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Gallery Tosei
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Prana
by Gallery Tosei
Location: Gallery Tosei
Artist(s): Satoru WATANABE
Date: 9 Jan - 31 Jan 2015

“According to ancient Hindu philosophy, man is made up of five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Ether. The term ‘prana’ means, “wind” in Sanskrit. The wind holds the energy of nature, and we take that energy into our body by breathing in deeply. “ I heard this story twenty years ago from an old skinny man with white hair and wide bulging eyes in Chichi-jima, in the Ogasawara archipelago. He was called the “legendary diver” who, at the age of fifty-six, accomplished the remarkable feat of diving one hundred and five meters into the deep blue sea without the help of any diving equipment.

When I take photographs, I sometimes I feel an invisible energy. I feel as though this energy exists, not only in the nature, but also in lives of each and every thing, including human lives. Whenever I try to express these feelings into words, I recall the term “prana” that the old skinny man used to refer to.

My grandmother was country-bred and she used to pray to everything. There was a magnificent “kamidana,” a miniature Shinto altar, in her room. There were also the gods of water and fire in the kitchen, and she placed offerings of water and salt at her house’s entrance hall and by the toilet. There was also an Inari-jinjya Shrine that was called the “Chinjyu-sama (tutelary god)” that stood on a small hill behind the house. She used to take me there and we prayed with folded hands. I can still remember her saying “Don’t make a wish to gods (kami-sama). Just pray with folded hands.” She folded her hands during sunrise and prayed to the Jizo, the guardian deity of children. She prayed by the roadside and even by the old cherry tree. For her, kami-sama was not something to seek forgiveness from, nor something that made wishes come true. Kami-sama was invisible yet something that existed and was worth folding her hands to.

My father, on the other hand, was the completely opposite of my grandmother and was a self-proclaimed atheist. Although he did participate in seasonal religious services, he did not believe in the existence of kami-sama at all and was reprimanded by my grandmother for saying it out so openly. He was an engineering teacher, and he believed in the law of cause and effect. His motto was “ The world is made up of mathematics,” and his pet saying was “ Results are everything.” It was not easy convincing my father to the contrary because he believed in logic over emotion. He never admitted to things that were unperceivable or things that could not be explained by logic. He did not turn to kami-sama in the same way as my grandmother, but in another way.

Perhaps due to both my grandmother and father’s influences, I try to see things scientifically but do not completely deny the existence of invisible things. I have never seen a kami-sama. I do not think that kami-sama takes human form and presides over everything.

When I take walks in the forest up in the mountains, sometimes I feel a cold sensation on my neck. During olden times in Japan, it is said that this is the act of the spirit called “Kodama.” They say that the origin of gods in Japan was brought about by the fear of the abundance of nature. The folklorist Kunio Yanagita defined gods in Japan as “the subject of fearful reverence.” A fear and dread for an invisible existence. I started to believe that the energy I had felt was the same awesome existence that my grandmother was folding her hands to.

If one is born in this world, it is inevitable that they will eventually cross with ill fortune. The life of my grandmother took a dramatic turn for the worst around the War. Much like sand falling out between her fingers, she lost many precious things before her very eyes. When she finally overcame the tragedy and the hope began to show, she was hit by yet another ordeal. I was told that this cycle repeated itself. The same incidents happened to my father. However, he never blamed others for his misfortune, nor relied on kami’s mercy. He seemed to accept everything in his life solemnly.

I turned fifty-three years old. The frequencies in which I fold my hands together increased; as I grew older, but even until now, I never make a wish. 

 

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