part two :: koumi + nagano


:: warning :: lots o' images here! ::

in koumi there were at least 2 lakes. [maybe more - but i'm not sure]. we stumbled upon one after breakfast one morning. what i loved was that at some point i think this was a splashy "resort" - but all the cabins, the swan boats, and the eateries were a bit worn down. this only made me love them more.

hello swan

i wish we could have ridden in one - but alas had to go back to installing.


this could be anywhere no? clearlake? some lake on the east coast [winnipesaukee]? why does that comfort me?

finland festival

if there's one thing that the japanese love - it's a reason to festival. seriously. this little town has a sister city or something like that in finland. so once a summer all the finnish people that work for nokia in tokyo come out to koumi and set some giant bonfires to celebrate the coming of summer. there was a BBQ - giant vats of yakisoba and mutton and paella [yes totally cross cultural] , there was bingo, there was a senegalise inspired drumming band, there was drinking, there was dancing, there was one big and one little fire [and some pitlyiza's dutifully sacrificed].

lake fire - later

as it got dark candles were lit on the water, on the grass - it was really sparkly and lovely and very summery. what i loved was as the evening came to a close wham bam! everything picked up - designated groups did their designated jobs - tables, trash, recycling... all guests picked up 10 candles and brought them back to boxes to be put away. the smallest and the eldest and everyone in between did their part.

the rest [and last] of my koumi photos here

the first saturday we were there a bus was rented and we were taken to nagano. the drive was really beautiful. more hills, more green, more farms.


there are these gambling "fun" centers all over japan. if you walk by one and the door opens you will think you lost your mind. it is SO loud. freon air blasts towards you - mixed with the sent of stale tobacco and concentrated boredom/hope. [las vegas slot machines?]


yes - the lanterns are everywhere. yes - they are almost too iconic. no i'm not sick of them yet.

tool envy

we were so fortunate to be invited to meet/see a traditional sword maker's studio. we didn't get to see them hammer at the metal [we were too late] - but we got to see all other aspects of the process. what i found most amazing is that artisans are responsible for individual aspects of the sword. he only makes the blade, someone else the handle, someone else the case, someone else the tie that goes around the handle, etc. etc.

this actually seemed like a philosophy in japan. figure out what you do. and do that. only that. and do it well. really well. there are stores dedicated to one product. [azuki [sweet red bean] filled pancakes, sembae [rice crackers]] and they survive. even thrive. of course there is diversification [7-11 or 7 and i holdings to be exact], but somehow i couldn't help but feel that the search for order just permeated all aspects of life.

i did love the reverence for traditional craftspeople. they literally can become "national treasures". how cool would it be if we acknowledged the gee's bend ladies in this way? of course there is the argument that if the emphasis is on the traditional you leave very little room for contemporary or avant garde [i heard this from a few university students].... but i believe that if you want to break rules you might as well know them - and there is a way to maneuver around traditions, or even subvert them if you are so inclined. [think murakami, or nara - maybe there aren't a gazillion well-known contemporary artists, but there are some]. i still think a culture that is interested in holding onto and honoring their traditions and art in general is better off than one that doesn't.

in the studio

the sword smith had a little shrine in his studio. way up high in the corner of the darkest, dirtiest part of his studio. [it was like a movie set. one light bulb swinging, fire blazing, swords in various states of pounding lined up]. it was lovely.


we also visited the tanaka museum and gardens . the home of a VERY wealthy merchant this is the epitome of high japanese traditional art/design. there were so many "ahh" moments here.


we got to have tea in a second story room. with views of one of the gardens [all the gardens designed to have areas of interest in all seasons]. i loved all the references to nature and seasons. i also love how traditional architecture is supremely interested in the outside and inside and how they function together. rooms that have doors that open to courtyards - different kinds of doors/screens to filter light/weather.

small chair



sigh again.


fluttering heart.

what was really special about this museum, though, was since it was a personal home they actually had some personal affects on display. there were toys from 1900-1950 [yes i was gasping] that the family children played with. there was clothing and other textiles, small pieces of jewelry. it was really a treat.

zenkouji shrine

we then went to zenkouji shrine . most famous for a buddha that people rub to cure their ailments and a dark hallway that you walk through "blindly" until you find a good fortune "key" in the wall. there were several buildings associated with the shrine and all kinds of good things to digest and look at.

sitting six

the bibs and hats are to protect the spirits of children and babies that have passed.

ramen dinner

per jen's request, i'll try and talk a bit more about food? jen just wait until i talk about the MARKET!

after our very very long day we went to a ramen specialty place for dinner. mine is the front one. white sesame miso ramen. the one in back was the black sesame. spicy with seaweed garnish, fresh green onions, chinese style marinated slices of pork, a bit of asparagus. perfect.

all the photos from our nagano day trip are here . in case you want to see more.

i think i'll save the artwork for last - so next comes some city stuff!


bugheart said…
so much to absorb...
when i was in japan
i was also
so very struck
by the dedication
to one craft...
when we are in a society
that pushes
one to diversify...
you are so lucky
to have had
the chance
to experience
so many traditional
and wonderful
like the
sword making
and tea ceremony!
and such
gorgeous photos...
i must go
there again!
Abigail said…
Be still my beating heart.

..beyond wonderful for me....thank you for these posts Lisa, I can't tell you how much i am enjoying them...!
sally said…
I love these posts about your trip to Japan. They are almost difficult to digest because they are so "meaty", but in a good way.

Love all the photographs. And Appah raves about the ramen in Japan. ;)
LauraB said…
I love every single one of your pictures. But in particular, that first picture of the blue canoes on the lake, sooo pretty. Your trip to Japan sounds so intriguing, I'm loving reading about it.
wendy said…
you are doing a fabulous job of breaking it down...your trip your experiences...amazing amazing photos.
and it must have been such a spectular time...and learning...wowowow!
Briana said…
The first image with the boats - the robin's egg blue and browns... be still my beating, colorist's heart.

I second Jen's request (but am very very excited about the art portion of your journey).

kisses on a Wednesday, friend.

cindy said…
oh lisa, it looks like such an inspiring trip. i love the reverence for the handcrafted and focusing on one thing. something i think we aren't used to in north america, all us multi-taskers! :)
can't wait for more...
ps... glad you are back!
poppy said…
how beautiful everything is. love that boat picture! vats of yakisoba? i would love that! i remember those mini betting places when i visited tokyo a ways back, i totally forgot about them. looks like such an inspiring trip.
Julie said…
So much visual candy! Everything looks so special and so beautiful, but they're probably all used to it! It must've been amazing seeing that all in person.
cruststation said…
Sigh, sigh and sigh again...take me there now! Really love that first photo in particular, but the other pictures are giving me 'itchy feet' to travel. How wonderful for you to have been able to experience all aspects of Japanese life, not only as a tourist but to learn the culture and visit someone's home. Enjoying your posts so much, thank you.
meg said…
i so enjoy the armchair traveling. thanks for posting such beautiful pictures!
julie said…
So much beauty and its so wonderful to see it all and read about it through your eyes. Your thoughts out loud are really interesting...
Love the repitition in the pics.. xxxxx
simple me said…
I notice now the light seems different in japan. is it true? more "muted"...
it makes so much sense to know what you do and learn how to do it well ... sigh!
I agree so much when you say "if you want to break rules you might as well know them". it is so true.
everything seems so delicate and have poetry attached to it. there is a purpose in everything...oh! I just want to spend sometime in Japan and learn about ceramics and the purpose of it... one day, maybe.
can't wait to see more ... thanks Lisa :)
risa said…
i could look at these photos for hours. over and over and over. i love the colors. i love the little painted faces. i love the swan boats.
but i too would love to hear more about the food. mmmmm....
shari said…
i am seriously swooning over here. i love the first photo so much and how it matches so nicely with your header. i think i will come back this weekend when i have more time to just sit and stare at this beauty! xox
life in yonder said…
Finaly I had the time to sit down and read your second post. I have been saving it for a calm moment. My cup of Sencha is just ready and I,m about to begin reading post three. Love all your details, pictures and words.
life in yonder said…
Finaly I have had the time to sit down and read your second post. I have been saving it for a calm moment. My cup of Sencha is just ready and I'm beginning on your third post. Love all the details, photos and words.
amisha said…
i am loving this... your wonderful photographs, the way you write about your experiences. thank you so much for this armchair trip my friend!! reading this makes me long to visit japan even more.
i'm really interested in the specialization of traditional craftwork. gourmet had an article 3-4 months ago about specialization in food in japan, noodle-making particularly... really fascinating. i tend to agree with you that it's good to really know the rules before you break them-- that historical knowledge gives the avant garde/ modern interpretations a greater weight somehow because they are in dialogue with the past. just my 2 cents :) also agree that it would be amazing to have the gee's bend women declared national treasures!!
loving all of your photos too... the umbrellas... the boats... they are all amazing.
gracia said…
Ah, Lisa. I really enjoyed reading this post of yours earlier in the week. And the visuals, oh the beauty!

take care, grache xo

(Oh, yes, and I quite agree... it's always best to know the rules and then alter, nudge, side step or shimmy around them.)
louise said…
Your photos are fantastic, and your descriptions make me feel like I'm wandering along beside you in Japan. There is such order in every photo, every building, every activity. I'm suddenly feeling totally disorganised and chaotic.
xo lj

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