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Our perceived world is a boat, floating in an ocean of magma.

Here near Yokohama, I didn’t even feel the big earthquake near Niigata when it happened this morning. The TV news is full of pictures of collapsed buildings. All of the collapsed buildings are old ones, with plaster and wood walls. A gorgeous kura (storehouse) lies opened up like a milk carton, its heavy walls flat to the ground. So far 3 people have died.

Different news channels have different spins. Some are straight-up, tight-lipped, but one station has a girl running around a town interviewing people with an excited tone of voice as she stands next to rubble. There’s that Japanese jauntiness again in the face of something frightening, uncontrollable, and most importantly, natural. A woman who lives next door to a house that was completely flattened actually laughs as she is interviewed. I can’t tell if it is nervous laughter or relief.

Yesterday I was having a tour in Tokyo of a Shinto shrine and the guide said that all of nature is kami (the gods, the “greater force” of Shinto). At some point this force will come to the Kanto Plain where I live. A major earthquake is overdue here. I feel the small earthquakes all the time as I sit reading. I’ve started to ignore them, but perhaps I should think of each one as a bell of mindfulness, a rocking of the boat.

Nevertheless, the sumo tournament in Nagoya continues. Sumo tournaments used to be ceremonies to predict the harvest or the fortunes of the town. Before they wrestle, the rikishi stomp on the earth to drive away bad spirits and throw salt to purify the dohyo (ring).

The old buildings are falling, there’s a crack in the earth in Niigata. The world is fragile and transient.



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