Saturday, February 18, 2006

Chinese New Year in Japan

In the first part of our winter vacation, which begins around the beginning of the Chinese New Year, Bessie Chang and I went with our friend John Wong on a day trip to a couple of small towns near Tai Chung. We visited a wonderful crafts museum which I really liked and in which I found some lamps that would look great in our house. Above is a photo of a glass exhibit we saw there and below is a photo of the lamps, which I think I can find in Chinatown in Houston or have made there. Take a look; aren't these swell? (Peter, if you want to get started on this, it's okay w/me. They should hang in the stairwell near the front door.)

A few days later Bessie found a wonderful cheap (excuse me, inexpensive) tour to Japan and we packed our bags and left with about two days' notice. We went to Nagoya and from there to several mountain resorts and villages to see some places designated by the UN as part of the world's cultural heritage. Only 100 have been chosen and we saw some of them; since I didn't even know such a designation existed I was happy to get to see any. (And yes, some of the places are in the US . . . ) As we drove out of Nagoya early in the morning I saw a strange sight.

The air vent over a subway station in Nagoya. Aren't those Japanese engineers just the coolest imaginable?

The trip up to the mountains took several hours. On our first rest stop, I made a photo of Bessie outside the bus. And she made one of me. This was the first of about a jillion Hello Kittys we saw, Kate . . .

People who live in Houston and Taichung don't see icicles like this unless they look in my non-frostfree refrigerator's frozen food compartment.

The view from the bus was very snowy once we got out of Nagoya.

When we went walking through one of the small towns we noticed that people decorated their windows to give information about themselves. These people seem to have had a recent wedding or some sort of celebration . . .

The first day we visited a samuri castle. It wasn't like the castles you see in illustrations for Grimm's fairy tales, but it had the important parts like servant quarters and a torture chamber. Here you see some of our tour group in front of the castle.

This is how the castle looked without snow and when it was new and the world was young.

The office for the castle: the Samuri was the despot of the territory (its size in direct proportion to the size of his army) and so had lots of municipal government duties such as collecting taxes, pounds of flesh, and other sundry, boring, beaurocratic duties.

Here's a room no happy home should be without: the "resting room for maids." Those maids got a lot of rest, don't you know.

Some handy illustrations found on the wall of the witness examination room should jog the memory of anyone who hasn't had recent experience at Abu Ghraib . . .

Well, enough about the Samuri and his cozy cottage. Here is what hotel staffs in Asia, where people are polite and happy to have paying guests, do when a group of happy travelers takes their regrettable leave of the establishment: they line up outdoors, no matter what the weather, and wave goodbye to the departing visitors. These lovely ladies stood outside on a very cold day about half an hour to wave goodbye to the people on the bus. Just like in America. Right? You mean they don't do this when you leave? Did you leave a tip in the room?

This piece of sculpture caught my eye as we strolled down a street in a mountain tourist town, and I thought you all might like it as well as did I!

In the same little town a man dressed as a warrior was pulling a ricksha with a lady in it. I can't imagine a Japanese warrior pulling a ricksha, but the scene was so unusual, again, that I thought we might all get a kick, so to speak, from seeing it.

Another sort of carraige was displayed in the lobby of our hotel; it reminded me of the carriages we saw in Sicily a few years ago. Each year this part of Japan has a festival in which each ethnic group which developed and used these carriages brings some of them to display in a grand parade. Must be quite a sight; I'm guessing they were made for very fancy folks to ride in.

The hotels we stayed in were tres swell and each one provided "spa clothes" (which looked a lot like pajamas to a girl from Cisco/Nacogdoches). Bessie is in our room wearing the outfit, which had a jacket and a long belt/sash. Everyone wore them around in the hotel, to the restaurants and the shops and of course to the spas. The spas were very nice. The bathrooms in the hotels were tiny but because you are in the spa every free minute who needs a bathroom?

Lots of snow fell while we were in Japan. One morning I noticed some people's stairs had been transmogrified into a sled run overnight . . .

As we continued out that day we saw more and more snow. It had snowed all day and all night, and was still snowing—huge monster flakes—as we left the town. The trees looked wonderful from the warmth and safety of the bus.

Houses and cars began to be covered up. Bessie asked "what if we get so much snow we can't leave" and I wanted to know what was the problem with that . . .

The landscape was beautiful and eerie, like the part in the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" when the ship is locked in the ice, before he shoots the albatross and Death and Death in Life shoot dice for him.

We finally reached the aboriginal village where we were to tour a group of houses. Only most of them were covered with snow. The caretakers had thoughfully dug a path to one of the houses, but the rest stayed closed down. Here's Bessie looking around at the landscape.

This is the way the houses would look without snow. We didn't see any that looked like this.

They looked more like this . . . This is a wall of snow right in front of a house. Needless to say, the house was inaccessible.

We saw many interesting and beautiful things on the trip. We went down to the shore one warmish day and had crabs for lunch. All the meals were huge and very Japanese and good.

We saw a Samuri neighborhood, a very high end real estate area even today.

We saw a fish made of pearls, and not just his eyes, though as you can see, these are the pearls that were his eyes . . .

If you get a chance to go to Japan, drop everything and go. It's gorgeous and clean and beautiful.


At 1:59 PM, Blogger Mr. Pete said...

So, now I'm going to read the Rhyme so I can keep up with you -- but isn't the reference to the pearls that were his eyes in Prufrock? Are you going to make me find it all by myself? Not even a footnote? How about a g/d FOOTNOTE??

At 6:41 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Dear Sweetheart of mine,
Look in The Tempest: Five fathoms deep my father lies, of his bones is coral made/these are the pearls that were his eyes, nothing there is that something something about a sea change. Try Google to get the exact quotation.


At 3:01 PM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Wow, Pat! Great travelogue -- everything looks so beautiful topped with snow. What a great opportunity to just drop by Japan at a moment's notice. Sounds lovely and relaxing too with all the spa services. But I have to tell you that snow kitty is really Doraeman (yes, there is more than one giant-headed kitty) who is actually a robot cat with surprising abilities:

"Each time Nobita is being afflicted, Doraemon will reach into the fourth-dimensional pocket in his stomach and pull out a takekoputa (flying device) or a dokodemo door, which allows them to go anywhere..."

Ah, I know far too much about the kawaii side of life!

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Dear Kate,
Cute is by no means the property of Japan. In Taiwan cute is everything, from post-it-notes to car accessories. This new cat sounds a lot like the black cat from my childhood, who had a bag of magictricks. What was his name? Gene is sure to know! Crazy Cat is the one that threw bricks. What was the name of the other one?

At 12:42 PM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Felix the Cat? He's got the bag of magic tricks!

By the way, our College Bowl team came in fourth in the Regionals! Yay, UHD.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Jessie Chen said...

Dear Dr. Golemon~
I read the "Chinese New Year in Japan" and I love it!
I enjoyed those wonderful pix a lot! You had a great vacation, didn't you? The new semester has begun and it's a pity I don't have any of your class this year because I got only 9 credits left. This is the last semester. Although I don't have many classes, I'm still busy. Now I have two part-time jobs in PU. One is at Business Department, another is at Luking Library, so maybe you'll see me working at the library. And if you have any problem about using the library, you can come to me! I'll be there for you!

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Gene K. said...

Kate's surely correct re: Felix - who, by the by, predates by a decade a certain ubiquitous and overly litigious rodent. (Teachers, parents, and anyone else concerned about academic honesty should be interested especially in the italicized paragraph at the top of that "rodent" page).

To pick a nit (sorry!), Krazy Kat is actually the one who has the bricks thrown at him (her?) by Ignatz Mouse - and likes it! But only because of mistaking hatred for love. Or is Ignatz' obsessive brick-hurtling really hatred at all? Discuss!

I can't confess to knowing "the" answer to that puzzler - but what I do know is that I just love Pat's blog! It's great seeing all these pictures and reading your commentaries. Even - especially - without g/d footnotes :-)

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Wow, how wonderful to get all these comments! Thanks Jessie; I'll be glad to see you in the library. And thanks to Kate and Gene for Felix's name, although I remembered it after posting, of course. But I had forgotten, Gene, that Krazy Kat didn't throw the bricks. You are quite right, as always. And the expert on comics and comedy.

Love to all,

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Oh, and yes! UHD rules! Congratulations all you college bowl winners and sponsors!


Post a Comment

<< Home