Sounds of Japan

As the blades of the electric fan spin and create motion, a mild breeze sweeps the room and cools my nightly stay one last time before I move on to Kyoto. It is a soothing and familiar sound on these hot summer days – comforting and reassuring. Waking to the morning bell that calls in a soft, deep and rounded chime, joining the Buddhist mantra as it echoes through the temple, bounces off the paper sliding doors and returns to fill the meditation hall in which I sit, listening in awe. Taking a stroll to the monumental Okunoin cemetery, where the wind blows through the cedar tree tops, the gravel path crunches beneath each foot step and the crowds remain in silence as they bow to their deity. In Osaka, the red Shinto shrine alight with candles, the sky alight with city lights, the meticulous movements of the performers synchronised with the shrill whistle of the flute and the dense sound of the drum. The pelting noise of a Pachinko hall blasts onto the street as the sliding door makes way for its gamers. Melodic electronic tunes announce train and subway stations as if to invite you to a world of musical enchantment. The laughter loudest in the Yakitori restaurants and food markets, as hosts, guests and consumers alike shout their desires across the trading point. The wooden clogs clattering along the pavements, as tourists dress in traditional Japanese attire. School girls taking over trains in large numbers, leaving nothing but giggles and smiles as they brighten up the dreary ride. Thousands gathered to pay tribute in Hiroshima and as we walked in silence, the only sound to be heard was the faint flapping of fans and the shuffling of feet as we made our way to the Cenotaph. Captivated audiences, as survivors told their stories and opened their hearts and voices to the world. All these are the sounds of Japan. Ugly and beautiful, loud and silent, shrill and dull, happy and sad, unique and familiar. Sounding out into the world at the play of its own tune.

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