Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kanazawa, Day Three

I began my day by watching some Japanese television, justly famous for being, well...unusual. This was a morning chat show that seemed to be hosted by this white fluffy dog. I love it!
The spouses of the other conference attendees and I were picked up for a day of sightseeing; our guide was the very sweet Yukiko. Our first stop: The Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. The photo above shows a whole gaggle of schoolchildren getting ready to tour the museum. See all the yellow hats? A grandmotherly sort who was with them unfolded a nifty pop-up bin thingy, and the kids trooped by and deposited their hats, one by one. So cute!

We weren't allowed to take photos of the permanent collection, but this was an exhibition that I truly did not get--the language barrier was simply too great, I think. I like how pensive the man looks under the headset. Perhaps he was having trouble grasping it as well... The museum does have a nice collection, including a room-sized work by one of my favorite artists, James Turrell. Next we toured the Kanazawa Noh Museum; it was small, but there were lovely masks and robes on display.

Lunch time! Yummy soba noodles from this restaurant...
We visited Seison-kaku, a villa built by a Maeda lord for his mother. It's an interesting mix of traditional architecture and 19th-century architecture (it was built in 1865, in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, just before the Meiji period). This was my first--but not my last--encounter with the enchanting "nightingale floor," designed as an early warning system. Of course, the garden was lovely: below is a simple "do not enter" sign--simply by placing these wrapped rocks, people know the area is off limits.
Finally, we went to Gyokusen-en, a garden that once belonged to the Nishida family. It's rather small, but incredibly lush and lovely.

Yukiko asked if we'd like tea, which sounded marvelous after a day of sightseeing. Unbeknownst to us, it was matcha and was served to us during a tea ceremony (a greatly abbreviated service, but charming nonetheless). The two women who served us were absolutely delightful and insisted on all of us having our photo taken together.

Finally, on the way back to our hotel, our taxi driver insisted on driving us through the Higashi Chaya district, the historical home of geisha (the largest of three such districts in Kanazawa; "chaya" means "tea"); it was full of beautiful old buildings and women wearing traditional dress. We stopped to buy some dried bean candies, which had just been served to us during tea ceremony. An utterly delightful day...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kanazawa, Day Two

The conference at which B. was speaking--the impetus for our trip to Japan--took place at Kanazawa Institute of Technology. Apparently the ratio of male to female students is as you might expect, so the girls have been given their own private floor in the library, where guys are not allowed to step foot--the whole floor is keycard entry only. These are the colorful mod chairs in the ladies' lounge...
This cool hand-made sign depicts a man who works in the media center--I love it!

More cool graphics. The image immediately above looks very much like the work of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara...

The library's Popular Music Collection was truly awesome--lots of vinyl, and cool sort of space age-y chairs in which to listen to a record; a visor comes down so that you're only hearing the music coming from the turntable connected to your chair. They had Elvis...


And Frank...

And a very cool Wurlitzer jukebox, seen above.

After our tour of the library, the rest of the day was spent listening to the conference speakers--no photos of that!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tallulah-Palooza Friday

Tallulah Mae would like everyone to please keep it down--she's trying to have a nap...


Ahhh...that's better.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kanazawa, Day One

Kanazawa, located on the Sea of Japan, is a castle town, the second-largest city (after Kyoto) to escape bombing in World War II. It is the prefectural capital of Ishikawa. These distinctive walls mark the Naga-machi district, where samurai had their homes.

This is inside a mid-level samurai's house--levels of prestige were measured by how many tatami mats a house held...
This lovely little garden was at the Nomura House, the home of a high-level samurai and his family. This garden has a 400-year-old bayberry tree in it. The craftsmanship was impeccable: below is a decorative ornament used to cover a nail. There were many different styles of these ornaments.
I love the tile ornaments used at the edges of roofs or on the ridge lines...
This is Kanazawa Castle, built for a shogun of the ruling Maeda clan in 1583. What you're seeing is mostly a reconstruction (fires took their toll over the years), but it's impressive nonetheless...
We ended our day's tour at Kenrokuen, a fabulous "stroll garden." Considered to be one of the top three gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen means "having six attributes," characteristics thought to create a perfect garden. These are: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice (interesting!), water, antiquity, and views. Many trees have been trained over many years with poles, as seen above.

Finally, a Shinto shrine...


We actually ended this day with an elaborate shabu-shabu meal, a real treat provided by our always gracious hosts. That will be covered in a later post about food consumed while in Japan...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Japan, Random

Shoji and Japanese maples in Kanazawa...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yanaka, Tokyo

The Yanaka section of Tokyo has seen little major redevelopment, and because it escaped major damage from both the 1923 Kanto earthquake and Allied bombing during World War II, it retains a wonderful old-world charm. After emerging from the Nippori subway station, B. and I walked to Tennoji Temple, founded more than 500 years ago.


This Buddha, who is obviously undergoing some work, was constructed in 1690. He deserves a facelift after all this time...

We walked through Yanaka Cemetery. There are more than 7,000 graves, and many notable Japanese figures are buried here.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, Yanaka is known as a "city of neko" (neko means "cat"), and we saw many of them sleeping on the warm gravestones in the cemetery.

Then we visited Choanji--dedicated to the god of longevity--established as a pilgrimage site in 1669. There were many more graves with prayer sticks (I wish I knew their proper Japanese name) placed on them, as well as these little statues.

We stopped in at Midori-ya, a shop run by a father and son who make exquisite baskets from bamboo; we didn't buy anything...

We walked down to Yanaka Ginza, a charming shopping street filled with a mix of modern and traditional shops. Some of the shop signs were very sweet...

Below is the beautiful sign for a shop called Isetatsu, founded in the eighteenth century and run by the Hirose family for four generations. They sell all manner of paper, but their specialty is chiyogami, made from their own designs with woodblock printing. The proprietor showed us a piece of chiyogami and then a reproduction of a self-portrait by (I believe) van Gogh--in the background, pasted to the wall, was the exact same patterned chiyogami. Amazing. I bought some much more inexpensive but no less beautiful washi.

After a refreshing iced coffee, we walked to Daienji Temple, mostly closed for renovations, but we did see the first of many statues in Japan wearing these red caps and red bibs.

Our final stop (other than for a most necessary cup of azuki bean ice cream) was Nezu Shrine, a Shinto shrine built in 1706. The little dog was there to be blessed (we think); excuse the blurry photo, but he was just too cute to pass up. He's sitting in front of a giant straw circle that you walk in and around, making the infinity sign, for good luck. There were many red-orange torii (gates)--a common sight at Shinto (and sometimes Buddhist) shrines. When we got to Kyoto, we saw many many more... a future post!