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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 3, September 2012

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Guy Simser
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Joya no kane

Cast off the night bell! Count down the old! Cleanse yourself before the New Year dawns . . .

Bong . . . The heavy log thumps the shrine bell, the first of 108 tolls resound through dank Tokyo lowlands. With quiet resolve the long-time wanderer slips away from the crowd, wends his way on fresh snow, finds Gaien Nishi Street empty of traffic crosses under a flickering lamp, passes through Aoyama Cemetery’s familiar black iron gate to mount a remembered small rise, there to be gripped by a fanciful stage of moon-silver shadows leaning helter-skelter on a pure ground, star glitter captured by crystalline pines.

Bong . . . the tolls hum on, under ground. Up and down the silent slopes gravestone phalanxes keep watch through the night. The wanderer hesitates: so easy here to lose the way. A drifting eddy of fog enwraps him. His thin neck slumps forward. Eyelids heavy he takes a deep breath, disappears within himself, searching . . .

Bong . . .

empty oxfords
polished toes to headstone
not a footprint


Author’s Note: “Joya no Kane” is a Buddhist festival, perhaps of Shinto flavour. This ceremony is held on the 31st of December, prior to the Shinto New Year Festival and is aimed at self-purification. Whatever the origin of the ritual itself, the timing of the Joya no Kane lies in the Shinto belief that the spirits (of the gods and ancestors) would return to earth briefly both in midsummer and mid winter.

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