Catching up

I’m back from spending a week with an old friend of mine and her family, and I’ve enjoyed myself greatly.

Tuesday I went up to Nagoya, and after saying a short hello to her mother, we went to see Atsuta shrine, the biggest shrine in Nagoya. The area the shrine covers is very large, and it struck me immediately that the precincts were well kept and had many new buildings. It turned out that this shrine houses one of the three sacred treasures of the emperor: the sword. Thus, it is a shrine dedicated to the sun goddess, and is considered very important. In the evening we had dinner at my friend’s brother’s place. I had met him before, but he has only recently moved back to Nagoya. Once again, he was cooking lovely food, and we had a great evening.

Wednesday we spent in Arimatsu, one of the neighborhoods in Nagoya. Although only a small place, it is known as a part of the historical Tokaido – the road between Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto. A small part of it has been restored, there are lots of beautiful old houses to be seen there. Arimatsu is also famous for shibori, a beautiful tie-dying craft that apparently goes back to the 8th century.

Takayama was our next station, and we spent Wednesday night and Thursday there. It is a rather small town in the middle of the mountains, and its surroundings remind me a lot of the place I come from in Austria. There is the Hida Folk Village a bit outside of the town, an open air museum that has a number of traditional farmhouses from all over Gifu prefecture. All the houses can be visited, and as it was comparatively cool on Thursday, there was a fire in each one of them. There are many other sights in Takayama, and we spent a lot of time walking through the inner city with its old wooden houses and breweries.

Friday and Saturday we spent in Kyoto. My friend wanted to see a few specific things, and so we went to the Western part of town, which I have grossly neglected so far, I have to confess. We went to Ryoanji temple with the famous zen garden, and to Ninnaji, which is less than a temple and more of an old emperor’s residence. We also saw the Myoshin temple complex, a huge accumulation of temples next to each other; Ryoanji is considered one of the outlying temples of Myoshin. Saturday we spent on my side of town, starting out on the philosopher’s path and then moving on to the city to do some shopping.

I had a great week and thanks to my friend I could revisit parts of Japan I loved very much, like Takayama, but could also see new things in Nagoya and Kyoto. It’s so much more fun to go with somebody else than to do everything on your own all the time. I hope her brother will visit me soon, as promised…