Please visit this link to read my article, “Japan: A Thoughtful Travelogue”, published by Positively Filipino. I’m pasting the first part of the article.
I went, somewhat reluctantly. My parents had been in the guerrilla movement in the Philippines during World War II and had told me countless stories of Japanese atrocities and the sufferings of the Filipinos during that war. In fact, my first novel, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, integrates many of my parents’ stories of survival in Mindanao.
I was therefore a biased observer in Japan. I did try to keep an open mind, and I did see what my friends saw in Japan, its beauty for instance.
Japan Is Beautiful
The mountaintop place of Koyasan with its ancient cedar groves and Buddhist temples felt other-worldly and mystical. Koyasan, a UNESCO site, preserves Shingon Buddhism, a sect began in 805 by Kobo Daishi. The town only has Buddhist temples for housing, and we stayed at Ekoin Temple, where we slept on tatami mats, ate vegan food prepared by the monks, and witnessed their meditation, chanting, and a morning prayer ritual that involved burning wooden sticks with petitions. We had a wonderful walk through the Okunoin cemetery with graves and mausoleums of shoguns and emperors. This ancient cemetery also has many small stone statues tucked here and there, near imposing grave markers and enormous cedar tree roots. The figures have knitted head coverings and red aprons; these small Buddha figures represent dead babies and indicate that infant mortality was high and that families grieved for their dead babies …
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