Archive for January, 2011

And Finally Japan! Part 2

January 24, 2011
 
 

Cherry Tree

After the Toji Temple than I walked farther back towards the train station and town and found that most of the hotel life and historic stuff as well as the more modern part of the blockbuster station were on the other side from where I had walked out of as if a upstairs compartment down.

My first stop was the Land sect Jodo Buddhist Temple

Outside the Land Jodo Temple

and then to the fanciest restaurant I would eat in the whole time in Japan where I had a set meal with five courses which included sushi and dessert while a bunch of young men smoked behind me I made motion and they apologized and put it out. Next the Kyoto tower was nearby and I saw that it is was part of a chain of such structures once on the summit which includes Tokyo Tower and many others. Here I could see various palaces and temples from near and afar and witness just how incredibly elaborate imperial Kyoto once was and to some extent still is.

Because I had gone right down from the train station into a hotel and then ventured into the less beautiful side of the city this blogger had initially missed the grandeur of the Kyoto main station which he when experiencing it’s almost entire environs was the most beautiful building he ad ever been in now beating out Lord Norman Foster’s redo of the outlawed Reichstag now know as the Bundestag.  Here wow was a grand complex with two department stores an interior atrium leading up to high loft leves a hotel super palace to one side levels of restaurants and shops a whole wonderland and then the train tracks set aside (please do consult youtube here @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV6EvTemKwk&feature=related).

I only managed to get one photo off early in this visit and it was of an exit scene on the less chic side of the building.

Kyoto Train Station Exit towards the Vista Hotel

The architect of the new Kyoto Station which opened in 1997 is Hiroshi Hari and it is the second largest train structure inJapan after Nagoya station in Nagoya (where this blog will soon travel as well).

After surveying the station and its environs for like forever this not so tired traveler raced around to find the proper exit and traveled back to the Vista.  The peaceful entry found me taking the elevator form the ceremonial ground floor back to the lobby to the quiet internet station where this retired poet found an email informing him that the t-shirt company threadless wanted to use a poem of his for the t-shirt Puppet Ballet for their forthcoming book from Abrams. Heconsenting in handling this affair while asking for nothing not a free book not money much better than he did when his work was solicited for the shopping exhibition at the Schirn Kuntshalle in Frankfurt years earlier.  The poem went in here is the url for the book buy it (if I see you with it I will sign it) http://www.threadless.com/book (yours truly is on page eight).

It was now time for sleep in my unbelievably peaceful abode.  In the morning I would awake and have the unlimited breakfest including miso soup and seaweed and then venture off on the right side of the city towards castles and palaces.

There was a buffet breakfest at the Vista hotel and I ate and ate for the whole day.  Then at a reasonable hour I got out and walked towards Nijo castle map in hand.  I did stop at an art gallery and saw some pretty exciting contemporary works, though it billed itself as a museum having an artist retropsective (maybe it was) and I paid an admission fee.  Meanwhile there is the famous anime museum nearby which short on time I was unable to stop at.

Monkey Tiger City

Appealing

.Right before I crossed the avenue to the castle ground this traveler also passed a weapons store which had plenty of historic and ceremonial swords in the storefront windows

Swords

 

Weapons in the Storefront Window

But I was very happy to get to the royal and shogun castles which had a couple of slash palaces and cherry trees beginning to blossom.

First Blossom at the Castle

Inside the shogun castle at the seat of the royal court of Japan Kyoto it was shoes off time on the tatami mats and no pictures(though I sneaked a couple of cellphone shots anyway).  There were dioramas of the shogunate court with models places inside behind the glass.  There were wall paintings it was a rainy day and outside one marveled at the gardens and the moats filled with Koi (ornamental fish so used to tourists and being fed that they actually come to the surface in expectancy of offerings).

Chery trees were in the abound and after finishing this traveler walked back across the grid off of which this castle was when the side streets met a grand avenue and at the end of the route back came to a grand park which turned out to be the home of the royal palaces when Kyoto was the imperial city during the edo era when th eshogunate had their capital in Edo before the capital moved back with the restoration to power of the emperors to Tokyo.  Luckily though arriving late and seeing numerous cherry trees and a geisha re-enactor moving with an umbrella with the sun coming out now and after inquiring found out he was not too late for the days last free palace tour.

This tour was quite nice with a young lady who was affable, well spoken, and informative.  We saw two palaces and the grounds.  One highlight were the tree pruners high up in the canopy risking life and limb literally to perfectly  manicure the palace trees (she said it was no laughing matter recently a high risk gardener had died this way elsewhere in the nation).

When done with the park which had many side structures such as an empresse’s tea house this wandering blogger went  across the street to find the Kyoto main station.  So with an unlimited train pass he thought why not go see somewhere else since it was still the early afternoon.  Osaka and Kobe were right nearby a half hour perhaps and Kei had told him to see Osaka which has its own cuisine(the octopus balls hail from Osaka) and of course this blogs number one read post is the Osaka spa in Hammer, South Carolina as 1-95 drivers google it for the directions coming and going from the north and the south, but now to actually go to a spa in Osaka now that would be a post.  But it was not to be he had a ticket to ride and when he sae Hiroshima and that it was about two hours by train and worked out the train changes and the return on the last train of the night he knew he had to go see the Atom Bomb dome which at some point somebody told him he could see by getting ona trolley car.  So he took the train past Osaka and the station shin Kobe and  mad it to Hiroshima and now it was dark he found out about the trolley cars the streetcars lets say they went right down the avenue and stopped at peace park right before the river where to see the atom bomb some the only structure to still be standing though a shell) after the first atom bomb ever to be dropped on a target in was in history.  It was amazing to see this historic structure it seemed eerie something of the fateful past harkening right back to that to that moment when it became with everything else a xray. The visit was brief he got back on a  bus because the streetcar was taking to long  got his bullet train back to Kyoto station and then walked around the transportation palace mesmerized escalating back and forth in the great space which Hari had wrought.

The next day was a holiday and room rates skyrocketed buffeted by hs fast paced traveling he hoped to go to Nagoya while remaining in Kyoto and then go back to Tokyo the next day.. But it was to be that he and his belongings wwould make the trip to Nagoya which was the gateway to seeing Frank Lloyd Wrights Imperial hotel entrance and lobby which had survived the great Kanto earthquake and then when the hotel needed to be raised because the foundation was ruined the front part was moved to the architectural park named Meiji Mura (which this writer had found out about in researching Tado Ando another famed architect who had built a seismically sensitive structure).

In fact Nagoya was a city this writer had never  even heard of before making this journey to Japan.

So again I boarded the bullet train towards Tokyo disembarking in Nagoya.  First this traveler needed to get a hotel.  He went to one side of the station and thought he had found one which turned out to be a wedding hall where the people sent him to a brightly colored building which turned out to be a budget hotel which turned out to be closed. Stressed out now he knew he would have to cross with his heavy bag to walk through he tunnel to the other side of the tracks to find a hotel. Stressed out now he found an indoor baseball batting cage facility and decided to hit a few balls.  He was satiated when making direct contact with one and hitting it far.

Indoor Baseball Batting Cage Facility Nagoya

This last effort gave him the juice to find a hotel which he did which was a bit more expensive than the  one in Kyoto but he was able to get onto the net and route his journey by train and bus to Meiji Mura via Inuyama.

Train from Nagoya to Inuyama

I t was sort of a commuter line train which took me there and then I had to walk over to the bus terminal where there was a public square with a display giving backround on a story of a monkey king.  After waiting a good time and a trip out on country rode to where a hill rose above a lake a picture perfect setting was the entrance to meji mura.  I t was a bit late in the day  as it had take me time to travel and find accommodations and to route the trip but it was the last day before returning to Tokyo fly home so it was now or never or miss Disney World.

The parked turned out to be huge and a sort of open air mausoleum for old Japanese structures both Japanese and western influenced building which once stood elsewhere in Nippon.  The  park is divided into five sections and I wanted to see everything but most of all of course Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial hotel which is what had inspired me to come.  It was a beautiful day and it was mostly uphill which after all this world travel I was alright.  One of the first structure was Lafcadio Hearn’s home a western writer who had lived in Japan. Later I made it downhill and one of my favorite structures was an old sake factory down there.  Th real show-stoppers like the cathedrals and jail and the hotel were at the far end of the park and once i was in sight of them I would backtrack so I took the train  over and saw Carnegie steel’s bridge and a hospital and such and finally the hotel where I stopped to have lunch in the lobby which besides the entrance and the fountain pool in front is now all there is.

Exterior of The Office of Dr. Shimizu (1897) from Nagano at Meiji Mura Intersection with Old Sake Factory Behind

Waitress Station at the Cafe Inside Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel at Meiji-Mura

Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel Lobby Interior Meiji-Mura

Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel Entrance and Lobby Meiji-Mura Inuyama, Japan

In the end I had time to have lunch at the cafe inside the hotel while attempting to charge my phone to take photo at the outlets by the tables at the far end of the preserved lobby of the old hotel. Running form one attraction to the next as the hour of closing loomed I think I got it all in, the christian cathedral , the army barracks and may other buildings here in the wonderful arena of the past.

Going back on the return journey it was the same route with plenty of waiting for the bus and the train.. When back in town I went first to the huge Marriot which is 59 stories high and located immediately above Nagoya Station and considered the restaurants which were priced a bit high.  Perched a bit high was the top floor bar where I had a beer and some bar munchies and observed Nagoya Castle which was illuminated.

When it was definitely time to eat where trying to go to many of the restaurants language was a barrier finally I settled on one with a picture menu where I managed to spill miso soup all  over my thing and my jeans and my legs had a stain and rash.  It was indeed my first miso burn.

Out the window across from my room at the sunroute hotel was a Shell gas station and the way it faced where I stood or lay was as if a pop painting ready-made (and I don’t want to say by Ed Ruscha who already has too many Facebook friend request that person does, this person does not)

Nagoya Shell Station Ready-Made and Out Means Out

.   I looked at it when I got the room before leaving for Meji-Mura and again in the morning before the elaborate buffet breakfast where I took the time to read the English langauge newspapers before checking out and going to Nagoya station to take my final bullet train back to Tokyo to drop my bag off for a later check in at the Shinagawa Prince and head out to Disney.

So I did just that and then took the Tokyo subway out to Disney and saw the Cirque de SSoliel pavilion out there for the show called Zed based on the tarot deck which i had seen advertised endlessly on television.  The ticket price was like ninety dollars but i had to see the Japanese Cirque de soleil in specially constructed pavilion at Tokyo Disney, and so I did.

My cell phone was dead now but Zed was a wonder wow.  We followed the lead character right out of an anime in through his magical journey filled with spiritual symbolism.  It is one of the best Cirque de Soleil productions in the deck.  Check out more about it here- http://www.zed.co.jp/video_gallery/index_en.php

Then thinking i would not go into the park this traveler realized that this would mean I would have been to every Disney on the planet. So I got the night time deal and head right to futureland and Space Mountain which was as crowded as could be as this was a Spring holiday break.  The line wound around and around and finally i was up there with the day-glo futuristic Disney loding dock where the lady announcer said welcome to sppasse Mountain in Japanese diction it was wonderful.. No chance of going on again right away like in Hong Kong where I rode it five times in a row for the line was too long and I headed along and finally arriving in “Toontown” decided to wait on line for “Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin” where I wrote on line and on the ride a whole lot of new bad jokes none of which I can remember now (but they were bad at the time).

Later skipping all the meet and greets with Micky and Minnie I went on the Pinocchio ride and took in the electric parade with floats and princesses and other Disney luminati making its way through all the lands then knew that Imust get back to the hotel to check in before my reservation was given up(though it would not have been) and the consequences would be turning into a pumpkin.  on the wqay out going through Main Street USA, Tokyo which here came in the form of a covered mall ala the Galleria in Milan.

I passed the blue Bayou restaurant where japanese girls dressed as Southern Belles welcomed you in as cajun music played for what looked as I read must have been a delicious meal- but in the words of the Mad Hatter I was late, late for a very important date one with sleep the night before flying out. But Flying out the time you will see was upside down and I was off to sleep.

I almost forgot to say that after the cirque I wandered into the shops and got a back massage and also checked out one of the hotels where there was a fantasy wedding.

So back at the Shinagawa Prince from the very crowded holiday trains and checked in and came down for a meal where i actually convinced them to allow me a free return to the salad bar.

My train the one with the Hiroshage wave painting on it which now rests in my drawer expired that day so wisely i bought  a ticket on the airport bus for early the next morning.  So early I rose to meet the bus and it was an exciting journey where i got to see the true expanse of the largess of the Shinigawa Prince and it multiple hotels all feeding into the one central lobby hub.  Along the way i saw highways, a great amount of cherry trees opening up and even Disney again from a distance.

When indeed  I got to the airport I found that I was not leaving in the morning but the exact same time at night.  I had misread the itinerary.  Luckily, I was returning via business class and this would allow me to sit in the lounge but this traveler did want to do that for upteen hours he of course venture back into Tokyo to see the Zoo he had missed and more museums in Ueno.

I had very few yen on me in fact only one bill which was just enough for me to get back to Tokyo but not to return to the airport.  SO getting to Ueno after the voyage back in I went to get money and the crazy machine wouldn’t take my card but finally i got some assistance and it worked and I walked up and out from the station into the park to see camera crews filming what appeared to be the first cherry blossoms in the park and cherry blossom season was upon them. Cherry Blossom Season Opens in Ueno

(Cherry Blossom Season Opens in Ueno)

And what I realize now finishing this blog post almost a full year later that now as the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear incidents have hit the beautiful magnificent land that plum blossom season was on them again and now cherry with the willows blooming how ironic to see such devastation where beauty is everywhere.

I headed right for the Zoo and hoping to see pandas there were none (though there  are some one year later today).  it was a wonderful place (if one could call a zoo that) with a bounty of species and especially it was great to identify certain animals as being indigenous to Japan.  There were a couple of great moments for me including at a peacock enclosure.  In New York City on the island of Manhattan as a tour guide when going past the peace fountain at the side of St. john the Divine I say there are a couple of peacocks back here but watch out they fly down out of nowhere like a mother-in-law and lo and behold here at the Tokyo zoo one flew down out of nowhere like a mother-in-law we me looking on and so now I codify my St. John the Divine fine line by saying some time back i was in Japan at the peacock enclosure in the Tokyo Zoo and one flew down out of nowhere  like a mother-in-law and I told the joke the only problem was the only audience was me.

Tokyo Zoo Super Master Peacock which Having just Flown Down out of Nowhere like a Mother-in-Law, Struts!

There was a skytrain , which  eventually I took which helps one navigate the zoo (an area basically divided into upper and lower levels so it cuts down on hill climbing).  The territorial wars at the gorilla enclosure which though quite repetitive after a while kept his traveler fascinated

A Pair of Combative Gorillas in Their Enclosure at the Tokyo Zoo Remind Anybody of Bus Terminal Tour Guides

as did the macaque monkeys (Japanese Macaque, (Macaca fuscata) who are indigenous to the nation ), as in watching their pecking order in order to gain access the devouring of an orange.

After the zoo still had more than enough time for perhaps one even two of he museums here in Ueno.  Those which I had my eye on were on the ones I had missed in the visit here during he beginning of the trip with Kei the Ueno Royal Museum and on his day it was totally closed. However, walking across this voyager observed that its bookend was the National Museum of Western Art and this engaged him (perhaps he would even see the famous Van Gogh portrait of Dr. Gachet which once achieved the most expensive price ever paid for a painting at auction).  Though this piece was not there another “Roses” by Van Gogh was.  Though this writer thought that there were pictures of works from the collection on his cellphone library and there are not , so therefore he perused the collection (closed in temporarily Tokyo because if the post earthquake/tsunami/nuclear catastrophe)  again online to relight his memories. Here he was also able t se hs ancient press pass and gain access to the treasures therein.

He chooses here to reminisce that in remembering a Bonnard I was no a Bonnard he saw that wold have been permanent in his memory had he been younger but a quite flush Gauguin he at first though a Bonnard and only comes back to him now “Landscape of Brittany 1888”  (http://www.nmwa.go.jp/en/collection/1959-0105.html).  The pinks of the soil are better seen up close and perhaps this will inspire you to visit Japan in the near future to see all the treasures therein and many more not Western.

There is a very famous statue of the samurai Saigō Takamori with his dog in Ueno park.  Takamori to cut a long story short was called the last true Samurai and fought against the Meiji restoration of the empire from the Edo shogunate, he bridged both eras.  I stopped to see this statue again.

The Samurai Saigō Takamori with his dog in Ueno park

This was it money then train ticket in hand I made the long trip back to Narita airport to wait for my flight.  was able t enjoy the first class lounge buffet and unlimited liquor, newspapers, and internet (laying off the booze mostly because of flying).   I bought a few trinkets kitty ones with most of my remaining yen and on the flight was in heaven with the bed chair .  The person next to me was a very large dead head type of social worker from the Bay area working on using up his frequent flier miles.  This was JAL , this was pure heaven starting with the hot towel offered followed by the fifteen segmented appetizers including very succulent sushi.

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