"Is this it? Is this the Japans?"
It's the year 1600 and an English sailor has washed up on the shores of Japan after losing his ship as so many others had in the famously volatile Japanese waters. The crew had heard of this mysterious island but none knew if it truly existed. What they encountered would be the culture shock of their lives. Samurai walking around undisputed, able to chop a peasant's head off without a moment's notice. A fanatical belief in the order of things above any one individual. And a land marred by hundreds of years of civil strife, a centuries long struggle for power.
I, too, was there. Who I was, I am not sure. Was I just another sailor washed ashore or was I Oda Nobunaga, the savage and fierce warlord who started the final drive for unification? Regardless, the echoes of the Japans still ring in my head. It is a land where life is viewed as a fleeting dream and that dream I once shared. I've had literal goose bumps reading the events of Japanese history, the Sengoku era of the 1500s affecting me the most. How I ache to once more wander the "Land of the gods" when we were free to shape the world as we saw fit and blaze trails of glory.
I also remember the swords; sharp shiny glints of terror in the midday sun. To this day there is nothing more repulsive to me than a dagger. It has to be the most vile thing ever devised and even those for display should be melted and put to better use. Swords, though repulsive, can be works of art but a dagger is just evil. It is this violence I found fatal to the Japanese mindset, which one day led to the dropping of the two most horrific bombs in history. But at least that led to the preservation of this, one of the great cultures on Earth.
So for me it was a pilgrimage to visit the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth. I picked a day cold, wet and rainy - a time when only I would be there (and for most of the time I was). Once more I walked in the ancient footsteps and relived those feelings of being free and vibrant - this time without the horror of violence. Comparing that life to the one I have now was crushing. To go from somebody to nobody. But at least for one rainy day I was back in "the Japans".
Will Adams was ship's pilot of the crashed vessel in 1600. He went on to become the only foreigner ever to be made samurai. Anjin-san he was called, and recalling the explosion of wonder and curiousity of discovering the Japans, the feelings of that ancient mariner live once more:
"Marooned in the Japans"
For a few hours, I was Pilot. It was a very lonely feeling and I cried in the rain.
(A poem written both then and now)
I've found a home that's not a home,
My soul no place to rest;
And though I search both time and space,
I never find my own.
In this land I found a world,
A world out of my dreams;
But stranger I will always be,
Yet strange my land now seems.
So once again I hoist my sails,
My place is on the seas;
But with no points left unknown,
A pilot's left to grieve.
So I am like the raindrop,
That falls upon a leaf;
Rejoicing where I land,
Though I know my time is brief.