Kitakata, a city of traditional wearhouses

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

I went to Kitakata City. This city is located to the north of Aizuwakamatsu ( Fukushima ). The population is about  37,000 and it has about 2,600 traditional wearhouses called “kura”. This is one of the most amazingly luxurious example of kura.They used black plaster for the exterior which is better and more expensive.

 

 

This is one of the most amazingly luxurious example of kura. On the interior wall they applied gold and used one of the best woods. It took about seven years to complete this kura. The owner and the carpenter took trips to study about architecture all over Japan and chose material for it. These rooms were used for living in or entertaining guests, but kura were originally made to keep treasures, goods or valuables. Since they are fire proof gradually people started to use them for living,too. Inside a kura, it’s warm in winter and cool in summer.

They cost a lot to build but they are durable, flexible and comfortable. I wonder why Japanese stopped building them. I wish I had one !

Ramen ( noodles in soup ) is also famous in the city. There are about 120 ramen shops in this city. Sometimes people eat ramen for breakfast. This is called ” Asa ra”. “Asa” means morning and “ra” is shorten form for ramen.When I visited here, all the shops were crowded and many people were queuing up for ramen so was I. It was very delicious and I thought it was worth it.

To do the sights, you can ride a bike, walk or try a Velo taxi. On the day I visited the Velo taxis were all busy. I really wanted to try one though. They charge you 300 yen for the first 500 meters and each 100 meters 50 yen more.Or you can hire one for 30 minutes for 2,000 yen.

Kitakata is very ecofriendly city. I’d like to go there sometime again and take more time to enjoy myself.

      

Zenko-ji ( Nagano )

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

This year the Amitabha Statue at Zenko-ji Temple is unveiled for public viewing from April 5th to May 31. This event takes place only once in seven years. It is a good season for travelling and from the end of April to the beginning of May, we have consecutive holidays called Golden Week. Besides, the highway toll went down on weekends and national holidays so some people took advantage of this and went for drives. Naturally, many of those people rushed off to Nagano to visit Zenko-ji.

I saw a tall pillar in front of the main Hall. People were keen to touch the pillar.It is said that touching the pillar will bring you good luck. The pillar and secret statue are connected. Some people say Japanese are not very serious about religion but I sometimes feel we are very flexible about it and we sense that there’s something beyond our control. The crowns drawn to the statue seemed to confirm my idea.

Let me introduce a slow food from Nagano. It is called ” Oyaki “. It is a kind of dumpling. The outside is made from buckwheat and they stuff it with vegetables. I think traditional foods are often full of wisdom and love.

 

     

 

 

 

 

Children’s Day

Friday, May 8th, 2009

May 5th is Children’s Day here in Japan. People hoist carp-shaped streamers. Why carp ? Good question! Carp are considered strong enough to climb up water-falls. So they are a symbol of promotion and power. Anyway I hope many children grow up to be healthy, both mentally and physically. This seems especially important nowadays since we don’t have as many as we used to.

By the way during this vacation, I had a chance to stay at an inn which provided us with carp dishes. It is said that carp is very good for health. It gives you a lot of energy. We tried a course specialized in carp. They were very delicious and I ate more than I should but they were all good for the digestion. That means they use good materials. Nobody can deceive my stomach since its very sensitive. This inn is surrounded by forest and river. I have checked  some guide books but I couldn’t find  this inn and I discovered it on  the Internet.  They have run this inn for about 100 years and they have small but nice hot spring.  We all had good time.

        

Satta Pass ( Shizuoka )

Friday, May 8th, 2009

On Windy days we have a nice view of Mt. Fuji, Suruga Bay, Izu Peninsula and even Hakone from Satta Pass. This view was depicted in Hiroshige Ando’s wood-block prints called “53 stations on the Tokaido.” It is said that Hiroshige’s work influenced Van Gogh. The Tokaido Highway linked Tokyo with Edo and this pass was on the highway. Satta pass is located between Yui and Okitsu, old station towns.

 

We can enjoy a 3-hour hiking course. For those who don’t want to take a long walk, 30-minute walking course is available. Along the trail there are orange trees. Oranges bear their fruits in Winter and loquats bear theirs in early Summer. In Yui you might want to visit the Tokaido Hiroshige art museum where you can see Hiroshige’s work and next to the museum you can see Kobori Ensyu’s garden and old tea house. As a local delicacy ” Sakuraebi”, small shrimps are caught only in this area. I never forget what to eat !