Tunnels and Rabbit Holes

There was a shrine with a prominent sign that said, “Free Entry.”  I am normally leery of offers like this.  One time Vince and I went to the free Museum of Woodcarving in the north woods of Wisconsin somewhere and it turned out to be a collection of bible scenes which in which the wood carver attempted to convert us to Christianity. We declined his offer to see “much more” in the basement.

I don’t set out to write posts with themes; it just happens, as you’ll see.

Was this “free shrine” really a shrine? The walls were packed floor to ceiling with military photos and there were museum-like displays with more of the same.  The structure was octagonal, and half way around there was a sign indicating an underground maze.  I’m usually game to try anything quirky but at the bottom of the steps I realized this was a pitch black maze.  Why would anyone want to grope their way along cement basement walls in a pseudo shrine?  Would there be a sudden drop into a fattening pen?

I quickly retreated.  The omnipresent shrine attendant followed me around until I exited.

I bought some wasabi peas and Calpis, a yogurty beverage I was growing fond of, then stopped in at the inn.  My room had been cleaned and there was a new snack which had little fish in it.  I don’t mean crackers shaped like fish, like Goldfish.  I mean real, dried whole fish.  They were tiny, so eating fish heads wasn’t as bad as it sounds.  I can’t say they added anything to my enjoyment of the snack.

I piled up eight cushions to sit on and leaned against the wall to read for a bit.  I was struck by an article about the Japan self defense forces in the newspaper.  “Self-defense forces” may sound tame, but they are the “world’s fourth most-powerful military in conventional capabilities” and Japan has the world’s eighth-largest military budget, according to Credit Suisse.

While Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party may have a cute logo …

… it has an objective of amending Article 9 of the Japanese constitution “to remove prohibitions on use of military power in resolving international disputes.”

I had been working my way through the novel Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.  It’s a WWII love and war story and I now resumed reading a detailed account of the underground warfare conducted in Europe between the allies and Germans.  The Brits recruited miners to dig tunnels far underground.  The Germans did the same. They met somewhere in this real underground maze and fought hand-to-hand combat.  They were often in complete darkness for days and had to crawl to get through the low tunnels.  Sometimes the tunnels collapsed.  Sometimes men suffocated or were crushed or died in accidental explosions.

Why would anyone want to repeat the nightmares of WWII or any other war?

I had to set the book down a couple times and think about whether I would continue reading because it was so horrific.

After another amazing dinner, I returned to the cemetery.

There was a monument to one of the handful of woman buried in Okunoin.  She had also donated her hair, so I guess that’s a thing.  There was another magical rock; if you held your ear to it and listened closely you could hear “screams from hell.”  The woman’s screams?  If so, why—what had she done?

I hiked on and came to a memorial to “Japanese and Australians who were sent to east Borneo (Malaysia) during WWII.”  WTF?  I had seen several memorials in Australia to the Aussies who died on Japanese death marches in Borneo and elsewhere.  Was this another attempt to make a Japanese-perpetrated atrocity sound two-sided?

Just now, I researched what the weird shrine was, and falling down that rabbit hole led me to a Japan Times opinion article titled, “Mount Koya sites exemplify ‘parallel universe’ where war criminals are martyrs.” It describes how the shrine portrays Japan as liberating Burma and other countries.

But of course, as the old song by The Who goes, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”  The Japanese just became the new colonizers.

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