Almost Greek to Me

Since my travels to Europe in the 70s I have visited many public squares: in small towns and in big cities; during the fall, winter, spring, and summer; at dawn and near dusk, day and night. In my subsequent travels −after learning about the Greek agora and the Roman forum during college− I tried to recreate the feeling of being in that ancient marketplace, in that old public square. Did anybody ever stand and think that the very spot she or he stood on would one day be a subject of a study? What went on the mind of the people as they walked among the architectures that dwarfed them? In Nashville, Tennessee, stood the only standing replica of the Parthenon of Athens. While I was in college, many times I would visit the park where the monument stood and walked around the structure, but the feeling I was searching for eluded me.

Then today it happened in what I thought was the unlikeliest place in the world: the Ebisu Garden Place, one of the many contemporary temples to the gods and goddesses of commercialism. I have been to this shopping and dining complex cum brewery (the Yebisu Beer) many times, but today, because of the gorgeous mid-Fall weather of sunny and cool, I decided to walk aimlessly, in and out of and around the different buildings in the area. After three hours in the area, I walked on the ground level of a building with a tall ceiling. The portico was devoid of any Greek element: no Doric, Ionic or Corinthian columns; instead, it was simply rectangular columns that lined the sides of the building, supporting the overhanging roof.

The angle of the sun cast a shadow of the adjacent structure onto the wall of this building. Suddenly I felt as if I were circling a classical edifice in the ancient time. It was a weird feeling, because I thought such a reaction would only be available to me in the West, while touring similar structures. Here in the East, specifically in Japan, I thought I would be overcome by a site-specific sensation, such as: the Shinto shrines, the Buddhist temples or the Zen gardens. How foolish of me to be so narrow-minded. An exhilarating experience it was not; nonetheless, it was a gratifying feeling. At the time of the revelation, I was not thinking about the people in the future; instead, I was soaking in the moment of what I thought would be a walk among the giants in the ancient times, and oddly enough, that made my Sunday for me.


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