Two weeks have gone by and I am still running around crazy trying to still see things. Even though I will have more time in Japan I feel rushed to spend every second of my day visiting a new museum, trying new food, and trying to get as many Goshuin stamps as possible. Sometimes the anxiety to enjoy things can take away from the moment. So I need to try to step back and tranquilly appreciate the ability to be on the other side of the planet.
This weekend I fulfilled a dream of mine when we hiked a portion of the Tokugawa-era Nakasendo road from Magome-juku to Tsumago-juku. Utagawa Hiroshige’s landscape prints of various post roads spanning from Tokyo to Kyoto in the mid to early 19th century portray a beautifully vast and vivid, yet romanticized images of mountains, plains, and rivers. I thought obviously these prints must over exaggerate the mountain vistas I was to see, no way do they exist. Then just stepping out at the bus stop proved me wrong. This gigantic mountain rises near the stop. The town of Magome-juku itself crawls up a steep hill that gives these spectacular views of the mountain or the undulating farmland from almost point.
The next day hiking from Magome to Tsumago produced many of the same stunning views familiar to me from almost 200 year old woodblock prints. The best part of hike had to have been the two waterfalls halfway along the route. Both pouring out into a small dell, standing a couple feet away produced a refreshing cold breeze. I have a hard time capturing the true essence of experience, it was simply wonderful.
Sunday, my free day, as an architecture geek I felt obligated to go check out the Nagoya Castle and the recently reconstructed adjoining Honmaru Palace. The palace had some pretty neat fusuma screens with genre paintings, landscapes, and weird Chinese-looking tiger paintings with uncomfortably billowy muscles. One room had these delicate landscapes framed recessed from a stunning a gold embossed lacquer wall. Then the castle itself was closed since the city recently began the process of rebuilding the current recreated structure using traditional methods rather than concrete. Half of the grounds seemed to be in the middle of renovation and the other half was sort of left neglected with weeds and poorly maintained garden features. In five years I’m sure they’ll come around, but at the moment the overall experience left me slightly disappointed. Afterwards for lunch I found a restaurant that sold popover sandwiches so in the end I can’t complain all too much.