Regardless of whether it’s hot or cold, fine or otherwise, this old Buddhist monk is almost always stood in the same spot. A display of patience and commitment that is nothing short of incredible. He diligently prays. Rarely seems to receive offerings. And when unintentionally provoked by an impolite foreigner, the displeasure he showed was characteristically fleeting.
Western Village first opened its doors back in the early 1970s. Originally quite a modest affair known as Kinugawa Family Ranch, the Wild West theme park did well and gradually expanded, hence the name change. Yet despite such success, changing times resulted in changing fortunes, and in 2006 it was forced to close — meaning that the park now sits empty and forlorn by the side of the road. An odd, wholly unexpected sight in a relatively sparsely populated area a few hours north of Tokyo.
Increasingly battered by the weather and years of neglect, it nonetheless still retains the look one would expect.
Visiting at the end of a politically tumultuous 2016, however, it wasn’t these out of place structures that made an impact. Instead, it was the park’s haunted looking residents and their unintended, yet no less terrifying depiction of a world turned utterly upside down. The world in which we currently live in, basically.
Considering its theme, and the period in which Western Village opened, it’s perhaps not surprising that one particular, distinctly larger-than-life personality was chosen to front it.
And, as a follicly challenged right winger with a weirdly orange complexion, such a choice seems disturbingly prescient.
So now, instead of an innocent recreation of all things cowboy-related, this celebrity led world feels like a truly disturbing vision of a potentially very near future. One in which the inner machinations and ulterior motives of those pulling the presidential strings are very much to the fore.
While those set to benefit blithely carry on — wilfully ignorant of the slow, piecemeal disintegration of everything they are supposed to stand for.
And such blatant disregard for procedure and accountability is cynically carried out while the masses are kept mostly in the dark by complicit organisations happy — or at the very least content — to peddle untruths and create distractions.
Leaving those in opposition vilified, confused and increasingly isolated.
Rendering them utterly unable to stop the legacy of a once proud party being completely desecrated.
The whole horrid state of affairs culminating in a genuinely great country being reduced to nothing but its greatest fear(s).
Old and meticulously cared for bonsai are incredibly beautiful things. In our fast-moving, increasingly chaotic world, they are also objects of quiet, almost ethereal calm. Creations that elegantly take a stand against the prevailing desire for quick results or regular reinvention.
Nurtured and cared for over centuries, the trees’ anonymous and often long gone custodians neither craved for, or were rewarded with, any kind of recognition whatsoever. Instead, they were simply temporary guardians. Skilled practitioners granted the pleasure of such works of art, but at the same time given the far more important task of preserving their beauty for future generations.