with more on flickr.Of course, our forays into enjoyment of beauty were also coloured by the fact that Japan is currently undergoing a very rough time due to the disaster, which looms over the country. The tourist trade is hard hit, and indeed, during my stay, I have received much love and gratitude from Japanese people just because I came to Japan in spite of the multiple disasters. It is very touching for me to recognize the evident surprise and joy on their faces as they see a foreigner who came for cherry blossom season this year.Champaka has been avidly collecting as much information as possible about what has been and is going on in respect to the earthquakes, the tsunami, and the radioactive leaking of one of four nuclear power stations hit by the tsunami.First and foremost is the fact that Japan is known from time immemorial to be a country prone to earthquakes and tsunami. Indeed, there is a plaque in the disaster zone, erected by ancestors who survived a huge tsunami, which happened 100 years ago. The plaque says, "Never build below this place as it is certain it will be hit by tsunami on a regular basis." In spite of this, the Japanese government has allowed 55 nuclear power stations to be built, some of which are directly on fault lines and in the known tsunami zone. Nuclear power counts for roughly one third of electricity in Japan, so why the electric company responsible for the stations did not immediately shut them down when the tsunami hit, is beyond my comprehension. And with multiple earthquakes continuing to happen on a daily basis, why they don’t shut down the other four nuclear power stations in the earthquake zone, appears as a lunacy.The Japanese government, which is apparently a puppet government in service of the USA, has been exceedingly slow to act. For about three weeks, the foreign minister kept repeating on TV that everything was under control and there is nothing to worry about and that the level of radiation is not dangerous. (Meanwhile, he evacuated his wife and children from Tokyo to Singapore.) A very small area was evacuated, leaving countless people to their ill fate of being exposed to massive amounts of radiation. A man who tried to help people by selling Zeolite (a natural mineral which pulls radiation out of the body) was put in jail.The prime minister annoyed a lot of people when he went to visit the area devastated by earthquake and tsunami. As he got out of his helicopter, he complained of the stench, and commented on how strong the tsunami was. As he entered the school where hundreds of people are surviving with no baths and almost no food, having just lost everything, he gravely insulted their dignity by not removing his shoes. For those reading this who have never been to Japan, it is considered absolutely uncivilized to keep shoes on when entering a dwelling place. People had to reprimand the minister for his lack of courtesy and he then finally removed his shoes, while commenting, “Oh, it’s so dirty!"Finally, the Japanese government could no longer deny that that the severity of the disaster is enormous, at least equal to Chernobyl. For weeks, huge quantities of radiation were leaking into the ocean. This is a situation, which concerns everyone on the planet. And yet, I spoke to my brother by Skype, and he told me it is very bizarre that in the USA the Japanese disaster was spoken of in the press for about two days and from then on, utter silence on the subject has prevailed. I mentioned this strange fact to Champaka, and he said it is easy to ascertain why. According to his news sources, the Obama administration is planning to make a large quantity of nuclear power stations and call it ‘green carbon free energy’ and doesn’t want the American people to know the horrors, which can happen with nuclear energy.It is my hope and my prayer that Japan can use this opportunity to become world leaders in green renewable energy. I hope they are courageous enough to shut down all nuclear plants, and put their vast resourcefulness into pioneering new and wonderful ways of tapping into solar, wind, deep ocean currents and geo thermal energies. These technologies already exist and I am sure Japan is a country which could create and refine state of the art eco-power.The alternative is too horrific to contemplate, since with the number of nuclear stations which are in operation in Japan, if another sizable earthquake or tsunami hits, and one or several of these blow up, all life on earth is in danger of being wiped out. What has happened already, should function as a major wake up call for all human beings. I often wonder about politicians and other leaders, don’t they have children and grandchildren? Do they care at all for their children? It seems not!
So, from the heart of Japan, I invite you to sit up and take notice, of the exquisite beauty of this marvellous land and of all lands and all oceans on this earth, and to realize the urgency to care for our beautiful earth in every way we possibly can. If we are intelligent we can transform the disaster into a blessing. All the people who were swept away in the tsunami should not die in vain. Let us honour them by using this situation to create a new dawn, where love and consciousness reign. Let us open our hearts to sensitive ways of working with this earth instead of trying to dominate her.
There is a mantra from India which offers us the key to the ultimate truth; ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram.’ Satyam means truth, Shivam means Godliness and Sundaram means beauty.
Let beauty lead the way…
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