National Geographic : 1976 Jun
left the world and came here to Jinko-in. In the peace of this place she wrote poems about the beauty of nature and the sadness of life." Poems by Rengetsu, written in calligraphy as fine as the bones of a thrush, were framed on the walls of the temple. When Mr. Maruyama arrived, he read aloud some of his pupils' haiku-they had been mixed together, unsigned, on a wooden tray, and the best had been chosen by vote before he arrived. My host had learned that I sometimes publish haiku in English, and I was urged to write something about Renget su, and about the temple, which has a fine stand of oak trees. I wrote this: What oaks remember, princes were cut down to lose: Rengetsu's beauty. Those Japanese who believe that art is the child of time often remark that there is no longer enough time to shape artists as they should be shaped. In former days one began a career as a child; today the beginning is usu ally delayed until age 15, because of Japan's When beauty reaches great subtlety, say the Japanese-as in maple leaves breaching a bamboo fence or rusty rivets in a wooden door-they call the effect "shibui," meaning restrained elegance. compulsory-education laws. Geishas, for ex ample, who used to start their training at the age of 6, now begin in their teens. As I watched the geishas of Kyoto's enter tainment districts, wearing silken kimonos in glorious pale colors, dancing with parasol and fan with wonderful grace, it seemed to me that their ancestors could hardly have been more pleasing to the eye. But a somewhat grumpy gentleman in the theater seat behind me did not agree. "That's not a proper gesture for Summer Firefly!" he would exclaim aloud. "They call that a well-danced Origami? Ha! But what more can you expect? These girls begin too late ever to learn how to do things properly!" The theatrical arts of old Japan, partic ularly the stately No drama, still have power over audiences. Since No plays are narrated in an archaic Japanese that has about as much relationship to the modern tongue as the lan guage of Chaucer has to 20th-century En glish, this is no mean feat. My wife, Nancy, and I went one night with a crowd to see, outdoors in the courtyard of Waves of green lapping the slope of a tea farm (right) exemplify the Japanese ideal of beauty. Zen Buddhist mas ters teach that a seeker can find the eternal in the simplest finite detail.