Welcome to Donto-in

A couple of days after Koki and I returned from Doshi to his home in Hayama, we caught an early morning flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Naha City, Okinawa. Koki pointed out the window soon after take-off. There, rising above the clouds, we espied the summit of Mount Fuji. My beloved friends from the goddess trance band Amana met us at the airport. I wept with joy to see Yoko Nema and Sachiho Kojima, and their manager, Kawashima, again. Soon Koki and I were peeling off our warm winter clothes and acclimating to the tropical heat of Okinawa.

Kawashi drove us down to Tamagusuku in the south of the island, to the octagonal house Sachiho built as a temple in memory of her rock star husband Donto, who died suddenly at the age of 37 in January 2001 on Hawaii Island of a brain aneurism after watching a hula performance dedicated to the volcano goddess Pele by the nationally famous Halau O Kekuhi at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

When I met Sachiho in 2002 through Seawest Studio, where we had each recorded a CD, I participated in creating a memorial for Donto at the largest Buddhist temple in Hilo, and I coordinated a tour afterwards for Amana on the Big Island, to defray some of the expense of the memorial. That was the important third year memorial. Now, here I am again, just in time for the important seventh year memorial.

Hiromi Kondo, the third member of Amana, came down to meet us at Donto-in. The Matsui family, visiting from their forest home at Aso Mountain on Kiushu Island, and staying at Donto-in, greeted us as well. They, too, will participate in the two festivals that the Amana team is organizing the following weekend.

Sachiho places our small gifts upon the altar to Donto in the main room. The wave shaped cross piece below the altar recalls Donto’s famous song Nami (wave). The altar includes a Tibetan bell, a Shinto paper prayer, a statue of the merciful goddess Kannon (Kuan Yin), a Thanka of White Tara, a bowl gong and a crystal ball.

The ceiling of the greatroom with its skylight, a perfect mandala. Below the floor, directly below the skylight, the family buried a meteor in the foundation, truly a fitting memorial for a rock star.

Through the elegant double front door, a view of Ou Island and the ocean. Above the door, Tibetan temple hangings and a Native American dream catcher.

Even the furo bath has a magnificent ocean view, a skylight and flagstone on the floor. So how do ten people share a single bathtub? Each day the tub is filled with warm water, and people take turns bathing themselves on the flagstone, pouring warm water over themselves from a large bowl. In that way, one tub full of water serves ten.

I set off on a walk to get a better look at Ou Island and the harbor. Along the way I pass a small tea house made from a shipping container.

Now I’m in the habit of photographing the man hole covers in each community I visit. This one shows a bird bringing the first rice stalks to Tamagusuku, initiating rice cultivation in Okinawa.

Along the side of a cement fence, a sign reading “One Love.”

Beside the road, a family vault of an important family in the area, perhaps the owners the local sugar plantation.

At last I reach the harbor and look across at Ou Island.