April 1, 2014
One of my favorite westerns growing up was “The Magnificent Seven”. It was a remake of the classic tale of the “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa. Today we visited a very well done reconstruction of a 300-400 year old Japanese village outside of Takayama. The builders of the village brought actual homes and structures from all over the region to display them in one place. It was a cross between Plymouth Plantation and Lincoln’s New Salem reconstruction. Kurozawa could have used the place as a set for the movie.
There were not only homes but outhouses, charcoal kilns, mushroom farms, looms and so on. Many of the solutions that the Japanese came up with for common agricultural and pre-industrial problems were similar to the Western solutions. In bad weather, farmers wove cloth. There was a need for lumber that was supplied by itinerant lumbermen who hand cut the lumber six months a year. It was done by hand using giant saws. The sawyers lived together in ramshackle housing that reminded me of some places near us. In the winter they cut trees and let them age of a year before sledging them out of the mountains in the snow.
I was expecting to see elaborate use of mortise and tenon construction. Instead the buildings were largely tied together with miles of rope. The lashings were masterful. I have no idea how they did it. Fires were kept burning year round to keep the ropes taut and the bugs out. The system seems to work well as the buildings have survived many an earthquake.
We took far more pictures of everyday items because they were so interesting. I will need to tie the pictures closely to the narrative. We must of taken our shoes off a couple dozen times. Well worth it. Finally got a good explanation of the little stone statues with bibs. They are Jozo or protective guardians. I also got to ring a big gong. I forgot to clap and bow so I won’t get my wish.
Returned to town and did the laundry. Peggy is happy. We then wandered through the streets of shops that reflect the Edo Period of the 19th Century. We managed to find some items that we couldn’t resist. Tested some Sake. That I can easily resist. Went through a Soy Sauce brewery and passed on the tasting. I like the stuff but not without food. Of course I enjoy tasting olive oil and vinegar in Murphy’s. Go figure.
We climbed back up to the hotel laden with goodies and clean clothes. I took the opportunity to take a hot bath in the Onsen. We have a cedar bathtub in our room but it is hard to beat the two tubs in the men’s bath. The one on the deck overlooking the city was a bit of a scorcher. I am getting used to wearing the Yakuta. They might work on the Ridge.
Tomorrow we head for Tokyo. Hopefully I have it figured out so we have only one change of trains.