Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thatched farmhouses

This will be my last post for a few days since I am leaving for Houston tomorrow morning for the International Quilt Festival where I will visit my quilts. Just two this year, one in the Town and Country exhibit and one in the Silent Auction. I 'll have picures on my return.

I'm still writing about my trip to Japan and hope I'm not boring you. These today are from our visit to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of a village with traditional thatched roofs.

This gives you some idea of how thick the roofs are. They last about 40 years and then it takes over 200 men to work on dismantling and installing a new one. We saw a video of the process and it was fascinating. Needless to say it is a dying art.

It seems like the Japanese never miss an opportunity to make something beautiful and artistic. For lack of a better name, I'm calling this a storm sewer. Notice the lovely design on the grating. That is the symbol of this particular village. It would also be on the manhole covers.

There were charming little container gardens outside most of the doors to the homes and shops.

This was in another storm sewer. I love the scene with the snake made out of driftwood.

I thought that these elderly women sitting and making straw sandals were amazing. Note how the straw is wrapped tightly around her toes and how straight she is sitting! They looked very old. The sandals were selling for about $5 apiece.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lanterns and Deer at Nara

One of the several shrines we visited was the Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara which is accented by about 2,000 of these beautiful stone lanterns. Each one was donated to the shrine in memory of someone.

This is a tori gate leading to a small shrine in the woods. Notice the lanterns.

This is the path leading to the big shrine, lined with more lanterns.

I tried to show the scope of the lanterns all through the woods, but I didn't do very well.

More lanterns along the path. I love the mossy tops. They are only lit on one day a year, with candles, for a special holiday. It must be a sight to see!

Here's a little deer peeping through the lanterns. Supposedly all the deer, about 2,000, are all descended from one albino sacred deer from long, long ago. The deer roam freely all over and it is illegal to harm them. They don't bother you unless you buy deer cookies from the vendors.

And that's what my friend Mickey did. Here they are being rather polite and waiting their turn.

Now they're getting very aggressive. They eventually knocked Mickey onto the wall behind her. I couldn't get a picture. A woman came and shooed them away enough so that Mickey could get up.

After she got up, she tossed her remaining crumbs to them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Buildings and Gardens

The architecture in Japan was very interesting and beautiful. We saw many tile roofs with turned up edges, although not nearly as elaborate as the ones we had seen in China.

This is a tea house in a Japanese Garden.

Pine trees are painstakingly pruned and plucked twice a year to maintain these shapes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Japanese food

The Japanese meals that we had on out trip were works of art. Every course was served in beautiful little dishes, artfully arranged

This was the appetizer. I forget what it was, but it was good. The side of the box had pretty cutouts of maple leaves.

This is sashime, or raw fish, served with wasabi paste and soy sauce. It was delicious.

This is grilled barracuda wrapped in a magnolia leaf. Very good! Note the little veggie cutouts of maple leaf.

This is tempura, fish or veggies deep fried in a very light batter with a dipping sauce.

Pickled veggies.

Vegetables,scallops and shrimp served in a baby eggplant.

Slices of steak sizzling on individual braziers.

I forget, I think it was soup of some kind. Note the pretty tea cup in the background.

I did like the Japanese food. Or most of it. I did not like miso soup and that was served at almost every meal.

We had one meal at a Shabu-shabu restaurant. There is a big pot of boiling water in the middle of the table, into which you put thinly sliced pieces of pork or beef to cook quickly. There are also noodles and vegetables in the pot. That was not my favorite meal.

I got to be quite good at using chopsticks, something I was not before I got there.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Although the cities in Japan are bustling, modern cosmopolitan cities, you still see the occasional kimono worn on the street. These young women were shopping in Kyoto. The two fingers held up don't stand for the peace sign, but something that most young people do when posing for a picture. It means something like happiness, I never could get an exact answer.

Because they were under 20 years of age, they are allowed to tie their obis in these fancy butterfly bows.

This young woman is a maiko, or an apprentice to a geiko, or geisha. Contrary to some popular belief, they are not prostitutes, but entertainers. They are in training for at least two years. In that time they wear the white face makeup and traditional hairdos. Their hair is done in these elaborate styles and they have to sleep on hard neck pillows so as not to disturb them. The style is taken down about every six days and done over. And I thought I had trouble sleeping!

These two older women were performing a tea ceremony. They no longer have to have those fancy hairdos and can wear it any way they choose. The same thing for their makeup.

Many young girls have a coming out party when they turn twenty. For this many wear the traditional dress. Our guide had two daughters and told us that to dress them properly with all the layers, obis, sashes, shoes, hair ornaments, etc. would cost about $10,000 apiece. So she saved up her money and when the time came, the girls said they would rather have a car. They had the coming out party!

We saw a party at our hotel where the girl had a beautiful western gown, navy strapless with lots of beading. Her girlfriends were stylishly dressed in shades of taupe, ivory and black.

The women in Tokyo are so well dressed.....lots of high heels, pretty skirts, great looking jackets.
I remarked on this the last time I was there 28 years ago and it hasn't changed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Babies and Brides

It's been a long time since my last blog post, but I'm back from my fabulous trip to Japan and will try to give you a little bit of my impressions each day.  We visited many shrines and on this  Saturday there were several weddings and baby naming/blessing ceremonies.  

The children were adorable and they gladly posed for pictures.

Isn't she a cutie pie?

I loved the outfit on this little boy.

Our guide told us that it is very expensive to get married at the shrine and only for the wealthy.  The bridal couple and family march into the shrine, some dressed in traditional garb, some in western, but all looking very elegant .  All the men had on black suits, as did most of the other men we saw in Tokyo.

What a lovely couple!  Unlike China, here the bride wears white.  We also saw a couple of weddings at the hotels where the brides had on western gowns.