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