Monday, July 25, 2016

SPRINGTIME IN HONSHU JAPAN

Springtime in Honshu, Japan, means it's Sakura time. Made a trip there for 8 days from 2 April to catch the Sakura trees in bloom. To the Japanese, Sakura (cherry blossoms) is a time to rejoice, to spend time with the trees admiring the blooms, to picnic and so forth. It's symbolic as a national institution of sorts. Unfortunately, when I was there I read that the Japanese media slammed some PRC visitors who climbed up the trees to take photos/videos or shake the trees to get 'Sakura rain' for their recording. Sakura blossoms only for 7-10 days dependent on the weather.

The Deer Park in Nara (which is also famous for the Todai-ji Temple). This park was established in the 1300's and is considered one of the oldest parks in Japan. There are some 1,200 Sika deer within its compound of about 560 ha.

A well-manicured garden in the Todai-ji Temple grounds.

Todai-ji Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also historically significant.

The Mudra is a position of the Buddha's palm normally made with his left hand. It stands for charity, compassion and  boon-granting. It also symbolises a desire to devote oneself to the salvation of mankind. The five fingers stand for perfections - generosity, morality, patience, effort and meditative contemplation. This image was captured within the confines of Todai-ji Temple.

Osaka City traffic is comparatively light?

Osaka City from the Abeno Harukasu, the tallest skyscraper there. 360 degree views of the city can be made from its observation deck. The largest departmental store in Japan is also found in the building.
Dotonbori in Osaka which is famous for shopping and seafood. The vendor here is selling chestnuts. He uses steam to 'roast' the chestnuts.

A seafood joint specialising in octopuses, perhaps?

Many visitors throng there day and night to shop and feast.

Dotonbori Canal runs through the shopping and dining area.

Having my green tea with a sweet snack, compliments of the hotel in Osaka. Tatami mats are nice to sleep on.

Morning breakfast at the hotel. The tofu famous in this region is still cooking in the pot. Many regions in Japan have their own unique and special dishes, like the tofu here.

Opposite the hotel are high rise apartments. The area doesn't appear as congested in Tokyo. Cherry trees are in blossom.

The Thousand Torii Gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Walking through the tunnel of Torii gates.

The Torii Gate to the Thousand Torii Gates.

Many stalls like this sell snacks and other delicacies on the way to the shrine.

Skewered crab sticks go for 500 Yen each.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

SPRINGTIME IN HONSHU JAPAN (CONT"D)

A store in Kyoto specialising in chopsticks. A pair cost 1,000 Yen or more. Having one's name engraved will cost extra.

And this specialises in knives used for cutting sashimi, meat, etc. Many Westerners patronise such stores for the quality of Japanese-made knives.

This restaurant is well patronised. Diners sit next to a river adorned by Sakura trees in full bloom.

Instant transformation into a 'Japanese couple'.

With our travelling companions after our stroll in Gion, Kyoto, which used to be famous for its Geishas. Many tea-houses have now been transformed into shops, restaurants, etc, catering to tourists.

Gate to Kyomizu Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the famous Kyoto temples.

Temple grounds which are sprawling, peaceful and serene.

The temple itself.  It's well known for its Cherry Blossoms in Spring and red leaves in Autumn. A magnificent structure indeed.

The temple is built on stilts of solid hard wood. Not a single nail is used in its construction. A marvel in architecture.

Gifu Castle in Gifu City. This castle was used by Oda Nobunaga, a powerful 16th C Daimyo of the Sengoku period, who subjugated much of Honshu. It subsequently fell into disrepair until 1956 when it was rebuilt by the people of Gifu who hauled the materials up the mountain.

Gifu City from Gifu Castle. Presently, Gifu Castle is accessible by a cable way.

A period clock in the compound of the castle reputedly belonging to Tokugawa Ieyasu, an ally of Oda Nobunaga who subsequently defeated other Daimyos in the Battle of Sekigahara and was awarded the title of Shogun by the Emperor..

A well manicured garden in Gifu Park at the bottom of the Castle mountain.There are four hiking trails in the mountain.

Village of Shirakawago, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, with traditional thatched roof houses. Parts of the movie "The Last Samurai" were filmed here.
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Shirakawago lunch prepared with country ingredients.

The hearth in the restaurant where people will gather round for their meals in winter. It used to be sunken.

Attempting a break in into a barn?

A store in the village with a modern roof.

Village temple with the gate in front of it. The roofs of such structures have to be renewed every 20-30 years. The villagers will do it on a self help basis. In Summer when the temperatures soar, it may be necessary to water the roofs to prevent fire.

The flag pole outside the house is adorned with cloth streamers in the shape of fishes. Blue ones indicate the number of boys in a household and the red ones are for girls.

SPRINGTIME IN HONSHU JAPAN (CONT'D)

Street in Takayama, model of an old Japanese town. Also referred to as the small Kyoto in Hida for its quaint atmosphere. Notice the traffic lights which are mounted vertically. It's done so as this region has high snowfall during winter and if the lights are mounted horizontally, they may crumble with the accumulation of snow. 

Two cyclists. Cycling is safe as traffic is very light.

The streets are spick and span and houses are reminiscent of a bygone era.




Like a scene from a Japanese Samurai movie?

Replica of a float used in Japanese festivals. May is the month when many festivals are held in Takayama and people flock here from Japan and other countries to watch.

Taking a stroll to a local market where in addition to existing shops, farmers bring their produce to sell here. Unfortunately, as it was raining, only a few turned up.

Walking and enjoying Takayama beauty.

Vendor of a local delicacy made of egg white. It tasted like marshmallow and cost 100 Yen ($1.20) each.

Takayama Jinya is designated a National Historic Site. It served as the branch office of the Edo Bafuku (government) from 1692 to 1868. Although there were some 60 plus such offices in Japan during the Tokugawa era, it is the only one existing today. Functions included collection of taxes in the form of rice, law court and interrogation of accused persons, forest mgt, administration and also rice storage. High ranking guests were also housed here.

Garden within.

The kitchen where meals were prepared for all those working here.

During a visit to Iishii Miso Brewery, we also had lunch consisting of miso soup, salad with miso dressing, rice balls and ice cream made of miso.

Being received into Matsumoto Castle by a 'Samuri' and a 'princess'. This raincoat brought back memories of a show called "Impressions of Liu San Jie" in Yangshou, China.



Armaments used in Matsumoto Castle, a precursor to fighting with rifles and pistols after the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Body armour adorned by the Samurais and officials of higher ranks.

Matsumoto City from the castle.