Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
So I’m hanging out in New Zealand now. It’s much warmer than where I live in Japan was when I left that’s for sure!!! Christmas and Boxing Day have been awesome and I am not less than a little sunburnt, oh well, we live and learn and wear sunscreen don't we?
But like I’ve said before I’ve got a thing or two to tidy up before I can describe my current travels.
A few weeks ago I went to Takayama with my wonderful Jamaican friend, Fay. Again, we went on yet another public holiday. We got up early in the morning for our 2 hour train journey there. Takayama sits just beyond Gifu’s border with Toyama on the Gifu side. It’s a very picturesque town famous for its beauty and its beef! I got me some amazing tasting beef and couldn’t be happier.
Takayama is a very traditional style town with rows of terraced houses come shops and the usual shrines and temples which is to be expected of any traditional Japanese town. As you can imagine I wasn’t only drawn there by the beef, though that was a huge part of it. I went there to engage in some temple-ing and some shrine-ing and some learning. I also went there by recommendation of my previously mentioned wonderful host family.
Takayama is an historical town on the Gifu side of the Gifu-Toyama border. It appears to have been one of the last bastions of the shogunate in the area at one stage and has some pretty awesome examples of traditional Japanese architecture, as well as being foreigner friendly. It was fantastic to be wandering around a town that had lots and lots of signs in English and where explanations in important places were written in both Japanese and English.
There is also, of course, the beef, oh the beef! It isn't as high quality as the wonderful and apparently extremely delicious Kobe beef but Hida beef is pretty darn good and I was quite willing to pay through the nose for it. The local rice balls on a stick coated in some sort of soy based sauce were also to die for. Food glorious food, that's all I am going to say just now.
I think the best way for me to describe Takayama is to put photos up. Coming soon once I work out how to do so from my Mac.
I am going to sign off there and go work out the photo situation.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and was neither lonely, nor cold, nor bored.
I’m publishing this from NZ but am writing about my trip south from Toyama to Nara for part of what’s known in Japan as “silver week” a string of 2 or 3 public holidays in September that can become a decent long weekend if the weekend falls just before or during. As it happened this year Japan managed to get a 5 day weekend this year. I decided to use it to maximum effect and took a break to see my host family and decompress a bit.
I stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house again. A beautiful old style place in the Nara countryside, just gorgeous. I really love it there. It has a real “Japan” feel about it.
One of the holidays was Respect for the Aged Day, of course I knew that but didn’t really care. I think one should respect one’s elders at all times rather than needing a specific day to remember to do it. However, as per my usual manner on that day I got up and chatted to Grandma over breakfast while I waited for the others to arrive so that we could “respect the aged” by giving them their space. I hear that the simple act of me chatting with Ayako on Respect for the Aged Day made her day. My personal belief is that if you are staying with someone, using their toilet paper, you should at least talk to them!!! But she appreciated it, so all good. I also won by learning a small amount of Nara-ben (Nara dialect of Japanese) from Grandpa who seems to think I understand 100% of what he says. FYI I do not! But, I do my best, I guess from context and I pick out important key words. Generally I find that if I don’t at least try to figure out what they are saying I will never learn anything and I am all about learning from grandparents since I only had one and she only lasted 8 years of my life (God rest her soul).
That day was spent shopping. But the best part of my trip was on the first night of my 2 night stay. My host brother goes to high school in a really historic part of Nara and it happened to be having an illumination evening that night. The whole place was lit up with candles and lights. I got insight into ancient Japan!!! Heck I’m gonna go ahead and say it I went to ancient Japan. Asuka is the site of the former capital of ancient Japan. The oldest Japanese coin was found there. On the site of where the oldest coin was found they built a museum about the period which is immortalized (in a rather unreadable way) by the Manyo-shuu. The museum is largely devoted to the Manyo-shuu and the emperor has been there. I stood on the exact spot that he stood on and did what I always do, posed for a photo. I now have a record of me having stood where the emperor stood on the one night of the year that the Manyo Museum in Asuka is open to the public and free too. :D
We went to a famous temple or two along the way and visited the “Stone Stage”, actually a massive tomb, possibly for an ancient emperor.
I learned soooooo much about the history of Japan that night. No better way to learn about events and the importance of historical events than to go to the places where they actually happened. Just like there is no better way to learn a language than to immerse oneself in it and feel one’s way through.
I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to that family. They are always there for me. I know I can count on them if I ever need culture advice or just someone to keep me company in Osaka for the afternoon while I wait until an appropriate time to head off to the airport to catch a plane. Though, I do have to say that I have made the error of asking my host sister for advice on whether or not to buy an expensive item of clothing twice now, I really must learn that she will not stop me from buying it!
I do admit to being the proud owner of a Hello Kitty tartan scarf and a Hello Kitty hoodie. To quote the hoodie, “I love Hello Kitty and she loves me!”. There I said it, don’t dis me, Hello Kitty is the only name brand I can never resist. And that is a tangent for another day…
It’s Christmas in New Zealand for me. I hope everyone who reads this has an awesome Christmas wherever you happen to be.