Last week, in Irene McHenry’s MBSR training class we practiced a walking meditation, deliberately aware of placing each foot on the ground, stopping at a bell to take in what was around. A practice of open, embodied awareness.
Yesterday we did more than a bit of walking, 10 miles more or less. We wound our way through the tunnels that lace the area we are staying in to Shinjuku Station, to take the train out to Tsuda College, an all-women’s college in the suburbs of Tokyo founded by Umeko Tsuda, who graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1892. Tsuda’s founder had first come to the US in 1871 with the Iwakura Mission, sent from Japan to the US and the UK to negotiate treaties and to research educational systems. The weather is hot and humid, the tunnels crowded with commuters. Another kind of walking meditation.
Two trains later we were in Kodaira, walking alongside a waterway, headed to Tsuda. Our students met with Tsuda students, some of whom had been to Bryn Mawr as part of the student exchange program, while the three faculty met with the current president, and the past president.
It was a delightful visit, one highlight the chance to see Moriya Tadashi’s painting of the young women on the bow of the boat from Japan as it entered San Francisco Bay in 1871. Though you can see the Golden Gate bridge in the misty distance, the bridge wasn’t built at the time (nor was the artist born!), Tadashi added it so that you could identify the city.
Both Tsuda’s students and ours were struck by what it took to get from Japan to the US in those days, and how little those young women would have known of what they would find when they arrived, so different from today when they live in a well-connected sea of information.
Last night, after dinner, I walked back with a few students from dinner, threaded our way through the crowded Shinjuku station shopping area. Times Square would seem dull in comparison. We stood on a corner, watching the crowds, the lights, and I’m already thinking ahead to our last stop, tiny, dark, quiet Kamikatsu.