Thursday, November 03, 2005

Basho basho

Today I went to look at a new apartment in Morishita ("below the forest"), a place by the Basho museum in eastern Tokyo. If asked what period of time and place I'd like to live in, I'd say wandering Japan in the time of Basho (really Bashou 芭蕉 - he took his name from the banana plants that grew outside his hut, also called basho) , the Japanese haiku poet, travelling with Bashou himself. The Japanese word for "place" is basho, thus my little pun in the title. Not very funny, but whatever.

Having a bit of "buyer's remorse," which is absolutely ridiculous. The new place is actually clean, with nice clean beds, the shower's pipes aren't stopped up, the lounge isn't right next to my head (and thus I won't be woken up at 6 in the morning when my roommate comes in and plays crappy 80's music), and I don't have to deal with a slightly off-kilter Swedish neighbor who believes he took on an entire Zen monastery and beat them all (uh, whatever that means) by somehow treating them to mixture of "alcohol, herbs, and glass" that put them to sleep. I first noticed his oddity when he said he was giving himself electric shocks in order to control the roaches in his room. He's not particularly scary and these things only come up once in a while, but of course I don't particularly enjoy it when they do.

But as the Japanese proverb goes, "if you live somewhere, it's the capital" - in other words, you get used to where you are. I have to admit I like the neighborhood I'm in, with all its little alleys and more "residential" feel.

This is one thing that has really stood out so far in my travels - no matter what has been going on, the new seems like the best, until the day comes to make a commitment - whether it is to leave Tokyo for Osaka, or Osaka for Nara, or Nara for Hiroshima, or Hiroshima for Tokyo again. Well, actually, coming back to Tokyo wasn't so bad, although I ended up in this crappy place (hmm). So what I've come up with is - I constantly crave change, and yet I am afraid to commit to change. Or, more simply (maybe), I'm afraid to commit to anything, and the new thing always seems better because I don't have to commit to where I am. Ah, something like that.

This new place is definitely serendipitous. When I first came to Tokyo, in addition to the many sites listed in my guidebook, I really wanted to visit the Basho museum. I did, along with many other Basho sites in the area. The museum was closed, unfortunately, but I saw the outside garden with its small repository for guests to leave haiku (a common practice). I enjoyed Morishita and thought it would be really nice to live in the area one day, visiting the temple and dropping off a poem now and again.

I decided recently to look for a new place to stay, and remembering this I searched for a place in Morishita. I found one. And you know what? The new apartment is not a train stop away, not a few blocks away, but a few feet (or should I say meters) away from the museum with its garden and poem slot. How do you like that?

PS. I decided to look up the meaning of serendipitous, as I have a tendency to associate two words (like serendipity and synchronicity) and mistake them one for the other. I think serendipitous is more correct, but the main thing is I thought the entry was interesting. From dictionary.com's entry:

Word History: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the word serendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which his literary reputation primarily rests. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that “this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word.” Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of “a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of....”

Also serendipitous (though less interesting) is that I wrote a paper on Walpole's Castle of Otranto, the first (European) Gothic novel, last semester. Pretty terrible book, but it had some great themes that were explored throughout world literature and it began a new genre that placed intuition higher than reason in response to the industrial revolution.

2 comments:

Jim Skach said...

Jesse, I am enjoying your posts, but your last one got me lost. In your explanation of the map, you indicate Morshita as east, but in this post, you say it is in western Tokyo. Is the map just of western Tokyo?? Also where is Shibuya. You mention it in an earlier post, but I cannot find it on your map.
Good luck in finding something to do there.

Jim Skach
jskach@cox.net

keisetsu said...

Thanks for noticing that. Morishita is in the east, I've corrected my article.

Shibuya is in the southwest, just to the south of Meijijingumae, the station I've marked with a black circle.