Sometimes in Japan, when you least expect it, you look up, or down, and there’s The Buddha. He might be poking his head through the trees or staring out the window of some shop. The other day I was sitting at a train station that nobody has ever heard of, when I chanced to look up and there he was. A giant Buddha watching over me and the stray cat that paced the platform as if he had more business being there than I did.The cat probably knew that the Buddha was watching all along, so he was on his best behavior. He had that cat smugness that seemed to tell me he had something on me.
I looked up at that big Buddha behind the trees and wondered what he was doing there. Who put him there, in the middle of nowhere, no more than a few meters from the steel mill on the other side of the tracks. The look on his face was content enough, as Buddhas often are, seemingly unaffected by the noise of the mill, the occasional passing train, the smug cat or me. The way he poked his head over the trees was almost unbelievable–unrealistic–as if I were dreaming his presence, or watching a Hayao Miyazaki film.
So I searched the unmanned station to find some information about this Buddha–something to point out its rich history or cultural significance. There was no mention of it, no maps of the area, no tourist information of any sort, only a local events bulletin board with a few outdated local events, some posters advertising Meitetsu Railways, and a button to press in case you needed to talk to a real (or quasi-real) person. I thought I could push the button and ask about the Buddha , but I knew the person on the other side of the speaker was likely sitting at some switchboard in Tokyo or Calcutta. So I stayed seated on my bench, watching the cat rule his domain, as the Buddha watched over us.