Taking a trip like this one to Asia is stepping into a different world. Few of us had any real understanding of the history that has formed the Japanese culture let alone an understanding of the spoken or written language. Simple things, like D saying one day that now that he's seen the trees in Japan, he has a better understanding of the classic shapes in the art of bonsai. It's because that's the shape of the full size trees in Japan. Or how the facts that 73% of Japan is mountainous and 78% of the population live in urban areas may have influenced the culture as well as the manners of the people.
The Japanese we met were scrupulously polite for the most part. Any time we tried to use a Japanese phrase no matter how we might mangle it, they were delighted and politely tried to help. Mistakes were either overlooked or, what was even more frequent, were gently corrected. We found ourselves bowing as they did and gesturing to encourage them to precede us or to take a seat. Indeed those courtesies we practiced in their country were continued by us in South Korea and Hong Kong. I found myself wondering if their historically rigid forms of etiquette possibly born of class differences continued in part because the growth of their population forced people to live in more and more crowded areas. It's probably an over-simplification, but it made some sense to me.
Anyway, here are photographs from our second day of touring. The sight of the sampan on the river surprised me until I realized that even the Japanese like to experience so-called "touristy" things. You know this will appear in a painting at some point!
This thatched roof is really thick and precisely constructed. Given the shape of this roof, the thatching had to be a bit of a challenge!
Now this is a rather curious sight. It is a graveyard for monks, and the grave stones are primarily individualized stone statues of Buddhas. While I have other pictures of this place, I chose this one with the flowering trees in the background. We missed the big cherry blossom time, but were lucky enough to see many in bloom (we also ate a cherry blossom "jello" dessert and drank cherry blossom tea).
You will have to tolerate and forgive my fascination for everything "roof" - from decorations, to style, to color, to intersections of several roofs and so on. I can only imagine that the creature below is a guardian spirit.
The torii gate has significance which I had not realized until our guide explained. When one walks through such a gate on the way to a shrine, one leaves the profane world behind and enters a sacred place. It's similar to the notion of "leaving your troubles at the door" but with a spiritual emphasis. The color also has something to do with blocking bad spirits from passing through the gate into the shrine area.
What can I say? Roof lines with lots of decorative touches.
A type of iris, I think. They were wild and grew in profusion in many places we visited.
This is a camellia - a very lovely flower.
Two views of the ornamental lake.
Here is one of the many volunteers who work in the gardens. This man is weeding the moss (!). Behind him on the hillside are rhododendrons in bloom.
Here's a lovely spot!
Proof that the cherry trees really were in bloom!
The bamboo forest is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, and here it is made lovelier by the two young ladies in traditional kimonos.
Here is a close-up. We were fascinated by the bamboo with white rings and those with black. There's probably a simple explanation, but I don't know what it is.
Many people rent kimonos to wear on special occasions. Or just because they want to. It didn't matter why to me because I just loved seeing all that glorious fabric!
As I think I mentioned yesterday, it was far more rare to see a male dressed, but the gentleman below is.
If you remember your Gilbert & Sullivan, you'll recognize my title for the next photograph: "Three Little Maids from School Are We".
And the final gate for today is a relatively plain one, but it has such character I had to include it.