Monday, March 31, 2008

day 92- wasabi & ukiyo-e

Today we headed out of Matsumoto to the Daioh Wasabi Farm. We'd had wasabi (Japanese horseradish) as that green paste on sushi & sashimi and the stalks and leaves as a fresh vegetable and pickled. Today we had it in crackers, soup, buns, relishes and ice cream! We also saw it growing in the crystal-clear waters of the melted snows of the Japan Alps.
Then we headed back to the city to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum to see the world's largest private collection of woodblock prints by Hokusai, Hiroshige, Toushuusai and others from the Edo Period (1603 - 1867.) And they didn't even mind us taking mediocre photos of the famous works (as long as we didn't use the flash!)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

day 91 - Tsumago - Magome

Yesterday we took the shinkansen and local trains to Tsumago, an ancient post town. Today we hiked from Tsumago to Magome on a beautiful walking trail which forms part of the original Nakasendo, an Edo Period highway which connected Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. It was an amazing feeling to walk on the very cobblestones that had carried travellers, merchants, samurai, palanquins, lords and commoners 300 years ago...

1. Just hanging on. A tree in front of the Odaki (Male) of the twin waterfalls.
2. Almost arrived in Magome.
3. Shrines in the sugi (Japanese Cedar.)
4. Bamboo forest.
5. Old Lyn on The Old Edo Road.
6. Rob & unidentified kanji. Can you help?!
7. Waterwheel outside the ryokan.
8. "Rocks On The Roof of The House with The Waterwheel."
9. Old zen koan: 'Do Straw Horses Sleep On Beds Of Horse Meat?'
10. The friendly Hanaya Ryokan. There has been an inn on this site for the last 300 years.

Friday, March 28, 2008

day 90 - spring break

This week all the exchange teachers have been providing free English lessons for the local community, through music, cooking, conversation and games. We've loved every minute of it!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

day 89 - trigon

Sky Building.
Umeda, Osaka

Roofs through earthquake-reinforced window. 
Shirahama Elementary School.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

day 88 - try angles

Public sculpture, Amagasaki.

Earthquake dampers, Sanyo Junior High, Tegara.

day 87 - triangle surveillance

Gun-hole, Himeji Castle.
Castles had vertical slits in the walls for archers. After the introduction of gunpowder and muskets, the holes became round or triangular.

Triangle Surveillance.
Behind the manix factory, Tegara.

day 86 - triangulation

Triangular ducks.
Shinji Lake, Matsue.

Contemporary building.
near Miyuki-dori, Himeji

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

day 85 - triangle

Back to Himeji.
Two triangle images.
1. Nishi-Sensei's set squares, Sanyo Junior High.
2. Window, Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

day 84 - mar 22 - matsue

We've made our way by a series of trains, lots of mime and very helpful railway staff to 'Japan's oldest and 'second most important shrine' (who decides these things ?!) The first is Ise, Nagoya. Izumo Taisha is so old no-one actually knows how old it is. * It may have once been as high as 50 metres, according to a document from 950. (Pretty impressive, when it's constructed entirely of wood, with only manpower and rudimentary technology.) The recent discovery of the base of enormous pillars supports the theory. The existing structure is relatively recent (1774).
Naturally Lyn & I made an offering, bowed and clapped the requisite 4 times for the longevity of our marriage (34 years and still going strong, but why take chances?)
The ceremonial rope of woven straw Shimenawa looks big. That's because it's 8m long and weighs one and a half tonnes.. Nevertheless we stood under it and attempted to throw a 100 Y coin into its underside in the hope of it lodging there to provide yet more good fortune. We were unsuccessful and kept the aforementioned coinage, but obviously hundreds before us had had better luck (or possibly reached up when Buddha wasn't watching and forced the spondulicks into the fodder.) 
After the faithful Shinto folk have their fortunes divined by the fall of the sticks, they tie these pieces of paper to the nearest convenient pine needle or tree-trunk.
We took fate into our own hands and returned to the art-deco Ichibata Electric Railway Station, then via Rapid Express to Okayama and Nozomi Shinkansen to Himeji, passing this beautiful snow-capped mountain in the Alps. Does anyone know its name?

Monday, March 24, 2008

day 83 - Mar 21 - Matsue

1. Matsue Castle (commenced 1607, completed 1611) is more sombre than its Himeji sister.

2. Stairs smoothed by thousands of hands and feet over hundreds of years.

3. Sugi, the Japanese cedar, the same timber from which Matsue-jo is constructed.

4,5. The boat and 'cruise captain'
who took us around the castle moat and surrounding channels, past the Buke Yashike (old samurai house) and under 16 assorted bridges.

6. We reached Yuushien Japanese Gardens on Daikonshima Island by local bus across a causeway.

7. The Yuushien Tea rooms use 'borrowed scenery' like a living, 3D mural.

8. One of the many beautiful peonies.

9. Yomegashima Island, Lake Shinji, without its reflection in the Shimane Art Museum's glass walls.

10. Sunset & Pine, Lake Shinji.

day 82 - Mar 20 - Tsuwano

To get to the Taikodani Inari Shrine you have to walk up a hill through a tunnel of 1100 brilliant orange torii, some leaning at precarious angles. The shrine was originally built in 1773, but only the kami seem to be keeping some of the poles in an approximately vertical state.
It celebrates the fox-god Inari, seen here in all his cute stone and miniature porcelain forms (ready for dinner?)
From the shrine there's an excellent view of the town and valley below.
Later we saw washi (traditional hand-made paper) being made from the soaked bark of  the kouzo tree which was conveniently covered in yellow blossom just down the road...