Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Write...Edit...Publish: Vacation

Denise Covey is hosting Write...Edit...Publish, a monthly bloghop (details here).  August's theme is vacation and my humble submission is offered below.  My 719-word story is not copyrighted.  The supplemental photographs are not mine, but obtained through Wikimedia.  Please respond with comments only.  Be sure to visit the other participants as well.  The link list is at the end of my post.

Through the Nose of Buddha


When my friends and I visited Todai-ji in Nara, Japan, the Buddhist temple was still the largest wooden building in the world.  The Daibutsu within is 49 feet tall, also a world record at the time for bronze Buddhas.  In this house of enormity, my adventure involved a small hole.

The temple is supported by massive wooden columns.  At the base of one is carved a rectangular hole, punched all the way through.  According to lore, the dimensions of the hole match those of the Daibutsu’s nostril and anyone who crawls through is guaranteed enlightenment. 

Student groups love the challenge, of course, and all of the kids we saw made it through easily.  My companions – four Japanese 20-somethings plus one fit Australian woman – all successfully traversed the passage.  My turn.

I am not a big man.  At least, I don’t think of myself as particularly large, maybe a bit above average – 6’, 195ish pounds (183 cm, 88 kg for those in the more sensible metric crowd).  However, Japan is not built for people my size.  My own apartment was the worst.  I couldn’t close the bathroom door while sitting on the can because my legs were too long.  I was forever hitting my head in doorways, too – sure to elicit the exclamation: “I hate this #$&%ing country!” 

I didn’t really hate Japan, of course.  I loved it.  But what else is there to say at such a moment?

Considering the matter of the hole, my main worry was not my height so much as my width.  I have broad shoulders, even by Western standards.  I figured if I could get my shoulders through the opening I’d be fine.  So, I stretched both arms above my head and in I went.

Stuck.  Panic!  Fortunately, there was still enough of me outside the hole that I could wiggle back out.  I walked away relieved.  We continued our exploration of the temple.

My eyes kept drifting back to the hole.  Everyone else who tried made it through – not just the kids, either.  An older couple, surely less nimble than I, took their turn as well.  Pride was working its evil upon my brain.  Surely, there must be a way.

I hatched a new plan.  If I stretched one arm up and the other downward, my shoulders would be at a narrower angle, allowing them to move through the tight space.  If I entered the rectangular entrance by the diagonal, that would provide the greatest width for passage.  Geometry.  This could work.

On this second attempt, my shoulders passed through the entrance just fine.  Encouraged, I pressed on. 

Stuck.  Good and stuck this time.  Claustrophobic prophecies coming true.

It turns out, my hips are wider than I think they are.  My top was more mobile as anticipated but once my rump crested the plane of the entrance, I was firmly wedged.  I couldn’t reach far enough above my head to reach the other side to pull myself through.  I couldn’t get enough leverage to push back.  My aft section was similarly useless.

What the Hell was I going to do?  Would the monks have to bring grease or butter to ease me through?  Would they have to cut the hole? I could see the morning headline:

Stupid Gaijin Gets Stuck in Hole, Venerated Temple Defaced

Despair.  Other tourists gathered - amused, fascinated and perplexed.  No doubt, a few snapped photos.  I suppose I might have thought to be embarrassed if I hadn’t been so genuinely terrified at the prospect of being stuck forever.  I imagined starvation might gradually reduce body mass and allow me to slip free.  Or would they just have to wait for my corpse to decay?

Luckily, my friends swung into action.  One of the guys moved around to the front hole and grabbed my lead arm.  The others took the rear and pushed on my hindquarters.  After much grunting and struggle from all parties…

Whoosh!  I flew through the chute and out, landing on top of my friend.  Rarely have I felt more relieved.  Nothing left to do but laugh.

Much rejoicing.  More shutters clicking.

My enlightenment was two-fold. First, there are few greater exhilarations in life than accomplishing something you thoroughly believed was impossible.  Second and surely more important, the toughest problems require good friends.
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The temple:

Tempio Todai-ji

The Daibutsu, from good nostril angle:

Tōdaiji Daibutsu

The hole (not me in the photo):

Pillar in Todaiji-Temple in Nara Japan

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I hope you will consider joining the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, my bloggers' book club.  Please sign on to the link list at the top right of my blog, where there is also a link to more details.

Once again, comments only please.

As promised, following is the list of August's participants.  Be sure to visit them all:




30 comments:

  1. Hello Armchair Squid. I loved this story. When I saw the picture I thought how brave you had been to try to squiggle through that hole! I like the end philosophy. Where would we be without friends? And where would we be without the Japanese fetish for cameras. I'm sure you made their vacation with your antics!

    The photos are awesome.

    Thank you so much for posting to the inaugural WEP bloghop. I hope many more sign up for the Coffee House bloghop next Friday. I can't wait to post my review!

    Denise

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    1. In my memories, the hole is both taller and narrower than it is in the photo. Seriously, what was I thinking?

      My pleasure, Denise. Thanks for hosting.

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  2. Loved this ! What a great story. I was laughing all the time reading this.
    I have been to Todai-ji Temple and wrote about it and the Deer of Nara that wander all around the city the streets on my blog.
    When you pass through the hole you will have good fortune but I think your right, enlightenment sounds closer.
    One son wanted to try and since he is thin I think he could have gotten through but the line was too long. We saw several people who tried but gave up before they got stuck.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Without a doubt, this was the funniest thing that ever happened to me. I have other comparable stories, but they're about things that happened to other people.

      I thought about including the deer - so surreal. All my memories of Nara are very dreamlike.

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    2. I was standing at the traffic light waiting to cross the street when I looked to my left and there was a deer right next to me waiting to cross with us and he did. No one paid any attention and he was just very cool about it. Just like oh it's 9am and I have to get to work. All that was missing was a lunch box (no need with all us crazy people buying deer cookies) the morning paper and a coffee.

      cheers, parsnip

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    3. It's such a cute little city. Formal imperial capital - hard to believe! I wish I could remember the name of our inn but that detail is long lost.

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  3. Great story! I love your humorous retelling, and also I just love Japan as well (though I was only there a week when I visited, and would love to go back to do it "properly"). Then there's the fact that I just all-round love travelling, so I always enjoy a good travel story. :)

    I have to admit I was imagining the photos that might exist around the world of your lower half sticking out of the hole. hehe

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    1. Ha! The lower half shots - never thought of that. At least that end is not so easily identified.

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  4. Great story, what were you thinking? Love the enlightenment you did receive - and all about and with the help of friends! :) So nice to meet you via Denise!

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    1. There's really nothing like being young and (relatively) fearless.

      Nice to meet you, too. Thanks for following and for joining the Coffeehouse!

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  5. I am not in understanding of why coming out someone's nostril, even symbolically, would produce enlightenment. Although, in your case, it evidently worked.

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    1. It's hardly the strangest promise a world religion has ever made!

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    2. And actually, it's supposed to be enlightenment in the NEXT life. I may still need to wait a while for the full payoff.

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  6. Oh, and what other kind of thing could I leave than a comment?

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    1. Cash.

      No seriously, we are asked to specify whether we want full critique or just comments. I'm just testing the waters here, not ready for a total bruising.

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  7. Oh! That makes more sense. I didn't realize that was part of what you were doing.

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    1. You should give this one a whirl. Maybe next month?

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    2. I'll think about it, but I probably have too much going on, right now, to add that to my list.

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  8. What a great story to tell the world and thank goodness your friends were there to help you out.

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    1. Thank goodness for my friends is absolutely right!

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  9. What an adventure! One you'll probably never forget...
    I love the picture of that temple. Really gorgeous.
    Swinging by via Denise's bloghop. Nice to meet you. *waves*
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Nice to meet you, too, michelle! Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. Nice to meet you. Is this a true story. I can't imagine trying to do that but I so see my grandkids having a blast. Well written.
    Nancy

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    1. Completely true.

      Thank you and it's a pleasure to meet you, too. Thanks for following. I'll stop by to return the favor in just a bit.

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  11. Thank you so much for leaving me the link to this really wonderful post. I'm glad you also put photos in because I really got the reasoning behind your thoughts, and desire to try, seeing the hole so small. I thought it was larger. Brave man, and obviously intelligent, in spite of getting stuck, because otherwise you wouldn't have ended this post the way you did! I'm listening to that lesson... Thanks for dropping by my blog.

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    1. Intelligent? You're too kind. Darn lucky, is more like it.

      My pleasure, Lisa! Thanks for following. I'll happily return the favor.

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  12. Stunning post. I mean it. First laugh-out-loud moment: 'My own apartment was the worst. I couldn’t close the bathroom door while sitting on the can because my legs were too long. I was forever hitting my head in doorways, too – sure to elicit the exclamation: “I hate this #$&%ing country!”

    I didn’t really hate Japan, of course. I loved it. But what else is there to say at such a moment?'

    There was more laughter, but by the very end, I teared up and sniffed. Glad I scoured back to find this gem.

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    1. Thanks. I tell the story to students from time to time. In fact, I did just today. For them, I open with the nostril - better hook for the middle school demographic.

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