The Gamble

Let’s face it.  Much of travel can be a gamble.  Days that start out promising can quickly get a sour taste.  Finding a famous tourist attraction does not guarantee anything  more than it’s sure to be crowded. Online recommendations and even World Heritage Sites may or may not ring your own bells.

And so it goes.  I’ve learned to accept the fact that not every place visited will hit a home run.

Today we said goodbye to our house guest and decided to take a short train ride to a neighboring town that was, for a ten year period, the capital of Japan before it was moved to Kyoto. The town was recommended in a popular Kyoto periodical.

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Turning JAPANESE

 

TURNING JAPANESE, I THINK I’M TURNING JAPANESE I REALLY THINK SO, I sang repeatedly before , during or after a trip to Japan.    I sang those lyrics to express my enthusiasm and adoption for most things Japanese. I never went further than the chorus.  It’s a catchy tune. I sang it until one of my daughters saw fit to ask me if I knew what the term Turning Japanese really meant?  Duh?

(It refers to the look that some men get on their face at the time of climax.  How was I to know? )

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See You Later

It can be heaven for some or bordering on hell for others.  I learned how to shop at my mother’s knee. I know what I like and easily make decisions about items, their value and appropriateness for me.  No internal struggles.  “When in doubt, count it out,”I learned from Mom as well!  It’s never led me wrong.

By the way, please touch the towels. The colors are never better, the weave never softer, anywhere!

You can always fill the need to restore vitality in the restaurants in department stores

Shopping is seemingly ingrained in the Japanese pursuit of leisure.  You see young couples, teens , new mothers, and befuddled tourists all enjoying the pursuit. Each depato houses several restaurants so in case hunger strikes, that can be  easily satisfied without leaving the building.

show stoppers!

My pulse rate quickens when I walk into a sophisticated Japanese depato (department store). Welcome to fantasy land for anyone who likes to shop. This world exists to coddle, support and take away barriers that might make it difficult to separate you from your money.  The best in the business create displays guaranteed to make you stop, gaze and consider.

 

Salespeople here have learned how to hover discretely; there to help when needed, but almost never intrusive.  That’s a skill not see in the West too often.

I can be expected to make a pilgrimage to a favorite depato soon after arriving in Japan.  It just comes with the territory.  I must see what the treasures of the day await in the Exhibition Hall.  Often,  I discover a wonderful ceramic artist. I seek out special displays of Japanese made objects, often finding the artisans themselves at work in the store.

charming and clever window display.

Here, form=function and materials shine. Seasonal displays are always varied,fun and engaging. I must browse through the basement food floor, hungry or not, just to gaze at the art of the possible. Presentation of food is always taken to a new level of beautiful (if unnecessary) packaging and gastronomic allure.

Time and cares have a way of disappearing on these outings.  It’s escapism at its finest for those of us who appreciate such things.  For American spouses, not so much.

Depato shopping for me is usually best for me as a solitary pursuit, prefaced by an airy and indeterminate “See you later!”

The Wonderful World of Eye Candy

I can easily be distracted by visual displays of color and pattern.  I relate to infants watching a mobile; their eyes are bright with excitement and their chubby little legs  kick with glee.  If I were a bird, I’d be right after the mate with the most colorful and hypnotic plumage.

So I guess I was ready made for Japan.  On my first visit there I was immediately attracted to…..almost everything.  So much eye candy (for lack of a better description).  I was fascinated by it all.  Pity anyone who was with me.  They were required to move VERY s l o w l y, so as to savor and attempt to consume it all as I pointed out each thing that caught my eye, foolishly hoping my companion would get the same jolt I did. I clearly did not  trust their own abilities.

eye can·dy
/ī ˈkandē/

noun

INFORMAL
visual images that are superficially attractive and entertaining but intellectually undemanding.
“the film’s success rested on a promotional campaign showcasing its relentless eye candy”
California super bloom 2019
In our culture, the term eye candy seems mostly used to define a buxom, brainless young woman.  For me, it  means something visual that I can take pleasure from.
Think of the current superbloom of wildflowers in California. Possibly,  a once in a lifetime treat. If this isn’t eye candy, what is??  Add to these floral enticements the staggering beauty and gasp- inducing wonder of a mature Japanese cherry tree in blossom, probably made more magical by its ephemeral nature. Certainly more bittersweet.
Japanese cherry blossom in Kyoto, Maruyama Park, night illumination.  This tree brought me to tears the first time I saw it.

 

Japanese munchkins, vintage photo. irresistible.  They’ve cornered the cuteness market.

 

Hot weather matcha sundae. Irresistible layers of flavors and textures and coolness. ( I eat it all.)

 

contemporary patterns in Japanese umbrellas. Raised to an art form. Rainy season wonders.

 

more sakura

 

Seasonal Japanese postcards. Glorious.

 

matcha latté

 

Sakura in Rokkokuji Temple. A neighborhood wonder.

 

New chocolate shop in my neighborhood. Note seasonal designs. Help yourself.

 

Japanese ceramic vessels. Be still my heart.

The diversity, power and beauty of Japanese ceramics and its long tradition make this art form one to be savored.

spring ikebana arrangement

 

someone loves frogs. Display in coffee shop.

 

Autumn in Sanzen-in garden.

 

seen in arcade. The power in numbers!

 

Child’s drawing in Miyajima.

 

 

 

sake container
Tower of fresh peas
Clouds!!!
In the course of writing this blog, I realize that most of what I consider eye candy in the West, is found  in nature.  In Japan, it can be man-made and intentional as well as natural.  The Japanese seem to have an innate artistic sensibility that  can raise my heartbeat. What is the magic formula that allows this ability?
I have thousands of photos of things that inspire me when I’m in Japan.  I’ve shared just a small slice of them to give you a sense of my encounters!  I imagine on an Eye Candy Sensitivity Chart, I might be off the chart.  Don’t know. What is clear is that these visual delights bring me great pleasure.
Sometimes, I wonder how many more years I’ll be able to make this trek.  Unknowable.  But, for now, I’m gearing up for another round, leaving this world on May 1!

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Between Heaven and Earth

After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again.  I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving  road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.

At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.

 

 

 

 

On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain.  It even had a route #!

Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area.  The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color.  The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.

the river below.

 

Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over.  We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive.  Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so!  Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field.  We’ve lost so much of the natural world.

The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.

Life is precarious and glorious.