Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the wake of Lafcadio Hearn. part 1

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"We cross the broad opening of the bay, journey along another half-mile of ghastly sea-precipice, and finally make for a lofty promontory of naked Plutonic rock. We pass by its menacing foot, slip along its side, and lo! at an angle opens the arched mouth of a wonderful cavern, broad, lofty, and
full of light, with no floor but the sea. Beneath us, as we slip into it, I can see rocks fully twenty feet down. The water is clear as air."

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"This is the Shin-Kukedo, called the New Cavern, though assuredly older than human record by a hundred thousand years."

"A more beautiful sea-cave could scarcely be imagined. The sea, tunnelling the tall promontory through and through, has also, like a great architect, ribbed and groined and polished its mighty work. The arch of the entrance is certainly twenty feet above the deep water, and fifteen wide; and trillions of wave tongues have licked the vault and walls into wondrous smoothness."

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"As we proceed, the rock-roof steadily heightens and the way widens. Then we unexpectedly glide under a heavy shower of fresh water, dripping from overhead. This spring is called the o-chozubachi or mitarashi [1] of Shin-Kukedo-San.. From the high vault at this point it is believed that a great stone will detach itself and fall upon any evil-hearted person who should attempt to enter the cave. I safely pass through the ordeal!"

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Suddenly as we advance the boatwoman takes a stone from the bottom of the boat, and with it begins to rap heavily on the bow; and the hollow echoing is reiterated with thundering repercussions through all the cave. And in another instant we pass into a great burst of light, coming from the mouth of a magnificent and lofty archway on the left, opening into the cavern at right angles. This explains the singular illumination of the long vault, which at first seemed to come from beneath; for while the opening was still invisible all the water appeared to be suffused with light. Through this grand arch, between outlying rocks, a strip of beautiful green undulating coast appears, over miles of azure water. We glide on toward the third entrance to the Kukedo, opposite to that by which we came in; and enter the dwelling-place of the Kami and the Hotoke, for this grotto is sacred both to Shinto and to Buddhist faith.

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"Here the Kukedo reaches its greatest altitude and breadth. Its vault is fully forty feet above the water, and its walls thirty feet apart. Far up on the right, near the roof, is a projecting white rock, and above the rock an orifice wherefrom a slow stream drips, seeming white as the rock itself."

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"This is the legendary Fountain of Jizo, the fountain of milk at which the souls of dead children drink. Sometimes it flows more swiftly, sometimes more slowly; but it never ceases by night or day. And mothers suffering from want of milk come hither to pray that milk may be given unto them; and their prayer is heard. And mothers having more milk than their infants need come hither also, and pray to Jizo that so much as they can give may be taken for the dead children; and their prayer is heard, and their milk diminishes."

"At least thus the peasants of Izumo say."

"And the echoing of the swells leaping against the rocks without, the rushing and rippling of the tide against the walls, the heavy rain of percolating water, sounds of lapping and gurgling and plashing, and sounds of mysterious origin coming from no visible where, make it difficult for us to hear each other speak. The cavern seems full of voices, as if a host of invisible beings were holding tumultuous converse.
"

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Text by Lafcadio Hearn. Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894)
Photos by Ojisanjake More Glimpses of Unfamilar japan (2009)

3 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about this book for the past 24 hours as I'm heading down to Kamakura and Enoshima today, and I can easily remember Hearn's take on both.

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  2. This is one of many of your excellent blog posts. Great photographs, exceptional text.

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  3. Hey Liz.Photo... thanks.... the text isnt mine :)

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