Monday, June 27, 2011


Pamela Racs, a wonderful artist in Portland (and a friend), is creating a screen for the stage on which we will be filming part of Noh Garden. It features a pine tree, which is the traditional backdrop for Noh stages.  The backdrop is called the kagami-ita. The model for the traditional pine tree is at the Kasuga Shrine in Nara, Japan (a Shinto shrine associated with the Fujiwara family). Our pine tree does not look like the one at Kasuga Shrine, however.

I (Ken) visited the Kasuga Shrine in the summer of 2006 (and will see it again when I return to Japan in November of this year). The access to the shrine is through a deer park, filled with fearless deer (as many as 1200!) who pester visitors for what we called "deer cookies," on sale in the park. There are also thousands of stone lanterns in the park that are all lit during two festivals each year. The shrine itself was first constructed in the eighth century and has been rebuilt several times since.

In my book, Circle of the Way (a few copies are still available from Amazon), I allude to this visit to Kasuga in the form of a tanka (Japanese verse form of five lines):

The deer in Nara-koen
gracefully insistent
beg for cookies
one of the Noble Truths
the endless disappointments of desire

A photo of the Kashuga Taisha shrine follows (with a few of the lanterns):

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