09 January 2017

A Two Week Autumn Tour of Central Japan - 2016

Recently Catherine, her sister Margaret and I visited Japan for two weeks during the autumn season. Although about a week too early for the best of the colours we saw enough of them to appreciate the beauty especially in mountainous central Japan. We started in Tokyo - seeing the usual things and had a short attempt at printing Japanese woodcut blocks with David Bull in Asakusa, near the old Senso-ji Temple.


Tokyo - Reflection of Tokyo Tower from our room.

Japanese Printmaking Bench - Tokyo
We journeyed westwards into the mountains to Kamikochi and then across to the west side of Japan by an amazing variety of transports. On the Trans Alpine route it went - train, bus, tramcar, trolley bus, walk, underground cablecar, ropeway, trolley bus again, bus - and finally by cable car down through forest to Tatayama. I was amazed by the huge Kurobe dam with volcanic activity of the Tateyama thermal area only a short distance away - Japanese fatalism perhaps? Our highlights were the day walk in the Kamikochi area, the crossing of the Alps, the train journey up the Kurobe gorge and the overnight stay in the traditional Gokyama village. And later, of course, Kyoto where we met Tsukiko a friend who lives there.


Kamikochi Valley (Photo: Catherine Smith)

Kamikochi Lake

Kamikochi Forest
Alps Autumn Colours
Autumn Colours
From Kanazawa we travelled by fast express down to Kyoto. Here we visited several gardens on our first day and next day were delighted to meet Tsukiko, a friend we had met in New Zealand. She gave us a generous tour of some gardens - more spacious and less populated than on our previous day.  She also honoured us with a sumptuous meal at her home in central Kyoto.


Gokyama
River Fish Cooking in Traditional Way

Arashiyama Bamboo Walk (Photo: CHS)

Traditional Dress in Kanazawa Garden

Golden Temple, Kyoto


Margaret, Tsukiko, Catherine - Tokyo

Kyoto Garden

Kyoto Garden


And so back to Tokyo in the 'Bullet Train', shinkansen. Very fast, very efficient and as we found in all our travel by public transport, you can set your watch by the train times. I was nearly cut in half by being half a nanosecond late getting off a train!


Japanese Excellence in Food Presentation (Sashimi)

Geisha (Photo: Catherine Smith)


I was deeply impressed by Japan and its people. Despite their high population and modernism they adhere to their traditional customs. They are hard working and disciplined people with very polite, kind and respectful attitudes. While I admire the different cultural characteristics of the world's peoples I do like the idea of adopting the best of all things - at the same time preserving our own cultural identities. As we have with food.

Our tour was organised by Journeys to the East; it was guided by excellent English speaking local guides and we thoroughly enjoyed it.