Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Power of Space

Medicine cabinets haven't enticed me since I was about five years old and ate a few of those orange tasting St. Joseph baby aspirins from my own bathroom. At six, I was mesmerized by my great grandmother's farm kitchen in Ohio. I didn't know her well or spend much time visiting her, but her kitchen was unlike any other. There was little in it. Now I see it in my mind's eye for its lack of clutter. It was so spare that it struck me even then. Apparently there was a cellar that contained items of interest, but I never saw it. Years later while visiting friends in North Carolina I had shocking encounter with a closet. I was dumbstruck by the space in their closet- there was space between the clothes; wind was rustling about in a closet! I had never seen that in my family of pack rats and depression era survivors. I was struck once again by space at a friend's house here in Japan. It is simply full of space. It shocked me- there is almost no furniture in it or rooms. I had not considered pure space as a statement- too many American decorating shows or magazines photos showcasing perfectly decorated rooms without people in them perhaps. French fashion has reminded me yet again of these spacial memories.

In a quest to simplify my wardrobe, I thought to seek some advice from the fashionable French. The gist of it is to have less clothes, but of better quality, natural hair, and wear no more than two accessories. Those French ladies know it takes time to find quality items; they learn what works for them and stick to it. I am American; I order from a catalog; it should match, be comfortable, easy to wash, and admittedly it is not so fashionable. The chic no effort look is not found in a catalog. I have no patience to shop for it. I have a few hits and more misses, but that space in my friend's closet? I want that. I want to make that happen in my closet. I think you have to be ruthless. I am not sure that I can be ruthless even in my closet. I'd like that in my kitchen too. I am so aggravated by things taking up space.

While waxing poetically over the local Starbucks, a friend told me about "power spots" in Kamakura. I had not heard this phrase before, but I was curious. Power spots "are like the world's acupuncture points where energy flows close to the surface" from what I gathered from a travel blog ( The draw is if you visit these places your energy levels are boosted. Apparently, there are some thirty books on it on Japan's Amazon site; power spots are of interest here. The Japanese have a tradition of visiting shrines and temples for earthly concerns- for love, for babies, for brides, for divorcees, for wealth, for passing exams, etc. Visiting a shrine or a temple is not necessarily about a spiritual or religious experience; the Japanese visit temples like Americans visit shopping malls. The idea of going to special locations for good energy seems within this practice. That local Starbucks has a story about space too. The owner owns more than a few Starbucks in Japan, but Kamakura is his hometown so he made his special; concept store is the term used. It is located next to the manga artist Ryuichi Yokoyama's former house; the terrace overlooks a garden and, when I saw it, an empty pool. It feels different from any Starbucks I have visited; it must be those good vibes.

There is something to space and what fills it. First, you need actual space. Then what is in that space has to have meaning or at least some kind of natural focal point. The shrines and temples of ancient times were most often built on locations of great beauty or even austerity. Perhaps because of our disconnect with nature in modern life, we seek out these repositories of natural energy. American Indians consider Crater Lake, an extinct volcano crater, in Oregon to be a spiritual place; it vibrated with energy for me- all of that shimmering blue water reflecting passing clouds on it's surface in such a desolate place; it was palpable. Kamakura too vibrates with energy; I could be hoodwinked into the notion of there being particular spots to seek out. I have a few favorites- Hachimangu shrine, Hokokuji shrine, the hills, Daibutsu. Now to get ruthless and find some empty space some where in my house.


  1. Get a goat, and then some chickens... :-) that's assuming you know the Jewish tale of the man who asked his rabbi for help with his noisy house. Same principle for a house with "stuff" in...

    A spacious house does not mean the occupant is using less of our planet's resources, in fact quite possibly the opposite. Every time they need something they have to go out and buy it, whereas you can adapt an old object to a new purpose. All you know for sure is that people with lots of space in their houses have sent an awful lot of stuff to the landfill, and wasted an awful lot of their time doing it. And what purpose then the serenity of the local temple, if you already have all that space at home...

    On a different topic, as I understand it, Starbucks Japan is not a franchise but all run from the mother ship. That's why they are are clean and nice with equally proficient staff.


  2. Jules, You will have to tell me the noisy house story- I am not familiar. I also have to admit I have been busy removing piles from my house and taking them to the reuse shop all the while thinking about your comments above. My feeling is that some things just need to go- its like eating food on your plate in America where they always serve you too much so if you eat everything you get fat- in this case stuff that clogs up the chi or flow in your house just needs to go. I don't thing we need to keep stuff to keep it or eat stuff to eat it. We do need to realize that we need less or need things to have more than one function and to cook less, shop for small portions, etc. I have a pack rat mentality sometimes and worry about running out of things so I tend to stockpile, but in a small house you notice. Love the idea too that we need the temple's serenity but not just for space for the quiet too! See you at Easter service.


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