Lafcadio’s ghost. JA. 23/5/17

On Saturday we visit Izumo Taisha, the grand and graceful Shinto Shrine, on three trains. We are becoming the ninja of Japan Rail. But always: not quite.

There is always a moment when we lose it. And then a guardian angel materialises. There was a man in Zurich in a white van outside our Manchester plane who whisked the three of us with luggage to the waiting airbus to Tokyo Narida.  Now he’s appeared as a man of Japan in a suit who stops me crossing the line to go the wrong way, and directs us to the place we should be.

When we get there it’s emotional. People worship here. They visit and worship like homing swallows. As we might visit and picnic. It is so simple and so moving and so easy to learn we worship too. Wait. Move onward in your turn. Make an offering. Bow. Clap 4 times for Amaterasu. Bow. Retreat. And feel heartache for something we’ve lost that this nation hasn’t. It’s communal heart perhaps. It’s deep connection to the earth.

Most moving of all, the temple and all its offspring exist here, living and breathing in wood and tatami, bamboo and rope because here is an achingly beautiful site. A walkway as long as Stowe House from horizon the horizon, but without Capability Brown’s earth movers.