This is a small part of Naksan Temple (낙산사) on Korea’s east coast. Shot with a Cannon 30D… In color if you can believe it!
The east coast of Korea, save the Busan area, is relatively underpopulated due to being essentially a thin strip of land between mountain and sea. It does boast a lot of Korea’s prettier landscapes, and the mountains do help a slight bit with the filthy air blowing in from China at around this time of the year. Ulsan is about as close as that side of the country gets to having a big city, and it’s not too far from the more exciting Busan so that’s not much of a draw for me. Might be a good place for someone I know to putz around in.
I went there as part of my farewell to Korea before I was to head to Taiwan to try my luck. (Alas, I am a man without luck, so I can’t say it was my last tour of Korea.) A friend decided that she was going to take me to see the sun rise one last time in Korea and we drove down there overnight to be the first people in the country to see it. (The sunrise-blocking mountains of Korea are mostly on the east coast, facing Japan. Plate tectonics means the rest of the nation is in shadow when the sun rises.) The weather wasn’t cooperating so all we got to see was the fog turn a lighter shade of grey. She’s a huge coffee drinker and I hadn’t become a filthy bean junkie yet so while she was energetically dragging me up the side of a mountain to go get enlightened, I was ready to curl up on Buddha’s lap and sleep.
The ride back was exciting because even she was losing it as we were approaching Seoul. I had to yelp twice about us swerving into the wrong lane to keep her awake… When I wasn’t sleeping myself. Dunno what might have happened if we both nodded off at the same time.
I make no secret that I think religious belief (as well as it’s root: The adoration of authority) is a steaming load of dookie. But I do admit that for the most part it’s harmless. A collection of habits and rituals that people use to distract themselves from the awareness of the future meal they’re going to become. It’s meaningless, but at least they’re not passing laws telling gays they’re not human, or murdering people in malls over it.
Recently, I was hipped to an article about atheist churches. I had heard of the concept before and I didn’t pay it much heed because the idea is like saying you’re a firm Catholic on your way to your third abortion.
Let me tell you a not-secret secret: Atheists have as much in common with each other as Canadians do. Same country, different worlds. There are atheists who think wimmins need to shut up and stop spoiling the fun with their lady brains. Some atheists will strongly deny any gods you present to them, yet will go on at great lengths about ghosts, Bigfoot, and the UFOs that brought all of them to Earth. There are also atheists that think climate change is a scam of Big Solar, vaccines are mind-control drugs, and the moon landing was done on the Star Trek set. Aside from being idiots, the only thing these atheists have in common is disbelief in deities.
Yet someone decided that what atheism needed was the power structure of religion and they scammed a bunch of people into agreeing with them. Sure, these organizers will talk a good game about community and ritual. But all leaders talk about community and ritual. Making people feel like a group is part of the toolbox of those who seek money and power. And these social structures inevitably exist solely to maintain the power of the people at the head of that structure. It’s human nature. It’s also something to be rejected because it’s what leads people to pass laws that tells gays they’re not human, and murder people in malls.
In Kyushu, it’s common to dress up small stone Buddhas in cozy winter gear. I feel this is a much better expression of ritual than any of the above mentioned. So if some atheist wants to knit a little cozy for their copy of The God Delusion, they have my blessings. Leave the priests to the religions.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. With the end of the Cold War this is an occasion that has become something that only gets mentioned in passing. And with the war generation mostly dying off and the Baby Boomers busily fighting with Generations X through Z over how much of society’s resources they’re going to eat up before they die, this isn’t going to change any time soon.
I’ve only ever passed through Hiroshima on my way to Tokyo or Osaka. It seemed like a nice city from the window of the train. It was always a regret of mine that I’ve never visited there. But you know… the history of the place. I knew I was going to walk around all weepy-eyed since I was a teen during Ronald Reagan’s brinkmanship against the USSR and atomic death was an ever present fear that still sits deep in the animal part of my brain.
Yeah, acting psychotic worked very well for America. That’s why North Korea does the same thing today. But it only worked because the Soviets decided they would have to be the sane ones. A nation that decided democracy was for chumps and ran back into the arms of the next dictator they found. You should think about that for a while before chanting “U! S! A! - U! S! A!” or “Can! Ah! Dah! - Can! Ah! Dah!” or “God save the Queen” like the sad little nationalist nerd that you are. No, not even at sporting events.
I will accept, “God, save my Queen LP collection!” depending upon the circumstances.
I have been to Nagasaki. As mentioned yesterday, it’s a beautiful city. Sure, the first thing you see when exiting the train station is a hill full of graves. If you’re the superstitious type, you may not like that. But those graves are behind a street full of lovely Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. The city itself feels comfortable in it’s own skin and despite the relatively small population, the place is jumping at night. In some areas it feels like a city twice it’s size.
While I was there, I met an old fellow who was a kid during the war. Thanks to the long lives of the average Japanese person you get to meet a lot of old folks who have experienced shit that makes you feel like the pampered kidult you are. He lived outside of the city when it was bombed and was largely spared the horrors of it. His story is pretty typical: After the war he goes to a technical college in the west (In his case it was Canada because he loved Elvis but he couldn’t get into the USA.), and gets a degree in engineering. He comes back speaking fluent English, has a good life for himself and his family, retires. Striking up conversations with every tourist he meets on the trolley.
Or “tram” if you prefer your English to not be American.
There was a blizzard when I visited Nagasaki. It made for pretty pictures, I think. I’ll be posting those up for the next few days. Like the photo above that was shot on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, they were shot with a Mamiya C220f medium format camera. If medium format film wasn’t such a pain in the ass to get and a pain in the ass to get developed, I’d be still using it all of the time.