Archive for the ‘travel’ category

– I would go out tonight

July 17, 2016

What a beautiful Shimizu night to not go swimming. Actually, today was just a “Japan” day, in the best way. On the way to work, from the bus window, before 7am, I saw a man setting out his “Welcome fire 迎え火/mukaebi.” The welcome fires are to guide ancestors home when they come to visit in the midst of summer. The time when they they return to the human world and family is O-bon, and Bon festivals start at varying times around Japan, in either July or August. This is due to differences between the Gregorian and Lunar calendars. Shimizu follows the Gregorian.

The week before was Tanabata, which traditionally is on the seventh day of the seventh month (hence the name), but considering it’s literally the story of star-crossed lovers, the lunar calendar probably would be the more accurate guide for dates. Anyway, Tanabata ushers in Obon, and Shimizu has a pretty wicked Tanabata festival.See some photos at the end of the post.

Tonight, at the time I might have headed off to the pool if I could heave talked myself into it, I wandered out to the Tomoegawa (Tomoe River) Lantern Floating Festival. This is where “. . . paper lanterns are floated down a river, [as a] means to send off the sprits of the dead . . . on the last day of the Bon Festival.” So perhaps that man this morning was lighting his welcome fire for the last time? Or Miho area might operate on different times to Shimizu.

I was also on the way to the supermarket. The lazy drag of geta over the pavement (both male and female, and not super-traditional geta, I think), the casual comfort and beauty of the yukata and jinbei, and the excitement at wearing them, the little kids and families talking and laughing – their voices carrying over the river from the houses that rest directly on its banks, the furin tinkling away as if on traditional-Japanese-culture-cue, and the fish! the fish jumping like crazy all over and through the currents of the river and floating lanterns, were all a part of my stroll.

The street just before the river had an outdoor festival set up with yattai (food stalls), apparently a haunted house, some live music, and lots of people enjoying themselves (especially kids). Open that link in Google translate to get some idea of what was going on. I didn’t venture down the Ginza shopping district, as I’d pushed my way through the Tanabata decorations the week before, and I wanted to see what was going on at the river.

The Tomoegawa festival has a 250 year history, apparently, according to the link above and Google translate, though it was not held for about ten years during the Showa era, due to pollution of the river. Lanterns used to float out to sea (if they wound up in that direction), but they are now collected before that occurs. This year (and most years, I assume) there were five points where the lanterns were released. You can buy them, and write on them. I don’t know if you’d write your own name or an ancestor’s name. If it’s the family name, it’s probably one and the same. There were also the tezutsu hand-held fireworks, but I didn’t see those. The shot below is one I took of tezutsu in Toyohashi.

Tezutsu, Toyohashi, NOT Shiizu

Tezutsu, Toyohashi, NOT Shimizu

I walked to one of the bridges. The one in the photo below, I think, because the picture below that picture also features the kappa. He’s either at the other end of the bridge, or on the opposite side. The second picture is not mine.

Kappa_bridge

Kappa_Tomoegawa_Festival
Taken from this site.

However, it was nearing 8pm and the sun had set, so it was a lot darker than indicated above. Despite the days being warm and sticky, they’re getting shorter due to the solstice having passed. So, the river looked a whole lot more like the photo below, though it’s shot from further up the river, I think.

Today_Shimizu_Tomoegawa
This image taken from this post.

Again, I’m using Google translate, but the above link has some more interesting information on the festival.

The supermarket also had a festival-like feel. You should have seen the queue at the toilets, and families were buying whole watermelons.  Maybe for smashing open and sharing at the festival? Watermelon is a very festive-like fruit in Japan. Out of season, whole ones can be expensive, and there are traditional children’s games which incorporate the fruit. Summer comes in style here.

Though not much could be seen from the bridge by the supermarket, a few people still hung out, maybe waiting for lanterns to pass by. I crossed under the two railroad bridges nearby and followed the river to the area closer to the Shin-Shimizu station. People lined the river, though a lot more sporadically than in other places, to a background of drumming, taiko, in the distance. This is the stretch of river that has the beautiful plum blossoms in winter/spring. A lone lantern drifted along the current, trying to catch up with its brothers and sisters a little further downstream. A train passed across the bridge. I had no camera at hand this day, as you’ve probably already guessed. You need to lean over a barrier to see the river at this point. Some kids followed my example, surprised to see that I actually was looking at something they thought worth looking at, if only for a second 🙂

Fireworks started up, a fair way from this area, but still pretty. The traditional kind, not hand-held. I was walking away from them. The drumming stopped just about as soon as I got to the temple (and other side of the river) that they played across from. Kids and teenagers lit smaller fireworks down side streets. Local neighbourhood-watch-dudes in the blue uniforms of some kind of officialdom, and none a day under sixty, sat back and chatted – the surge of the crowds all but over.

My walk finally took me to one of the bridges about two kilometres from the river mouth. Here people also gathered, looking down at the water, wondering which lanterns would make it, saying goodbye to those already gone. Folks on boats and on the river’s edge fetched the lanterns, and blew out the candles if still lit.

The next big event is kappore and the minato matsuri, which is the big Shimizu fireworks’ festival.

kappore

Not my photo. Kappore. Taken from here.

These tanabata pics are mine though. We’re lucky in Shimizu – there’s usually a light breeze blowing in from the sea which helps diffuse the humidity. However, I think the local folk have the right idea. Take the party outside and enjoy yourself, and the humidity just becomes part of the general atmosphere––laidback and cheerful.

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– encounter 13b – Utsunoya

February 17, 2016

All of our countries have routes that maybe our ancestors didn’t walk on, but which someone used. The indigenous population of Australia have lived on that land for at least 45,000 years. We have a land seeped in history. Only thing is, it isn’t ours. Different climates required different needs, and that which has been well-documented and has physical, tangible remains is maybe more accessible and familiar to the western imaginations, and perhaps provides many people with a touchstone to received and learnt, perhaps cellular, images of the past.

The paths that surround Utsunoya are linked to its history as being a town on the Old Tokaido road, and in fact, some of the original path can still be walked through the hills. To hike through those hills and visit the beautiful park nearby alone is worth it.That is, it’s cool to walk the path, but it would be cool to walk it without knowing it’s history too, though maybe not as cool.

What is suggested for exploration in the Utsunoya area by most websites seems to be a quick walk to Utsunoya from the road stop, if that’s where you disembarked from the bus. I walked up from Mariko basho. . . .

nearby_soba

A sign to a soba restaurant just over the bridge, and in Utsunoya. Hiking is always best rewarded with a lovely bowl of soba or udon.

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This way to the Meiji Tunnel and other attractions.

tunnel sign

Keep going. A map at the entrance of Utsunoya.

 

Hiroshige

A replication of one of Hiroshige’s paintings, or in his style, of Utsunoya, or the Old Tokaido passing by it.

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Through the town itself.

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A few tourists were wandering around, but it was the later afternoon, wet and rainy. No tourists in this photo!

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Many things were shut up.

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It was still beautiful though. A dog barked at me constantly from the safety of his house. I couldn’t find the soba restaurant, but I didn’t look too far. I had a mountain to hike!

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The stairs up to the tunnel.

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Keep climbing.

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Signs. Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel. If you look at the map way up above, there is more than one!

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Signs.

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Signs.

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Signs to the old Tokaido Rd. I would be coming back to this, but was turning left for now.

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Signs to the tunnel.

Utsunoya is picturesque, and a walk through the Meiji-era Utsunoya Pass tunnel, which was the first toll road in Japan is definitely worth it. There is nothing wrong with the traditional itinerary.

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Suruga side

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Suruga side

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Suruga side.

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Looking back at the Suruga side.

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On the way through.

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In the centre.

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Utsunoya Pass, Meiji era tunnel brickwork.

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Okabe side.

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Commemorating the importance of the tunnel, according to this site.

contraption

Again – are these machines used for transporting harvested tea?

Walking through the tunnel, you are departing areas contained within Shizuoka City (Suruga ward), and you exit into areas contained within Fujieda City (Okabe). The recommended itinerary might also tell you to, double back, and then walk up and over the hills along what is left of the Old Tokaido Road.

Old Tokaido Road Sign 2

Clearly marked on the right.

Old Tokaido Rd Sign 3

Less clearly marked, right where you need to turn, as is so often the case in Japan. Even so, I’m grateful for the signs in English when they are there.

Old Tokaido Rd stairs

Walking up to the Old Tokaido Rd.

Old Tokaido Rd jizo

Respects being paid to ancestors and gods,  on the corner overlooking Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd village overview 1

An earlier photo showing how little the village below has changed.

Old Tokaido Rd village

Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd bamboo

Bamboo brushing the curve of the road.

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Monument on Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information which I cannot read. It pertained to some foundation stones in the area.

Old Tokaido Rd foundation

These were foundations of maybe an inn. Below were the foundations of maybe a shrine, according to this site.

Old Tokaido Rd crest

Up and over the crest of the Old Tokaido Rd. Heading into the Fujieda shi side of thigs.

Old Tokaido Rd rise 1

And again.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 1

I thought that a storm must have blown through here recently. But photos on the Net from a number of years ago seem to indicate that this part of the path is always full of tree litter, and exposed roots.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 2

I can imagine monsoonal rain bringing these down in mudslides. They were beautiful, though. Magestic.

Old Tokaido Rd other side

Okabe side.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 1

Old Tokaido Rd sign on the Fujieda side of things.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 2

An entrance here, an entrance there.

Where you at?

There are a lot of maps around like this. If you can read a little kanji, it will help, but they can also give you a visual sense, even if you can’t.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 3

Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya, this way AND this way. You can see a haka (cemetery) in the background. That is a mikan (like a mandarin) tree just behind too. It was bearing fruit.

Old Tokaid Road tree roots 3

I retraced my steps. Many magnificent trees, though I don’t know how deeply their roots ran. I turned around to take this photo. I wasn’t walking in this direction.

Old Tokaido Rd stone marker

Stone marker.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side

Coming back to the Suruga side of the Old Tokaido Rd. It was beautiful walking through the hills with the rain tapping on the leaves, and birds singing. The rain was not too heavy, though I definitely needed my umbrella.

Old Tokaido Rd leading to tunnel stairs

If you could (you can’t) take those stairs, it would take you within proximity of the Utsunoya Pass Meiji tunnel.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side 2

I wandered once more to the Meiji Tunnel and walked through it.

What I would suggest you do however, rather than just the suggested itinerary, if you have the time, and your purpose is hiking, is to take the Tsuta no hosomichi from just behind the Utsunoya rest stop on the Shizuoka side. This website describes the path

This road is an oldest path for crossing the Utsunoya Pass, which is mentioned in “The Tale of Ise.”
It served as an important road until the old Tokaido was opened in 1590.
Many travelers walked along this path while it was used as an official road since the Heian period.

It is a tough trek though, and I walked past the entrance a few times towards the end of my hike, because I couldn’t actually believe it was the path. This blog post describes it as “incredibly steep.” “Hosoi” means narrow. A post that I can’t find at present says that it would take 25 minutes to climb and 15 minutes to descend. I’m actually terribly at climbing down mountains, and there were a lot of slippery looking rocks at the mouth of the path on the Okabe side, so reversing the route I’m suggesting above could be a good idea too (climb the really steep stuff, descend the more gentle – if there is a gentle descent. I suspect not).

Anyway, I’d pop over to Utsunoya village, do the section of the Tokaido trail which is there, and will also get your heart rate going if you don’t hike much, and even if you do, but it’s not too difficult. Double back, walk through the Meiji Tunnel, take the path that indicates the way to a museum.

map_overview-rest stop

map_overview_rest stop

This will exit at Tsuta-no-hosoimichi park. Turn left.

Once in the park, make sure you cross the bridges and enjoy the river and various structures controlling its flow (see below). The paths over the river lead back to the main trail, so you can enjoy this diversion. There is information around the park about the engineering, and also included slightly in blog post. From there I would continue, looking for the maps and signs for Tsuta no hosomichi and turn here (picture below). This is not my photo. I should have taken it. It’s from a guy who walked the Old Tokaido Rd on a wing and a prayer. The link to his blog is in the caption below the photo.

The entrance is across a small stream and begins with those rocks, or I guess it’s the river. I thought I had enough time to get back to the Utsunoya road stop, Suruga Ku side, but I wasn’t sure. It was about 4:30. The sun sets at 5:30, and though from the map it seemed I should be fine, it was wet, and getting darker, so I decided not to risk it. I was’t sure how long it would take. Photographs on the Internet indicate that I should have taken it though! If you google つたのほそみち入り口 you’ll get some hits. Definitely on my list.

The descent should take you to just behind the Utsunoya rest stop, Suruga side, the point that you started from. If you can get a hiking map from somewhere, there really are a lot of walks in the area, and they seem to loop up. If you can’t, give your self a good few hours (get there earlier, rather than later) and check out the many detailed maps as you go through. Some are bilingual, but not all are.

Bee Hives Utsunoya

Coming into Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park, I walked behind this house. It’s shed is full of bee hives (unused, I guess?? Or waiting to be used.)

Honey for sale Utsunoya

They were selling honey (hachimitsu はちみつ)

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 01

These bridges were fun to cross, and with the gentle (or not so gentle) rain and mist, truly evocative.

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Another one.

Warrior Helmet Dam (Kiwada River Sabo Dam)

Damming this river was apparently an engineering feat. Actually, the building of all of the tunnels, and “harnessing” of nature, or complementing of nature (?) was. This dam is indicative of a larger dam further up the river (I think! It might be this one) called the Warrior Helmet Dam colloquially. It’s offical name is the Kiwada River Sabo Dam.

Bridge -Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Bridge

Water wheel and other buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

I don’t know if these smaller buildings operated as tea houses and so on when the weather was better and it was tourist season.

Buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi mich park

Buildings, bridges, on the other side of the river.

Making of the dam

Information about the engineering was scattered around the park.

Map of the area Tsuta no hosoi michi park

Map of Tsuta no Hosoimichi Trail. I would have liked to have been armed with some of this information.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 1

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 2

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 3

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Apparently the path had been used officially since the Heian period, and was used prior to the opening of the Tokaido Rd. The Tokaido Rd. opened in 1590,as quoted above.

Looking back at the other side of the river Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

There’s that little building, below, which I had passed directly on the other side of the river. I’m returning to the bus stop (or hoping to find it) now, after deciding I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a steep narrow path in the middle of the mountain ranges as the night fell.

Older house on the way to the Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

This older house was on the way to the Utsunoya road stop on the Okabe side (there are two).

Sign Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park

If you’re driving, this is the sign to look out for.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

I think I made the right decision. It was getting close to 5:00, and the clouds and mist were billowing in.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 2

Clouds, rain, traffic. I’m heading toward Fujieda here.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Walking along on the wrong side of the road (for the bus), trying to figure out just how I was going to get home.

clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

I crossed over a pedestrian walk way, a fair way down, when I saw a bus stop, and it was the right move. On this side, I could have caught a bus to Fujieda, and taken a train back. But it was preferable to get back to Shizuoka by bus from here. The rest stop can be seen in the distance on the right.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

This was the map I really wanted! Lots of great detail in both languages. Click to enlarge. Exciting figuring things out with the resources at hand, though.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Information. Times. Click to enlarge.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 1

Information. Yup, where I thought, You couldn’t possibly turn there, was exactly where you turned. Photos of the start of the Tsuta no Hosoimichi trail.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 2

Information.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 1

I found my bus stop. Actually, I walked to the next one, as I had about 20 minutes to wait, but stopped shy of walking through the working tunnel. Masses of cars, the tunnel is quite long, and I’m not sure if pedestrians were allowed.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 2

Snake clouds. Trucks resting.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 3

Mist and clouds.

Waiting for the bus Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

The bus stop. Sakashita.

Arrival Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

My bus! I was happy to see it. Lights always look pretty shining in the rain.

Aoi beer Golden Ale

A good day hiking was rewarded with a glass of Golden Ale once I returned to Shizuoka. Aoi is a local brewery and this little bar on one of the main streets has only about seven seats. Two were empty when I arrived. It was still early. Lots of individuals (well, 3 out of 5) were women enjoying a beer. Two, myself and the lady to my left, were solo.

Aoi Beer A taste of Green tea

According to my phone, I’d walked 65 flights of stairs. I hadn’t of course, but I’d gone up and down a fair number of gradients. This beer had traces of green tea flavour. I was having a chat to the master and another guy to my right by this time. I might have been onto my third bevvie. A mistake. Still, conversation wasn’t too bad, though my Japanese is pretty rusty nowadays.

Soba-cha

After leaving Aoi beer stand, I enjoyed a cup of soba-cha (buckwheat tea) at a soba restaurant at the station.

Oysters

I finally got my soba at the station. Not very romantic, I know, but very tasty. This was a small side dish of oysters. I ordered far too much.

Kani-soba

This soba contained shreds of crabmeat, and I can’t remember what the other flavours were. Delicious.

extras

It was a set, so tempura and rice too. Far too much, but I ate it all. 16 kilometres all up. Not bad for a half day trip with plenty of sightseeing and stops for photographs.

– encounters 13, 12 to follow

February 14, 2016
not 55 encounters, or even 20. Station 20, Chojiya, Mariko, Shizuoka Prefecture.

not 12 encounters, but encounter 12, capiche? Look, this blog is not awash with brilliance, as you’ve already ascertained, garnered and gleaned. But it stands to keep memory. There are huge breaks, and in the future there probably will be again. 2013 had a total of about 8 posts.

However, I know I do things, and then I forget that I’ve done them. Maybe that’s okay, the natural order of things. But, sometimes when there’s a six month break, three months,  a fortnight  – looking over what was important at the time, or looking at what I decided to report  does help contribute towards some understanding of the whole, some reflection on the past, some idea of how things (I) change and move on.

Like the Old Tokaido Road.

Now, lots of people walk the Old Tokaido Trail for many reasons. One is that many want to visit the 53 stations as those painted by Hiroshige. One of his prints opens this post. Some just dig the history, and for some, there’s a beauty in getting from point A to B.

Not my photo. Click the link above to go to the source.

I like the latter, but I don’t like to be getting from point A to B along too many heavy highways. Nature, thanks. The Tokaido road connected old Tokyo (Edo) with Kyoto, so as we update, the road most travelled gets converted into highways and byways, and let’s just say that following it, or nearby it, is not always the most pleasant experience in the world.

You can get mighty lost trying to follow it too. Something like the Bibbulmun Track through the south-west of Western Australia is quite beautiful.  But then, unlike the Tokaido, it wasn’t a major trade route as it was established as a walking trail in the 1970s.

Even so, there are plenty of things to see along the way, and if you like side trips, plenty of things to do. Today’s adventure was to visit Mariko and Utsunoya – one a station of the Tokaido Road, apparently, and the other having some of the original Tokaido Road in place, and a Meiji era tunnel (more about that later). I am in no way an expert. I just saw a picture of a tunnel and thought that I wanted to go through it!

Tororo Soup

After you disembark at the Mariko-bashi Iriguchi bus stop, you will soon see this sign for tororo soup (grated yam) at Chojiya (I think!) – or nearby, at least.

See more about Chojiya below

Kiwi fruit stand

In the Shizuoka area, these usually sport a lot of mikan or ponkan (forms of citrus). There were all manner of fruit and vegetables in the Mariko area.

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Near Chojiya.

Mariko-juku

Near Chojiya.

Things are not as clearly marked as you might expect. That is, do a bit more research before you head out if you want to get a full return for your day. As said, you get off the bus at Mariko-bashi Iriguchi from Shizuoka Station. It’s a fairly quick walk to the famous Chojiya.

I should have entered, but I’m not a huge fan of grated yam. The restaurant is famous for its grated yam soup (tororo), and has been serving it since 1596. This building was featured in Hiroshige’s prints (or earlier versions of it), and apparently the restaurant has been in the family for 14 generations. You can see a copy of the print way above.

chojiya

Chojiya – thatched roof.

I chose the fork of the road that was not the wisest. I had a map, but not the best kanji skills. The roads that surround these places are noisy and full of traffic, but off these roads are temples and historical sites. I didn’t take them. I struck out on the Tokaido, heading up to Utsunoya.

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I love the smell of pine being cut, sawed and shaped, though I know it is the loss of a tree, and the addition maybe of a house, or some other kind of structure for someone.

path to somewhere

As hinted at above, most of the historical sites, temples and so on, detailed on the map, seemed to be on the other side of the road. I’d taken a road running parallel with  the main road, and took a little diversion that would have taken me who-knows-where as the road was zig-zagged and rose steeply. The sign above was at its entrance. It was peaceful though, and that’s where the tea shots are from.

tea machine

I think these contraptions with cables were or are used to transport the tea once it has been harvested. Pulleys run up the hillsides from them.

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If I am right, you can see why. The tea often grows on really steep inclines.

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fruit stand
I don’t really think that these folk grew all of these items (especially not the bananas), but maybe they operated as a kind of neighbourhood deli.

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I did pass this Chonenji Temple, though.

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Chonenji_Temple

All of these guys would be boasatsu (bodhisattva) – or maybe gods, but this one looks pretty evil. I really appreciate their individual foibles all the more now after having viewed Takashi Murakami’s 500 arhats, as outlined in another post.

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In this post (a really interesting read!) – not written by me! but by the Temple Guy, he talks about how

. . .this temple sports a “Mizuko Kannon.”
Mizuko–“water babies”–is the term applied to children who have died, especially as the result of abortion. This is big business in the religion racket here in Japan. People pay a fortune in “guilt money” to appease the souls of their dead children and help ease their passage in the underworld.

I did write about that on lizardrinking years ago. If you ever go to Osorezan in Aomori ken you’ll see a lot of the mizuko jizo and kanon. They are a common sight in Japan. Osorezan is quite spooky (it literally represents hell). This temple’s gardens were very peaceful.

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Mizuiko Kanon chonenji

The Temple Guy states that the next picture is

Benten-sama, the only woman of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods, and the patroness of music (hence the biwa, a traditional stringed instrument)

He notes she is naked, which she is. Very peaceful.

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Benten-sama over bridge

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Benten-sama

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Benten-sama

Chonen-ji Haka gate

I walked around to the temple, and was struck by the gothic feel of this gate leading into the cemetery (haka).
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At the top of the hill, overlooking the gravestones, was a large statue of Kanon, the Goddess of Mercy. She’s sometimes a man, sometimes androgynous.

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Kanon

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Kanon

Coming down from here, I cut through the garden once more, crossed over the bridge that would represent passing from one world to another, and came across this table again. When I first saw it I thought there was a marble egg in the middle. But on closer inspection, I saw it was an

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owl. You can’t really see that. I’ll crop the picture if I get the time. Or click on it to see it in a larger size.

I struck out once more along the Tokaido, or close to the Tokaido, or where the Tokaido once might have been.

Kanon from a distance

All three deities.

Chonenji

Goodbye to this boasatsu with a dragon.

Chonenji

And to this one with a sheep.

plum tree

Plum blossoms

Kanon from a distance

Kanon from a distance.

Golden Kanon

A golden Kanon seemingly very near the top of a pedestrian overpass.

Kilometres to ?

Another blog I was reading about the Tokaido road – the guy was heading towards Tokyo – stated that these signs were the distance to Tokyo. In this case it would be to Kyoto, but it seems a bit close. Maybe to Nagoya? Highway 1 – the Tokaido Road – the first highway.

Tokaido sign?

There were many of these kinds of signs about. It’s quite a historic area. Maybe they were detailing the road or some other reference point.

Just around the corner from here I came across the first Utsunoya rest stop – modern day – with lots of maps and signs. There is more than one Utsunoya rest stop! Just beware if you are trying to complete a loop walk.

I probably would have preferred to have spent more time exploring here, than on the walk up to here. However, I’ll study in more detail the small side journeys that can be made from Mariko to enhance the journey the next time I come to the area.

The next post details a tunnel, trees, leaves, rain, earth soft underfoot, birds calling, walking some distance, then losing my nerve, and the delight of unexpected beauty. That is, the Utsunoya part of this encounter 🙂

– encounters 10 – lunch & Shimizu Funakoshi Tsutsumi Park

February 9, 2016

Submissions sent off in the morning, some official work dealt with, and then off to meet a friend for lunch at 1pm.

Fuji_Station

This involved crossing the station bridge into the fish markets on the other side of the Shimizu Station. The markets are well worth going to. There you go – beauty and industry – all in one package.

Suruga_Bay_restauran

We needed to find a place that didn’t serve solely fish. I know, it’s a fish market, but it’s wise for businesses to have diversity. We found it here. A really nice place overlooking the bay. So cheap for the food and the view as well!

fuji_bay_restaurant

By the way, I love seafood. This place has a steak donburi though, and that’s great. You could cook up your own shellfish, which I’d like to do if I was good at cooking shellfish. I’m a bit hit and miss.

meal_restauran

Aside from the steak-donburi, we ordered a mixed seafood salad, which was delish, with sashimi (maguro), negi-toro (raw minced tuna), and what was probably cuttlefish. Maybe jellyfish. A wasabi dressing complemented it nicely, but I only took the photo of the above.

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It tasted every bit as good as it looks!

fish_market

We then wandered through the fish market. Apologies for my pictures in this round of posts. I’m not cropping or editing, and I know a lot of them could do with some work.

fish_market

fish_market

Fish market. My friend, despite not really liking to eat fish, had a wide knowledge of the names, so that was interesting.

Jiro_cho_shopping_street

We wandered up to S-Pulse Plaza and then parted ways. Today’s destination was Shimizu Funakoshi Tsutsumi Park, about 4km out of town, though it seemed longer. Yesterday was almost a 15km day, but that included exploring the park.

jiro_cho_shopping_street

The route took me through the Jirocho shopping street. Jirocho is a local hero, a no good hoodlum who became a very good philanthropist. The signs above are the signs of the Jirocho Shopping Street.

Shimizu_Funakoshi_Tsutsumi_Park_Pond

The walk’s fairly direct, and leads you here. The beginning.

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It’s well known for it’s views of Fuji (what isn’t in this area?). They get better as you climb the terrain.

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If you can see the ferris wheel in this picture, that’s S-Pulse Plaza, and that’s the distance I walked.

Shimizu_Funakoshi_Tsutsumi_Park_Pond_kite

Flying kites is a popular New Year’s Day or period activity. This one broke free, but didn’t get far.

 

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Another Fuji view.

Shimizu_Funakoshi_Tsutsumi_Park_trees

I love the way the sun sinks into and through the trees, grass and leaf litter.

IShimizu_Funakoshi_Tsutsumi_Park_steps

Many of these paths and steps leading here and there.

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Statue near one of the entrances of the park. There was a small stream running behind, and a larger pond to the right.

 

IShimizu_Funakoshi_Tsutsumi_Park_path

This park is famous for its cherry blossoms, so I wonder if this path is covered with sakura petals during Hanami season.

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Fuji again.

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I think you can come and gaze at the stars from 7pm to 9:00pm , every third Saturday of the month. I’m not sure though.

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The observatory, I guess

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If you looked through this at night, I’m guessing, you could see stars above clearly? Maybe in the day too, but I could only see the clear sky.

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Instructions.

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This was the structure. The hole is pretty low down, kid’s height.

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Fuji again.

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And again.

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Tea crops below.

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The tea crops were at the back of the park.

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I love the way they undulate. The look sculpted and fluid at the same time.

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Shimizu_Funakoshi_Tsutsumi_Park_Plums

The way down brought more views of Fuji of course, and also one of the first flowers to herald spring, the ume, or plum blossom. My favourite.

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I like the deep reddish-pink ones best. Blurry pic though. Sorry!

Buddhist_Statue

My map-app took me a bit off the beaten path on the way home. I was glad of that. Look at this beautiful statue. It stood in front of a haka, and was part of a very small temple. There were further markers for the dead on my right.

I should have taken a picture of that cemetery. It fit in between a golf shop and some other kind of store. Basically, it looked like a parking lot for the dearly departed.

Shimizu_Ume_tomoe

These are the hanging plum blossoms over the Tomoe River that I regularly see. I can imagine lining up a shot of the Shizutetsu train crossing the river,  (do you see the train bridge in the distance?), framed by the branches in bloom, would be another train spotter’s delight (in addition to the trains passing under the bell towers of Seikanji temple, as discussed here).

Shimizu_Ume_tomoe

There does seem to be a bus out to the area. I assume it leaves from Shimizu Station. I didn’t check, but both Shimizu and Shizuoka Stations have tourist information offices. It doesn’t seem to arrive or depart that regularly, though. Maybe once and hour or less. The last bus from the park was 18:10 I think, and no bus at all from 17:00-18:00. The park is well worth it, though. Hopefully I’ll visit it when the cherry blossoms light up the skies.

– encounters 7 & 8

February 8, 2016

A long trip to Nagoya and then Toyohashi, via the local and express trains, to visit the doctor, get a haircut, and to then catch up with friends.

The best quote I heard that day was I find that a body that is in motion, stays in motion. True dat. And for things that matter, I could be in motion a whole lot more. I agree fully with reflection too. It is the habit of stagnation that I often need to break.

That quote was from my lunch partner, a guy who’s constantly in motion. After I said goodbye to him, it was time for a haircut and then a walk around Takashi Park with a very heavy backpack. That evening I met some other very good friends. Below was the lovely wine that I had maybe just enough of, but maybe a few too many of as well.

wine_toyohashi

Sharing good times with good friends

Encounters 8 began with a desire to clock up my 10K. I needed some agave syrup from a store in the large shopping mall, Bay Dream. I decided to walk it and then head along the cycle path that goes from the corner where you decide whether you want to go into Miho proper, or head along the Strawberry coast.

I have actually walked along that stretch of road from behind the university, along the coast (the Strawberry road). But it’s in a recess, so no chance to see the strawberry fields, or, maybe I did, but didn’t know, as they’re harvested in winter here, and therefore probably need some kind of hothouse.

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In the shadow of this mountain

The journey didn’t start with this view of the carpark they’re digging up, because I’d taken that photo the day before. Maybe it should be encounter 8a. It used to service Seiyu department store. Encounter 8a was also meeting up with some old and new friends in Shizuoka for some very inspiring conversation. Great!

From the photo above and in actuality, you can still see Fuji, but for how much longer? A torii is just to the right. This location, and a guy I saw hanging out at the shrine, is the inspiration for my work in the shadow of this mountain (Mt Fuji, Shimizu). Scroll down if you follow that link.

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The entrance to Minowainari Shrine. Two Inari-Kitsune, or foxes, guard the many torii

Anyway, I would have set out the same way, followed the road leading past the workmen digging up the carpark at the beginning of encounter 8, and eventually I followed the Tomoe River most of the way up to the main road. I’d noticed a few large torii off on the side roads the other day, so I wandered off to have a look, and discovered Minowainari shrine, or jinja.

Minowainari_shrine_02
Shimizu’s own little slice of Fushimi Inari Taisha – the famous torii and shrine just outside of Kyoto.

These shrine with the red torii will always be protected by Inari Kitsune, or foxes. Inari is the goddess of

foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and Sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto.

according to this wikipedia article. There’s quite a bit more info if you follow that link, including the fact that Inari is sometimes a god and sometimes androgynous

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I should have taken a photo of this fox’s partner, the one with its mouth closed, but you know, there are plenty shots of these kinds of guardians online.

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Instead, here is another view of the same statue.

To the right of the structure, you can see a small kind of shed. In fact, it’s quite opulent inside, and is serving as the main shrine, I think. I thought that was quite unusual, though I could see that the main hall was being repaired.

Temporary_Minowainari_Shrine

There’s a festival for three days next month, I think. But I can’t find any information, even in Japanese (my skills aren’t high), as in photos and so on, but maybe it’s detailing some other kind of event.

Minowainari_shrine_Festival_Announcement_11

However, while trying to find images for a Matsuri at this shrine, I found further information about why the structure above is being used. The main shrine burnt down in 2012 after an arson attack.  The two pictures directly below are taken from the Net and show you the fire and its aftermath.

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Not my photo. Taken from here . You can read the news story there too, with Google translate (or by yourself if your Japanese is up to scratch).

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Not my photo. Taken from here. You can see the same Inari-Kitsune not doing much to protect the shrine. Maybe it was pre-determined?

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Three to four years have passed though, and at the beginning of 2016 people placed their wishes on these ema for the New Year, and the days following that. I’m sure they did in the preceding years as well.

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One of the older pillars/monuments about the place.

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The main shrine under repair, or being rebuilt. It looks as if it’s getting there. Of course, that structure might have existed before. I don’t really know.

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This was looking out from a smaller, older shrine to the torii leading up to it. All of the Inari-Kitsune (fox) statues that you can see are pairs, and they seem to range from oldest to newest. The newest being very close to the shrine.

The middle ones had just about lost their faces, though. They were spooky, but I love this aspect of the older statues being kept around and sometimes honoured in some way or the other.

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Walking back through the torii to the street.

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One of the Kitsune-Inari protecting the shrine at the front. This guy seems to be pretty old.

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A large torii at the end of the street indicates that a shrine is along it. This is the back of the torii. It also indicates that it’s quite an important shrine.

The shrine grounds did have a little office with a window for selling good luck charms and so on, and I finally did see an attendant there, but the curtains were basically drawn, and it wasn’t a brisk day for business.

Storage_House_01

As I left Minowari Jinja I decided not to follow the river to the main road, but took one of the side roads. There seem to be a lot of these older storage houses in the Shimizu/Shizuoka area. Or, I’ve seen three. That seems quite a lot to me. Actually, I just found this article. Their Japanese name is kura, that is, the general name of these warehouses.

Many parts of the country were really flattened in WW2, and Shimizu, as a port town, wouldn’t have been spared, I think, though I’ll need to research it.

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I’m not sure if this says what used to be stored here, or if it is the “mon,” the seal, of the family.

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The back view with a fruiting mikan tree.

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The walk up to Bay Dream along the main road is fairly unpleasant, due to being industrial, and the roar of  traffic, despite a bay being on the left, but obscured, because it’s in frequent use. However, between all the factories and shops there is a cycle way.

It’s not particularly attractive, but it is quieter. Also, from across the biggest mall-type shopping centre in Shizuoka, you can often get good views of Fuji, such as above. Though the day was obviously misty.

Once you’ve walked past Bay Dream, and taken the path into Miho, it becomes very pleasant, surrounded on either side by residential properties. Many folks were out walking their dogs, cycling, just taking in exercise.

Because Miho is on a peninsula, the bay is still to your left only you can see it a whole lot more clearly at times than when first leaving Shimizu. It’s on your right too, but you can’t see that from this pathway.

After about 2km, I finally decided to take the “walk of the gods” (kamisama doro), a lovely wooden promenade leading to the world heritage listed Miho no Matsubara. That meant veering right from the path I was on. I’ve taken photos of it before, so none here, but that link will show it to you.

Miho_Net_Photo_Path

Okay, okay! Too much text. This picture is from the net, and therefore is not mine. View it at the link in the paragraph above.

Once at the beach, I turned right instead of left (the views of Fuji are to the left, and there is a well maintained path through the pine trees), walked through the other set of pine trees and along the path running parallel to the beach.

I turned right at the university, cut through and then walked down to the bus stop to take me back to town. I didn’t take any photos of the ocean that evening either, even though it was in good form. I’ll give you a sunrise pic instead, from about three weeks ago.

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Sunrise across Suruga Bay – only connected by location to this post – taken about three weeks ago

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The pines of Miho no Matsubara. Again, another sunrise photograph, taken at the same time as the photo above. I wandered through similar pines, though not these ones for encounter 8.

– encounters 6b & 6c

February 5, 2016

There aren’t many places you can walk along the Old Tokaido Road as it’s mostly taken up with newer highways and byways. Well, you can walk along it, but it’s not particularly inspiring.

I took it now and then on my walk from Shimizu to Okitsu, first detailed here. When I could, I walked along side the Tokaido-sen, instead, or the Tokaido line. There are often wee, little pathways that expose the backs of houses, the slight intimacies of lives close to the railway tracks.

At one point, leading to Seiken ji, the temple I detailed in the blog post before this one, there was an older set of steps leading to a crossing over the tracks that had no path or boom gates. A rare occurence. I wondered if only the monks took it. I thought about risking it, but thought I’d wait for a more official crossing.

That day at the smaller crossings there were a number of workers positioned, noting down maybe the people and cars (when they could) who used them. Or maybe they were taking note of the many trains that passed. I’m not really sure what they doing.

As I was striding along, parallel to the tracks, their presence alerted me to a small crossing on my left. The bells started their clamour, the boom gates came down. I noted a torii with a “do not enter” rope strung across it on the other side. A shrine hidden from the main road. Well-hidden. I was curious. Even though it seemed I couldn’t enter the shrine from the main pathway, there might have been more to the location.

Ibarahara_shrine_Okitsu_01

Once the train passed I crossed over. Plum blossoms were soaking up the mild winter sun. There seemed to be a community meeting place, perhaps a communal garden. I noted a path that went to the right of the torii. It wended past a waterfall trickling down a steep rock face, a tiny gorge, if that is the right word. A newish Buddhist statue stood there with fresh flowers. Very peaceful. The path continued up the hill, with two smaller jinja (shrines) on either side of it.

Not my photo. Visit this post

Not my photo. Visit this post

The photo above shows cherry blossoms, I’m pretty sure. But it’s too early in the season for sakura a the moment, so I’m pretty sure the trees I saw were ume, plum. The ones further up the mountain definitely were. Though the article seems to be from January, so perhaps plum also. OR, I’m wondering if it’s the poster’s photo, as they say they were there late December, and there were still gingko tree leaves on the ground. Who knows?

Coming down the hill, pausing at the first corner, was an older couple. I’m pretty sure the man was using a walking stick – the kind you use for old age, not steep hikes, though it was being used for both. They had paused, and by now the path had led me to a point where I got a pretty good view of Suruga Bay. Much better than from Seikenji temple. I stated that the view was beautiful and the woman agreed with me. I did not mention that half of it was beautiful, but the other half was full of machines digging up sand.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay

After our niceties, I was on my way, and I came across a hall which must have been used for meetings and general maintenance. A couple of chairs sat on its verandah as if primed for folks to to kick back and take in the view.

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Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay_02

While doing this, another elderly gentleman wandered by. This seemed like a really deserted shrine, so it was interesting to see other folk. Also interesting that they were elderly. Maybe the ones who cared, but also the ones who knew that climbing up this mountain was guaranteed to get the heart rate going, and if done on a regular basis, was a good workout.

I again commented on the scenery, and he mentioned that the view was beautiful. Then I mentioned except for the half that wasn’t, and he replied that everybody said that was so.

I wasn’t sure if the path continued, but he disappeared to the side of the hall without entering it, so my hopes were up. I fussed around taking a few more pictures so as to give him the pleasure of a solitary hike, particularly when it seemed to be part of a regular routine. A stranger, and particularly a stranger from a strange land, can be an intrusion.

The path went past a dam or barrier of sorts, and over the canal which ran from it, sans water. But look at the size of that. It’s not massive, but when typhoon season hits and it doesn’t stop raining, I can imagine you wouldn’t want to be at that point of the walk.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Dam

This patch of land seemed to be quite small, at least from the original side of the crossing, but it meandered, wound and climbed. As did I.

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Looking back at the path.

Suruga Bay could still be seen on the left, though it was getting obscured by the huge trees. How old were they? The path lead to the steps seen in the photos below.

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My elderly friend was still climbing them (he was younger than the other couple), and again, I gave him time, and didn’t include him in the photo. I hadn’t asked permission. Once he reached the top, I began my ascent. He waited for me at the top.

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Ibarahara_Shrine_03

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Once I was there he asked me the regular questions, or question, where was I from. This question is always vague, or can be answered vaguely. I replied that I was from Shimizu. Okitsu is considered part of Shimizu, I think. Shimizu used to be a city before it was absorbed into Shizuoka city.

But that I was born in Australia. He asked me if I knew the story of the shrine, and if I knew about it. I told him it was first visit there, and if I’d remembered the vocabulary, would have told him I’d discovered this gem by chance. I think he could see that I really appreciated this little touch of mystery, nature and serenity tucked away, not that far, from busy Highway 1.

I am not sure, but I think he said the shrine name was Ibara Jinja. It might have been Ibaraki, but that would be a bit strange. It could have been something else entirely. If any reader knows, please leave a comment. I googled Ibara, and shrines of Okitsu, but didn’t get any hits on this one. I was searching in English though. Wait, wait, wait! Okay, got it. Ibarahara Shrine. A google through of Japanese sites indicate that the front stairs have been closed for a number of years due to fear of imminent collapse. One of those posts is from 2010, so that pathway has been shut to the public for some time.

He said that the shrine below (or maybe the path, now that I’ve done the research), the one that one could not enter, because you couldn’t get past the torii gates (well, really, you could have stepped over the ropes strung between the gates, but the two guys keeping an eye on the crossing would have been keeping an eye on me too), was the new shrine (or pathway). He said this shrine tucked away in the woods up this steep set of stairs was the older shrine (or way to get to it), and the shrine was in fairly good condition, so perhaps the second hypothesis is the correct one.

He told me some other information too, but my Japanese is nominal. Research also lets me know that the shrine can be read as “Ihara” as well, and I’m using Google translate, so very well it might be “Ibara”, or that might be a local shortening of the name. So many questions, though! Then he bid me adieu and I wandered around taking shots here and there.

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Ibarahara_Shrine_06

Then, back down to the main road. Google had told me that the walk to Okitsu, at just over 4km, would take me about an hour. With diversions, it was a lot more, but that was okay.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay_08

I’ve been trying to clock up 10k+ a day walking. Two ninety minute classes with regular monitoring adds at least 2k onto the total, however, no classes at present. I think I was at the 10km, or maybe a little under. I took the train from Okitsu back to Shimizu, headed out to S-Pulse Plaza and took note of the movie times. I returned later that night and saw Johnny Depp in Black Mass. Great performance, solid film

Just under 14km saw the day out.

– encounters 5b & 6a

February 5, 2016

tis-taku-tashiro-medium
The beginning of this post really belongs to encounters 5. The Verkehr Museum, near Shimizu Port, is currently holding an exhibition of Taku Tashiro’s work. He’s an illustrator and graphic designer. The exhibition is interesting enough. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see it. However, if you were combining checking out the Shimizu Port area, it’s worth popping into. Admission is only 400 yen and it runs until the end of February. The Verkehr has some really interesting exhibitions detailing the port history of Shimizu, and there were also some very lovely impressionistic/abstract etchings from a local artist. I’ve misplaced her name(card).

Encounters 6 begins with setting out to walk inbetween Shimizu and Okitsu station. You always think, easy, right? I’ll just follow the railway lines. Except they go places you can’t go. The easiest way to follow them is to be on them, which, in Japan, would probably result in death, considering how well they are utilised. Not really an option. Google maps, or GPS and so on, direct you to the most boring, car-ridden path you could possibly take. So, if you know the general direction, then follow the tracks when you can, if you don’t have to double-back too much, and there are lots of hidden pathways and opportunities.

Along the main road, maybe the old Tokaido Road, is the Zagyoso Musuem/Villa. A reconstruction of one of those elegant older houses you often encounter only as reconstructions. It belonged to one of the wealthier members of Okitsu, and he was visited by many dignitaries, etc. Not really my cup of tea, but entrance was free, the grounds and house were lovely, and if you like matcha and ice-cream, it was available, though maybe not on a mid-weekday. I was out walking to see what I’d encounter, so there was one thing.

As I wandered along I came across the Seikenji temple. According to virtual tourists, train spotters like it because the Tokaido line runs right in front of it. Which it does. Apparently, according to the link just prior, a shot of a train passing under the bell tower is well sought after.

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That brick wall was beautiful, mainly because the red brick is so rarely seen in Japan. The temple overlooks Suruga Bay, and the horizon would be the ocean if not for the elevated highway that divides the vision.

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The photo below details some further information about the temple. The temple was also a crucial in terms of negotiation between the powers that be and foreign powers/ religious interests, particularly Korean, throughout its history. It must have boasted stunning views once upon a time.

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I was the only one in the grounds, though some workers were labouring in the nearby haka (cemetery). A monk sang while I overlooked the grounds. Very peaceful.

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I love the depictions of the 500 arhats / rakan/ boatsatsu / bodhisattva that you can see depicted within Japan. Enlightened folk, in other words, who have reached sainthood, nirvana, possibly, but who come back to earth to help out the mess and mass of we bumbling fools. Of course, they’re quite often bumbling too.

Recently I saw Takashi Murakami’s depiction of these 500 fellows at the Mori Art Museum. The information I gained there was useful to understand the different personalities, facial expressions, foibles and achievements of the arhats. I visited a number (500?) of these at Nihon-ji, just outside of Kurihama. That’s a trip well worth doing. It’s detailed in this very long post from a previous blog of mine (there are a lot of photos!).

Anyway, I didn’t expect to see them. It was a delight to come across them, and to wend my way up the mountainside where I was abruptly met with a locked gate. So, I didn’t wander too far. But that gave me more time to check out the arhat who seemed to be having a pretty lively conversation with one another. I liked them so much, I’ll post a number of pictures to give readers some idea of the variety.

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My favourite. This one has the Buddha inside the Buddha. Or the pure heart is shining forth.

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This guy is very mellow.

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The temple from the back. That’s Suruga Bay in the distance.

And here’s Murakami being an arhat at the foyer of his Mori exhibition.

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Takashi_Murakami_Arhat_02

Stay tuned for encounter 6B.

– shadows

January 21, 2016

in the shadow of this mountain my life has been spent the red torii frames me in its pi i rest against the doors of the newest shrine a neighbourhood box backing the empty seiyu department store its bins once provided me with all the food i needed the trains can be heard rattling past the mowing of the cars on the highway now i flip the cat door of the change box of the green phone jigsawed to the corner of the road hoping to find a few coins unsettling the air the panoply of a magician whose doves have flown.

© 2015, theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking. please do not use without permission

What an end of/beginning of the year it’s been! Out of the blue, experimental poet Jane Joritz-Nakagawa asked myself and others to contribute to Halvard Johnson’s poetry blog, TRUCK.

One of the exciting things about returning to writing and reconnecting, is the wide interlinking (interlocution) of writers, artists, musicians, thinkers, and all-round good and interesting people.

Often for the first time, I’m encountering names, markets, styles of writing, and forms of publishing which popped up during my hiatus and prose years. Prose is still being writ (large) of course, but poetry is easier to send off. The net does bring us all closer, and not living at home also means I encounter folks from everywhere all the time. New opportunities arise.

I help Jane with the Central Japan Literature Society, so I thought she was asking for work that was somehow not completely complete (that’s a paraphrase of her request) for something she intended to present at our December meeting. Nay. It was for the December instalment of TRUCK. She’d been asked to guest edit and submitted collated work as one long post entitled The World is Not Enough. The artwork is by Shizuoka artist, Marcus Grandon.

Three of my pieces are in there, including the poem which opens this post, mt. fuji – shimizu.
two tickets won to see someone don a monster mask at the folk museum landed in the mailbox this afternoon has appeared on this blog in an earlier form. I think that a piece of tarpaulin has basically kept its shape, though I’d like to change the line spacing.
For the pieces on TRUCK, (as opposed to following the links above), scroll towards the end of the post. Read those versions, cos’ they’re the most up to date.

I’d also submitted some work for consideration to Rat’s Ass Review’s northern hemisphere’s winter edition. I hadn’t heard back from them, so had just thought, meh, you win some, you lose some. However, late December the editor contacted me to say he was running a new section called Love & Ensuing Madness. Has a nice ring to it. It has rolling submissions by the way.

Seattle/Japan poem, the visitor, the guest, has clean sheets to lie on was selected. It has also appeared on the heart beats oftly in a much rougher state.

Suma, Kobe

Suma, Kobe

In other news, last October I presented jointly and individually at the Japan Writers Conference, held at lovely Suma in Kobe. Following from that, a piece I wrote on the irreverent Alice Campion for the Literature in Language Teaching journal was published in print form a couple of weeks ago. Once it has been uploaded to the website, I’ll link to it, just as I am doing now!. Hopefully there will be a few more developments to share with you in February as well. Viva (positive) 2016!

– no commentary, only captions – late day 3, early day 4

August 28, 2015

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Matsumoto Castle, Night. End of Day 3

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Matsumoto Castle (should probably crop this photo). End of Day 3

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Matsumoto Castle (and I should straighten this one). End of Day 3

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Kamikochi, just outside of Matsumoto, Japanese Alps. (Day 4, morning)

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Kamikochi, just outside of Matsumoto, Japanese Alps. (Day 4, morning)

Kamikochi, just outside of Matsumoto, Japanese Alps, Sansei Soba (mountain vegetables soba). Day 4, lunch

Kamikochi, just outside of Matsumoto, Japanese Alps, Sansei Soba (Mountain vegetable soba). River in background. Gorgeous place to eat lunch. Day 4.

The restaurant. It’s been serving food to pilgrims and travellers since way back when. Kamikochi, Japan Alps. Day 4.

– where one disappoints, the other pleases – day 2, where to have lunch?

August 18, 2015

Where-the-spiritual-shadow-descends2 Photo by Ichigo Sugawara

Where the spiritual shadow descends smoke also rises.

Where-the-spiritual-shadow-descends Photo by Ichigo Sugawara.

This installation was in the Minekata-Yamadaira area, which my guidebook tells me, “. . . are villages in the mountainous areas of northern parts of Matsudai . . . ” (2015, p.21). I took tours in that area in 2009, but I also walked it from Matsudai station. It’s quite a hike, and though the photographs aren’t featured, I detail a small part of the 5-6 kilometre journey here. And then it seems I got very lazy, and just started posting pictures with no explanation. Such as the installation that was in the then Ikebana House I think, called Invited by the Wind, which had been in this area. The two photographs directly below are from that 2009 exhibition.

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Ikebana House

Invited by the Wind, 2009, by Rishi Otsuka

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ikebana house

Invited by the Wind, 2009, by Rishi Otsuka

This blog picks up where I left off, and gives some good detail of the exhibition, and also of the silkworm one below, which was surreal and peaceful. Silk worms chewing mulberry leaves sound like the rain falling. This is a fact, and I have heard them creating downpours.

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The House of Cocoons by Kazufusa Komaki and the Nocturnal Studio, 2009.

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We didn’t drive past these tanada as I recall, but that’s not to say they weren’t there, and what actually was at fault were our attention spans. That photo is also from 2009 and taken in Autumn. OR – totally somewhere else in the Echigo area?? Sorry, I can’t recall. It’s pretty though.

Anyway, we were back in Minekata-Yamadaira area, or I was back in that area, and I had to agree with K’s incredulity that I had walked to the villages, but as we passed iconic and permanent art exhibitions that I know I had seen, as detailed in my flickr stream I know that I did. Pick a destination and “walk on”, like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee! If you look at the collection, “Art” on that flickr link, you can find a few Echigo Tsumari albums from 2009.

So, once more tucked into a village of this area, or one nearby (I’m sure I walked to two in 2009, though it might have just been two old residencies) were ephemeral installations residing in traditional Japanese houses.

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Now, I know I’ve left these boys standing out in the field

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and these birds without a roost to return to,

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and I haven’t even touched upon how psyched I was to be able to get a picture of the 2003 Step in Plan by John Körmeling (text design Katsumi Asaba):

Nor, despite my enticing blog title designed to assuage and subdue the appetites of the hangries, have I mentioned the lunch of

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photo by spinachdip on Wikimedia Commons.

zaru soba that we finally tracked down, but patience. All good things come to those who wait. Though you’ve read of my propensity to not finish Echigo touring reports, and is it any wonder? So much seen, so many words, so many pictures, dimming memories, my mind like a cobwebbed installation in a winding rural town. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I return to the neglected topics touched upon above. You too.

The idea behind Where the spiritual shadow descends (top two pictures) is that within a house set in a rural village in northern Honshu, Niigata Ken, Echigo area lies, “. . . something that is disappearing but can be felt.” Shinji Ohamaki did a good job.

Yamadaira Area

This is a photo of mine from 2009 which details the view from the road twisting around the Minekata-Yamadaira Area. K and I came from a slightly different angle, but took this way back into Matsudai.

Before we got this far though, K and I saw some other installations that had threatened to be spooky, but weren’t particularly, had lunch and made a few wrong turns and got a little lost on our way to the spiritual shadows. Spiritual shadows had been recommended by the researcher from my night at the Yama no ie dormitory and, even prior to meeting her, my curiosity was piqued when I had read its description. It was good. All our spook needs were met. We’d been told to give it fifteen minutes. Give what?

Viewers and “experiencers” are first ushered into a dark room in an old wooden house (after having their passports stamped – yaay!). A light swings around on a long cord suspended from the ceiling. The only light. This waiting time is necessary, because space on the first/second floor (one flight up) is limited and very dark. Participants’ sight needs to adjust and there isn’t much space.

Can you see your shadow? the woman who gave the introduction to the house asked myself, K and the other couple waiting. I’m sure she explained and spooked a lot more, but my understanding is limited.

When another couple descended the stairs, we were told to go straight and go up. It was very dark. With adjustment to the lack of light, you got used to it.

On the second floor we looked over a landing to the depths of the house below. Or what we could see of it. The house had been hollowed out, it seemed, but exposed beams and supports remained apparent to the eye, and divided the space below into squares.

Some of the old houses have whole tree trunks as the main support of the roof, though I think the beams we saw had been hewn and smoothed.

smoke Stock photo from the Net. Not one of mine.

But, who could really tell? Smoke was swirling all around. At first it seemed that only the smoke and fog below (illusions, as there was not the smell of smoke) were the substance and theme of the installation, but after a period of time, small balloons, as seen in the second photograph at the beginning of this entry, began to rise.

On the balloon was a reddish-orange circle, which was some kind of flame or heat which resulted in the balloon both rising and then dissipating in a cloud of smoke. It was ethereal and impressive. No doubt it was hot up there too, but considering everything was in the dark, a lot cooler than the humidity of the day.

K asked the woman on reception how they had achieved the effects, and she said the balloons were especially made for the installation.

We felt our way down the stairs after a short period, and walked down to Sericulture project. Whose kimono is it anyway? – The mothers of the country of silk installation. This might have been an extension from the 2009 silkworm project touched upon above.

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by Kazufusa Komaki + Nocturnal Studio

This picture is not particularly good, but it was an interesting idea whereby kimono, combs and hand mirrors of local residents were donated to make the installation. The local community plays a large part in the triennale.

Anyhoo, the kimono display was NOT the disappointment. Nor was it not being able to have lunch at Nunagawa Campus, or being unable to find a way into the centre of The Tower / Google Earth – The Fields of Tokamachi.

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by Vladimir Nasedkin

The disappointment lay in the menace and promise of the picture below

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not translating to reality. Doctor’s House by Lee Bul and Studio Lee Bul seemed like a good idea, and it was interesting. An old doctor’s clinic is used as an installation featuring a lot of mirror, but the actuality looked a lot different from the proposal. True, the descriptions in the guidebooks are just a few lines long. Full intention cannot really be known. Some of the more interesting pieces one was not allowed to photograph, and it was set in another historically interesting building.

And there was a disco chair that would have done Steve Martin and Audrey proud!

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Disco chair (my title) in Doctor’s House, by Lee Bul and Studio Lee Bul

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Disco chair (my title) in Doctor’s House, by Lee Bul and Studio Lee Bul

That doctor was obviously a superstar, though it’s also a good commentary on the ascribed and achieved status of doctors. I think this was another case of me hitting the on/off button on my camera, and thinking I’d taken a picture instead of withdrawing the zoom and closing the shutter, because I know I stood in front of that glitter chair and took direct pictures! I thought I did. It was fabulous.

I like the idea of the patients in the waiting room looking in at this exalted figure who might cure all their woes, or who might be, instead, a pompous jackass given respect only due to his title. The gilt and glitter encompasses both readings.I’m assuming it was a he as the house was pretty old, but I could be very wrong there, of course.

Anyway, the clear winners for this part of the journey can be summed up in smoke and the mirrors. Figures.

– nothing is nothing unless it involves a lost passport. day 2, after breakfast

August 18, 2015

Australian-passport

Yeah, not this kind of passport. And we switched to a silver logo. I didn’t notice.

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This one. The Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015 Passport gives you access to all the artworks, and it has plenty of spaces for stamps. Without the passport you end up paying quite a lot for individual exhibitions and entrance to art hubs, such as the Nohbutai centre.

On my solo journeys I have never been so careless, as in, I never have been, not that I have, but with K, both in 2009 and 2015, my passport was not in my possession for a period of time.

2009 was probably more problematic. We were on a tour with a set time. We’d had lunch at Cafe Reflet and I’d talked K into taking a few unauthorised minutes to see

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Reverse City (my photo from 2009), and had set my passport down as I took photos.

Like your daggy aunt with her best spectacles on a chain around her neck,

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I also make sure I pick up a little passport holder that I can hook over my neck in a similar way to prove both my dagginess, my train-spotterishness, and my practicality, it has to be said.

However, it gets annoying. I take it off. I set it down. Especially in summer where sweat is a constant creep on all parts of your skin.

Luckily K is a marathon runner. From where the bus left to where Reverse City sways in the wind is a moderately steep 4 or 5 minutes away, at a run. There it sat. It was returned. I thanked K profusely and berated myself.

This time we saw

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Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom

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Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom

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Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom.

That image is the right side up. He covers everything in gold and makes amazing wall collages from it. Check out this post to see what he did with the Matsudai Castle in 2009.

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and we saw Shinji Morino and Kiryubu’s Matsudai Satoyama Kiryu-bu!!

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Matsudai Satoyama Kiryu-bu!!

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and we spent time at Masahiro Hasunuma’s Dream of land – twelve short stories, twirling flipbooks.

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flipbooks

Notice that bag on the table? That contained my camera and my train ticket! That one I did not forget, but you can see why I might.

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This picture is taken from the art field site, and shows you the contents of one of the twelve flip books shown above. Each flipbook reflected a month and season in the Echigo area, and each flipbook told an animated story about it as you turned them around. Very cool.

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Looking out from the building housing the flipbooks

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Furthermore, we saw Passing through the umbilical cord, by Asayo Yamamoto,

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through which we passed,

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You could pick one piece of fruit/vegetable if it was ripe, leaving a 100 yen donation. You entered the installation from portable steel steps leading up the top underside roof of a kamaboko, and then you clambered down the other side. Okay, Google tells me that kamaboko is Japanese for surimi, or seafood extender, which is

kamaboko

a semi-cylindrical shape, such as the storage sheds. Therefore, I don’t know if the locals call them Kamaboko, or if, as the titles are “Kamaboko-type”, it’s just a useful metaphor. K was saying it was the word for some kind of fish dish, which surimi is. The above is not my photo.

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We also viewed  Satoyama Field Museum Visitor Centre by Musashino University and Tsohihiro Mizutani Lab,

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which had unfolded from when I’d witnessed it earlier in the day. A brief sojourn past the car ikebana written about in the last post, and at long last picking up the official English guidebook for the festival (a tenth the size of the Japanese one),  before I realised I did not have my passport with me.

It meant no stamps at Nobutai! Though I’d got some of them previously, and I probably had to get the majority of them in the Nobutai Center, which we didn’t have time to explore within (I much prefer the installations, though the hubs are fun).

I realised I’d left it at the flipbook house, or at least I thought I had. All of these installations were near my accommodation from the night before, Yama no ie. The flipbook house was less than five minutes away from my accommodation, but further from Nobutai.

The night before, K and I had asked a man, bent over and seemingly feeble, yet fixing up vines around the edges of his house, about the flipbook installation. It was after six. Most things were closed. The old man didn’t know, and we resolved to see it the next day. We didn’t know what it was either. We’d just seen a house with one of the art field signs in front of it.  But when we spoke to the researcher staying at Yama no ie later, she recommended it.

Scarecrows

Okay, the above is not a picture of the old man at all, and it was taken from this article about the festival in 2012. However, it reflects some of the colour of the area, and considering I didn’t take the old man’s picture, this will need to suffice.

The photographs are posted in the order we viewed the installations, apart from the one below (and the scarecrows). When we walked into the area where the flipbooks were, the installation being in an old house surrounded by equally old houses, we saw marrow drying in the sun.

Marrow

You need to take your shoes off at a lot of the installations, especially the ones housed in old schools and residences. Dream of Land – Twelve Short Stories was no different.

Because I had so much travel, tramping and time planned, I needed shoes with support. This also meant shoelaces, and some difficulty getting into and out of my footwear, despite my many years in Japan. Curse you Plantar fasciitis!

I had strewn my possessions in the top floor of the building housing the installation, as you saw in the photos above, but had asked K to remind me to pick them up, and thought I’d done a pretty good job of reminding myself too.

However, while pulling on our shoes, looking out at those drying marrow strips, a lady as old as the man yesterday had been – I’m guessing late eighties at the youngest – offered to give K and myself some tomatoes and cucumbers. I’d rested my possessions on a shelf while pulling on my shoes. They had made it to the ground/first floor at least!

I was interested in hearing exactly what was going on, so I joined K when I could, and left my passport behind. Not intentionally. The old woman was an unexpected element. The day was hot. Tomatoes and cucumbers were summer fruits, the lady explained (I’m sure she said kudamono, fruit). We should put them in water, when we could. We should eat them soon. We thanked her and placed them in the back of the car.

K rescued my art experience again, pulling into the residential area (a no-no. I would have been fine walking up) – and fortunately the festival was not in full swing. There it was – my way and means and entry into the visual, aural, tactile and other art delights that punctuated the Echigo landscape. Still resting on the shelf. We explained ourselves to the lady who was still pottering about. She shrugged her shoulders, it happens. Then we went on to visit the loin cloths and birds in a shrine. Tori near a Torii.

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The entry to A story of birds and Korato, by Maki Kijima. You can see some birds by the top of the steps.

– I never was much good at ikebana, or baseball for that matter – day 2, before breakfast

August 11, 2015

I had a pretty good pitch in softball, though. Put me on first base or on the pitcher’s mound (did we even have one of those in softball? I don’t think so) and I could catch anything. Not outfield, though. And they’d often put me outfield, before they realised – when class sizes had shrunk to the size of the withered skin of a raisin – that they needed all members of our year seven class to have some useful role in the softball team.

How many of us were there? I think there were only seven girls. Girls played softball. We combined with the year sixes, of course. There were enough of them to make up two classes. One of those classes was a combined grade 6/7 to which I belonged.

softball_grass

(Not my image).

They discovered I was pretty good as a goalkeeper in netball too. Necessity is the mother of all invention. I don’t do well when I know there’s a way that I should be doing something. This of course, means that I don’t really learn much. Learning takes practice. I’m not good with scrutiny, having team members rely upon me and with not being able to adapt to something quickly. I can get there, though. With practice, you nearly always can, though a mere pass in maths with hours of sweat-inducing effort seems hardly worth it.

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(Not my image).

It’s insecurity, mind you, not arrogance, but maybe the two rub off one another somehow. The skills that you can dabble in when you visit Japan or other places are many. Having begun my career as an assistant language teacher in the JET programme way back when, I had many chances to place a flower in a vase a certain way, to fold paper to create an origami homunculus (maybe I was being too ambitious), or to cast a horse-hair brush over washi paper with grace and ease.

It was beyond me. Beyond my confidence. I even had the aikido outfit, but only attended classes twice. It was a wonder I picked up any of the language at all. Wasted opportunities. Flower arrangement is the art of ikebana in Japan, and it can be elegant, amusing, uplifting and something beyond a bunch of blooms strewn into a jam jar, or conversely that could capture its very essence.

Yuji Ueno knows all about it.

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This one is termed Ultimate flower arrangement/garage, and in Japanese, I’m sure the word ikebana is used instead. Ueno’s exhibition was part of the Selected 100 Marginal Artists of Today, as part of the 2015 Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial. They were exhibiting in and around Nohbutai (For pics of Nohbutai, see below). Here’s a 2013 article on Ueno and his attitude toward ikebana. I can’t get much information about this artwork online.

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According to the linked article above, it’s an expansion of and play upon the tradition of hanagaruma. A picture of the same lifted from the article is below.

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I can’t readily find out if the work is from 2012 or 2015 as Ueno has participated in events for a while. This was the first Nohbutai exhibit that K and I had seen when we’d pulled into town (Matsudai) the day previously and, from a distance, apparent meaning was puzzling.

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We didn’t see it from this angle though. Nohbutai is the centre for the Matsudai area, and I’ve posted many pictures of it in the 2009 touring reports.

I slept like a log at the end of my first day touring. Well, not quite, but I was asleep before 12 and slept straight for 2 hours. I know, because I woke at midnight. Of course I went back to sleep, and I do sleep fitfully generally speaking, but the periods when I slept were restful.

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You can just see the tip of Yayoi Kusama’s Echigo in Bloom at the very edge of that picture. The person on the bike was tending a small vegetable garden just near it.

My plan was to strike out at about 7am, as breakfast was served at 8:30am at Yama no ie. I knew there were many artworks in the hills around Nohbutai, and I wanted to see the ones that had popped up since the 2009 visit, and perhaps some 2015 ones. I still didn’t have a guide with English, and not much time, so I was relying on memory and trust.

I did know that Illya and Emilia Kabakov had a new artwork, but the researcher I’d been chatting to the night before said she’d been unable to find it. However, we did reminisce about others tucked into the folds of the mountains, such as the spirals and the little library in the forest. Referenced in 2009.

There are a number of practical and not so practical artworks around the Nohbutai center, too, and it was good to see them so early in the morning, packed away. Though also great to see kids and others clambering all over them later on.

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Gyro for Playing with Earth by Takahito Kumura. They look like unicycles, but are not. When we returned later, there were only one or two on the racks.

The palm of the god (below) is by Nobuhiko Terasawa. It’s housed in a Kamaboko style structure. The Kamaboko are the rounded warehouses that people in the Echigo area use for storage. They have arched roofs so that snow slides off easily. The Kamaboko installation can be found elsewhere in this blog, and they do seem to go through a metamorphosis each festival. K and I explored later when the center was open.

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Anyway, time was ticking. There are a few ways to climb the hills. Art work is peppered throughout them. If you start at the 2009 post touring and read through to touring 8 on this blog, you will see a good representation of most of the permanent, and some not so permanent, art works in this area. If you check out my art collection on flickr, there are 9 albums dedicated to the 2009 festival.This time I decided not to take any photos of art works I had already seen, except if they’d changed significantly.

Anyhoo – new stuff.
It was hot. The hills were steep. I decided to walk past the Ricefield, the very first installation of the festival back in 2000, thereby bypassing a great many other worthy installations. I gave a quick nod to Simon Beer’s snowman (Carpe Diem). I’ve seen this icy fella (not really. He’s made of foam) on-season and off. He must prefer festival years when he can peer out of his refrigerated door to the spectators gazing in. Unless he’s a misanthrope. Which he very well could be. He’s pretty isolated year in, year out.

At a meeting of three roads, one which led to the highly recommended WD Spiral Part III Magic Theatre, I chose the path which had jinsei written in Japanese. I’d found the tricky turn to the Kabakovs’ work, and it was fitting that I’d walked through their original installation just a short while prior.

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The Arch of Life in English. It doesn’t seem that Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have too bright a view of our journey. Even so, they make sure it plays out in beautiful surroundings.

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I knew that Arch of Life would be crowded later, as the art work would have symbolised a lot to those who are invested in the festival. Therefore, it was great to just have me and the screaming, screeching, tweeting, rustling birds and insects. The sun rises a little after five nowadays (the days are getting shorter), so everything was already well illuminated, and Japan doesn’t really lose its heat overnight. However, it was still cooler at that time than at nearly any other.

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Click on this one and have a better look at the side face of the egg.

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Stamp!

There are three or more paths you can take back down to Nohbutai. Two via road, and about three through the fields and hills. I chose the road, and revisited Tatsuo Kawaguchi’s, Relation-Earth/ the Big Dipper, which was a big square piece of rust in a rice-field when I saw it in Autumn 2009

Relation-Earth-the big dipper

(Is that my picture? I’m not sure).

Not so in 2015:

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Relation-Earth/the Big Dipper, Tatsuo Kawaguchi.

Can you see the farmer tending his rice to the side? Click to make the picture bigger, and zoom in.

I walked past The○△□Tower and the Red Dragonfly, by Shintaro Tanaka (2000), and Reverse City, by Pascal Marthine Tayou (Cameroun, 2009), two of my favourite installations. A young girl from our hostel was checking them out. I only found this out later. I saw her, but didn’t realise she was staying at Yama no ie.

She was an exchange student from Taiwan, and was currently living in Akita, to the north of Niigata Ken. She was travelling around on the seishun juhachi kippu, but was struggling with a rather big yellow suitcase, as were many of the travellers (No. They didn’t all have yellow suitcases).

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Stock picture, not mine.

Of course she didn’t have her luggage with her at this early hour. I saw it when she was checking out. Considering how scarce accommodation was due to the festival’s popularity (travellers had to go from one business to another), and how far out of the way a lot of installations were, with a public transport system that could not be termed as frequent, a suitcase was cumbersome. I tried to find lockers for my backpack as soon as I could when I was using public transport, and luckily for days one and two, K and I used his car.

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A picture of mine from 2009. Tetsuo Sekine’s Boys in the Wonderful Red Loin Cloths

I had to make a decision. Whether to see the addition I heard of to the Boys in the Wonderful Red Loin Cloths, or to go back for breakfast. I knew it was about fifteen minutes to the artwork and also to the dormitory cafe, in opposite directions. I opted for breakfast and chatted with the Australian researcher about research in the Arts (including creative writing).

K was coming at 10am, and once breakfast was finished, and the woman from Sydney had gone to meet her interpreter, and the Taiwanese woman had combatted her suitcase, I had time to actually get my head straight, to find the location of art works I wanted to see on the map, and to plan a vague itinerary. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the distraction of talking to my fellow travellers, and I know that I took up their valuable preparation time as well. The hectic breakfast pace quickly subsided, and the ensuing serenity of Yama no ie was the perfect place to spread out my map and wait for K.

Luckily I also waited for the loin cloths. That’s not a sentence you write every day. The new installation was not just about the loin cloths (fundoshi). Its title is Native Vegetation – Standalone Soil, another Tetsuo Sekine creation. However, there were some of the new-look loin cloths, as seen in the picture below. There were masses of the standalone figures, and they were a fair way from Nohbutai and the dorm. Having a car afforded us more time to wander around and take in other artwork.

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– the final third, forwards and backwards again – day 1

August 10, 2015

The take a picture button and the switch on switch off button are rather near one another on my camera. A little Canon IXY640 which I’d only had for a short while. On the first day of my trip in the 2015 Echigo Tsumari Art Field, I hadn’t got the swing of it. I’m a bit better now. I know how to switch off the automatic flash.

The last time I wrote, which was all of eight hours ago, I left you here, in the surrounds of Marina Abramovic’s Dream House.

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K and I then went to the Kyororo, Matsunoyama Area. I didn’t take a photo of the Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science, because I thought I’d taken enough photos of rusty looking edifices surrounded by green, and I actually thought I had already seen it. I hadn’t, and also it looks great in pics, so I wish I hadn’t let the feeling of being burnt out at the time flumox me.

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Here, follow the link. That picture is from the Echigo Tsumari pages. The museum was designed by Takahara Tezuka and Yui Tezuka.

I didn’t really understand the information I had on hand, either. It takes a while to figure out the guides. A lot of things that I wanted to see were part of the hubs, such as Kyororo (the museum) and I think we should have spent more time there. We had more time. But lots of the cool stuff was outside, it was hot, we’d been racing around like blue-arsed flies, and I’d had intermittent sleep since 02:45 earlier in the day. We got to see most of what I wanted to see (yes, there were two of us, but K lives in the area, so he has more of a chance to go back and visit other artworks for the duration of the festival than I do. Plus, I’m a bully, unfortunately).

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These life size insect pictures were one of them, and they were outside, along a walk way, which was also an art piece. These inside pics are not mine. Sourced from here. Remember that confusion between buttons I mentioned on my camera? It seems that I probably opened and closed the lens of my camera a few times and thought I’d taken a picture. Stay lucid if you want to do what you want to do. And having written that, the actual art work might have even been all in the museum, and we just saw smaller replicas. We didn’t explore all of the area.

What I really wanted to see, and I would have needed to have had a much better camera to capture it, were these two 2003 co-mingled installations:

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Ting-King_Ping in Kyoro, Sound source, by Taiko Shono. The photo is taken from the Echigo Tsumari site.

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Ground Water Cosmos by Takuro Osaka. The image is also from the Echigo site.

And see them we did. Ting-King-Ping is visually great*, but also aurally intriguing and relaxing in a way. Water hits the devices in the installation, and apparently, due to the shape of the devices, no two sounds are alike. I didn’t judge the variation, but I did listen. It aurally reflected the role of water in the community’s day to day life, and visually, as we walked up the very many steps, it square-spiralled (?) into a pit of red lights, into which, I did not want to drop my camera.

Luckily K is game. It was hot, it was stifling, they stated how many stairs there were, but I can’t remember. Maybe 670? Anyway, that’s where Osaka’s Ground Water Cosmos came into it. It runs the height of the stairwell. Ha, interesting. *The red lights at the bottom of Ting-King-Ping actually belong to Osaka’s installation. From the Echigo page:

The themes of this work are the earth, veins of water, ecological systems, and the cosmos, a world with vertical expansion. Energies are emitted from the ground and the cosmos. When an earthquake occurs, radiation that emits light in the sky is produced underground; cosmic rays are produced by huge explosions (supernovas) when stars are born and die. The neutrino is an example. Since the birth of the universe, a vast quantity of cosmic rays has run beyond time and space. We do not know whether cosmic rays captured by light were recently emitted by the sun or generated eons ago. It is clear, however, that we are watching fragments of time. When the sensor inside of the Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science detects cosmic rays, of which more than 200 travel through our bodies pre second, blue light emitting diodes (LEDs) installed inside the tower light up the wall on the upper part of the tower, and the red LEDs in the water are simultaneously extinguished. That reminds us that the same cause can generate opposite phenomena in space. My aim was to create a space in which visitors can feel the oneness of Matsunoyama’s earth and water and the cosmos as a whole.

Leaning over the railings while catching our breath, and doing the whole Vertigo, funky spiral stairs thing (LED version), it seemed the red lights were still visible, but I guess while we were moving, and the sensors were detecting the cosmic rays in our body as we moved passed (or were they just detecting them in general?), and the stairs and walls were lighting up with degrees of blue light, maybe the red lights below were extinguished without our knowledge.

The shadows cast on the edges of each step was very effective. But it was a hike only for those able to hack heat and a climb. I’d still recommend it, but not if you don’t want to sacrifice your comfort.

It brought us to these views in a hot, stuffy, outlook. Worth it, in my book:

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I promised you tanada (terraced rice fields). These aren’t particularly dramatic ones, being only two layers deep, but still pretty.

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That large shadow is the main tower of the Natural Science Museum.

Me being me, I got my numbers all mixed up. And while asking to see what I thought was Ting-King-Ping, I was actually asking the location of T024, Matsunoyama Project. You know it. The link’s not working at the moment. It’s a 2003 construction.

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We were told 3 minutes away by foot, and we thought that couldn’t be right, because we just couldn’t see it, so they adjusted the time to five minutes, but three minutes was about right. Up a steep hill singing and rocking with cicadas and other summer insect screes. We weren’t able to enter it. As you can see, it’s rotting.

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This is the case with a lot of the wooden structures in the area. There’s rainy season of course, but more so, the severe, snowy winter. The researcher I met at Yama no ie was looking at the sustainability of the art works as a background to the interviews she was conducting. Not all of the installations are made to last, but what do they become once they rot and return to earth (if they’re made of biodegradable materials)? Often they’re created with impermanence in mind.

Another art work on that walk was a 2015 creation, Deep Water, Deep Water, Into the Woods, by Yuuri Takanashi. Forgive me for the Echigo links which lead to 503 pages. If you refresh, you can usually get some information.

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Excuse the blurriness. It’s the only picture I have.

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And so, what happened before all this? If you’ve stuck around, I know the important question is, What did you have for lunch!?!

Here’s the map to remind you of the back and forth. The first part of this entry deals with point 5 on the map, and I’m now returning to point 3. Remember to click on it to increase its size.

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So, a few rice fields and curving roads before this, and an accidental stray into the next prefecture, crossing the longest river in Japan twice (once when getting lost, once when returning) – the Shinano – we made it to the Kamigo Clove Restaurant Theatre. Again, the link is dodgy at the moment, but here’s the logo, which was presented as one of the art works.

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Designed by Kasami Asaba in 2012.

Within and outside of the Kamigo Clove Restaurant were works such as

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Untitled Project for Echigo-Tsumari, by Paola Pivi and The Game of Mikado by Meshac Gaba. The link says it’s a popular game in the west, but I wonder if there would be some allusion to the emperor, considering the art installation is in Japan. That’s what K and I were thinking when we tried to figure it out. Of course there is also the Gilbert and Sullivan opera. That installation was just to the right of the ladder.

The theatre is in a school which closed in 2012, as so many of the schools in the area appear to have done over the last fifteen years. The installation I really wanted to see was Shell of Time by Tatsushi Takizawa, because the photo in the guide looked great.

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This photo looks great too, but I somehow thought there’d be more pebbly looking cushions on the floor, and the roof would be more densely covered by branches, and seemingly a whole lot closer.

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The artefacts of the school were interesting though, and particularly for Japanese, and even more so for locals. Looking at school year books, it seemed that many photos were still shot in black and white well into the eighties, and there were a few year books which were a year or two shy of my Showa year of birth. Knowing that it’s Showa should be enough for you!

While waiting for lunch (we had a 13:30 reservation) we looked outside as well. I think it was the Shinano that was flowing by (K can correct me), and the small little shrines that are/were part of the school and community add to the whole beauty of the area as well, and also to the sorrow as cornerstones of community lose their traditional functionality.

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So, the premise of the lunch was that we ate locally grown and cooked produce, and we also watched a performance. You needed to book ahead. The kitchen staff were female and there was a producer, perhaps, male, who sat behind a piano in the corner.

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A CD player was piping out Wes Montgomery style music, and for a second, K and I thought the director/producer was playing it live (you know, the electric piano bits!). His smile, and me sighting the CD player, soon dissuaded us. On second thoughts, the guy might have just been the sound effects and lighting guy, and not just “just” of course.

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I think there were four courses, and vegetables featured strongly. The main dish was Tsunan pork. Now, I term myself “flexitarian”, flexible with food, but I don’t eat a lot of meat, and when I cook for myself I buy fish and seafood, but very rarely any other type of meat. However, I suggested this restaurant, because I was interested in the performance. The pork was very tender, too, though I wouldn’t have been able to eat much more.

They gave all the extras to K, actually. He was the only male at our table (in the room? apart from the sfx guy, and the younger boy at the other table. Though maybe there were a few more), and it was interesting to see gender roles played out. Of course, it might have been a matter of expediency. Who do we give the extras to when there’s not enough for everyone?

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The desert was lovely, though I can’t actually remember what it was, but it looks pretty in the picture. *Edit, August 10 – I remember, it was a carrot praline type of dish. It tasted good. The other participants took more pictures of their food than of anything else going on. I’ve no problem with people taking pictures of their food. It’s a lot quicker than selfies and never-ending group photos.

The pork had been infused with cloves. It was interesting as they’re such a staple of certain western and Indian cooking, but were considered quite unique in this situation. A handful were placed on each table for all to smell. A succulent aroma has the clove, though perhaps heady is a better word.

As for the performances, it was really a monologue of what life was like in the Echigo area, and the hardships that people have to endure due to isolation and the weather (at least that’s what K told me). It seems that people are writing their own histories as they are living them. Despite the cold and the difficulty in eking a living, those who head to Tokyo and other places always return. A bit of myth making going on, I think, but the festival does also breathe a lot of new life into these country areas that lose generation after generation.

Or does it? The researcher I met at Yama no ie said that people had expressed their worries about taking care of the art works in the winter months once the young people stop returning. Houses that are not used in non-festival years, and in the colder season still need the snow taken from the roof, and some of the art works are even taken down and over-wintered, like hoping your geraniums might survive if you bring them inside. The hardiest of plants, but not in the coldest of climates, where all of a sudden they become annuals instead of perennials.

Next, an early morning amble and preamble. Gold! Flip books and smoke. What more could you ask for?

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Golden Playroom, by Ryo Toyofuku.

– a coffin by any other name would still be as uncomfortable as f**k (day one, second half, jumping ahead)

August 10, 2015

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The picture above is from Japan magazine and illustrates Marina Abramovic’s Dream House. Not to say I didn’t see it, but I hadn’t figured out how to turn off the automatic flash on my camera yet, so I didn’t get any images which captured the mood.

This photo from this page shows how you are meant to sleep in it, though the dream bed in the photo below is not in Abramovic’s Dream House.

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These are the suits that you wear, and to your side, in the coffin/bed is a book, tucked into a recess on the floor of the bed. And in that book, you record your dreams. The pillow is square and hard and I think it was made either of wood or stone. Anyone is free to correct me. You can see a version of it in the picture of the bath below (scroll down).

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This blog post (not mine), illustrates the process somewhat. I’ve lifted the photo below from the post as well.

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Dream House is nestled in the curves and folds of the Matsunoyama part of the Echigo Tsumari art field. You can stay in the house and doing so is part of the art project. I have wanted to, but not in summer. That little red room was hot, and those pyjamas don’t look as if they’d bring your temperature down.

In 2011 I stayed at the House of Light, James Turrell’s design, which is in the Kawanishi area. My ex and I stayed off-season, in late October, and paid a very small price to have the whole house to ourselves. During peak time, such as throughout the Triennial, you share with other users.

Dream House wasn’t as great as I thought it would be, but I’m sure that sleeping over might change my opinion. K asked the attendant if most people slept in the coffin-beds. She said they did, but there are only three or four of them. Whole families sleep here. There are tatami rooms where you can lay out your futons,  but how comfortable would sleeping be with this as your wallpaper, even if you’d paid for the experience?

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Being so overwhelmed by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami on the east coast of Japan, I hadn’t realised that the following day there had been a large earthquake in the northern part of Nagano, which caused damage to many of the Echigo art installations, including the Dream House, and the destruction of Australia House (I think it was that earthquake, and not another which affected Australia House). Dream House was reopened for the 2012 festival, and the words above and below were added at that time in response to the earthquake. The website is playing up again, so I cannot verify that 100%.

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The usable tatami rooms might have been upstairs, at it doesn’t look as if that glass case is easily movable.

Anyway, along with restructure, this was on my must-absolutely-see-if-we-have-a-car list. And K had a car. Yaay, K-san!

On the way there, we viewed the wonderful tanada (terraced rice fields). If you search for Echigo, or go to the art category, on my blog you can see photos of these from my prior visits. The aforementioned earthquake affected a lot of these as well, due to mudslides and weakened structures. This isn’t the most defined of pictures, tanada-wise – there’s a better one in the next post (as yet, unwritten, August 10) – but it is pretty.

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I’d be very nervous negotiating the curves of the road, so I’m glad that K was behind the wheel.

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I think this building housed “Elixir”. I detail that a little further down.

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Charming or spooky, depending upon your knowledge of what lies within.

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A relaxing bath. You can see the pillow. That was the shape and size of the ones in the coffin-beds. I think Abramovic uses stones, and possibly herbal properties, to usher in good dreams. So maybe the selection of vegetation in the bath holds some meaning. There were two baths.

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I’m not really sure what all the glasses of water symbolised. They weren’t for drinking (or so we thought).

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You can see the tour bus waiting. This group had gone before us, but as it was a Tuesday, the place was not swarming with too many people.

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The furin rings sharply on the breeze, and brings our thoughts to a possible respite from the heat, and to our own selves. It’s a beautiful sound, and reassuring, protective sight in a slightly sombre house.

Within the same area was a 2003 Australian exhibit, Elixir, by Janet Laurence. That is the artist page. The Tsumari page is still having trouble!

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Just down the curve of the road were another two 2003 Australian installations in Harvest House and Rice Talk.The artists were Lauren Berkowitz, and Robyn Backen, respectively. There’s a lot more to Rice Talk according to that link than I got from the website or guidebooks (we were using the Romaji and titles in English to connect with dots on the maps, and what we wanted to see, due to my appalling Japanese. It was all part of the adventure. Gathering enough information to be able to understand something and proceed. Of course K could understand the Japanese, but we had to determine which exhibits we wanted to see). It seems I didn’t take any pictures of Rice Talk though.

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The map below shows you the direction and areas we covered on day one. Those areas have sub-areas. Click on it to get a better view.

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Points one and two (Jimmy Liao and Harumi Yukatake) were in the Museum of Picture Book Art, Tokamachi South Area. I’d seen that exhibition before, by the way. It’s definitely worth it.

Point 3 is in the Asia Art Village, Tsunan Area. That’s where we saw this big guy:

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And also where we ate. I’ve skipped right ahead to point 4 in this post, which is Abramovic’s Dream House, and the nearby art works. Point 4 and 5 are in the Kyororo, Matsunoyama area.

Five is full of sounds and pictures I didn’t take (next post), and six ends us up here, at Yama no ie (as opposed to Yume no ie – mountain house as opposed to dream house). This is in the Central Matsudai area which counts Nohbutai Snow Land Agrarian Culture Center as its base. If you search through the blog, you’ll find some pictures (go back to 2009).

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The dormitory and cafe are on the right and run by a vary harried, but capable woman. She usually has more staff, but they were all off volunteering or working for other events and installations for the festival. She managed to keep the place running for 40+ people, single-handedly.

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Inside the cafe. A very calm space. We had a delicious dinner, that took some time to come, but was worth the wait. A vegetarian hiyashi soba, with trefoil for garnish and taste. Yum. I can’t remember what K had. We also wandered the streets a little, but really didn’t take in any more art works, though the building next to Yama no ie is an art work.

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This sign gives you an indication of just how many art works are in that area, and that is just a fraction of them.

Then I bid K farewell, after we kind of organised ideas for the following day, and had a chat to an Australian researcher who was interviewing locals on their opinion of art as community.

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I was so beat that my notes made hardly any sense, but they were a vague guideline I could use when I was more in the present the next morning.

Okay, the next post will be pre-coffin and post. Until then.

– the title is longer than the thought process taken to create it (first half day of Echigo Art Field, 2015)

August 9, 2015

All journeys start at 01:55 in the morning. All journeys start with the last train to the station where the Moonlight Nagara will come in at 01:55. The last train to the station where the train will come in at 01:55 departs at 23:52. There are fifteen minutes between the 23:52 station and the 01:55 station, that is, between Shimizu and Shizuoka stations. All journeys involve indeterminable waits, except the wait is clearly determined and defined. Okay then, abominable waits. All journeys get shunted to 02:45 because there’s something wrong with the signal somewhere on the tracks in between Nagoya and Shizuoka. Okay, not all journeys, but the one that you’re on.

The Moonlight Nagara is a local train, stopping at a few designated stations, between Tokyo and Okagi in Gifu Ken. You can cover some serious ground. You used to be able to catch a great many other overnight trains, such as the Moonlight Echigo, and the train that went all the way to Kyushu – but JR has been phasing them out. I’m not sure why. Now the Moonlight Nagara only runs during the holiday periods, and it’s very popular with seishun juhachi kippu holders. Of which I was one. It’s a great deal. Google it.

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Shizuoka at that time of the morning sure ain’t Tokyo. And Tokyo, at that time of the morning, away from the hubs and bars, sure ain’t a 24 hour party town. Even so, I’d be sitting for some time, so I wandered and trudged around with my indomitably heavy backpack, wondering just what that car was doing under the train bridge, idling, car lights spilling. It seems that Bikuri Donkey is open until 2:30 am. I considered going in, but wandered back to the station, thinking the train was going at the scheduled time.

We were not allowed entry until 01:30. Everything was shut down and being spruced up by shift workers on mobile polishers. I wasn’t the only one hanging out the front of the station. Of course there was the homeless guy taking a puff on his cigarette, but also a couple, maybe retired, some teenaged boys, or maybe early twenties, a mother and teenaged son. Cicadas, though I didn’t see any flying cockroaches. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen them in Honshu really. Must be more of a Shikoku, further down south thing.

The train going to the Osaka area was only ten minutes late. Not so ours. So, I practiced with my new camera. Some funky things you can do like getting it to convex signs

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and to make other signs all vibrant and shadowed

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An upside, I thought, was that the Moonlight Nagara for Tokyo was due get in at 5:05, but my connecting train wasn’t leaving until 6:20. It seemed my wait would be drastically shortened. Not so. They opened the throttle full speed, and even though those of us bleak and wearied at lonely train stops had had to wait, the train pulled in at exactly 5:05.

I was on my way to the 2015 Echigo Tsumari Art Field. I haven’t linked to the official page. It keeps getting so many hits that it’s out of action half the time. But that Japan guide link has links to the official page. I’d enjoyed it so much in 2009 that I saw it maybe five or six times. I’m not sure. Maybe more. I saw it in the summer and the autumn, and in the autumn, I explored independently. I wrote eight posts on it. Don’t worry, it’s not all words. There are a lot of photos.

A friend who lives in the area and I had done one of the tours, and he wondered if I might be coming up again. I wasn’t going to, but what the hell, and I didn’t go in 2012, and I do love it so. Due to obon, his times were limited, and due to me possibly returning to Australia, my times were limited as well. Early August suited us both.

Of course, being last minute, accommodation was almost impossible, but I managed to stay one night at Yama no ie (mountain house) dormitory, and it was very classy for a dorm. 8 beds to a room (bunks). Quite new, so the scent of hinoki (pine) throughout. The place is run by an interior design firm which has an office in Tokyo and Niigata, as well as Matsudai in the Echigo area. One girl slept on the floor, but it wasn’t a youth hostel. There were four more rooms. Another room was the male dormitory, I think, and then maybe some private rooms? Anyway, everyone was from everywhere. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia (not me, another woman). Children, students, academics. And this very cool statue, not an official art work, was just around the corner.

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But, I’m way ahead of myself. My friend, K, picked my up from the Muikamachi station at 10:49am. That sounds like good time, and is pretty good for local trains, but I had been travelling since 02:45, and had left my house at just before midnight. Anyway, I got a bit of a snooze from Tokyo to Muikamachi, but the scenery was just so gorgeous between Minakami to Muikamachi that closing my eyes seemed a crime. Here’s the train chilling at Minakami. I had just disembarked the blue train on the opposite platform,

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and also train-related, here’s the first art work K and I saw at Doichi station:

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As you can see, it was very sunny, and quite a dry heat for Japan, but hot at 37 degrees centigrade. I’d misplaced my hat (found it the next day), and K’s wife, M, had kindly lent me one of hers (I’d texted ahead my emergency situation). What would I have done without it? I was slathered with sunblock, but still got a little crisp around the edges.

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Jimmy Liao is a a children’s book writer. The art works are based on his stories, and the premise of the art at the Doichi Station was that the dog and child had got on a train and while we were in the carriage, we were watching their journey (on the film at the end of the carriage) as they were also watching/experiencing it. Major events of their journey were signposted in drawings around the inside walls of the carriage.

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I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of their faces. I had the chance. Again, I’m blaming getting used to my camera. This was a popular installation, and you didn’t want to block anyone’s view too much.

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These were called Kiss and Goodbye and were, as said above, by Jimmy Liao from Taiwan. Unfortunately, I know those links will eventually die, but for now, you can learn a little about the artist, and see the second of the railway carriages that he decked out. The first was the best, I think.

I saw the second on my third day from an actual train window, as I was heading from Tokamachi to Nagano, then to Matsumoto. It was a treat to see  the art works that I thought I wouldn’t get the chance to set eyes upon due to distance and time. But, by dint of being on the train, and the scarcity of local trains in that area, there was no chance to get off and explore. The art work (below) doesn’t look as if it had any further installations within the structure.

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Blame the train pulling out for the angled picture! If I straighten it, we chop off half of the pup. This was at the Echigo Mizusawa station on the JR Iiyama line.

In 2009 I had been desperate to see Restructure by Harumi Yukutake, but the tours were either full, and by autumn, the art work was no longer open. It wasn’t easy to get to. That and Marina Abramovic’s Dream House were high on my list. Restructure looks great in pictures. It’s also something special to come across this edifice. It’s covered with hand cut mirrors and stands in the middle of Echigo grassland, but it might make a better photo than an art piece. Even so, I was pleased to see it with K and the other family who had just pulled up. I was getting used to my camera, so a lot of the pictures are so-so. I haven’t edited a lot of them either. Anyway, you’ll get the gist.

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This woman is probably a volunteer. I don’t think the masses of people “manning” the art works were paid. They were either charging entry for those installations that attracted a fee, or stamping the “passports” of those who had bought them. The passports are well worth it at 3400 yen. Especially if you intend to return and see more. They’re valid until the September closing, and probably available for the Autumn round of the festival as well.The great art museums in the States charge that for a day. Plus, your passport gets stamped for each art work you see! I love that. I’m such a trainspotter.

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Lunch was at 13:30 at the Kamigo Clove Theatre Restaurant. More about that in the next post.

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And it wouldn’t be an Echigo Tsumari post without a taster of Marina Abramovic’s Dream House.

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