May 18, 2013 Japan

Isobe, Gunma, Japan

If there is space to stand, there is space to put a garden. If there is space for a stone monument, there will be a cemetery. Side by side out here in the country, stones and flowers comfort the living and the dead.

Things you find at a shrine: salt and water; tears, essentially. Paper lanterns, paper requests, paper cigarette butts, paper notices, papers of protection and blessing, strips of paper hanging from rope, blowing in the wind.

A city cat, mangy and sort-tailed. She doesn’t flinch when she hears me, but looks and keeps her stride. Two birds guarding a nest put up a riot of noise.

Enormous shadow-colored carp swim among brightly-colored koi in a pond near the shrine. Tiny fish with lacy tails cluster together like children in a schoolyard while the larger fish mingle and dart about, jumping for food on the water’s surface.

Other than a man who said a shy but smiling “good morning” outside the hotel, everyone has pretty much ignored me. A man by the river with a dog half the size of Daisy but with twice the energy (if that is even possible) smiles with broken and metal-capped teeth. I show him a picture of Daisy on my phone while his dog whimpers and holds my arm, just like Daisy does.

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