Samurai City

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 25, 2012

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Flag of Japan  , Tohoku,
Thursday, April 19, 2012

We had a slow morning, I didn't do anything but hang laundry out on the balcony.

We had a great, fast lunch at the ramen shop next door to the apartment. Best ramen I've had in my life!  You order your meal by making a selection from a vending machine, then hand the ticket to the chef.  This way, the handling of money is separated from the cooking and delivery of the food.  I noticed that many restaurants have the cartoon-looking creatures by their doors.  It's a tenuki, a raccooon-like creature that is rarely seen by the general population, and represents the god of gluttony, drunkeness, and mischief.

After eating, we walked the two miles (up hill) to Imoryama, a grave and memorial site where in 1868 nineteen young samurai (teen-aged boys 14 - 17 years old) committed suicide.  They saw smoke and flames coming from the castle and thought it had been taken and burned.  In fact it was just a kitchen fire. Their graves are marked and many monuments are dedicated to their sacrifice.  One of those monuments, a tall column topped by a giant eagle, is noted as an Italian tribute.  They don't specify that it was Mussolini who made the dedication.

Also on the hill is a very old Buddhist temple.  It is the oldest wooden building in Japan.  It dates to the Edo Period (1600 - 1867), a relatively peaceful time of shoguns and samurai in feudal Japan.  It is an unusual building which spirals upward several levels.  One set of steps lead you up and another set brings you down.  I suppose a lot of walking meditation happened here.

From there we walked back past Brent's apartment and took the city loop bus out to Aizu Bukeyashiki, the Samurai Residence.  The ride itself was quite an adventure.  We mistakenly took the long way around the loop.  The bus quickly filled with older adults, then stopped for seven middle school kids to crowd themselves on board.  Unbelievably, at the next stop another ten or so got on.  We’re talking sardine time!  I thought I was going to get smashed in the face by a couple of back-packs.  They were all going to the same place as we were.  When we got to our destination, the children began piling out.  I'm sure it looked like a clown car.

Loved the samurai home.  It was like a mini Japanese Williamsburg.  The reconstructed villa complex contained 38 buildings, each of a specific purpose, which illustrates feudal life during the Edo period.  The main house was beautifully simple, with multiple courtyards, and countless shoji screens and sliding doors – a very flexible arrangement.  All the buildings seemed open air yet private and connected.  There was very little furniture and nothing that looked comfortable for seating. Most rooms were just tatami mats, a cushion or two on the floor, a built-in cabinet for storage, and a simple shelf with a vase or ornament and scroll painting or calligraphy hung above. Mannequins wearing costumes of the era helped bring the settings to life.

I came home to find that one pair of my slacks had been blown off the balcony.  It had been really windy all day, but good grief!   We had a lot of laughs imagining whoever saw these big lady black pants sailing through the air or rolling through the streets like tumbleweeds.
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