In the Gardens

Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Image Credit: Wiki Commons

I remember the first time that I saw a monk and I will likely never forget it. It was June, the weather of San Francisco was warm, but the bay air kept it from becoming too hot. The sun was high, but not blinding, as it was blocked out by lush green trees and the red pagoda that stood tall just a few meters away. Many would say that he was a fake—just someone dressing up, and I shouldn’t hold onto a false memory, but there was a certain energy that he gave off, something that he just seemed to exude, and I knew that he was real. The trail where I encountered him was lined with rock lanterns and benches to rest upon, something I took quick advantage of because I just wanted to relax amidst an atmosphere rarely encountered in the chaos of my life. So, it was easy to spot the brightness of his robes as they stood out amongst the green surroundings. He walked slowly, carefully, and every time someone walked by him, he would bow—or, at least, that’s what it seemed like. I knew that watching him was rude and I shouldn’t have stared, but it was almost impossible to look away.
I stood up before he reached me, and as he passed by, he bowed to me—or toward me—his head low, his palms together. There was a feeling that surged inside me that I doubt I will ever truly understand and I wondered what he thought of me, if I even crossed his mind outside of recognizing my existence. I wondered a lot of things about him—what did he think about as he walked through the gardens? What did he think when he stepped outside and encountered the claustrophobic city after being inside garden—something almost outside of time? Did he, perhaps, stand atop the moon bridge and just breathe, taking in all the scents of the surrounding foliage—the flowers, the trees, the air—as I did? Did he enjoy the kuzumochi or did he refrain from eating such sweets?
He walked on, slowly making his way down the path and out of my life, his bright robes a contrast against the green, and yet he seemed to slowly blend into the garden, as if he were a part of it, too. I’ll never know his name, as he never uttered a word, but his presence spoke more than any language ever could. Perhaps, if I am to be honest, he wasn’t bowing to me. It could have been that he was just bowing, as he always did, and I just interpreted it as what I wanted it to be. I wanted this man—someone who seemed to exude such peace and tranquility as if he embodied the garden he walked through—to acknowledge me, but who was I to want such a thing? Me, a college student whose life was a whirlwind of crazy—of stress and exams, of anxieties—who was I?
Perhaps one day I will encounter him again and I could walk with him through the garden—climb the moon bridge and stand atop it with him, his orange robes like a beacon. Perhaps I will learn his name.

By: Greyson Gardner

Kabuki Dance of Japan

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“Our

Shadows 

Dance like kabuki

Apparitions through a

Shoji screen~ …” 

~Kabuki~ (excerpt), Leila Fortier

When I first read ~Kabuki~ by Leila Fortier for Silk Road’s issue “Voices on Asia”, I was immediately struck by the imagery it presented, really drawing me in and fueling an interest as to what kabuki (歌舞伎) is — a Japanese style of theatre and dance that ties in elements of drama, the kanji for it sometimes translated as “the art of singing and dancing”. The art form is thought to have begun in 1603, founded by a female dancer named Izumo no Okuni. It was designed as entertainment for the common people of the time, marking it the first as such. Although started by a female, the participation of female dancers was banned in 1629, with young men taking their place in the performance. It shifted once more in 1652 from portrayals done by young men to being done by older men — this shift is what has carried through to present day.

As it developed, the form moved through parody to genuine, serious performance. Many things were transferred from life to the stage, including historical plays, domestic stories, and dance pieces. A common theme for kabuki theatre is the idea of  the “lovers double suicide”, similar Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Staging for this art form is complex, originally called “magic box” due to the ever shifting elements including lifts, traps, and even revolving platforms — this is where the image of shoji screens that Fortier draws, comes into play.

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When not wearing Noh masks, actors frequently wear distinguishing make-up that highlights their features, examples including white face paint and red lips. The bright and colorful nature doesn’t  end with the make-up either, but carries on through to the costumes worn by actors. Each costume’s color and design has a different meaning, just going to show how intricate and detailed kabuki theatre is.

One of the most incredible things about kabuki is the fact that it’s a  traditional style of entertainment that has carried over to the modern era, even remaining the most popular form of traditional theatre in Japan. Kabuki is currently performed in The National Theatre of Japan with each piece lasting around four to five hours.

If the intricate nature of kabuki caught your interest and you want to learn about other cultural elements in Asia, you’ll find them in Silk Road’s newest issue, Voices on Asia, which will be released on December 9th.

By: Alex Clanton

Image Credits: WikiCommons & visipix.com

Silk Road Assistant Editor: Ian Scott

Ian Scott photoMajors: Psychology and Japanese

Hometown: Sheridan, Oregon

Graduation year: 2015

What impact have Pacific Universities English professors had on your choice of major/career path?

Pacific’s English professors have had a large influence on my career goals. Coming into Pacific as a freshman I only had a faint idea of what I wanted to do with my life, and then it had nothing to do with English or publishing. It was during my first creative writing course (unfortunately during my senior year) that I discovered I love fiction and want it to be my life. If it wasn’t for the encouragement of Dr. Mitra I doubt that I ever would have considered a career in writing, but now it is my dream job.

How do you think your time spent at Silk Road will transfer into the “real world”? What have you learned/hope to learn?

Well, as we are currently in the beginning stages of producing this next issue of Silk Road I am learning just how much work and effort goes into producing a single issue. However, I can honestly say I love reading submissions and just working on the magazine in general. Before this semester is over and I graduate I want to learn as much as I can about the publishing process, and working for a journal in the hopes that I can secure a job doing something similar.

Due to the popularity of digital media and e-books, what do you think might happen to book and magazine publishing in the future? Is there anything you would like (or are afraid) to see happen?

While I do recognize that the digital medium is growing I do not think that it will utterly replace printed books. I personally read both printed and digital books but my preference switches based on the situation. Books that I only intend to read once I prefer to have in a digital format; I honestly don’t have room for more books on my shelf. However, reading a physical copy provides benefits that digital doesn’t. For example people retain more information when reading physical copies rather than the digital counterparts. Plus I just love the smell of a good book, new or old. So, I don’t think that the printed format will die, nor do I think that the digital will take over. As with everything it will come to equilibrium.

What does Silk Road embody to you? What words would you use to describe Silk Road to someone who knows nothing about it?

I would describe Silk Road as a light spring morning with freshly dewed grass. It is hopeful and gently stirring like a warm breeze but guides you to places you would not expect.