Kyoto: Arashiyama - Neat and Tidy




February 19, 2014

My Friends, 

No matter where I go in Japan – on a crowded city street, a subway platform or the subway train itself, a bus, public park or the busy grounds of a festival or tourist attraction - I find not one, not one scrap of paper anywhere.  Not one discarded candy wrapper, not one stray cigarette butt tossed in the street. 

(In fact, it appears that in Japan, smoking on the street is prohibited.   Smoking is tolerated only in small, completely enclosed and sealed, glass-enclosed smoking rooms placed in various locations in a shopping mall or office building.) 

On the long-distance station platform, I wait for my train to arrive from the opposite direction and discharge all the passengers.  But before the other new passengers and I are welcome to board the sleek and spotless modern train, a small army of cleaners in neat and tidy uniforms reconfigure the seats and sweep and clean the cars.  Everything is neat and tidy. 

(The Clearing Staff put on a bit of a show.  Like the blue-uniformed Station Staff, they stand at attention, in a straight line facing the arriving train.  When the train stops, they turn in a soldierly manner to face the doors. When the doors open, they bow respectfully to each exiting passenger before they enter the empty car.  When they leave the car, they turn and bow once again.   They depart in an orderly fashion to await their next assignment.) 

Everyone is polite.  Everything is neat and tidy. 

Northwest of Kyoto, in an area called Arashiyama, I found “neat and tidy” taken to the nth degree. 

Naturally, the temples and shrines are appealing and tranquil.  The gardens and ponds of Arashiyama are designed and maintained with meticulous care.  The Bamboo Grove – haunting and beckoning.  The rolling hills and the views from Okochi Sanso are inspiring. (The villa of the samurai actor Okochi Denjiro.) 

But on a hillside, covered now with a smooth winter moss, a gardener sits on the ground, pokes and prods, straightens and cleans the natural green carpet.  Neat and tidy?  No. 


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