That's what my friends the Incas told me!Japan March 12, 2013
Writing from the window of the Nizomi Super Express Shinkansen from Osaka to Toyko. I am a bit more than half way through my tour of Japan with all performances finished and only one more week of non-stop classes with Teacher Training Level 2, The Anatomy of Dance and a wide variety of dance workshops on the Tokyo menu. We have had such a great time this year, with a more spacious schedule that allowed me time to actually create and finalize some of the choreography for the opening number of the Nutcracker for the Toyko performance. Then back to Osaka for our show, where I had the good fortunate of making a new dance friend/sister – Lotus, a seasoned professional and true devotee of Egyptian Dance in all of its Splendor.
I had a full day off after the Osaka show and was treated to a marvelous new Onsen (Japanese Bath) experience which included special rooms with heated floors of marble, rocks, and grass mats, with either herbal medicine, steam or “yellow sand” – which we never were quite able to translate completely. We spent almost 5 luxurious hours in the warm and hot baths, the steam room, the cold pools, the different “heated floor” rooms and relaxation lounges, before having dinner and heading back to my hotel to catch up on some greatly needed rest and sleep. I slept like a baby. Last weekend we had three days of workshops in Osaka and a wonderful visit to Osakajo – the castle in the middle of the city surrounded by a moat and massive stone walls.
It is a beautiful and impressive fortress and immediately reminded me so much of the monuments and architecture of the Inca civilization in Peru. This also reminded me of the fact that I have been promising to send out photos and a story about my visit to Machu Picchu and Cuzco, Peru for almost one entire year. However, as a techno-challenged soul, I only JUST managed to figure out HOW to get the photos out of their prison in my Blackberry Playbook and into my computer!! So, thanks to the inspiration of the Osakajo walls, here is a tiny taste of my ponderings and photos from Peru.
A trip to Machu Picchu had been a dream of mine for so many years and, as much as I fantasized about being in such a special and sacred place, I could never have imagined that the reality of this timeless land, the magnificence of the ancient Inca civilization and the beauty of the Peruvian Andes and its people would have been so much more amazing and wonderful than my fantasies. After two days of exploring the beautiful and historically rich city of Cuzco and its nearby wonders as I adjusted to the altitude, I was off to explore the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The lengthy bus and train rides en route to Aguas Calientes allowed me to meet some wonderful people from all parts of the world and see some lovely scenery. We were quickly approaching my departure point, when the conductor explained that I would be dropped off in the middle of literally nowhere to meet my guide. When I asked him if he was sure that the guide would be there, he just laughed and said that it depended upon which company I had booked with. However, when I mentioned ‘Dos Manos’ he assured me “no problem” and when the train left without me – definitely in the middle of nowhere – I only had a few minutes to wait before my personal guide, Simon, appeared to take me on the trek of a lifetime. The silence, the warmth of a perfect day, the views and only the two of us precariously pasted to the side of the inspiring and very steep Andes mountainside was pure bliss. The entire day was magic – one unforgettable discovery after the other! The Inca trail was a constant uphill and downhill rollercoaster walk with countless stone stairways. When I was certain that I could not possibly climb one more stone step, Simon coaxed me on with the promise of a really NICE view at the top of the stairway. I scrambled up on all fours and was gazing out over the breathtaking view of the mountains, when he invited me to walk through the small doorway in the large, stone wall behind us, which turned out to the Puerta del Sol. As I stepped through the door I couldn’t believe that I was gazing down upon the world famous postcard image of Machu Picchu
just below my feet – a moment that I will treasure forever. I will let the photos tell the rest of the story but only want to say that the two days spent there were perfect, except perhaps when I discovered that Wayna Picchu, which I had included in my itinerary, was not another less celebrated site of ruins, but was actually a small but exceptionally steep mountain located at the far end of the ruins. When I saw some crazy people glued to the side of its cliffs and asked Simon what in the world they were doing up there, he calmly explained that this was where I would be going tomorrow morning, WITHOUT him.!! I had managed to overcome about 70% of my paralyzing fear of heights many years ago with a combination of sunrise at Bright Angel Point on the north face of the Grand Canyon followed by a ride down the canyon and back up again on mule-back, shortly followed by driving on the sheep tracks New Zealand, which the charming Kiwi’s refer to as highways. But, I really wasn’t sure if I could cope with this new challenge. However, I was in good company and lots of it, as people of all nationalities, sizes, shapes and fitness levels scrambled up the steep trail with only an occasional rope to hold onto in the really scary, slippery spots. Just before arriving at the summit and with not even an arrow to give any indication of where anyone was supposed to go, I stepped into a semi-dark cave with a very slim 45o angled space to slip through at the far end.
I figured if the ample gentleman in front of me had managed to squeeze through, so could I. When I emerged I was perched on the side of a huge slab of mountain, also at 45o, with only one tiny footpath (wide enough for only one foot at a time) and a sheer drop off to nothing at the bottom end. So, I just embraced the warm mountain and step-by-step inched my way to the other side of the slab and a very welcomed flat, open clearing. I no longer suffer from a fear of heights!!!
The entire place was so beautifully designed and so harmoniously incorporated into the peak of a mountain top in the middle of the Andes that it was difficult to imagine how it was even conceived of, let alone created. Although it has been proposed that the Inca were of Quechan origin, it is not where the Inca came from. They did not conquer the widespread lands of their empire with wars and oppression; they did not rob its riches and live off of its treasures through exploitation and slavery. They merely arrived unannounced and gently began to implement innumerable wise and wonderful systems and strategies in architecture, agriculture, localized democratic political systems and humanitarian life principles. Because of the sheer simplicity and efficacy of their many gifts and the improvements in the quality of life that they gave to the ancient pre-Inca civilizations, they were welcomed with open arms. Their influence continued to grow and their civilization flourished throughout a massive range of Western South America until the time of the Spanish Conquista.
I was awe-struck by harmonious flow of architecture and nature at the top of Machu Picchu, as well as in the numerous monuments throughout the Sagrada and Urumbu Valleys. It is said that the precision of the Peruvian masters puts all others to shame.. Then in Sacsayhumen, the famous ruins at the edge of Cuzco, the Incas left their trade mark in huge slabs of stone, often eccentric in shape, fitting together with uncanny precision.It was especially these endless wall of Sacsayhumen that came to mind when I saw the massive walls of Osakajo. Again and again the word harmony came to mind and each time this happened I felt that the Incas were of the same people as the Japanese. Gentle, refined, intelligent, ingenious and always elegantly based on harmony, balance and respect.
The faces and particularly the eyes of the Peruvian people in many ways resemble those of the Japanese. They are gentle and wise people, a great percentage of which have had the wisdom to appreciate the many values and benefits of their traditional lifestyles. Even the melancholy haunting flutes of the Andes bear a resemblance to their Japanese cousins.
Thanks to our well-informed guides, I discovered that the Inca, as well as their incredible engineering skills practiced astronomy, irrigation and surgical procedures requiring great knowledge and skill.
Although it is supposed that they may have begun their conquest with few brutal military victories, these sufficed to terrify other petty rulers into cooperation, and the success of the Incas derives partly from excellent roads and communications. The Inca roads amount to more than 14,000 miles and were a crucial key that allowed them to control an empire stretching from Quito in Ecuador down to Chile - a distance of 2,500 miles.
Another Inca system is that called Mitmakuna, in which entire communities of families often moved hundreds of miles to new regions where they formed secure settlements based on Inca principals and created cultural integration in the region.
I was very impressed to learn that their agricultural methods are still practiced today; with two full “organic” harvests a year produced in the fertile valleys and terraced mountainsides. To the majority of Peruvians, medicine is still in the form of their daily foods and local plants. Many of the villagers continue to practice their diverse arts and crafts, often weaving and wearing their traditional garments, thanks to wise choices is selective an controlled tourism.
However, perhaps my most delightful discovery was a new friend that I had the pleasure to meet on my last day in Cuzco. I had not had a decent cup of coffee for 10 days (breakfasts at my hotels were fabulous, but the coffee, not!), so after shopping for gifts in the market, I found a small café with absolutely phenomenal coffee. As there were only 4 tables in the café and all were occupied, I noticed one gentleman getting up to leave, so I asked if I could sit at the table with the gentleman who remained. He warmly offered me the seat, introduced himself as Ivraim and so began a most fascinating 2 hours listening to his many stories and wisdom! I assured him that I would definitely return to Cuzco, as I had loved every moment of my journey, and that I would love to have the chance to sit with him and listen to him again. When I asked how I could keep in touch, he said “I am here every day at 12 o’clock for my coffee and if you miss me then, I will be back at 6 pm for my evening coffee” ….. Music to my ears in our day of facebook, internet, cell phones, IMs and texting to the point of oblivion..
Maybe next time, my new friend and I can discuss my theory that the great Incas could have indeed been Japanese!!!