a month away – how to make a month last a year

April 23, 2014

Just over a year ago we flew into Heathrow, the birds chirping loud and clear as we rolled into London on the tube, I realised I had not consciously heard bird song for a month. Were there no singing birds in Russia, Mongolia, China or even spring time Japan, or had I just not noticed over the ‘noise’ of everything else.

train from Osaka

After a 2 day ferry took us across the sea to Japan. We passed through Osaka on our way to Kyoto where the Sakura parties were in full swing. Wandering through the night streets full of people in high spirits, visiting temple gardens. Filing past dramatically lit landscaping and bamboo. Kneeling in our socks alongside business men and women at the edge of a raked gravel garden ‘ooh and aaahing’ at a full bloom weeping cherry tree, lit like fireworks, centre stage. Blossom trees spotlit in a park full of darkness and smoke. Wading into the darkness, towards the chanting, to find groups of people huddled together under the trees, drinking, eating, singing, intoxicated by but seeming to forget, the blossom all around them.

weeping cherry tree

bamboo woods

Sakura Spotlightjonny no. 5 cables

We took one train then another, up through the centre of Honshu to Yudanaka, a small town at the start of the Japanese Alps. This whole area seemed used for agriculture, fruit and nut trees as far as I could see, their wiry branches stretched out along supports, too cold for blossom yet. In peoples gardens the ground was worked right up to the back door, not much space for flouncy planting and landscaping, all the land is made use of, it seems like a simple thing, but I’ve never seem it before.

Shrine at Temple in Obuse

Twenty minutes down the trainline Obuse is well known for its chestnut growing with which it makes puree and sweets and tiles it’s pavements with chestnut wood. Here also lives a temple ceiling painted by Hokusai and an old school house museum full of things that we visited in a storm that flapped the windows and pelted the roof.

 

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Chestnut paving, Obuse

From sleepy gentle countryside to Tokyo, which blew my mind. Whether it was the enormity of city itself or the cumulative effect of 3 other countries and cultures in 3 weeks, once we entered Tokyo I was very grateful to be lead around and looked after. The train and underground systems are excellent, I managed to walk around in a daze for most of the visit without getting too lost.

Tokyo transport map

Tokyo UndergroundTokyo night

The city is layer upon layer in a constant state of rebuild. To be a twenty year old building is a rare thing apparently.

Tokyo day 

And old Tokyo buildings are resettled in a park museum on the outskirts of town.

 

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