Thursday, December 31, 2009

Japan Open Air Folk House Museum - Nihon Minka-en

While planning my recent Japan trip I came across the Nihon Minkaen or the Japan Open Air Folk House Museum. It's English website showed twenty-five historic Japanese folk houses which had been relocated from all over Japan to this Museum in Ikuta Ryokuchi Park located in the Tama hills in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. It looked like an interesting day trip.

From the web site map of the buildings I thought the Museum was on flat ground so I was pleasantly surprised to find the houses were in a hilly area. The 19th century Suzuki house on the left was used as a hostel for horse traders traveling to auction in Fukushima Prefecture. The horses were kept on the ground floor and the traders stayed on the second floor.The house on the right is the Meji Period (1868-1912) Hara House which now is used for lectures and exhibitions.

An interior shot of the Hara House. All the visitors who were walking through the house while I was there stopped to pet the carved wooden too.

This house has an earthen floor and small windows so the inside is very dark and primitive feeling.

I had fun walking up these steps as I tried to just step on the rounded top of the logs.

The Gassho Zukuri (steep sloped roof) style house on the left is from a area that has heavy snowfalls . The sharp incline of the roof prevents the building from collapsing from the weight of the snow.

A closer view of a Gassho Zukuri style house.

There were fires in several houses. This fire was kept going by a gentleman who had worked in New York for several years so he invited me in and we talked for awhile.

A 17th century farmhouse from a mountainous region. It was a windy day and I enjoyed listening to the rustling of bamboo trees in the woods behind the house.

Looking down at 17th century farmhouse from Kawasaki City. Notice the grasses growing on the top of the roof.

A herringbone pattern on a rock wall. The landscaping was attractive throughout the museum.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Begins - Vermont- HOLGA

Small docks along Lake Saint Catherine the morning after a very small snowfall.

A run on photo of a Twisted Tea delivery truck during a snowfall.

Another run on photo of snow frozen on tree branches and houses along the main street.

Main Street.

Wintry clouds loom over the main street.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Travel - A Commentary On Travel

The Daibutsu at Kamakura.

The place one visits is important but also important is the prepartion for ones trip. For me part of the fun of traveling is researching the places I'm to visit. I begin with Fodor's and Frommer's guides as they give a good over view. A little history, popular and/or important places to visit, best time of year to see x, y & z, etc. Eyewitness and Insight Guides have pictures of places and when you're visiting a place like Kyoto with it's zillions of temples it's helpful to see what temples interest you as you can't possibly visit all of them. Lonely Planet has a good website but in recent years I haven't liked the layout of their guides and one time found their directions inadequate.

I guess I should mention I work in a bookstore so have access to the above guides without having to buy them. However my favorite guides, which I purchased for my recent Japan trip, are the Rough Guide Japan and Rough Guide Tokyo. These guides concentrate on the places with only brief information about where to stay or eat. They also include out of the way and/or places I find interesting. Well, maybe the 'out of the way' isn't so much anymore as it's in their guide book. Their Japan Guide, is heavy and bulky so I leave it with my daughter in Tokyo which allows me to feel okay about purchasing next year's edition...also heavy and bulky. For lodgings I surf the net. For restaurants I like to use the online sites of local English language magazines like Metropolis in Tokyo and newspapers like the Japan Times.

Next and/or simultaneously most of the time is the internet. Anything or place of interest in the above guide books (I jot down notes as I skim guide books) I further research online. If you have the time and patience blogs (young people teaching English in Japan write a lot about where they went on the weekend. Not great prose but sometimes interesting places that aren't in guide books) are a good source of information. I discovered two places we visited on my recent trip by reading blogs. Another tip is to google your interests like hiking Japan or shopping for specific items Japan or for me folk arts Japan. Not everything Japan is in the guide books. Most places have websites which contain lots of information about what they have and how to get there. If the main site isn't in English continue to Google it until you find someone who writes in English about it or look at pictures on flickr.

At this point I have lots of pages ear marked in the Rough Guides, too many print outs and notes .... some even legible. My trip is next week. What to do? I prioritize. If I had one day what would I want to do...oh, I have a second day, what would I want to do....etc. Then I look at my choices and put them in order in relation to where I'm staying and what I can reasonably do on this trip. Day 1. I'm a bit jet lagged....that Japanese movie with English subtitles a train stop away from where I'm staying sounds good.....then the park with the fall chrysanthemum display is a subway stop from there....good. However that abandoned island off Nagasaki, a very long way from Tokyo, will have to wait for another trip.

Chrysanthemums on exhibit at Shinjuku Gyoen (Park).

I usually have a plan A and plan B for each day. Sometime things just don't go the way you expected or you get someplace and well, it sucks, so having other options to fall back on is a comfort. Relax, take some deep breaths then charge onward. Have some fun with your trip planning and then enjoy yourself once you're there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nijo Castle - Kyoto Japan

I purchased a Japan Rail Pass for my trip which allowed me to travel anywhere in Japan. There were two places in Kyoto I hadn't had time to see on my previous trip so one day I decided to take a day trip from Tokyo and visit them.

Nijo Castle, a World Heritage Site, doesn't look like most typical Japanese castles as it's not a vertical fortress but a horizontal series of five buildings. I knew that Nijo Castle was known for its elaborate interior decorations which I'd seen pictures of and wanted to visit. The castle took twenty three years to complete and was the Kyoto residence of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616). In addition to the art work I wanted to walk along the nightingale floors which were made so they sing (squeak) as one walks on them. And they did. As I walked along the wooden floors in my stocking feet I realized no intruder/assassin would have gotten very far. Unfortunately no photographs were allowed inside the buildings.

Once inside the castle and its gardens it's easy to forget that one is still in the center of the modern city of Kyoto.

The entrance to the Ninomaru Palace complex of buildings is quite impressive.

The crow is real not a decoration.

The beautiful elaborate decorations continued inside the palace.

Nijo Castle is also famous for its gardens which were designed by tea master and landscape architect Kobori Enshu.

What's a castle without a high wall and a moat.

The trees were just beginning to turn color during my visit.

A woman grounds keeper. Her clothing looked so interesting and comfortable too.

An elborate doorway to a side exit.

Ah, food, souvenirs, school kids and low tables where everyone sat together while they ate.

This food stall had beautiful textile decorations and served tasty food.

This noodle dish 'hit the spot' after my walk through the castle and its gardens.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Buddha at Kamakura

What trip to Japan is complete without a visit to the renown Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Kamakura. Cast over 750 years ago this serene figure sits in the grounds of the Kotoku-in temple. This was my second visit and it was just as wonderful an experience as my previous visit.

The Daibutsu has withstood typhoons, tidal waves, fire and earthquakes.

We were more casual in our photo taking on this visit.

Though we did take some close up shots of his face

and hands.

A side view from under some trees.

Is she calling the Daibustu?

Beautiful face.

We also took photos with a purple Holga. To see the Holga photos of the Daibutsu click here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Matsushima Morning

One of the highlights of my Japan trip was an overnight stay at an onsen, the Matsushima Taikanso Hotel. The hotel overlooks Matsushima Bay which is considered one of the three views of Japan. We took the almost two hour Shinkansen (bullet train) ride from Tokyo to Sendai and then a forty minute local train to Matsushima.

Map from the Matsushima Taikanso Hotel website.

Hotel room photo from the Matsushima Taikanso Hotel website. The low table is moved to the side of the room at night and futons put out for us to sleep on. This hotel is quite large and offers both Western and Japanese style rooms.

We decided to get up early and watch the sunrise over Matsushima Bay. The morning was foggy. The view from our room was lovely.

Matshushima is famous for the 250 small islands in its harbor.

A bridge to one of the islands near the shore.

Sunlight peaking through the clouds.

Another view of the bay. In the upper right corner are oyster beds which the area is also famous for.

I enjoyed watching islands in the bay appear on this foggy morning.

One last view from our hotel room. be continued....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Winter Snowfall

Last evening was the first snowfall of the upcoming winter. A wet snow which stayed on the tree branches as the temperature dropped. The couple of inches which accumulated looked pretty in the morning sunlight. My husband was very excited by the first snow and took these photos.