Feeling the Higashiyama Culture

Part 1: The First Encounter with a Samurai

 By Svetoslav Dimitrov   Sep 1, 2016

The cherry trees were oozing out an irresistible fragrance which was dissipating in the warm, spring air. It was minutes before dusk and the setting rays of the Japanese sun were vivaciously bathing the crystal-clear water of the pond in myriads of frisky colours.

Out of the blue, I heard footsteps, quickly approaching the temple from where I was admiring the cherry blossoms. In a matter of one swift breath, a samurai from the Muromachi period stood erect in front of me with a questioning grimace.

Judging by the pulsating vein on his sweaty forehead, I could tell he was not in his happiest mood. No wonder why – wooed by the scent of the trees, I had stepped inside a cherry garden, unintentionally picking a couple of dark pink petals.

I tried saying something in my defence, but for some reason (was it the surrounding gorgeousness of the place, the spring splendour or the svelte, awe-inspiring figure of the samurai, I cannot tell for certain) I was not able to utter a single sound.

I glanced around the area of the Ginkaku-ji Temple. The teems of people had cleared out and I was completely alone. Well, with the samurai.

Millions of thoughts hurriedly sprung to my prefrontal cortex which all boiled down to running in order to escape. As quickly as they came, they vanished. It was not a bright idea. And probably he only looked upset.

Gathering all my courage and my almost non-existent Japanese vocabulary, I solemnly bowed before him and asked what he wanted. Probably I did not say it right because he did not reply anything.

Silence. Silence which can be cut through with a knife. A small drop of sweat shot down my forehead and stopped on the tip of my nose. I decided to reach for my phone in order to use a translating app.

Before I even made my move, he perceived it and slowly started getting his gleaming sword out of its steel sheath. I obediently froze when I saw the sharpness of the blade. The setting sun’ reflection on it was gleefully smiling at me.

I knew samurais are very noble people, and they will never attack a person without a reason. The few rose petals in my hand could not be the reason he was facing me. I must have crossed a line which I should not have dared crossing. But what could it be?

It was remarkable how elegant and peaceful the legendary swordsman looked despite the fact he was holding a lethal weapon.

Suddenly, the samurai spoke in fluent English, “Follow me, foreigner, you need to see something.” I obeyed his order and followed him awe-struck. He took me to the Ginkaku-ji temple where he produced a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door.

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Andrew Choi 6 months ago
Svetoslav Dimitrov Author 6 months ago
Thanks very much! :)