(from A Forest Ten Feet Wide, Tokyo 2013)
“Don’t laugh at Tokyo,” my husband says. But I wasn’t laughing. That sound I made just now was the involuntary squeak that accompanies the truth when it abruptly comes into view. When it passes through me suddenly, like a chill.
We are walking through the forest from Ookayama to Jiyugaoka. This is Tokyo. The forest is ten feet wide. Let’s be specific. The concrete path is four feet wide. Then there three feet on either side for trees. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. The path is interrupted, every fifteen feet or so, by curved aluminum barriers, so that bicyclists must dismount. It’s a highly managed forest, you might say. It is the forest of Tokyo.
Look at these trees. Some of them are really tremendously old. What was this place before? It is impossible to imagine now, but I remember hearing Donald Richie insist that this was once one of the most beautiful places in the world.