One of the biggest highlights of 2019 was of course my trip to Japan with Drake Music. And on that trip, one of the most important personal adventures was visiting the famous Kawasaki Daishi, a buddhist temple, some 20 miles south of Tokyo. Buddhism is a big part of my life, and so it felt like a really important use off my day off, to visit a Buddhist temple in a Buddhist country. Being a Buddhist isn’t something I make a lot of noise about; it’s kind of a private thing. Secular mindfulness is hugely popular in the West, but I’ve long had an interest to go deeper into Buddhist tradition; influenced by secular Western Buddhists like Stephen Batchelor, Robert Wright & Sharon Salzberg, I’ve attempted to study the history of buddhism beyond the Headspace craze. Visiting a temple was an amazing opportunity to go deeper.
I had an afternoon free, with a glove performance in the evening at Kawasaki Symphony Hall, so I made the trek via taxi from central Kawasaki to the Daishi. Getting a cab in Japan was an experience in itself. I spend enough time in black cabs in the UK. A Japanese taxi is usual a sedan type car, with white blankets covering the seats. They’re impossibly clean; I was scared to touch anything. The drivers wear a suit with spotless white gloves, and it all feels very polite and efficient, like a lot of things in Japan.
I got to Kawasaki Daishi via a market which you can see in the opening shot of my video. It was raining pretty heavily when I arrived, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The market was very neat, very organised, and clearly we were a bit of a novelty; people seemed intrigued to see westerners in this part of the city, and people waved at me like I was a minor celebrity. People are so nice.
I’m not sure the vlog really captures how I felt that day, but it gives you a chance to see for yourself what it was like. I didn’t film the ceremony itself, but it was truly extraordinary. Monks chanting and playing Taiko drums, burning incense; there was a real scale to it. After various readings (in Japanese of course) meditators walked around the hall, led by monks burning incense. I wondered through the temple among the gongs, drums and ancient artefacts; the whole thing utterly surreal and incredibly moving. They do this several times a day, and yet it felt like a huge, once in a lifetime event. In the best possible way, I’ve never felt further from home. I was so aware of how Western I was, but also how much I love Japan and Japanese culture.
I love the futurism of Tokyo and Kawasaki, but I like to think I’m more than a tourist getting their Blade Runner nostalgia fix, and I’m glad I saw some real history in Japan.