Saturday, September 5, 2009

Banzai, Akita. Banzai!

I started 'Dog Man' on Thursday night and by Saturday morning, I'd finished it. A book I didn't want to end, yet I couldn't put down, I spent two nights happily reading until past 3 a.m. Less about dogs than Japanese culture: the relationships between husbands and wives, parents, children, humans and nature, 'Dog Man' tells the story of Morie Sawataishi and his wife Kitako and spans nearly seventy years of their amazing lives. Morie rejected conventional life pursuits in order to live in Japan's harsh yet beautiful snow country, breeding and raising dogs and helping to prevent the extinction of the Akita, a four thousand year old breed of dog native to Japan whose numbers were reduced to less than sixteen after World War II. Once a sophisticate from a posh neighborhood in Tokyo, Kitako's life at times seemed an endless sentence of hard labor while Morie lived out his dreamlife, communing with his dogs and nature.

Kitako did feel lonely, but something else too -- a wistful feeling, almost beautiful, as though a part of her was waking up. She had begun to appreciate things she'd not noticed before, mountain things, the way the morning air smelled when the warm sunlight hit the earth, the way the shadows of the treetops danced on a windy afternoon. She loved the trickle of the creek behind their small house, and how the water bounced on its rocky bed. There was a solemn austerity to life in the mountains and yet... a fullness of spirit.

In the morning when the dogs bolted from their kennels and followed Morie into the woods, it seemed as though they were disappearing to a magical land, to another time. Their territory seemed boundless, miles and miles of green meadows, forests of towering cedars, and mountain peaks with sheer cliffs. The dogs craved the wild, Morie always said. It kept their instincts sharp, their spirits strong. It kept them from complacency and spiritual decline. Being in the wild reminded them who they really were -- and the amazing deeds they were meant for. It was an antidote to the convenience and comfort of modern life. Kitako wondered if people didn't need the wild too.

Castle Number 5 Town-inspired dinner: rice balls, seaweed and carrot salad, sesame kale, and Japanese eggplant

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