Climbing the Ute Tower of Kumamoto Castle in my bare feet was sensational, and I mean it in a 5-senses kind of way. Sensational, as in the feel of the old wood polished smooth by centuries of feet. Polished so smooth, as to be clear of any stain. Centuries of traffic through the tower had stripped the floor to the bare wood. The planks creaked beneath my feet, uncertainly, as if they might give way. I was in awe the whole way up to the top. Stepping carefully, I was also alone almost all the way to the top. This utter solitude only increased the already present feeling of being watched, the feeling that I was walking past ghosts of souls long past. I could feel the warriors watching for enemies, the servers stepping quietly around me. Men and women going about their lives as they did centuries ago.
The sense of history weighed heavily on me, and I wondered about all the people who used to live there and work there. I felt as if they were all still there — history still alive — for us, the tourists who come to learn. I left the castle with reluctance, but living in the past is no use to those I have come to serve in the present.
I came to learn, to study the people — not ghosts, but living people. The people who live and work in Japan now. The descendants of the ever-present souls in the castle. Having seen where they came from, I now go to where the people are today.
I come peaceably,
With curiosity, yet respect.
Yearning to understand.