Sodo Yokoyama and Keikoen Park
Sodo Yokoyama was a Zen monk who lived in Komoro, Nagano. Every day of the year he would come to Kaikoen park to sit zazen, serve people tea, write calligraphy and play the leaf flute. I first read about him in Arthur Braverman's book Living and Dying in Zazen. I have uploaded the first few pages on Yokoyama below. After you have read them you will probably understand why I felt an instant affection for this childish and playful monk (or Zen master). He reminded me of a passage in Shunryu Suzuki's book Not Always So which I have always held close to me:
"Whatever happens, whether you think it is good or bad, study closely and see what you can find out. This is the fundamental attitude. Sometimes you will do things without much reason, like a child who draws pictures whether they are good or bad. If that is difficult for you, you are not actually ready to practise zazen."
Sadly Yokoyama died in 1980. Braverman recently wrote a short article about visiting the park again, and talking to Yokoyama's only deciple. After reading it I decided that I had to visit the park myself, and I was overjoyed to find that it was only 2 hours drive from where I live.
The park itself is very beautiful. Below is a video I made with photos of the park and a recording of Yokoyama's leaf music which played from a small electronic box where he used to sit (something which he would probably find very amusing). Go to the youtube site to see it in better quality.
The only sad thing about the park was a horrible animal zoo adjoined to it. The zoo was in a devastated condition, it smelt like shit because the cages had not been cleaned for a while (there was shit in some of the animal's drinking water, and it's summer now in Japan), the cages themselves were far too small and completely bare. I decided not to take any photos. Kotomi and I released a small squirrel that was locked up in a 30cm square cage out in the sun with no shade. I hope it survives. I felt really depressed after leaving that place.