May 19

Ate Beaver Bread for breakfast. I bought three small rolls. One was filled with some kind of jam. I ate around the jam. The bread was great, easily number one here or at home. The second roll was chocolate chips with nuts. Yum. Third one for tomorrow.

We went as a group to two museums and an art supply store. Lots of walking again. Just barely getting to know people, but great so far.

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Haven’t stopped walking. That total includes lots of museum shuffle. Much more exhausting than real walking. Fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

First thing we went to the Mori Art Museum for a show of contemporary Japanese Art. The show was called Connexions and featured the work of mostly young artists and their connections to the past, to current events and to technology. Some of it was very moving and thought provoking. One of the best shows I’ve seen recently.

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Definitely is an obsession with cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alongside the art museum is something called City View, which lets you overlook Tokyo from almost 360 degrees. It’s an amazing panorama and really shows the beauty and density of the city. I was awed.

Our second museum visit was the Ota museum for a show about Hokusai and his vision of Mt. Fuji. So lot’s more ukiyoe. This was in Harajuku where we had to cope with the Sunday crowds. After the museum I had a little more time to wander around to the wonderful mirror kaleidoscope and take more pictures. It’s also the best place for people watching.

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A visit to a large art supply store finished up our evening.

Back in Tokyo

My workshop begins tonight at dinner and to meet everyone. I’m already installed in my own room in the Citan hostel in Tokyo.

I got here about 2pm after a two and a half hour train ride from Matsumoto. After I checked in and left my luggage I went for a walk here in the Nihombashi area. It’s very quiet and I didn’t find much of interest, but on the map was something called Beaver Bakery. So, with great difficulty following the GPS on the phone I came to a small line in front of an almost unidentified shop. It was the only thing around and sure enough, it was Beaver Bakery. I went in and bought 3 items.

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The line was gone by the time I took the picture.

To understand bread in Japan think of Wonder Bread, only fluffier and more squishable. The things I bought don’t squish. Haven’t tasted anything yet. Tomorrow. It seems that Beaver Bread is famous. There is even a book about them, in Japanese, of course.

Went out for dinner with the workshop group. I think this will be another good one.

Matsumoto

This is my third night in Matsumoto. When I made this arrangement I thought of Matsumoto as a kind of mountain retreat where I could chill out before my workshop begins. There are mountains all around but it is much more urban than I expected. So, I’ve been sightseeing but taking it much easier than the last two weeks.

Matsumoto was the birthplace of Yayoi Kusama, an artist whose work is at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh and all over the world. The city museum of art has a permanent exhibition of her work and was one of the attractions for me. Here are pictures of work outside the museum. A tour group was there posing as I arrived. I never understood the gestures.

 

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No photography was allowed inside the museum. For the most part I didn’t care, but I really wanted to photograph inside her mirrored corridor. The guards kept a tight watch on me. The room was about 20 or 25 feet long and not much wider than the span of my outstretched arms. Both openings had red curtains hanging to the sides. The walls, ceiling and a narrow area on either side of the openings were mirrored. At about waist height on the long walls there was a shelf with small red and white polka dot stuffed shapes. Looking into the mirrors the curtains became columns and even I became a column and everything stretched to infinity. Fantastic. I was alone in the corridor, except for the guards watching me from outside and I wanted to stay forever. I walked through the entire exhibit and decided to go back to the corridor. As I was about to enter several people went into the exhibit before me. I walked past them, past her early art work, and went back into the mirrored corridor. The first woman entered, spent the entire time looking at herself in the mirror, fixing her hair, her backpack and quickly walked out. I don’t think she ever saw the space around her. Two other people walked through quickly, never looking. I wonder if the guards think about this kind of stuff. And I wanted to talk to someone about it. That‘s the downside of traveling alone.

Another feature of Matsumoto is an ukiyoe museum (woodblock prints), supposedly with the largest collection of prints in Japan. However the exhibition space was small so disappointing. I enjoyed the prints but the exhibit I saw in Hiroshima had three times as many.

The most widely promoted tourist site is Matsumoto Castle. It was described as having steep, narrow stairways inside. I did not go in. I am phobic about steep stairways. But it is certainly beautiful.

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Nearby was a funny street with old buildings and shops dedicated to frogs. I had soup and salad lunch in a bakery cafe, no frogs.

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My favorite discovery was an Inari shrine boxed in by tall buildings near my hotel.

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Takayama

The sun was shining and I walked around Takayama all morning. On the way to the morning market I stopped at a temple and found the oldest, and largest Gingko tree I have ever seen. DF62457E-6E69-4F97-B507-C451D00CD51E37584335-A53E-4B51-AB92-94BB3AFB4A60644ACFF4-0A3C-4BC1-BB3E-4E34857A886A

The market is held every morning along the river. I didn’t buy anything but enjoyed the walk.

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As I was leaving at noon, I bought a small bento box for lunch on the train. The train was late again and I missed my connection. I got on a local train; changed to a second train; finally connected with an express and got to Matsumoto about 2 hours later than I expected. But I did get lots of pictures.

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May 14, Alone for 4 days

I got off the train at Nagoya, leaving my family to go on to Tokyo and home, tomorrow. I am on a different train going to Takayama, in the mountains of Gifu. This is the first rainy day of the trip. I’m happy to be on the train and won’t do much sightseeing. This is the day to do laundry.

Lunch, rain and the train.

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More rain pictures. Passing some wonderful scenery but giving up on pictures.

The train got in about an hour late. I didn’t know Japanese trains could ever be late. But something delayed us early in the trip. There was an announcement of which I understood nothing. My hotel is about a half block from the station. I walked to the hotel, did my laundry and listened to last night’s Rachel Maddow, then went out for a walk in the rain.

 

May 13, Last day in Kyoto, last night with family

Steve and Charna went on a long bike ride over much of Kyoto. Robin and I went shopping, together and separately. She’s a great shopper; I am not. I decided I wanted a cane. Robin has been helping me climb stairs and navigate other tricky walkways and I am having more difficulty this trip than in 2013. It seems like a long time ago and I was certainly in better shape.

We all met up for dinner in another Okonomiyake restaurant in Pontocho, which seems to be filled with restaurants.

Afterward, to my surprise, we went for ice cream to celebrate my birthday. Actually, I’ve considered this entire trip a birthday celebration. When I reached 80 I decided I would celebrate every birthday; generally with a party. This has been an amazing celebration and I will celebrate again in 2 weeks when my actual birthday arrives.

These were some of the parfaits that were offered. Mine was chocolate and more restrained.

We had a fun conversation with a Japanese man who had been all around the world and now worked as a tour guide in Kyoto. And I would have had none of this had I been alone.

May 12, Arashiyama

We will be leaving Kyoto on May 14, so all together we went to the train station to arrange for our seats on the Shinkansen. Then we got on a local train to Arashiyama. On the map it looked like there were two stops in Arashiyama. When everyone got off at the first stop I said we should stay on to the next one. Of course the train didn’t stop; it went a long distance through a tunnel and suddenly we were in the mountains. We got off at the first stop and took the return train. But I wasn’t sorry we took the extra side trip. I really wanted to go sit on a rock in the river. (It’s very hot here during the day.)

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Again we split up. I started walking toward Tenryuji along with hundreds of others, and the family went to the Monkey Park. I explored a small garden which turned out to be a restaurant then went on to Hongon in, a sub temple of Tenryuji with a wonderful garden, which was almost empty.

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I left just as my family returned, we had lunch together then went to Tenryuji where I sat in the garden while they explored the temple and climbed the mountain behind the garden. I had done all this in 2007 or 2008 when I was better able to climb.

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My last trip to Japan was in 2013. I wanted to return, but I knew that if I returned by myself it would be the same trip. Having them with me has made this a much different trip. They interact differently with other people; I see things through their eyes making much new and exciting; and have gotten to see many things I would have missed had I been alone. We went for dinner to Kyoto Tower. I had never been there and not at night. We had a taxi driver who played rock and roll for us and ate at the food court.