Editor's Note

Life, gathered in small portions.

Across the vast, bewildering landscapes and moodboards that make up Japan, you don’t gulp. You sip. Slowly. Purposefully. Here, the world’s established continuums of time, space, elements, and perception cease to exist. Because Japan, more than any other land, is its own paradigm.

Celebrated chronicler of the arts & culture, Soumya Mukerji, allows her senses to guide her in this story saturated most persuasively with atmosphere, and concurrently, the quiet dramas of synesthesia. Her eyes reach for spring’s first gasp, as cherry blossoms erupt in a private dialect. Her ears sense night with its portrait of enigmatic geishas. Her skin imbibes the dream sequences played out by the eccentricity that is bottled music. In every experience, she tastes the tender harmony of Wa—the ancient philosophy of purity and lightness that guides life on the island—as easily as she tastes fruit ripening in their expectation of spring.

So much of Japan is manic and explosive, and yet, within all the cacophony and the country’s perpetual deep dive into the future, always that sense of harmony.

‘Way of the Wa’ also represents the beginning of a new tributary under The Bombay Literary Magazine’s Visual Narratives—Passengers. This series will chronicle the ephemerality of movement and the ephemerality of the moment—be it travellers navigating the foreignness of an unfamiliar city, the rupture in a relationship, an evening sparkling with jazz and frisson, a street dog making its way through the city, or whatever else.

For now, this is an invitation to feast your eyes on small, everyday sketches of Japan. Or, given this essay’s playfulness with the senses, your ears. Gaze. Listen. And yes, sip.

— Siddharth Dasgupta
The Bombay Literary Magazine


Aboard the Shinkansen, literally the ‘thunderbird’ as the Japanese bullet train is called, I take wing into a land of wonders. Shoot a bullet through the countryside, and it will bleed its heart out for you. The bird’s eye view slowly widens to close into a spectacular concert with man, animal, philosophy, folklore, technology, and time travel all becoming one. In Kanji, 和 or Wa is the tender harmony that sums up this peaceful, pure spirit that pervades all life, making it so wholesome.

You could imagine Murakami’s hardboiled wonderland or Sakamoto playing the piano, or even conjure the luxurious dreamscapes of Miyazaki’s Ghibli sorcery, each vignette a confluence of romance, resilience, and the real, a distillation of a dream built with great care and precision. After all, a place that has suffered destruction through centuries can be nothing but a seat of creation and contemplation.

I am moved, through gardens, oceans, mountains, constellations and forests of self, earth, and imagination, seamless dimensions as ancient as digitized. The kind of movement that is the very essence of existence, the prelude to a much simpler and solitary stillness that is the creative hope.

The country is a continuum of many contexts, traditions, and faiths informed by a present as progressive as powerful. Every moment breathes; each cell is still, patience is the only permanence. Not a thing moves mindlessly, and yet all operates from a higher place of no mind. Rainbows rise and fall as I walk through bamboo forests, shrines, backstreets, and quiet neighbourhoods that preserve the secret of the human soul as if our divinities were still intact.

In the vast countryside there are no waste-bins. Take your trash to the fast food café you picked it from, neither our lands nor our wild animals like the taste, they proudly say. Some may misunderstand this microcosm of magic as rudimentary and perhaps even rude, but interior Japan is a man deep in meditation, content with its way of life and dismissive of western consumerism. A man rapt in his craft and everyday practice, however commonplace it may seem, devoid of the weight of exhibitionism or extravagance.

The culture calls you into the great deep, the language frees itself of colonial obligation; you fall freely once you let go the fear and flaws. In this island, it’s a compendium, a celebration, an alchemy of the ancient and all the futures that await us.

I offer you some moments from this private pilgrimage.

Recommended listening / soundboard: ax Mr. L by alva noto, Ryuichi Sakamoto


Cover Banner Photograph: Dale Scogings/ Banner Design & Photo Editing: Siddharth Dasgupta


Soumya Mukerji is a traveller, writer, and creative editor who seeks poetry in the everyday, and in everything. A narrative journalist for over 15 years, her practice straddles convergent and counter-cultures, global literature, multidisciplinary arts, design and digital creativity, human experience, and social issues. Formerly Managing Editor at STIR and Deputy Editor at Platform Magazine, her work has also appeared in major media such as The Guardian, The Hindu Literary and Sunday Magazine, and NDTV. She has been a Guest Editor and Advisor to the literary journals, The Remnant Archive and Proseterity. Soumya’s work opens journalism’s truths to the possibility of poetry, prose, and personal memory. Part of her heart is still on some hill.

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