Glimpsed through the window of an upstairs tea room in Kyoto, two strolling Japanese girls in a narrow street, warding off the fierce summer sun with their waxed sun umbrellas. There are two girls, two colors of umbrellas — but for some reason, ever since I first glimpsed them through the window, I’ve thought of this scene as The Purple Umbrella. Why? I have no idea. It is as mysterious — and persistent and alluring — as everything about Japan is for me.
In some former life, perhaps, I carried a purple umbrella? And was Japanese? I wouldn’t be surprised.