End of holidays; life changes – 休みが終わりました、還暦についての思い

I found this little statue in my local Buddhist temple. His expression mirrors my feeling at the end of the Christmas holidays.  But going back to work has its positive side.  I love working with the Rikkyo choir, so the resumption of rehearsals is a positive.  Also, being away from home gets me out from the habit of snacking on Christmas sweets every hour on the hour.  This has to be a good thing.

What did I do during the holiday break, you ask?  I admit I only got on my bike once. On the other hand, I did a lot of long-distance walking with a camera in hand.  So, in addition to spending good times with my family, I was able to work in quite a lot of photography.  A few of the things I saw while out on long walks will appear at the end of today’s post.

Now what is the meaning of this odd photo? What is with the red getup?  Japanese people will immediately understand, but the attire signifies that I turned 60 (late last year). And in Japan, turning 60 is a big event.  Because the Asian zodiac runs in cycles of 12 years, reaching 60 means that you have done 5 cycles and are considered to have completed one life cycle.  The implication is that now that you are done with the old life you are allowed to begin a new one.

I’ll be quite honest here.  Numbers mean very little to me.  Turning 60 was the same as turning 32 or 29 or 12.  Putting the numbers aside, though, I did feel that it was time for a change, and that change coincided with reaching the age of 60.  There have been many things in life that I have felt I “should do” or “should strive to be.”  I many cases, this sense of striving for something better has led to improvement.  Better performing, better teaching, etc. On the other hand, the feeling that one should be something better than one can also gives rise to feelings of inadequacy. I determined that now that I have reached the grand age of 60, and have completed one life cycle, that I would free my self from the curse of “should do, should be.”  How does this determination express itself?  In many cases, it means that I now accept things as they are.  This IS my level of conducting and performing.  This IS my was of dressing.  This IS my way of living life.  Perhaps one does have to reach the grand old age of 60 to be able to indulge in this sensation.  I must admit it is exhilarating!

Something I’ve thought about for a long time in relation to the above was when to stop performing solo organ concerts.  I wanted to get out of the business before I started giving poor performances.  Turning 60 seemed to be the ideal time to make the jump.  So, with next week’s lunchtime concert at St Timothy’s Anglican Church in Tokyo I end my career as a concert organist.  I’ve thought on this a lot over the past few months, and don’t regret it.  It’s time to get out, and I’m ready to do other things.  To make the decision really final I’m selling my house organ (more on that in a later post), and declining recital offers.  I’ll still play for Rikkyo university ceremonies and services as needed, but no more solo concerts.  4o years in the business is enough.

Now to lighter topics.  Here are a few of the things I saw on long (15 km or more per walk) strolls through Tokyo during the winter break.  It doesn’t matter what country I’m in, I am attracted to signs of the spiritual, whatever the religion be.  In Japan that usually means Shinto Shrines or Buddhist Temples.  Here are a few I found while wandering.

I work hard at times to get the shot I want (photo by son Masa, with wife Mariko in the background working the same shot)

The resulting shot:

Of course Japan is not a land of nothing but temple and shrines.  On a recent walk to Shinjuku the winter light suggested black and white photos of city scenes.

And in the miscellaneous category:

Dream houses

Riding in inclement weather

And finally, winter foliage

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