By Ruth Reiner
When asked about my tie and love to Japan I can not but mention, that Japan, the extreme contrast to Israel, the land where I was raised, is the only place in the world that feels just like home. Japan has been in my thoughts since I was a child. My father would bring me KOTO music on cassettes, when returning from business trips to the US. I had never really known how green and beautiful the land of the rising sun is, until I had finished my university studies and came to stay with Oomoto in Kameoka in 1999 for one year.
Staying with Oomoto, has been one of the most educating and inspiring years of my life. As my experience in Kyoto, was of greatly of spiritual growth, it was about nature as well. It has been many years since I had felt the comforting flow of the four seasons, as I had felt that year in Kyoto. As the seasons chase each other like a kid trying to prove his toy is better than the toys of the others, every season in Japan seemed as if it were trying to prove its charm in its own unique and sensational way.
The seasons of Kyoto, hit every one of your senses. I can almost taste the seasons for their unique dishes, see the colors of the atmosphere change with the seasons, smell the plum or cherry blossom, and feel the still cold of the winter or the intense heat of the summer.
If I were to close my eyes and only listen to the sounds of the seasons, I would hear the Kyoto Summer for its chanting crickets, the Fall for the sound of its soft wind and diving leaves, and the winter for the silence of its freezing nights and the sound of the pounding snow. The spring would then just burst in with the singing of the birds and first laughter of those so relieved with the return of the promising cherry blossom, and finally the sound of the washing rain bringing us back to the high spirits of the summer.
I believe that the middle east would have been a place of less conflict were it a greener place with more rain and water, the heat, the dryness, the lack of water generate intensity and discomfort. I believe the greenness and water of Japan can wash your eyes and heart, at least that is how I had felt.
During my farewell party before leaving Oomoto, I was approached by a very generous man, who had been preparing the meals I ate in Oomoto during the year and was told a very memorable thing. He told me that the food in Oomoto is always aligned with the seasons of the year. I found his explanation inspiring. He had explained, that through eating seasonal foods you are honoring what mother nature has offered at present, the ultimate way for one to remember it is one with nature.
When once asked why I love Japanese culture I answered: “the Japanese culture to me is the elegant balance of two extremes brought together to create perfection. The combination of the taste of the tea ceremony sweet with the bitter green tea, the elegant after-taste, the mix of them both is the essence of all the extremes brought to absolute balance in the Japanese culture. Contrasts as: traditional with modern, working the rice fields with the sunrise and working the long night hours in the great corporate Tokyo, simplicity with ultimate sophistication in the essence of the Japanese taste of style and fashion.
A few days before I left Japan, I was honored to be invited for dinner with
Mr. Itsuki Deguchi, at that time, the Director of the Institute of Doctrinal Research at Oomoto. At the end of our dinner and dialog, he said to me something I will never forget. He said: “Japan has a message to the world, a message of harmony a message of roundness. If you look around you will soon notice that in our culture, in our behavior or even in our design, we tend to make things round, with no rough corners, as to flow and create harmony”. He added, “Look at the Japanese products we export to the world, from Japanese cars to Japanese electronics, we tend to round of the corners, as this is our deep message and our role in the world”.
Coming from a culture of many corners and edges, as I do, Japan had conquered my heart with all I had mentioned above; its nostalgic seasons, contrasts with an elegant balance, its nature – a feast for the senses, and nourishing greenness to the eyes and mind. As I found myself returning to my suffering part of the world I knew there was a reason Japan was in my heart from childhood, and that I too need to help carry this message of roundness and harmony out to the world too.