Every Wednesday, Yumiko came with her stool and her sketchbook and perched delicately in my shadow, applying pencil to paper to capture the scenes around her, sometimes worrying the small details for weeks on end. Shinji, with cameras dangling from his neck and bags of lenses criss-crossing his lithe frame, circled me week in and week out, intent on capturing the subtle differences in the sunlight on my face as the spring days lengthened into summer, but never unaware of those who shared this sacred ground with him. Today, the clicking of Shinji’s shutter grew louder as he maneuvered into Yumiko’s space, framing candid shots of the uniformed high school students boisterously posing around my base for a classmate’s iPhone snaps. Yumiko put her pencil aside and opened her bento bag, peeking from beneath the brim of her sunhat to offer Shinji an onigiri with a shy “Dōzo.” Bowing his thanks, he sank to the ground next to her, and small talk over the shared meal of rice balls eventually turned into tentative requests to view each other’s work. As Yumiko scrolled through his camera’s digital archive, Shinji flipped the pages of her sketchbook, expecting to see my profile but finding his own likeness filling several pages instead; that discovery sent a thrill through him and simultaneously made him a little less nervous about her reaction to his memory card’s imminent revelation of the portraits he had furtively stolen earlier today with his zoom lens.
I’ve combined today’s letter, B, from the A to Z April Challenge with the Weekly Writing Challenge: Iconic from The Daily Post…and threw in a six sentence limit just for fun. I realize Buddhism is not an exclusively Japanese religion, but Daibutsu, the giant Buddha of Kamakura, is THE iconic image of my time in Japan. Every time I see a photo of this Buddha’s placid face, I am reminded of the gentle people, beautiful scenery, and all-encompassing peace I found in Japan.