Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Maruyama

As I walked through the paddies near the township of Maruyama, some 80 km from Tokyo, the following lines from The Winter`s Tale were not on my lips, though, I was on my way to The Shakespeare Country Park, Maruyama:

Three pound of sugar, five pound of currants, rice, -- what will this sister of mine do
with rice?

The paddies gave way to rosemary hedges, a mock Ancient Greece square, Rivers Plaza, with plaster friezes interpreting the constellations of the Milky Way, which were almost covered by the rosemary bushes. Ah, more Shakespearian than rice!

Doth not rosemary and Romeo both begin with a letter?

I first visited New Place, or rather, the replica of New Place, the property in Stratford Shakespeare bought when he was already an established dramatist. In the entrance models of an Elizabethan theatre and fair peopled with Japanese washi dolls. Then the gift shop, selling toy London buses and taxis, bardic tat, and local Shakespearian cheesecake. The back of New Place became the courtyard of an inn, of the type where many of Shakespeare`s plays were performed. On one side a Great Hall type theatre, showing a film demonstrating how the theatre was used.

In the room above the gift shop statues and models from some of the most famous scenes of Hamuret, The Tenpesuto and Richiarudo III, all neatly labeled and explained in Japanese. A wax Will composing at his desk. When questioned by a Marlovian figure on the adjacent TV screen, he opened his mouth, muttered a few wise words, moved his head from side to side and wrote a few more kanji.

Thence to the Italian Garden, the Knot Garden, the Physic Herb Garden and to neighbouring Henley Street, Will`s birthplace, recreated pretty exactly by craftsmen and designers from England. We see John Shakespeare at work making gloves, the bed William was conceived in, the bed he slept in as a boy, we see a pensive Will holding his firstborn, Susanna, pensatively scratching his chin. We see Shakespeare`s mother at work in a sparkling kitchen.

Then we visit Palmers’ Farm Tea Room at Anne Hathaway`s Cottage. Cheesecake again, the speciality of this Stratford-on-Avon. On a nice day we sit on the Village Green and feed the ducks and take pictures of the pillory. And wonder why… Why? Why this Stratford lookalike out on the Boso peninsula? Why not? Are not the Shakespearian properties in Stratford all renovations, rebuildings, sanitized refurbishments. Is not the Globe Theatre on the South Bank in London a little way from the original site?

And we must remember the Japanese fascination for Shakespeare. The RSC regularly tours Japan, and Japanese companies frequently adapt Shakespeare. And my favourite film adaptations of Shakespeare are those of Kurosawa.

Japan has also had a craze for recreating foreign resorts. Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch village near Nagasaki, is the most famous, and there are Spanish, Russian, French, German villages. Some have a literary theme: Canadian World in Hokkaido highlights the Lucy Maud Montgomery classic, Anne of Green Gables, set on Prince Edward Island; and in Hakone, southwest of Tokyo, a French village is dedicated to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince.

At the beginning of this piece I mentioned rice. Maruyama is outside the Tokyo commuter belt. There is no fast train. It is in an area which has suffered from rural depopulation and lack in investment in agriculture as economic policy has favoured industry and electronics. The paddies, now often worked part-time by elderly couples, who also have their pensions or other sources of income, are a central part of Japanese culture, but are uneconomic, and much Japanese rice is imported, especially from the US. So Shakespeare, the staple of a certain traditional English culture, has been brought in to support an area which depended on the staple of Japanese culture. Rosemary is now cultivated as a cash crop, and Will can bring in the tourists.

After our musings we step through the wicker gate into Rosemary Garden, and the words of the deranged Ophelia come to us:

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.

But what we see is a little more sanitized: a New England style church (which of course is a gift shop already selling Father Xmas ware) surrounded by beds of flowers.
A quick stroll around the local Forest of Arden, the Forest of the Imagination, before I return to the New Place to buy some postcards. The shop assistant asks me for my answer sheet to the quiz. I haven’t filled it out! Reading Japanese is no easy feat. A six-year-old boy proudly presents his and collects his prize. And I bury my head in shame…

http://www.rosemary-hill.jp/scp/

57 Comments:

Blogger Ana Julia said...

Dear John,

Japan has never been so near... and so interesting..
Thanks for sharing your invaluable experience with us!

Ana Julia

October 28, 2004 at 3:14 AM  
Blogger Marilise Rezende Bertin said...

A soft deep mixture though, of a Shakesperean place in Japan and a Shakesperean place in an imaginary Stratford which I didn't know, only saw in books, in films and fancied in imagination...
Or would it be the modern one, then it is worse, for this one I have never been to!

Curious the way places get so near us while you describe them but distant as well for they become imaginings of our minds. Did I get it all right, bearing in mind that a witted intelligent 'poet' describes all through his senses?

This description awakes different senses, does it not? It brings smells, colours, movement...So funny, apetizing, would that be the word? We travel with you too,breaking all possible barries of space and time.

Our poetic side is shaken, we feel like writing too.
But this part is much more complicated. As for myself, at this moment, I feel exactly the way you felt in the end of your wonderful text - extremely ashamed for I cannot master the English language that well to make a precious comment...
But I am trying at least. And that is a beginning.

Thanks once more for all. It has been wonderful travelling with you!

xxxxxxxx

Marilise

October 28, 2004 at 4:49 AM  
Blogger Marilise Rezende Bertin said...

John:

I would like to change a word in the third paragraph of the comment I wrote:
'... awakens', it would be better, would it not?
As for the rosemary site you sent, it is lovely, I could see them all. But could not understand the written content!
It was a little bit difficult to see some of the faces of the dolls, though. Some seemed to have those Japanese eyes, some did not. Did I see them right?

All the best

Marilise

October 28, 2004 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger ludovicuscarolus said...

dear john,

can't yoy see anything of that is truly japanese? the japanese have always had a knack for copyying western (or, for that matter, anything that came withing their sight, beginning with the first american warship they saw, even to the last and tinniest screw. you should read koestler's the ghost in the machine... where´s the kyoto suff what about the quake you'vw been through? you had the earth shaking under your feet!

as to rosemary bushes, they are great!!! half a cup of rosemary brew is good for your heart and your digestive system and for raising your spritis. a bath acn make wonders for rheumatic pains... besides, it's always beautiful, specially when it's in bloom.

green tea? shinto? zen? harakiri? marsicano? and, as a last resort, karaoke?

sorry for poking fun at tyou and sorry for the spelling -- i don't know what hapeend to my computer, but everything i write to your blog appears in greek script. i've probably made a blunder somewhere... cheers

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