15 May 2008


I've just arrived in Kobe and my experience here is a bit like that in Bangkok this past March.

Then I was coming off six months in sleepy Kathmandu and was overwhelmed by the city's sensual assault - the smells, the noise, the bright lights, the large number of people. Today feels much the same after having emerged from five weeks of little more than walking, much of it through sparsely populated towns and mountain trails.

Most days were the same - wake, meditate, pack and start walking. I'd have a few breaks along the way, visit a temple or two, find a place for the evening, eat and sleep. I interacted largely with other henro and store clerks. I didn't read a newspaper or magazine, and only rarely caught a glimpse of television. Life was very simple and the people of Shikoku were the kind of open and friendly folk you meet outside large cities.

Arriving in Osaka station this morning was something of a shock. No one makes eye contact or in any way recognizes your presence. No one says "good morning" or "hello." They do, though, interact in large numbers with their cells phones, coming up only to find a navigation point. Hundreds of these people pour out of trains onto the platform, everyone rushing to a destination that for most is not someplace they'd like to be. All I could do was find a spot in the center of the platform and let the crowd wash around me.

Which is, I suppose, an appropriate metaphor for life. I'd like, though, to find a less busy platform.


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