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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Matsuo Bashō, the literary wanderer 😊, and Nihonbashi


I've been meaning to write about Bashō, the haiku poet, and Nihonbashi, the area where I hanged out after my visit, but never got around to it. So here it is. I hope that you will enjoy it.

On a rare occasion, I dab at poetry, but I’m definitely not a poet. I just do it for me, and oftentimes, I end up shredding it. But that doesn’t mean that I do not appreciate a good poem. And when I travel, I like to do something that deals with the writers’ world. Sometimes, I drop by a library or a bookstore. This time, I visited the sites where Matsuo Bashō, a famous Haiku poet, aka the literary wanderer spent time. My guide was surprised that I knew of him. I found out about Bashō by accident when I was doing research on some interesting things to do in Tokyo.

We acessed the area from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa subway station. Kiyosumi is a neighborhood in Tokyo's eastern Koto Word. There is also Kiyosumi garden which I did not get to see, but do recommend. We walked for a bit and found the Basho Inari Jinja Shrine.




This a Kitsune fox shrine as there are foxes at the gate, one with an open mouth, the other with closed. The open mouth fox guards the shrine and wards off evil spirits. The closed mouth fox keeps in the good spirits. You will see more of these creatures with open and closed mouths throughout Japan, and when I talk about the Nihonbashi bridge. Part of the Japanese culture, Kitsune are intelligent foxes with special abilities, and they get wiser with time.

Also here, there are stone representation of Bashō’s frogs. Matsuo Bashō was the master of Haiku, lived a simple life, and was a recluse. I have no problem living a simple life, but to be a recluse is not that appealing to me. I need my space, but I also need to connect with other human beings. His most famous haiku translated: An ancient (old) pond! 

An ancient pond!

With a sound from the water

Of the frog as it plunges in.

The above pictures are samples of Bashō’s Haiku. There are 12 of them on sticks, spread along a long walking path by the water. Even if you’re like me, and not good at poetry, you can still see the image Bashō has created. In a 5-7-5 syllable, he creates a vision of a weathered pond, existing in silence until a frog jumps in and disturbs it. You can almost hear the noise the frog created when it jumped in, and see the ripples in the water. Perhaps, when Basho wrote this, he was referring to himself as old. And maybe he was deep in thought when some noise, or someone broke his focus, and inspired him to write this. There has been various contradictory analysis regarding the meaning behind this Haiku which I will not get into. Sometimes when I read a poem or a good piece of writing, or admire a painting, I just want to enjoy it and not analyze it to death. As William Forrester tells Jamal in the film, Saving Forrester, one of the reasons he stopped writing was that he got tired of critics trying to interpret his words all the time.
The Basho Museum, situated near the Sumida River, display some of his writings, maps of his travels, and the type of clothes he wore. The explanations are in Japanese. So, you would need to go with someone who speaks Japanese or do some research before you go.
He lived in a cottage near this area where he wrote in his travel journal. As I followed Bashō’s path in Tokyo, I ran into many calm and serene areas that I would have never discovered otherwise. You can take a stroll by the Sendai-bori river, and get lost in your thoughts. I was told that this area is beautiful during the cherry blossom season.
There is a lot more to be said about this neighborhood. But then this blog would become way too long. You can easily take your time and spend half a day here. Sumida river is nearby with a nice quiet outdoor area, and more dedication to Bashō. You can bring a Bento Box and a drink, and picnic here.
After our Bashō excursion, we went to Nihonbashi, which means the bridge to Japan. It is named after the Nihonbashi Bridge which spans over the Nihonbashi river. This bridge was once a wooden bridge, and today, it’s made up of stones, supported by steel. There is an expressway that runs above it which detracts from the its historical beauty. There are plans underway to move the expressway underground. This area, save for the bridge, was burned to the ground after the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945.
Nihonbashi means the center of Tokyo—the point from which all distances in Japan are calculated. In the middle of the bridge, there is a zero kilometer marker, a metal plate from where everything is measured. To stop people from running into traffic, there is one like it placed to the side of the road. As for me, I just had to take a picture of the one in the middle of the road while dodging cars, and being reprimanded by my tour guide.
At the corners of the bridge, there are two pairs of Shisha, the guardian lion statues, and in the center, a pair of Kirin, mythical beasts. You will notice here again, the opened mouth male wards off evil spirits and the closed mouth female keeps in the good spirits.
We ended up with having lunch at Mitsukoshi, Japan’s first department store. The purple tea is lavender tea with a mild flavor. I bought a few packages for my friends and  family.






Wednesday, September 20, 2023

X aka Twitter is broken


I don’t know where to begin, because there is so much, I have to say. I have been on Twitter since June 2009, because John Kremer, the author of 1001 ways to market your book, encouraged me to join Twitter. I was one of the early users, and just like many people, I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. But I learned quickly how to use the platform, mostly for activism. However, I also posted other things about books, quotes, movies, music, art, and etc. My posts were genuine. I wasn’t using the platform to sell things, but because people liked what I posted, they started to take interest in my writing.
Many people don’t understand why Twitter is so important to some users. Some users are addicted. Others use it to promote their book, music or film. Advertisers use it to promote restaurants, and etc. Then there are those who use it to chat with their friends. Journalists and writers are there to convey articles about current events. But activists, like myself, are there to save lives and expose corruption. No, I don’t think I’m that important for people to want to listen to me. But as a collective, activists can make a whole lot of noise by pushing the media to pay attention and governments to back off. So, for example, if another activist or a prisoner is in trouble, and is being beaten to death, we make noise, jump up and down, wave our hands, sign petitions, and do everything possible to save a life. Sometimes we fail, but for those times when we succeed, and force a government to back down on torture, and death sentence, we are ecstatic to have made a difference.
Twitter had always censored. For example, more than halfway during the Iranian protests, the U.S government asked Twitter to push down the trending hashtag of #IranElection and make it seem unimportant. Tweets about Iran started to lose their reach, soon everything died down, and journalists, encouraged by governments around the world, lost interest. This is how you kill a revolution and push people back into oppression. Governments make behind the scene deals with the oppressed government or sometimes it is not advantages for world governments to have a regime change in an oppressed country.
Even so, Twitter has always been an important platform to make some noise and get a message across. Problem is, Today, X/Twitter is completely broken and useless if you want to find the truth. A few years before Elon Musk took over, Twitter was suffering from too much censorship. But I have never ever seen Twitter to be this horrible since Elon Musk took over. At first, I was excited that he was in charge because he said that he plans not to censor people. What I didn’t realize was that, he was planning to remove the censorship only from people he chose.
Twitter Blue. I have no problem paying for a good product, but I will not pay for trash. Twitter Blue gives you a verified check mark. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. Twitter Blue has cool features. Again, I couldn’t care less. Twitter Blue gives you only 50% of the ads. Well, how about no ads? I’m paying right? I should be entitled to no ads. And on and on and on about things I don’t care about. Oh, and Twitter Blue guarantees that your tweet will have more reach because you are paying. Wow!!! So, if you tweet garbage, your tweet will have more reach because you paid? What about content? Isn’t content more important, and an indicator of why your tweet should have more reach?
Here is what I care about: I only want to see the people that I follow on my home page. I don’t want to see Trump and his cronies on my home page. I don’t want to see tweets that load my page with lies. Some conspiracy theories do have merit if they have links from trustworthy sources that back up the information. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. There is a lot of junk on Twitter. I want to make sure that when I tweet, my tweeps will see it. I used to communicate with a lot of my friends and followers. We used to share information. We used to chat and support each other. All of that is gone.
I kept thinking, Elon Musk and his staff will rise above all of this. I kept thinking that Musk needs time to turn things around for the better. But I’m not so sure anymore. He wants to add a paywall and force people to pay. Again, no problem, if he provided a great product. If things continue this way, I will be leaving Twitter as did many of my online friends. I will not erase my account because I don’t want some awful person to use my name to tweet nonsense. It’s really hard for me to leave Twitter, but it’s even harder for me to waste my time on this platform. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’m starting to look into other platforms, and will keep you posted.
And for those of you who think that activists are full of themselves, think again. If it weren’t for activists, the world would be much worse off, and your rights would be taken away. You think the turning of Roe vs. Wade is horrible? Well, I have news for you. That issue will pale compared to everything else that will come your way, if there were no activists working to protect your rights. I’m just a writer activist, but think about all those activists with boots on the ground. Think about them risking their lives everyday so that we can live a more comfortable life. We need them. Without them, this world would dissipate into nothingness.