Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Before Praying

A little boy is wandering away from the shrine before his parents and sister have had a chance to finish praying. My mother tells me that I was a restless kid, too. I might have had a short attention span, but it also might be that I, like the little boy in the photo, was paying attention to something other than what he was expected to. Just as this watchful mother pays extra attention to him, my mother may have made extra efforts in raising me, something for which I am very grateful.

- MT

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Road from a Shrine (2)

A young couple is walking out of the shrine, probably after praying for their future and happiness. I am reminded of the early years of my marriage or even before that, when I envisioned a bright but somehow uncertain future with my (prospective) wife. Looking back from after 25+ years, I now feel certain and am confident that the sharing of our lives has produced a rich, fruitful experience that we could not have had without marriage. I hope this couple will walk together in that direction.

- MT

Friday, September 15, 2006

Road from a Shrine

I took this photo immediately after having paid homage at a shrine. Feeling at peacel after praying, the same path I climbed toward the deity a few minutes before looked different. I felt relieved and relaxed and found the scene very congenial to my state of mind. The symmetry of the scene perhaps held the scret of this state of mind.

- MT

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Road to a Shrine

The path leading to a shrine or temple is often made to imply a "difficult path." There may be a long flight of steps or a series of gates to pass, or both. Pilgrims are willing to surmount these obstacles in order to get a sense of being spiritually uplifted. This is sometimes similar to endurance sports such as mountain climbing and long-distance running. It may be that the ultimate objective of the sports and that of the pilgrimage are the same.

- MT

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tree-Lined Road

We love to plant trees along the roads. This is not done necessarily to suggest a destination for pedestrians nor to provide an opportunity for unexpected encounters. I look at it as a way to enjoy distractions. Life can be described in terms of destinations or a series of choices, but it also has plenty of distractions. The gingko leaves are beginning to turn the vibrant yellow of the fall. By this time, the female trees are full of fragrant fruit and sprinkle them on the road. Some people hate the smell and avoid going near the fruit, but other don't hesitate to pick them up from off the road to serve for dinner. In this sense, life consists of many distractions, and we love them.

- MT

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stepping Stones

Unlike railway tracks which suggest a predetermined direction, a path of stepping stones may give us the sense of it being a series of choices. It nevertheless leads to a predetermined place as well. In this sense, it may be more like real life, in which we make many decisions, but may sometimes feel we cannot help but lead ourselves to an inevitable place.

- MT

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Railway tracks are laid to transport people and things to far-away places, smoothly and quickly. When seen from above, they make clear silver lines that sometimes stimulate our imagination. These lines in the photo stir a sense of destiny in my mind. Two sets of lines merge into one in the distance. It can be likened to marriage or friendship. Another set of lines approach from the left. This may be a sibling or someone from our past. A woman and a dog crossing the tracks can be another relationship we come across in our journey throughout our destiny.

- MT

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ticket Booths

I am not particularly fond of bicycle racing but found the color combination of these booths impressive. The Japanese usually do not paint buildings in bright colors such as yellow, red and green. This building is therefore an exception. And, when I look at the scratches and cracks on the wall, I can almost see those who win and lose at the race and hear them screaming and grumbling.
- MT

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Osaka Night

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan in terms of population. Being a Tokyoite, I am not very familar with the city even though I have visited it for short stays several times in the past. This photo was taken from a high-rise hotel and probably reflects one feature of the city: highways and buildings spread to the furthermost edge. Night effectively conceals the chaotic intricacy of the cityscape with the lights giving it a sense of composition.

- MT

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Remote Mountain (3)

When I went to the mountain in the Spring, I was impressed with the serenity of Lake Yakuwa, where trees, half-submerged in the waters, survive and are even thriving, 45 years after the construction of Yakuwa Dam. In the novel I wrote, the newspaper reporter scuba-dives in the lake to find a way to get to the old deserted village about which he heard from a retiring police officer.

- MT

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Remote Mountain (2)

The idea of the story was inspired by the movie "Nell"(1994) in which a small-town Southern doctor discovers a woman who's been raised completely apart from civilization. I changed the situation a bit by moving the locale to a Japanese moutain in which a newspaper reporter discovers a 15 year-old girl. Her parents became isolated from civilization when they refused to move from their mountain home when water from a dam constructed nearby flooded the area around their house.

I'd rather not reveal the whole story. This photo shows one of a few dams located near Tsuruoka, where the main part of the story develops.

- MT

Friday, August 18, 2006

Remote Mountains

The photo was taken a couple of years ago when I went to Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, in order to begin writing a novel I entitled "Hikyo" (A Remote Mountain). The story is about a girl living alone in a remote mountain region, completely secluded from modern civilization. Of course, no such place exists in present-day Japan. However, this scene fit my idea perfectly. I recently started a painting based on this photo for the forthcoming book.

- MT

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lobster Cook

These lobster dolls may tell us a few things. Firstly, we can eat them because they are ridiculous. Secondly, we can punish them because they act like humans. Thirdly, they should be resurrected as cooks because they deserve compensation. The cooked become cooks by association, or by guilt?

- MT

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Mad Cow

Often times, restaurant owners like to caricature the animal featured in his/her business. By poking fun at it, they may feel that it helps us eat the animal meat without feeling very guilty. This rather serious-looking cow, however, led me to speculate that there may have been other reasons for the shop owner to display this figure.

- MT

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Rainy Shrine

It was raining when I came across this modest and unassuming shrine. It looked very natural with the greens of the moss and leaves. It may be that the rain combined with and enlivened all the components of the scene.

- MT

Monday, August 07, 2006


Symmetry has long been used to attract our attention. This Buddhist temple was not an exception. I was impressed with the numerous vertical lines of the roof, which contrast with the simplicity of the doors and windows.

- MT

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Road Midway

A husband and his wife, probably with a baby in her womb, are walking on a wooden bridge in a park. They may have had a long conversation on the way. The husband is pointing to a discovery he made midway through their walk... Well, scenes like this spark the imagination.

- MT

Saturday, August 05, 2006

After the Rain?

The Nagara River is famous for an annual show of birds called uh catching sweetfish in the water. When I arrived at a hotel by the river in the late afternoon, the sunlight was shining and highlighting the bridge under a clear sky. I noticed that the road and the riverbank were completely wet but could not be sure how or why.

- MT

Friday, August 04, 2006


Sensoji temple in Tokyo is filled with people colebrating the New Year. This event, as well as many similar events taking place at thousands of other temples and shrines in Japan is evidence that the Japanese are religious people. Yet, you may be surprised to know that the majority will say, when asked individually, that they don't believe in any particular religion. The phenomenon has been dealt with in several books in Japan, but without any satisfactory explanation.

- MT

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Clones or What?

If you want to talk about cloning humans, this image may have some relevance. Or, does it? I took this photo at a Buddhist temple dedicated to Kukai, a Japanese monk who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism in Japan. These clone-like figures are his miniatures, about two-inches tall. Visitors to the templer buy one of these figures and display it as a symbol of his/her devotion to and faith in the monk. You may notice the white characters inscribed at the bottom of each figure. These are the names of the people who dedicated each. These figures, en masse, demonstrate the wide and intense popularity of Kobodaishi, another name for the monk.

- MT

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


A billboard in the scene from a window is often an annoyance when you are in a hotel room. This electric billboard, however, was so big and bright at night that I could not help noticing the beauty in the combination of colors and darkness that was cut out by the window frame.

- MT

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Hotel rooms have various atmospheres -- humble, gorgeous, pretentious, clean, dusty, dry, wet, warm, and cold. The first impression I get after entering a room usually lasts until I leave the room the next morning. My wife's impression sometimes differs from mine. This may be due to the ways we see things in the room. I tend to look at items like paintings, wall paper/cloth, TV set, soap, and shampoo. When I entered this dimly lit room, the small spotlight above the side table was illuminating the glasses and tea cups. They looked so clean and attractive.

- MT

Monday, July 31, 2006

Two Heads

These two species of animals have two very different heads. Yet, they share many commonalities: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, hair, and a mouth. Indeed, the appearance betrays internal commonalities. DNA sequences shared by humans and cows are vast. They can communicate with each other. They even share diseases: "Mad Cow" disease can spread among humans, for example. When we look at the differences, we feel it's acceptable to torture, kill, and consume the animal. But when we remind ourselves of the similarities, we can reduce the death toll.

- MT

Sunday, July 30, 2006


A cat is an animal because it is animated. This simple statement invites many questions when we look at this photos. Is it possible to say that a cat in a photo is not an animal because it is not animated? If the cat is still an animal even in a photo, what about the sandals and boots? Is it appropriate to say that the sandals and boots are also animals when they are animated (by someone's feet)? We may say that they are not animals because they don't have life. But the problem still remains: We cannot measure life. A lotus seed in a stratum thousands of years old may or may not sprout. We cannot predict this in a scientific manner.

- MT

Saturday, July 29, 2006


The essential part of dating is conversation. You may not be able to tell from appearance whether or not a couple is truly enjoying the conversation. But you may be able to see their eagerness to connect.

- MT

Friday, July 28, 2006

Green Tower

A green tower stands out in the dark of Harajuku, one of the most popular districts in Tokyo. I live about one bloc south of the building but seldom go inside because most of the shops in it are for girls. Harajuku once was a quiet and serene residential area, with a tree-lined street dotted with shops and restaurants for older adults. It is now filled with beauty shops, boutiques, and restaurants for young adults. This building represents the new trend, in which I feel increasingly uncomfortable. But the night showed it differently.

- MT

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Night Tower

The night in Tokyo creates unexpected sights at unexpected times. The 1100-feet-high Tokyo Tower is the tallest landmark in the city but not the brightest since it does not have as many internal lights as an ordinary skyscraper. But, when seen from a direction, with no other buildings in sight, it does look the brightest, and even dangerous.

- MT

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Once every week or two, I travel throughout Japan on business. I generally take a flight that leaves Tokyo at around noon on Saturday and get back at night the next day. On the way from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) to Shibuya where I live, there are several long tunnels. This photo was taken on one of my trips back home when I felt very free and relieved after my trip.

- MT

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dolls at the Grave

If you are Japanese, the immediate interpretation of something like this would be that there were a number of unborn children, aborted or miscarried, who do not have a final resting place. Japanese women remember these children in this way by putting dolls in front of a diety. The words engraved in the tallest stone read, "Please bless all souls in the three worlds." I don't know why all the dolls are girls, though.

- MT

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fish Head

Fish heads are a delicacy in Japan, especially when they are from large fish such as blue-fin tuna and bonito. I found this head at a fish market in Misaki, Kanagawa prefecture. There is a wooden tag attached to the nose of the fish reading "Reserved for the restaurant Kaneko." Cartilage, cheek, and even eye balls are served for the Japanese dish "kamayaki."

- MT

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Three Pots

These pots displayed in the shade of a Tokyo restaurant caught my eye. They looked like three proud persons neatly dressed.

- MT

Saturday, July 22, 2006

An Accident

Surfing through the Internet, I recently came across a photo of an Japanese old man closely resembling my father. Actually, I thought at first he was my father. But he couldn't be my father because my father has been ill in bed for more than a year. I asked the photographer when and where he took the picture. The answer: recently in Shibuya, Tokyo. My father lives in Shibuya, next to my house. I showed the photo to my father, and he denied the photo was him.

This is an example of an accident, an unintentional happening. Or, it can be called coincidence, a simultaneous agreement without human intervention. But I doubt this happened truly without human intention or intervention. Given the global population, it is conceivable that anyone's appearance resembles someone other than himself/herself. But the probability that they would meet face to face, unless they are identical twins, is very slim. Does the emergence of the Internet, where time and space are minimized, make this probability greater? I think so. But the meeting of any two persons on the Internet, even for the first time, is not an accident or coincidence because it necessitates a series of intentional selections on the part of both parties.

- MT

Friday, July 21, 2006

Colongne Box (from my archives)

I don't know if there are still any more of these dispensers in the United States, but I found it 30 years ago in a restroom in Placervill, CA. I am not sure if it was a box for colonge or soap. It looked shining and clean, so I shot this photo. The boy is a grandson of my English teacher.

- MT

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Running Girl (from my archives)

Being independent by nature, a cat normally does not want to be dragged along with a leash. This kitten, howerver, seems happy to run with its neck bound probably because it likes the companion. The girl was the granddaughter of my English teacher. The girl was born and raised in Japan and looked very nice in kimono. She even has a Japanese name. I wonder how she looks now after 30 years.

- MT

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

County Fair (from my archives)

This is a good old-fashioned county fair, where people enjoy ridings, selling and buying things they produced and crafted. I was born and raised in Tokyo. Attending this type of community event, at that time (30 years ago), was totally a new experience to me. I enjoyed the day with my host family.

- MT

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Goat and A Car (from my archives)

A goat looks at a car in the shade. The engine of the car is probably off because the goat would hesitate to come so close if the engine were running. The goat may be curious about the car, for the car may have been driven by a visitor. Who is the visitor? I am not sure, but it may have been myself.

This picture was taken about 30 years ago when I visited an American family in Placerville, California. They were my English teacher (when in Japan), her husband, daughter, son, this goat, horse, cat, and dog.

- MT

Sunday, July 16, 2006


I am on a plane flying from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, back to Tokyo. My wife and I attended the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture meeting held in Asahikawa. Although it was too warm and humid in Tokyo, the people in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, are now enjoying the best season in the year. It is dry and cool with many different blowers blooming.. The leaves of the trees are bright in the sunshine, and the cherry trees are heavy with their red delicious fruit.

After the lecture meeting, we went to a flower park in Bibai, located on the outskirts of Asahikawa City. the park was literally covered with flowers of so many different colors--sunflowers, lavender, petunias, begonias, digitalis, lupines, marigolds, lilies, and California poppies. We walked slowly by the blanket of flowers, praising their beauty as we took photos here and there. There were many other people doing the same. I realized that they were truly enjoying the sights and we were, too.

As I wrote in my July 12th entry, we are "visual animals." All the colorful stimuli entering my eyes made me feel truly relaxed and happy. It was especially revealing that this took place even after the six hours of work at the meeting. The lecture meeting started at 10:00 am and lasted until 3:00 pm with an hour taken for lunch. I gave two one-hour lectures for this meeting and conducted a short meditation session as well. Afterwards, my wife and I attended a one-hour meeting with the local SNI leaders. by the time the meeting with these leaders was over, I felt exhausted. But I recharged myself with a glass of cold water then proceeded to the gate of the lecture hall where dozens of people were waiting to shake hands with us. I would say that flowers are man's dearest friends, just as dogs are our oldest. They lift us up and make us feel gentle and loving with their colors, shapes and fragrance.

- MT

Saturday, July 15, 2006

If Mice Have Empathy...

Science magzine recently reported that mice may have empathy toward other mice(Science vol. 312, 30 June 2006). This shocked me because I just got the renewed impression that humans have little empahy toward other animals, especially those raised for consumption. Empathy has often been thought to be a uniquely human attribute. It has been argued that in order to experience empathy we humans developed story-telling, operas, sports, novels, movies, and many other cultural events. When the German soccer captain butted an Italian player in front of TV cameras, many, if not most, felt empahy toward the former, thinking that he had been badly insulted, so badly that no one could blame him for ruining his last match as professional soccer player.

But if mice too have capacity for empathy, a whole different picture would emerge. A laboratory mouse may feel pain when seeing other mise being subject to unpleasant treatment. Since there is no reason to believe mice have more empathy than pigs, a pig, too, may feel intense fear seeing other pigs butchered. Then, what about a cow hearing other cows screaming in a slaughterhouse reeking with blood? I would therefore suggest that we should treat our fellow animals more "humanely." I'm not only talking about dogs and cats but also about cows and pigs.

- MT

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I am back home from our mountain villa, lying in bed, typing on the keyboard of my laptop. A soft breeze coming from the electric fan makes me relaxed. It has become cooler, but I was shocked by the heat in Tokyo about four hours ago when I came out of my car to have dinner with my daughter and wife. It was humid and around 30 degrees celsius, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit. We all agreed that we missed the cooler temperature and drier atmosphere at the villa.

During the dinner my 21-year-old daughter raised a question on Macrobiotics. Skimming throughthe two books on this subject which my wife bought during our stay in Ohizumi, my daughter seemed to be interested in this dietary lifestyle. She asked if my wife and I, already semi-vegetarians, were going to quit all meat including chicken. My wife answered, "No. At least not now, though we may be gradually reducing chicken meat."

Macrobiotics recommends that we base our diet primarily on foods native to the climate and environment in which we live. That is because our body is genetically adapted and, therefore, most fit to our environment. The basic idea is to eat food that is locally produced. Macrobiotics also asserts that our teeth represent the ideal proportion of foods in the human diet. That is, it recommends that we eat less meat and more grains and vegetables because most of our teeth are designed to crush or grind grains, beans, seeds, and other tough plant fibers and to cut vegetables. According to them, the ideal proportion of human foods is five parts grain and other tough fibrous foods, two parts vegetables, and one part animal food.

About a week ago my wife and I attended a Seicho-No-Ie Special Conference, where many problems in meat-eating were discussed. There are basically three areas of concern: 1) ethical and religious issues, 2) health issues, 3) environmental issues. My wife seemed so impressed with the seriousness of the problem in meat-eating that she wanted to pass some of the information she got there to our daughter.

- MT

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mowing the Lawn

It took some time for me to notice that my wife was up and working outside. I was in my futon bed trying to go back to sleep, thinking that I had not had enough sleep, when I heard the knocking-like sound near the front door of the villa. The sound, rather hollow and not repetitive, was not exactly like knocking. I assumed therefore that my wife was taking something out of the storage by the front door and made the sound when she shut the door of the storage room. I went back to sleep afterward.

I woke up from a short dream, noticing that she was sitting by the kitchen table. I asked her about the time and she told me that it was around seven-thirty. I decided to get up. She told me that she couldn't wait pulling out weeds and cutting the overgrown lawn until I got up. I asked her when she got up."Well, I think it was around five thirty," she said. I was impressed with her vitality.

After having breakfast I went out to see what my wife had done. It was a mess, not because she had done anything wrong but because she could not catch up with the wilderness nature had produced during the two months of our absence. I started to gather drawn-out weeds and cut grasses and, then, involved myself in mowing the lawn. It was only after my wife came out and told me what time it was that I, drenched with sweat and mud, decided that I should stop the work no matter how unsatisfactory it looked. Two hours passed like a half an hour.

It is sometimes said that humans are "visual animals." This is because we are preoccupied with the information obtained through our visual system. Visual arts, tourism, gymnastics, sports, racing, scuba diving, sky diving, space flight, and even eating cannot be fully enjoyed without seeing. Gardening may be one of those human endeavors born out of this preoccupation. No matter how strongly we are attracted by nature, we seldom give up modifying nature when nature looks truly natural.

- MT

Escape from Humidity

It has become humid and warm in Tokyo these days. The tropical storm that hit China and Korea recently has brought even more humidity and heat over Japan. It is this humidity that makes living in Tokyo unconfortable and even miserable in Summer. This is why I decided Today to go to our mountain villa with my wife.

It's been more than two months since we were there the last time. It was in May, and we still could see cherry blossoms in the mountains. There were even snowcaps on the mountain tops above 2,000 meters. I took several Spring shoots from Taranoki (Aralia elata) and enjoyed tempura using them.

This time our 22-year-old daughter decided to join us. Three of us had dinner together at an Italian restaurant near Meiji Park and left Tokyo for Ohizumi, Yamanashi prefecture, where our villa is located. We were all jubilant. My wife had just finished her one-hour lecture at a meeting, my daughter after her work, and I after submitting my manuscript for a monthly magazine. We all needed some good rest.

- MT

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Can't Help Saying This

I've decided to enter this club of bloggers so that I could say something to my English audience. I wanted to say that my Japanese blog has been experiencing a problem for a while, probably about 3 days. I had difficulty in entering and registering blog entries, and the system administrators, whoever they are, were not responding at all. So, I decided to go "overseas" and complain. This may not sound like a good reason to blog. But I cannot help it.

Thank you for your taking the time to read this.

- MT