According to Shikibu: “Watercastle Arcen is Castle of Nishikigoi.”

Arcen NVN showgrounds
Arcen NVN showgrounds

It was a privilege to take a few hours with Shikibu during the twenty-second Holland Koi show. I had already watched her skittishly during one of the cloudbursts and admired admiringly at one of the beauties in the competition. It was noticeable that she was alone. The people of Dadadan Tenko did not seem to know her, and with the other kimono ladies, she only exchanged a polite greeting and then shed her eyes on the ground.

Da da da dan tenko Shikibu knows them from Tokyo.

Shikibu triples through the Rosarium bends over and smells the delicious perfume of the blood-red rose. Her yukata makes her feel free. During the award ceremony, she will show herself in her official kimono. Now she enjoys the ancient estate with its monumental Castle Arcen. She wants to walk for hours through the numerous gardens and enjoy the surprising colours and delicious smells, admire and absorb all 8000 roses. In the Casa Verde between palms, olive trees and colourful flowers she wants to feel the subtropical climate and stroll through the Valley with the Oriental water garden. There she burned some incense before the Buddha and her prayers said: “Oh mane padne hum”
During her big “Journey West” she had not dreamed of finding so much of home in the low countries. In the distance, she hears the music of Akira, Kanako and Teru, three top percussionists of Dadadadan Tenko. Shikibu knows them from their performances in Tokyo.
Shikibu admired the glossy, ink-black markings on the show grounds, no they are not stains, from the stunning Showa who struggle with the imposing Kohaku for the highest honour: Koi Ichi Ban. The best, most beautiful and most impressive female of the show. In good Dutch, it is called the Grand Champion.

AquascapeMickey Paulssen and www.miroshaki.nl

Shikibu’s thoughts take her to the beautiful aquascapes that are admired in the Suizokukan (aquarium tent). In the Japanese underwater gardens, the most beautiful ornamental shrimps run around.
The beautiful trees that make the Bonsai show into a real attraction also represent the essence of Japanese culture for Shikibu: Zen! May only be viewed with the utmost attention, mindful. In her mind, she walks past the numerous vats in which all the abundance of colours can be experienced. It is an overwhelming festival of shine and brilliance that makes the Nishikigoi the binding factor of all that Japanese beauty.
Shikibu knows its culture in the vicinity. She can eat a snack in Nippon Mura, the Japanese village and learn even more at the Ibento Kaijo, ‘do square’. But she remains for a moment between the roses, sniffing the intimate perfume. Then she wandered towards the showground.

Murasaki Shikibu

The NVN and the Holland Koi Show are praised by the Japanese for two things: their massiveness and the hospitality that many of their fellow countrymen were already allowed to enjoy. Of course, the massiveness refers to the countless visitors and the many traders manning their stand. But also on the competition that is exceeded by few countries in terms of the number of fish.
I thought that I should show the lady in a kimono that the hospitality is unmistakable. I bowed to her and asked if I could offer her a snack. She looked at the name card and smiled. She apparently knew that men and women with such a name card belonged to the organization and were therefore reliable. I led her towards the volunteer tent.

I wanted to spare her the long lines at the catering industry and she knew she would feel comfortable there among the show friends.
She looked at me quizzically and asked in doubtful “She is of an extraordinary beauty and represents for me one of the highest qualities I have ever seen, so here on this mud pool of a showground, she is like the lotus flower, indeed immaculate and a tribute to its creator. ”

Illustration of a scene from Genji Monogatari
Illustration of a scene from Genji Monogatari

“And your name? What is its meaning?” Shikibu looked at me kindly: “Murasaki Shikibu” was a Japanese lady-in-waiting who was greatly admired by my mother. She lived at the imperial court during the Heian period (794 to 1185), as Shikibu was the first female writer worldwide to perform a work of literary interest wrote: Genji Monogatari (The story of Prince Genji). She wrote it between the year 1000 and 1008. It was perhaps even the first novel ever.
My mother told me her real name is unknown. Some think her first name was Takako. According to her diary, she was given the nickname “Murasaki” at the court, which means “purple.” I am grateful for the cup of tea, and I began to pay tribute to this nickname. Like you Dutch say: she looks purple because of the gold.”
Shikibu laughed kindly. Her hand hid her mouth as the white make-up concealed it from the eye because of her supposed purple.

It’s nice to chat with a Japanese. “And Shikibu, tell me, who are you, what keeps you busy.

“Ah, my time is mainly spent on being a good Japanese, being at one with my culture, showing respect for it and expressing it, sometimes I feel a spirit, not really capable of creation. Although:

 

showa Sanke
Showa Sanke 

Showa Sanke swims
in clean clear water
waiting for food

But such a spontaneous Haiku is rare. Usually, I am less present, transparent and fleeting as the wind. ”

During the Heian period, Buddhism and Taoism, in addition to other Chinese cultural expressions, gained increasing influence over the Japanese court.
During Heian, the imperial court was at its cultural height. The period is known for its poetry and literature. During this period the capital moved to Heian-Kyo the present-day Kyoto. It is the era in which the Samurai gained power and at the end Minamoto, no Yoritomo was allowed to call himself the first Shogun.
Heian can be seen as the golden age of Japan. Many of the cultural achievements of that time still influence the current Japanese society and ours. By this, I do not only mean our koi hobby. Of course, many koi hobbyists admire the Japanese culture, a trip to the land of the rising sun is high on their wish list and they would like a Zen garden with Bonsai. Maybe they even want an Aquascape in the house with those beautiful shrimps or some special goldfish in the aquarium. But Japanese culture influenced lovers of the clean, the silent, the way of Zen worldwide.

I look at Shikibu and ask her when she flies back. She grins, “I’m not going back.” She looks around and lets the environment work on itself. The smiling volunteers, the disputing lovers at the barrels and the ladies who hand out sandwiches and point out where the tea is. She looks a bit disapproving at the photos of injured koi. She realizes that these fish are vulnerable too, but this must be made clear in a plastic way. “Let the party remain the party”, I hear her think.

Shikibu, therefore, remains in Arcen. She is looking for a place in the Kasteeltuinen van Arcen. She feels at home there among all the green splendour, those cute koi people and the colourful fish. She realizes that she will miss her homeland but is looking forward to the adventures she will experience here. “Niigata is the homeland”, she told me. “Arcen will be the water castle of Koi,

You can follow Shikibu Tsuku on  FB-Page let her know you like it.

The Castle Garden Arcen you find here: Site

Hugo J. Smal

 

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