KANSAI Close-up

Historic Kansai:A year-end thought

By junzo tanaka
For some reason, the year-end reminds me of the name, Gail Russell, or rather three phrases: 'Russell,' 'A thousand eyes' and 'A thousand winds.' I am a little embarrassed to write this essay as if I am telling a rakugo comic story which must include three topics not related to one another.
I was a middle school pupil when I watched Russell, a Hollywood actress, on the silver screen. Her big eyes and full lips in 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes'(1947), the movie for which she is most famous, left me with a lasting impression.
The phrase 'A thousand winds' is in a song, 'I am a Thousand Winds,' which will likely be performed in this year's 'Red and White Singing Contest,' a popular NHK TV program on New Year's Eve.
The phrase 'a thousand' means 'infinite' or 'innumerable,' and there is no relationship between 'a thousand eyes' and 'a thousand winds.' Still, they come to my mind one on top of the other. Why?
At the end and beginning of a year, millions of useless matters fall upon us, which makes us want to pray, 'God and Buddha, help us.' As we want to believe that our prayers will be answered, we seek out shrines or temples, all of which hold events that will answer our thoughts appropriately. That's why people visit them around this time of the year.
The Kansai region is rich in temples, from where Japanese religious activities originated. If you have a chance to stay in Kansai at the end or beginning of a year, ask somebody (a hotel or tourist office employee or your friend): 'Which shrine or temple do you visit at the end or beginning of a year?' Then, follow him or her wherever they go.
In Japan there are thousands of gods and Buddhas; deities are everywhere in nature and they watch the fate of human beings. If you pay a visit to a shrine or temple, you might be able to really feel that we live with our fate entrusted to such presences.
The film, 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,' is based on Francis William Bourdillon's poem of the same name.
Russell passed away in 1961 without having had a notable picture. When she passed on, I would like to believe she was being watched, or rather she is still being watched, by 'a thousand eyes.'