Humans and nature

My final post from my recent Japan vacation… For this entry, I wanted to share a few photos and observations on the balance between humans and nature.

In most cities, what we typically tend to see is both a conscious and unconscious demonstration of the power that humans wield over nature. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forests cleared, thousands of miles of concrete paved, and a billion tons of concrete poured. Some of the more forward thinking cities manage to preserve a few natural areas and these carved-out oases often become tourist meccas.

When humans and nature manage to co-exist peacefully side-by-side, it’s often nature supporting humans. A river provides fresh water, a lake provides fish, grass areas provide space for recreation, forests provide fuel and so on. However, when standing in Kenroku-en, Kanazawa’s famous Japanese garden, I saw this tree:

I was mesmerized. The snaking branches felt dynamic and alive. I could have stared at this tree for a hundred years and never tired of its beauty. One of the things I found particularly compelling was the fact that all of its branches, which had spread far out from its trunk, were attached to poles which provided support. While walking around the gardens, I realized that what appealed to me so much about this was that it was a beautiful example of humans supporting nature. We do see many examples of man supporting nature in the world — national parks, wildlife preserves, etc — but the very literal example on display at Kenroku-en hit home to me in a very spiritual way.

I found other examples of humans and nature living alongside — all included below.

A natural hot spring by the road side. This natural source of water had been turned into a small shrine by locals (and which provides free flowing, delicious clean water)
Wakura onsen is a town made famous for its naturally occurring hot springs. The water is especially rich in sodium (I drank some — apparently its good for health and tasted extremely salty). Here is a public fountain which has hot, natural spring water tapped from the ground. Locals come here to boil eggs — called “onsen tamago
The beautiful Lamp No Yado, a ryokan built around natural hot springs and made famous for its oil lamps
Nature reclaiming. Found on the shore of the Noto peninsula
Onsen at Yamanaka. The temperature is a perfect 41 degrees celcius (105 degrees fahrenheit)
The sacred well at Kenroku-en. According to legend, over a thousand years ago a peasant stopped to wash his potatoes and noticed that gold flakes rose up from the water. This is what gives Kanazawa its name (meaning “marsh of gold”)
Nature as art. From left to right: flower arranging (called Ikebana) at a buddhist temple, an art exhibit at Kanazawa modern art museum,
Final photo. The gardens at the Nomura (ex Samurai) house in Kanazawa…. Although only a few thousand square feet in size, it was voted the #3 garden in all of Japan by a publication. Visiting this garden was a powerful reminder in the saying that “small is beautiful”

That wraps up my posts & photos from our recent trip. This was an important vacation for me — the first time I can really remember where I didn’t have to rush back for anything in particular and the extra freedom allowed me to really to be present with myself and with our surroundings. I definitely felt different and in a small way, I think it showed in the photos I took and what I was drawn to.

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